Friday, April 30, 2010
Questions of the week: "What must a man do to be reconciled to God?" and "Does absolute truth exist?"
We spoke to our friendly GTCC relativist again, met a young man who said it was okay to call a tree Jesus, spoke to a group of four young men who couldn't tell us what absolute truth was, discussed the gospel with a clueless young girl, and then spoke the truth to a clueless young man with a post-surgical right thumb issue that came from an evanjellyfish background. Then, we found three people who knew what the gospel was and we spent about an hour encouraging them and then I witnessed to another churchgoer who couldn't tell me how to get to heaven and then the day came round full circle when ended by speaking with a long-lost Christian friend whose husband was integral in my conversion to Christ.
Our Friendly Community College Relativist
I encountered this same young man two weeks ago when attempting to witness to the two Sunni women. As I walked up, he was waiting at the bus stop in front of the campus reading a book by the New Age guru Marianne Williamson. As soon as he looked up from his book he remembered me immediately and we hit the ground running in a friendly sort of way. This is an example of why it is a good thing to hit the same fishing hole regularly.
I asked him if he had thought about anything that we spoke about last time and he said that he had. I then said something like, "Do you still hold on to what you believe even though we discussed how your beliefs contradicted themselves?" and he basically went into a discussion about how everybody has only 50% of the truth. I then asked him "Is that true?" he said "yes" and I then asked, "If that's true, then isn't a half-truth a complete lie?" He seemed to intellectually "get it", and I further pressed the inconsistency in his relativism, but he finally demurred and basically tried to argue that because we don't know everything we can't really know anything. I then asked how he could know that proposition. I got no response.
At this point I started trying to do some teaching since he seemed like he wanted to listen better this time versus trying to defend himself in front of others like last time. I pointed out to him that he believed that truth was like ice cream, i.e., that you can choose any of the "31 flavors" to suit your taste. I explained to him that truth didn't work like ice cream, it worked like insulin. People that need insulin don't get to decide if they want a different type of hormone or some other medication to suit their taste; they either get insulin or they die. I told him that this is the way that truth is; i.e., it is either true or false, right or wrong, consistent or inconsistent, logical or illogical. I explained to him that to deny this is to embrace relativism and commit intellectual suicide. He didn't care, his bus came, and he had to scoot. He said he would call me and that we would chat more. I surely hope he does. I'm going to continue to dialogue with him as I'm able trusting that the Lord will use some of my efforts to get glory to Himself.
Our Quasi-Pantheist "Christian" Friend
When I introduced myself and asked this young man, "What must a man do to be reconciled to God?" he gave me the usual, "Ask for forgiveness." When I said, "From whom?" he said, "From God" and I asked "which God?" He hesitated. There was an oak tree in front of us on the campus lawn and so I asked, "If I call that oak tree 'God' and I say that all I have to do to be reconciled to God is to ask forgiveness from that oak tree, am I going to heaven when I die?" He said, "Yeah, because God is whoever you want Him to be." I said "Really? So Moses was wrong to get upset at the Israelites for worshiping a golden calf in Exodus 32? After all, they said that that golden calf was their god." He still didn't get it, so I then asked, "What is God?" and he gave me a pantheistic answer. I then said, "The Bible declares that there is a Creator/creature distinction and that to confuse the two is idolatry." I then did some off the cuff teaching from Romans chapter 1 explaining this doctrine, and he then understood what I was getting at. I explained to him that idolaters will have their part in the Lake of Fire on the Day of Judgment and he seemed to intellectually follow what I was saying. I then asked him how he was going to avoid the Lake of Fire, he couldn't really give a coherent answer, and I then preached him the gospel. He appreciated it, shook my hand, and we were off to find someone else to talk to.
Four Young Men Whom The Truth Didn't Set Free
All four of these young men were hit directly with the question, "Does absolute truth exist?" I defined what absolute truth was and asked the question again. Two said yes, two said no. I then asked the two that said "yes", "Where does absolute truth come from?" and one of them said, "From inside you." I said, "If the truth's inside of me, then what if I believe it's absolutely true for me get my jollies by hurting little girls for fun?" He said, "Naw man, that's messed up." I said, "I agree totally, but if absolute truth come from within, then it's not absolute, it's relative" and I made the point that we need objective, transcendent, universal standards that come only from God to determine what's true/false and right/wrong in the areas of ethics, values, and religion. They all seemed to understand and agree. I then explained that Jesus said that He was the "capital-T" Truth and that we can't understand the world rightly apart from Him but most importantly, we can't be rightly related to God apart from His gospel. At this point they asked some good questions about church, false gospels, and I told them, "If you're attending a church where your pastor is preaching health, wealth, prosperity, and Word-of-Faith doctrine, you are in a false church and you need to run outta there with your hair on fire." After I said this, they started to scoot except for one of them and I spent some time talking to this young man for a few more minutes as he seemed genuinely concerned about getting good teaching. I invited him to our fellowship. We'll see if he shows. I pray that he does. So many college kids I talk to have been brainwashed into the prosperity, health and wealth garbage.
A Clueless Young Girl
This young lady was quietly sitting at the picnic table near the campus quad and I approached her, introduced myself, gave her a Narrow Way postcard tract, and asked her what a person must do to be reconciled to God. She said the same tag-line I always hear, "Ask for forgiveness." I then asked "Which God; I mean, we have the Muslim conception of God, the Hindu, etc., so which God am I to pray to to ask for it?" She then said, "Uh . . . Christian?" I then said, "If I had a knife stuck in my back and was going to die in 2.5 minutes and I needed to be reconciled to God and you told me to ask for forgiveness, would it be okay to believe that this oak tree beside us is God and that I need to ask forgiveness from the oak tree?" She said, "No" and I said, "So, what is God in your mind?" She really didn't answer and her cluelessness was apparent. I truly felt compassion for her. At this point, a nice, fat, whiff of pollen got up my nose and I wasn't able to talk well; but God used that in His providence, for she had some time to think and as a result she confessed that she didn't live like a Christian and was denying her profession by her lifestyle. At this point my voice had returned and I confronted her with Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter . . ." I then went through the tests of 1st John and she began to cry. I silently prayed for her while I was talking to her, exhorting her to go home, examine herself in light of 1st John, and cry out to God in repentance and faith. I then told her I'd pray for her and that if she ever saw me on campus and had any questions to come up to me and ask anytime. I still feel a palpable burden for her as I sit and type this right now.
A Clueless Young Man with a post-surgical thumb.
The next group of three people that I spoke with quickly reduced to two once they heard what I was on about. The only one left was the young man with the post-surgical thumb. I asked him some questions about his thumb surgery since I have a background in orthopaedic physical therapy and he was easy to talk to. I then hit him with the reason why we were there, asked him about being reconciled to God, and he was completely clueless and unable to articulate anything coherent about God, the gospel, salvation, etc. He confessed that he had a Christian church background (not sure if he meant CoC, DoC or just plain evanjellyfish). It was obvious that he had had some type of exposure to the Bible, but after I asked more questions, he confessed that he really didn't know what the gospel was. I then said, "Dude, if you profess to be a believer but don't know Christianity 101, what does that say about your Christianity?" The question stopped him in his tracks. He was silent. I used the silence as an opportunity to hear the gospel of God's grace and I enjoined him to repent of His sins and place his faith in Christ. Then he was off. Please pray for him.
Three People Who Actually Knew what the Gospel was and Believed it!
The next 1.5 hours was wonderful. I walked up to three folks and asked them what a person must do to be reconciled to God and they not only knew the gospel, understood it, and embraced it wholeheartedly, but we had great fellowship and one of them even asked me to come speak to their on campus ministry meeting. I spent quite a bit of time with at least one of them answering questions about the Qu'ran, Islam, atheism, liberalism, the Bible, and other neat stuff. It was such a breath of fresh air hearing from kids that are passionate about Christ. May God give us a million more like them!
Another Churchgoer Who Couldn't Tell Me How to Get to Heaven
How many of these people have I written about over the last semester? Too many to count for sure. This next young man said he was "confused because his mother is Seventh Day Adventist, I go to an AME Zion Church, and there are Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, and others and I just don't know who's right and who's wrong." I explained to him that at least historically, all Protestant denominations held to basically the same essential Christian doctrines, but that this is not the case anymore, especially with the mainline denominations having long since caved in to liberalism while many of the modern charismatic groups have given sway to prosperity heresy, and the mainline Baptists are either liberal or seeker. I then discussed the importance of the basic principles of the Protestant Reformation (5 Solas) and laid out for him what a Biblically sound church is and should look like. It's no wonder he was confused, he confessed that most of his exposure had been to either Seventh Day Adventism or the health and wealth garbage. He couldn't explain the gospel; so I gave it to him. I told him he needed to examine his soul and sit under some good, verse-by-verse expository teaching. He said he might visit our church in the future. Man, I hope so, for he was a really nice guy, but he sure was clueless about the gospel.
A Long-Lost Christian Friend and a sorely missed Ray of Sunshine
Finally, the day came around full circle when it ended by speaking with a long-lost Christian friend whose husband was integral in my conversion to Christ. The long-lost friend is named Henrietta and her husband's name was Wayne. Henrietta told me that Wayne died back in 2007. He was such a ray of sunshine. I mean it. It makes me tear up thinking about him. He loved Christ and it just oozed out of him. He was an evangelist par-excellance. He had no fear of man and he loved people and wanted to tell them about Jesus even though he didn't care what they thought about him. Not only that, but Wayne had such a warm-hearted disposition about him. You just couldn't help but want to be around him. When he spoke of Jesus, it made you want to cry. Back when I was an atheist in the early 90s, I heard his testimony and it powerfully impacted me for the gospel. After my conversion, I hooked up with Wayne in college and we went out street witnessing, open-air preaching (I did the preaching since his vocal cords were affected by his previous cancer), and door-knocking. Henrietta told me that he succumbed to cancer. Then she showed me a photo of him that she took about 3 months before he died. Seeing Wayne's smile in that photograph made me tear up. I'm telling you folks, this guy was a ray of sunshine. That was Wayne.
So I'm going to end this outreach report on this note:
Thank You Father, for saving and sanctifying brother Wayne and using him to plant seeds of truth in my wretched soul so that I might come to know You.
Thank You Jesus for letting me spend precious time with brother Wayne by learning how to love people while telling them the truth about your gospel.
Thank You Holy Spirit for letting your light shine through brother Wayne so that I too might know what it means to be a beacon of truth in a dark world.
Dear Christian friends, there are many dear saints that God will place across your path that will never amount to much according to man's standards, but they will be well-received into glory. They will have no degrees, they may not even have graduated from High School, and when you Google their name little to nothing will show up; but they have drank deeply from the well of living water supplied by their Lord and your Lord. May you learn from them, love them, and spend precious time with them while you still have them. Those rays of sunshine are very bright when they are here, but they are not here forever and when they are here, they usually aren't here very long.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
1. Completely avoid gimmicky stuff.
In other words, don't try to schnooker people into answering your questions for "The Good Test" by offering them a stuffed animal or some other silly prize simply because they participated in your goofy evangelistic survey. People aren't stupid, and if you use gimmicks and humor to bait and switch them to get to the gospel, don't be surprised if they look at you like you're trying to sell them snake oil. Worse yet, you are using humor and fun to try to hook them into listening to you tell them about the most serious issue in the universe: their eternal destiny. That's worse than arriving at your neighbor's front door and telling them a knock-knock joke to soften them up so that you can tell them why you are really there; which is to inform them of the dreadful news that their 6 year old daughter is laying dead in your driveway because you just unwittingly backed over her with your car while she was playing with some of your child's toys. See the problem?
As a matter of fact, I'd avoid the "survey syndrome" altogether and simply hand out some well crafted postcard sized tracts with a clear, direct gospel message. Here's a an example of some of the ones we use:
We use the first two tracts and avoid the third since a dude with a cig hanging out of his mouth doesn't settle well with most folks, especially Muslims. However, the first two are great conversation starters and I use them every week in my own evangelism. There are no gimmicks involved, no bait-and-switch nonsense, and when people ask you "What is this?" I tell them directly, "This is a tract with the gospel of Jesus Christ on it. I'm out here talking to people about God and asking them following question ______".
Most people appreciate this direct approach because they've encountered the snake oil evangelists before, and the lack of upfront honesty turns them off to further conversation once they find out what you're on to. Coming with dishonest pretenses as a tool to get an audience for the gospel is completely contradictory to the gospel. I'm not saying we shouldn't be strategic at times; we should. However, when it comes to introducing yourself to people; I've found that being completely honest and straightforward about your purpose and mission is most beneficial if you want to continue the encounter in a productive way.
As far as tracts are concerned, I'd get a batch of 2500 of the first and 2500 of the second kind. Be sure to put your church's contact info on the back if your church is doctrinally solid enough to recommend. If not, then put your own contact info on the back instead so that those who want to follow up with you have a way to do so.
Note: If you can't recommend your home church, you will need to eventually leave that church and find another one to attend that is doctrinally solid. This is because eventually, God is going to give you a lost person to take to church and if your home church is loosey-goosey doctrinally or practically speaking; you'll be inconsistent at best and unnecessarily confuse a lost person at worst. Remember, lost people don't need help being more confused about Christianity than they already are. In sum, it is essential that you be attending a doctrinally sound church for the sake of consistency and honesty in your presentation.
2. Be ready to ask people questions like these:
"Do you believe absolute truth exists?"
"In your opinion, what must a person do to be reconciled to God?"
"If you could ask God one question, what would it be?"
"Where do moral standards come from?"
These simple questions allow you to gather data from people concerning what they believe about issues of ultimacy. The answers you receive will tell you where to take the conversation next. Be ready to answer all humanistic and non-Christian answers to these question so as to point people to Christ's word and Christ's gospel. Be ready also to deal with various types of relativism and pluralism, even among professing Christians. I'd recommend the following introductory books to get your feet wet:
Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Frank Beckwith and Greg Kokul.
Understanding the Koran by Mateen Elass.
Faith with Reason: Why Christianity is True by Joseph Farinaccio. Get the free .pdf here.
The Illustrated Guide to World Religions by Dean Halverson.
The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. The DVD set here covers the same information in more of a summary form and is a worthwhile purchase.
Refuting Evolution 1 by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati. Get free online version here.
Refuting Evolution 2 by " ". Get free online version here.
Misquoting Truth: A guide to the fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" by Paul Timothy Jones.
Scripture Alone by Dr. James White.
The Forgotten Trinity by " ".
Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Kokul.
Tactics in Defending the Faith by " " (CD/DVD series).
My introduction to good apologetical practice came not through formal seminary education, but from witnessing encounters where I had to get answers to questions I couldn't answer. My goal in using apologetics is to stop the mouth of the naysayer and then fill it with the gospel. The goal is the gospel, period.
3. Offer free quality materials
Give out handouts, pamphlets, Bibles, DVDs, and other materials with a clear and consistent gospel presentation. Again, avoid gimmicky literature and handing out poor Bible translations like the NLT, The Message, The Good News Translation, etc. and give out copies of scholarly, committee produced translations such as the ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc. For short doctrinal treatises, I'd personally stick to using Reformed literature and media from guys like this:
Lies Students Hear
Alpha and Omega
Are There No Absolutes?
Are You Bad Enough?
Are You Born Again?
Baptism or Christ?
God’s Answers to Man’s Excuses
God’s Answers to Man’s Questions
Great Teacher or God Incarnate?
How Would You Feel?
One Way or Many?
Way of Salvation
What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?
The Worth of a Soul
What Every Woman Needs
To Order Tracts, click here. Be sure to get some tracts in Spanish as well.
4. Be nice - act like a Christian
Don't get into emotionally charged disagreements with people that cause you to get all bent out of shape. Sooner or later you'll get people who will want to argue with you up one side and down another. If naysayers can stay calm and engage you in a charitable way, then use Biblical apologetics to reason with them. If not, then leave them alone and let them go their heathen way.
5. Have at least one or two people work with you
Have one person do open-air preaching while the other two pray for you and try to engage people who are listening or walking by. If you are walking around doing street witnessing, have the more confident and experienced person initiate conversations with people while your partner stands by and listens and learns. If you have a booth set-up then one or two of you can man the booth while one of you talks to people and hands out literature as they pass by.
6. Regularly go to the same "Fishing Hole".
Be a regular presence somewhere in your city for the purposes of evangelism. It may be the library, a coffee shop, a university campus, or a flea market. "Fishing in the same pond" on a regular basis shows the world that you aren't a fly by night kind of person who is operating off a whim. Consistency in your time and place of evangelism shows the unbeliever that you are genuinely committed to what you are doing and that you mean business. It also shows that you truly care about reaching people with your message. Regularly being in the same place at about the same time will allow you to develop loose friendly relationships with the "regulars" and they will come to expect your presence and your message. This will have a more powerful and long-lasting impact on them versus going to different places at different times from week-to-week.
God may be pleased to bring the not yet converted elect your way and your efforts will be useful in planting seeds in their hearts. Pray that God will make you a most efficient tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit in your demeanor and conversation.
8. Memorize Large Passages of Scripture
I would suggest working toward memorizing Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 3:1-36; Romans 3-5:1; Galatians 1:6-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and other pertinent evangelistic passages. Knowing your Bible well will take care of most apologetic/evangelistic questions that arise in your conversations with people. Most people's objections to Christianity are a result of their misunderstanding of it. Be able to share the gospel in 60 seconds, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 10 minutes and be able to correct people's misapprehensions about basic Christian doctrine.
9. Be Faithful
Seek to measure success by your faithfulness in clearly proclaiming the gospel of God. Avoid trying to exactly replicate the efforts of other modern evangelists like Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, or myself. You are not them and they are not you. Learn from them; but eat the meat and spit out the bones and recognize that God has given you a different personality, different characteristics, and a different disposition. Let the Bible be your ultimate evangelistic guidebook as to determining how things "ought be done". Eventually, after engaging people a lot, you'll develop your own comfortable style and evangelism will become as natural to you as any other daily activity. Also, whatever you do, avoid the temptation to measure success by man's standards. God converts people in His time, not yours (1 Corinthians 3:6). You go and tell; after that, it is up to God to regenerate and convert.
Conclusion: Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Learn from the example of the apostles and be ready to engage your culture with the truth in a loving fashion. Make evangelism a priority instead of a sideline activity. Make it part of your normal, daily conversation, and eventually, God will bless your obedient and faithful seed-planting with eventual fruit-bearing that brings glory to Him and good to you!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him. . . . 20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. 21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. 22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body. (Proverbs 26:17-22 NAU)While working full-time as a church planter, evangelist, and apologist for the faith, it has never ceased to amaze me how much slander and gossip fueled by a cold and calloused spirit is prevalent in some local churches that claim to be committed to the doctrines of grace. You would think that with the plethora of doctrinal heresies available to Reformed churches, most people would struggle with the doctrinal garbage; but my own experience working in Reformed Baptist circles proves exactly the opposite. Wouldn't it make sense to think that those who have drunk deeply from the doctrines of God's sovereign grace would be some of the most godly, gracious, loving, and giving people on the face of the earth? I mean, didn't Paul say this?
For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1Co 4:7 NAU)I have found that in general, blatant heretics will not hang around our churches very long because they simply can't stand to hear the clear proclamation of verse-by-verse truth from week to week since it directly contradicts their views. Not only that, but they know they will get weeded out sooner than later as the elders are ready to rebuke them with an open Bible in hand so as to protect the flock from such wolves (Acts 20:28-31). We have had to do this a few times, but overall, it has been few and far between (Titus 1:9).
However, many professing Christians who are thick on good doctrine but thin on Christian love will hang on for years, and years, and years with very little substantive change evidenced by a softened, more pliable, teachable, and humble heart. You would think that the more a person understands grace, the more they would become like a humble beggar: receptive, grateful, and always waiting for more spiritual food to come from their Abba Father. We Reformed folk seem to have done a great job prepping our people to recognize and avoid blatant doctrinal heresy in evangelicalism, but when it comes to dealing with sins associated with body life (i.e., the sins associated with how we treat, interact, and minister to each other), it seems as if God's people in Calvinistic churches are also plagued with some of the same sins that the rest of evangelicalism struggles with, though hopefully, to a lesser degree.
As an elder, I often ask myself questions like these: "How is it possible that people who have been shown so much love by God and His people could be so backbiting and devouring of the very brothers and sisters who have loved them in difficult circumstances?"
Indeed, it has been repeated by many great thinkers, "the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded."
My own view is that in Calvinistic churches, much of this is multifaceted, as it is in other evangelical traditions. Here are a few suggestions as to why professing evangelicals in Calvinistic churches tend to engage in the plague and stench of a backbiting whisperer:
1. The False Convert
Evangelical churches are loaded with these people, and their kind is not limited to non-Calvinistic churches. They might enjoy listening to hymns, CCM, gospel music, and other Christian genres. They may be able to quote John 3:16 and other popular passages with ease. They know how to speak "Christianese" and can often do so with flowery phrases. They regularly attend church and may even frequently say, "Amen!" to the preaching of the word when all the while they are dying and going to Hell with Bibles in their hands. They have an outward appearance of righteousness and if you were to look at them for a while you would say that they were true believers (Matthew 13:20-22). However, given their lack of fruit bearing, they are silently screaming to you that they are full of dead-men's bones and lost in their sins. They are slaves to corruption and by their fruits will know them. One of those fruits is speaking the language of Satan through slander and gossip that can lead to division, deceit, and destruction in the lives of those within the local church body.
2. The Pastor-Centered Church
Approach: Depend on a personable, dynamic super-pastor to attract and minister to people in the church.
Problem: The ministry of the church is built around a man and his abilities. The pastor plans and leads most or many of the programs. People tend to be involved only in those programs the pastor leads and some in the congregation become like rock-star groupies of this particular pastor. In some cases, this type of pastor eventually can get weary and burned out from all the writing, speaking, traveling, and prepping. See When Your Preacher is Not John Piper by Steve Burchett. When people follow a man rather than Jesus, they will look to what the man has said rather than looking to what God has said in his word. In my experience, this can result in people pitting their pastor (or a pastor) against the Bible when they are confronted with their sins by fellow Christians. When they are confronted in a sermon or in private, they say, "Yeah but, MacArthur says this . . . or Piper wouldn't have said it that way". They say these things in effort to remove the sting of their sin. Of course, I'm not disparaging good teachers; quite the contrary! However, I have seen this phenomenon in the church and it tends to produce followers of men who look to men rather than to God for their reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It's true that the connection between a dynamic, orthodox Bible teacher/preacher and a backbiting whisperer doesn't make any sense, but it exists. I have seen it one too many times. This is just another example of how sin in all of its irrationality produces foolish and ungodly behavior in those who should know better.
3. The Preaching Centered Church
Approach: Preach the Bible from the pulpit and expect everything else to fall in place and people to grow as disciples.
Problem: Proclamation alone is not adequate to make disciples. This tends to build a church full of Sunday morning only attendees who come for what they can get out of it. Mutual ministry in the body is weak or non-existent. Professing Christians in this environment can become hearers of the word and not doers of the word (orthodox, yet spiritually dead hypocrites, like the Pharisees of the New Testament). This brings us to the next brief point.
The Danger of Self-Deception
The sad thing is that many professing Christians I have encountered in my ministry do not think that they are being hateful, backbiting, and devouring with their divisive talk. Quite the contrary, they think they are serving the cause of God and truth by stabbing others in the back with their mouths. They don't even recognize that we can deceive ourselves, hence the Scriptural warnings from the apostle James,
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. (Jam. 1:22-26 NAU)The Solution: Repentance in the Context of a Disciple-making Church
Yes, I realize that the above title might sound overly simplistic. Conceptually, it is simple. Practically it's usually not that cut and dried. It is simplistic because whether false professor or gossiping believer, both parties should repent and do works befitting of repentance. However, because God grants repentance to the former and oftentimes uses disobedience to chasten the latter, things are not as cut and dried practically speaking (2 Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 12:5-11). God must do a work of grace in both hearts, and apart from some dramatic road to Damascus type of experience, discerning whether God's work of conversion or sanctification has or is taking place takes some time. Sure, we follow the Scriptural protocol for church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:6). But that takes time too, and people need to be given space for repentance. Either way, false professors usually leave a disciple-making church (1 John 2:19) and sinning Christians repent soon or don't repent soon and get spanked by their loving Heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:5-11). In other words, God takes care of these things in His own way, but these things take time to deal with. Personal discipleship in the Scriptures with the foundational presuppositions of a high view of God and a low view of man is the ticket to taming the tongue. This discipleship is best done in a one-on-one or small group context where untamed tongues can be lovingly domesticated by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures and God blessed teachers and mentors who can exemplify what it means to have a controlled mouth (James 3:1).
May God bless our churches in these efforts beginning with our own repentance as leaders if necessary, and may the fruits of that repentance show itself in our people who must allow their souls to be cleansed from the plague and stench of a backbiting whisperer.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile
Hinckley Claims LDS Worship Different Christ
Basics of Mormonism: Falling Upward
A Miracle for Mormons - Forgiveness of Sins
Changing the Book of Commandments
False Prophecy in the Doctrine and Covenants
Joseph Smith and the Biblical Test of a Prophet
The Bible: 1,002 - Book of Mormon: Zero
Testing the Book of Mormon by Moroni 10:4
Have you hit your heads?
Glenn Beck at the LU Graduation! Love it! And I'm loving the snarking of the haters. LU folk: rejoice when they revile!
Given Caner's attitude and Liberty U's invite of Beck, its no wonder most of the professing evangelical Christians that I witness to are absolutely clueless about the gospel.
Note: The first and last sentences of this post were modified 4-27-10 for greater accuracy.
Friday, April 23, 2010
What follows below is the final interaction I had with an atheist on Facebook earlier this month. His last response was typical of many atheists I interact with; posting lists of supposed contradictions and discrepancies in the nature of God, etc., while avoiding answering how he can justify his use of logic in the first place to argue against Christianity. Since I posted the response below, I have yet to hear from this man.
Your reasoning is perfectly circular. You haven't demonstrated that you know that God provides "the conditions for the intelligibility of reality", nor that the Bible even suggests this much, merely that you think that He does based on your belief in your understanding of the Bible.
Actually I have demonstrated through a brief, cursory Scriptural overview that God provides justification for such preconditions of intelligibility and the reliability thereof. You just don’t like God’s answers. Nor do you like the fact that there is no higher locus of authority upon which to begin one’s reasoning than Christ’s own word (Hebrews 6:18).
You have no such epistemological foundation, and thus, you will never be able do anything that depends upon the principle of uniformity without being irrational. Don’t forget that.
Regarding circular reasoning; everybody assumes certain things about the universe that are not testable or demonstrable through the procedures of natural science. These ideas must first be assumed to get any idea or thought off the ground. They are axiomatic, presuppositional, and necessary. To deny them is to affirm them in the denial. Logic is but one of those axioms.
Many people are unaware that at the base of all their reasoning sits some type of circularity. It seems that you are in that camp when you say things like this about logic:
“The universe is a logical place. It's a brute fact.”
There is no such thing as a “brute fact”. Everyone (including you) interprets any data that comes in through the five senses through an already pre-existing grid of foundational beliefs called a worldview. It is those foundational beliefs that I am challenging.
“. . . or it's possible that, as the philosopher John Leslie has argued with an idea he traces back to Plato, an abstract agency like Goodness or Logic itself created the universe in a good and/or logical way.”
So it’s okay to arbitrarily posit (i.e., because you don’t have any “revelation” from “Goodness” or “Logic”) that a pre-existing abstract, non-personal immaterial law or concept pre-existed the universe and brought it into existence but not an all-powerful, eternal, sovereign personal God who has told you so in His word? To posit such constitutes a double-standard since you allow arbitrarily allow the possibility of one without any clear revelation from it and not the other Who has given you revelation in 66 books written by men who were borne along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
“. . . I don't know, and neither does anyone else.”
Thanks for showing us that your belief about the origin, regularity, reliability, and consistency of logic is a faith position. The problem is however that your “faith” is groundless since it is based upon the problem of induction . . . a problem that Hume and no other secular philosopher has ever solved in the entire history of Western philosophy.
I don't have to account for it in the same way I don't have to account for the fact that circles are not square.
I’m not asking about the existence of the laws of logic and the impossibility of square circles. We’re agreed on that. I’m asking how you can account for the reliability of logical laws without begging the question. I think that you are an intelligent man and you know what I’m asking, you’re simply avoiding the question because you know you can’t account for the very thing you claim makes your reasoning superior to that of Christians. Worse yet, since you can’t account for it but arbitrarily assume the reliability of it, you are irrational. Note again, irrational.
While we’re on the subject of irrationality; since you mention “square circles”, why can’t they exist? Given atheism, the fact that square circles haven’t existed in the past doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future, especially since you have admitted that you don’t know with regards to the laws of logic. If you don’t know, then cats might give birth to baby aardvarks tomorrow and as the skeptic David Hume said, the sun might not come up tomorrow.
How do you know that they will operate the same way in the future as they have in the past? To assume that they will without a reason is irrational and arbitrary. If you want to be arbitrary then I could say this: “Well, God just exists. The universe is a God-created place. It’s a brute fact, and I don’t have to justify it. It’s just true whether we like it or not.”
To say that you are justified in your belief that logic will continue to operate in a uniform and consistent way in the future is because they have done so in the past doesn’t tell me about what they will do in the future; it tells me about what they have done in the past. To assume that logic will operate in a uniform way in the future because it has done so in the past is to beg the question and hence, be irrational.
If logic is contingent upon the universe then that means that logical laws could change as the universe changes. If so, then tomorrow we could have “square circle soup” for dinner, the universe could exist and not exist at the same time and the same sense, and cats could give birth to baby elephants.
Whether you like it or not, absurdities like this are your lot if you reject the God of the Bible. Your greatest problem is not only your irrationality, but also your autonomy, an autonomy that will lead to death and eternal damnation in Hell.
Technically speaking, circular reasoning is not actually a logical fallacy unless the thing assumed is assumed in an arbitrary way. Circular reasoning wherein one begins with some piece of data and then adds more pieces of date to the puzzle is the basic process of operational science. In a similar yet more fundamental way, assuming that God provides justification for the above per His own statements thereto is not only sufficient, but also necessary grounds for any predication whatsoever since God is the highest authority and answerable to no one (cf. Heb. 6:13 again).
Godel’s theorem’s would only apply to finite deities that are contained exclusively within this universe and who reveal themselves within only this time-space-matter continuum. Such does not apply to the Triune God of Scripture as He is both immanent within His creation yet transcendent over it.
I will not entertain your questions about the supposed contradictions in God and His revelation until you explain to me how you can account for the law of non-contradiction in the first place.
The ball is in your court my friend.
"As many of you have heard week after week for the last few months, the deacons have been diligently seeking families to clean our church facility each week. At this point, we have some families who have cleaned multiple times, and many of you have cleaned at least once.
We are very thankful for your sacrificial service to your brothers and sisters and to the Lord. Currently, we do not have anyone signed up for the first two weeks of May. Please consider taking a look at these dates and committing to serve. At this point, we hope to see families cleaning once every two to three months. So lets think about it: There are 1800 hours in 2 and a half months, and the cleaning may take your family 2 of those hours. I must say that thinking about it this way really helps put things in perspective for my family.
I also challenge you to think about a few things as you serve Jesus in this capacity. Would it be too much to thank Him for indoor plumbing and that we don’t have to walk a long distance to find clean water to bring back and fill the toilets? As we clean food off the chairs, floors, and tables, does it remind you to be thankful for the abundance of food He provides that we share together every other week? Do you think about clean and comfortable chairs that are still very new, and your efforts to keep them that way to honor Jesus for His provision?
I recently watched a DVD from the church library about textual criticism and the authenticity of the New Testament. The speaker, Daniel B. Wallace, referred to the evidence that God has provided to us, as an “embarrassment of riches.” He was emphasizing the overwhelming evidence we have that proves the reliability of God’s Word. I was reminded how much this phrase applies to our American living conditions and earthly blessings from the Lord. As we consider this facility and our church property, we certainly have an embarrassment of riches that we must acknowledge and use to glorify our God and Savior. These thoughts are very humbling and necessary for the believer to think about as we serve our Lord and King.
Thank You "