Today many Christians of all ages are questioning their Christian faith. Since 9/11 a new movement of bold atheists has arisen to question and even ridicule the Christian faith. While some are even saying that the Christian faith is outdated and Christians are uneducated and believe a bunch of fairytales, the Lord is raising up an army of apologist-theologians who are unashamed of the gospel. A new book Jesus Or Nothing by Dr. Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce college, the undergraduate school of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes to counter these objections and help Christians to think carefully by comparing the Christian worldview with the notion of a godless universe devoid of true goodness and ultimate significance.
The author states his purpose is not “to offer finely tuned apologetic arguments- though there are several references to such defenses but instead to ask the reader to envision what the world would look like if the gospel were actually true” (17). Chapter one seeks to outline the story of the gospel. Here the author states his goal is to help the reader understand that “life boils down two categories, the ball or the cross. It’s either Jesus or Nothing” (31). Chapter two helps the reader understand the reason for our existence, while chapter three brings clarity to why we exist. Chapter four looks at grace and guilt and chapter five helps the reader understand the purpose of morality. Chapter six examines how to answer adversaries and chapter seven looks at the how Jesus gives meaning to life.
As I read this book, and spent some time afterwards thinking about what the author was trying to do in this book, I came to the conclusion that what he is doing is demonstrating the truth of C.S. Lewis statement that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or who He says He is. The Puritans said Jesus called people to a response and often divided His audience between those who would believe and those who would reject Him. The same is true today. While atheists and others have arisen to question and undermine the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, this is nothing new. Truly Solomon was right when he said there is nothing new under the sun. People may come and people may go but the Word of God will remain forever. His faithfulness endures even in the midst of attack and ridicule.
Often times Christians get the idea that they must understand all the objections to the Christian faith in order to respond to them. The best response to objections is a consistent Christian life. That kind of life testifies to the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ like nothing else. As the author explains throughout this book, the rock-solid foundation for life that Christians enjoy is in and through the gospel. The author is right the gospel offers the explanation for the reason for our existence, grace for our guilt and meaning for our mortality. Whether you are struggling or wrestling with these issues or not, I encourage you to pick up Jesus or Nothing. Many people around you are struggling and they need your help. They need to see what a godly life looks like and how to respond to objections in a healthy God-honoring way. I encourage you to pick up Jesus or Nothing and learn from Dr. DeWitt, a man on the front lines helping train young men and women to know and make known the glory of the Cross in a world that views such proclamation as foolishness. I highly recommend this book for lay Christians, seminary students and pastors and those invested in teaching or training the new generation of Christian leaders.
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High school and college students are inundated everyday with challenges in their classrooms, from their peers and from a culture that opposes a biblical worldview. This often leads to students questioning their faith in a negative way, namely with an attitude of unbelief; rather than one to ask good questions of what they believe and why it matters. Often times in my experience this is because they are not taught to ask the right question which would help them to uncover the right answers. Asking good questions in my opinions is the byproduct of critical thinking skills that are often no longer taught in our schools anymore. Enter a new book Truth Matters Confidence Faith in a Confusing World by Drs. Andreas Kostenberger, Darrel Bock, and Josh Chatraw, a book that seeks to help young Christians understand that real questions about the Christian faith are not bad and can be helpful when asked with the goal of uncovering the truth about the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Along the way the authors aim to help students learn to ask good questions and defend their faith in the midst of a culture they inhabit that is largely suspicious even hostile to Christianity.
Truth Matters like several others works that have come out recently, seeks to engage Dr. Bart Ehrman, one of the leading voices attacking the reliability of the Christian faith. I remember sitting in a class on moral philosophy at a secular community college in the Seattle, Washington area. In this class the professor, a man with very liberal leanings espoused his view of morality and whatever topic he wanted to engage. Being that I’m a Christian, my friends often asked me why I didn’t try to engage him and argue with him. Part of me wanted to and part of me did not. I was young at this time and knew I could stand up and speak out. I wanted to be sure I had the right motivation for speaking up because I knew once I did I would be immediately challenged. One day I did speak up and engage the professor. He came over to me after a break in the class and leaned over to me and said, “Don’t you ever make me look like that in class.” To be honest I don’t remember what I even said to garner that response but I do remember the look on his face. This experience while not reminding me of Ehrman who I’ve never met and never read still reminded me of the incident at the community college those many years ago. It is the spirit of skepticism that holds religious beliefs in question with a view to deny them and even dismiss them as merely a bunch of fairy tales and myths.
Truth Matters looks at the nature of unbelief and why so many people are attracted to it in chapter one. In chapter two look at the question of whether God is near or far from man, and whether He cares. Chapter three looks at how the Bible came into being. Chapter four explores whether the Bible has contradictions or not. Chapter five examines the issue of the accuracy of the Bible. Chapter six looks at who determined what biblical Christianity is about. Chapter seven explores the resurrection of Christ. The book concludes exploring what a reasoned faith looks like.
I really enjoyed reading Truth Matters. As a high school student I was engaged in several ministries aimed at reaching my fellows students. When I graduated high school I went to a local community college up north and started Servants of Grace. During that time I was also involved in campus ministry as the campus student leader. All of this to say that I personally experience hostility towards the Christian faith both as a high school and a college student. Most of the objections are not new to me but rather old one’s that have been repackaged to reach more people with greater appeal. This is the point of this book to address those objections and meet a huge need to help students struggling with questions. There is nothing wrong with struggling with what you believe but as I indicated at the opening of this review, the question becomes what is your motivation for questioning. If one’s motivation in questioning is to question blindly in order to validate one’s perspective that isn’t honest questioning. If one is questioning what they believe to gain a better understanding of it with a view to build their faith in the Lord then that is earnest questioning.
Truth Matters aims to ask good questions which produce solid answers which is also why this is a solid resource that I highly recommend. We live in challenging times and high school and college student face difficult questions and decisions on every side. I’m thankful for The Truth Matters, a resource I believe will greatly help and aid high school and college students, along with those engaged in ministering to them to be able to help them learn how to ask good questions and receive good answers, all the while for the purpose that readers will be equipped to contend and defend the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. I highly recommend The Truth Matters and hope and pray it gains a wide and far reaching readership.
Title: Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World
Authors: Andreas Kostenberger, Darrel Bock, and Josh Chatraw
Publisher: B&H (2014)
I received this for free from B&H book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Last week David Murray linked to an article that might show us where gay marriage advocates want to go next. Many Christians have noted that gay marriage is a slippery slope that will utterly decimate the meaning of marriage. Such a notion has been mocked for years now. In the aforementioned article, Jay Michaelson seems to agree, but from a much different perspective.
In the article Michaelson points out this:
Radicals point out that gay liberation in the 1970s was, as the name implies, a liberation movement. It was about being free, questioning authority, rebellion. “2-4-6-8, smash the church and smash the state,” people shouted.
This alone should tell us that gay marriage advocates will not stop at gay marriage. This is at its core a bohemian movement, a movement of rebellion. And as a movement of rebellion it will either continue rebelling or die altogether.
Consider this from Mark Sayers:
Reflecting upon the bohemian tradition, Albert Camus would note that the bohemian is ‘by occupation, always in opposition. He can only exist by defiance.’ The bohemian’s entire identity is wrapped in defining themselves against what they deride as the mainstream. Life for the bohemian is parasitical. Their identity depends on setting themselves against something that if destroyed will ultimately destroy the bohemian. (Facing Leviathan, 152)
What then will happen when the bohemian viewpoint becomes the mainstream? One of two things. Either the bohemian will die or he’ll need to push the boundaries even further. Either way gay marriage will not—it cannot—be the pinnacle.
The Church and the Bohemian
There is good—though heart-wrenching—news here. Amidst the wreckage of Bohemianism the church will find itself in a position to thrive. For Bohemianism can never last because it can never create. It can only critique and deconstruct. Such a worldview will eventually breed disillusionment. And in such a climate a powerful God that can create in chaos and speak in the whirlwind will be heard.
But let us not think that the church must pout and sit on the sideline waiting for the collapse. God is big enough to captivate the heart of the most settled Bohemian. Now. Today. When you speak. Therefore, no matter how unpopular it becomes the church must continue to lovingly proclaim the good news of God’s Word. Because here life is given.
In a time like this we do not need the voice of a distant prophet giving mere social commentary. Surely Mark Sayers is correct:
We can sit and watch the Twitter feed, critiquing methods, models, and ministries of others, from the comfort of our couches we can speculate on how it could be done better. We can devise all kinds of theories, read all the right books, engage in online debate, blog our opinions, yet the whole time be disconnected from actually having skin in the game. Even when our heart is for God’s kingdom, if we are not careful we can find ourselves critiquing from the sidelines of God’s activity within history. There is a world of difference between pundits and prophets. (Facing Leviathan, 157)
The Lord has seen fit to allow Bohemianism to gain a foothold. Let us minister in this day and age—the one that the Lord has given us, and not in the world that we wish we lived in. When the Lord sees fit, He’ll bring us there.
In the meantime let us faithfully guard the Word that has been entrusted to us. Just as we don’t need distant prophets we also don’t need crafty prophets that go about with their own message to reach Bohemians. We don’t need a new message. We need men and women that will lay their life down to stay faithful to the eternal truth of God.
Take heart, Christians. We might be riding on turbulent waters but we serve a God that walks on the waves, calms the sea, and creates life out of chaos.
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If you haven’t already heard…
Members of the Satanic Temple have unveiled their design for a 7-foot-tall statue of the devil they want to locate at the Capitol building in Oklahoma, right next to a monument of the Ten Commandments that has stood since 2012.
“The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond,” said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the group…“The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”
How concerned should Christians be about this display? The fact is, we should have seen this coming. Arguing for Christian symbols in the public square on the basis of historical tradition merely opens us up to the furtherance of new traditions—many traditions we won’t like. This is an example of an opening to views of a subculture of American society that despises Christianity and wishes for it to have zero influence in the wider culture. The appeal to fairness, equal access, and freedom to practice religion is protection for all worldviews in a pluralistic society like ours. We need to come to grips with that.
But in my opinion, here’s the real story. Christians are eager to respond to these types of material depictions of Satan, often more eager to do that than respond to the godless ideas that are at the foundation of these depictions. This is an indictment of the Christian mind. Christians are naturally repulsed by an image that appears to have demonic horns and loving on children. Yet how much do we understand the impact of such demonic beliefs on the lives and souls of those who follow pagan religions? This symbol in and of itself has only symbolic power, but unless Christians are capable of refuting the ideas behind this and similar imagery, what benefit is it to concern ourselves with this monument at all?
Rather than being offended by what seems to be an invasion of our space, we need to commit ourselves to a godly response to the underlying ideas that are finding a platform. The proliferation of this kind of imagery should be a warning to the Church that we’re not effectively communicating the message of sin and redemption or the intellectual superiority of Christianity over other worldviews as well as we might think.
The media isn’t fully to blame for what they report, for we need to give them a reason to say something else. What would be an exciting turn of events would be if instead of the media reporting on the offense taken by Christians over the erection of satanic monument, they could report on our purposeful, meaningful response to the ideas being furthered by groups like the Satanic Temple.
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One of the greatest challenge for the 21st century Christian is that of relativism. To illustrate this point consider the following scenario: You are at Bible study. You hear someone “share” their thoughts on a passage. They don’t focus on what the author of the text says, but rather on “I feel this passage says” with the end result of an appeal to emotions rather than biblical truth or fact. Now don’t get me wrong as there is a place for sharing feelings. Yet there is a difference between sharing feelings and interpreting the Bible. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative Word. When we come to the Bible only to share our thoughts about what it says, we run the risk of committing one of the most egregious errors of our age, namely to base what we believe on our feelings rather than in the timeless objective truth of God’s holy Word.
I spent a number of years when I lived in Seattle walking the streets ministering to homeless people in downtown Seattle. Now that I don’t live in Seattle, I often engage in conversations in coffee shops for the purpose of sharing Christ with people. What I have seen over the course of my time trying to reach non-Christians is they often lead with “I feel” this or that. They may not say, “I feel” or they may begin with “I think this” and then state what they believe. The problems with this are many and while everyone in a sense leads with “I feel” statements, the issue with this is Christians are not to ground their faith in feelings nor communicate that their faith is based on feelings.
Christians have an objective Word that confronts a subjective world. The Word of God provides the authoritative foundation for the Christians faith and practice. This means that their entire world is confronted by the reality of God’s presence and work in and through His Word and His Son Jesus. This is precisely why relativism is a challenge because you may hear someone state, “I feel that this means this” and nobody wants to come close to being perceived as mean-spirited by stating, “I don’t care how you feel”. This begs the question as to how Christians should respond to this challenge.
Christians should respond to the challenge of relativism by undegirding their efforts in the Word of God by proclaiming the superiority of the biblical worldview to that of relativism. Christians can engage people where they are even if they don’t have all the answers to people’s objections to biblical Christianity. When Christians minister to the lost and broken, they do so out of the conviction that they are to love God and our neighbor. What better way to show your non-Christian neighbor you love them than by engaging them as to why they have their particular worldview and how they came to that belief. Such an approach efforts to respond to relativism by treating people as created in the image of God and needing the redemption that Christ offers.
People today are interested in spiritual matters but not in the same way as they were in the past. In today’s society, most people want to know you care about them on a personal level, with the understanding that your conversation with them is based on a concern about who they are and where they are at in life rather than simply trying to win them over to a certain position or belief. In my experience, what non-Christians want to see from Christians is that they truly do love God and love their neighbor. This is the very thing Jesus said sums up all of Scripture and thus to truly follow God’s Word means loving our neighbor. Demonstrating care and concern for non-Christians as people in need of God’s love is to show that we believe what Jesus has said.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to Christians today is Christians themselves. We often think that our position is the only one that matters. Jesus taught that He is the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), a statement that provides the framework for why Christians hang their hats on Jesus’ perfectly sufficient and finished work in His death, burial and resurrection. Yet at the same time, many Christians would rather not ask hard questions about what they believe what they do and why what they believe matters. When confronted with difficult questions, some if not most Christians tend to make excuses for why they don’t know the answers rather than be honest and transparent about what they do and do not know. By taking this approach, Christians communicate to non-Christians that they aren’t concern to know what they believe and how that belief should inform the way they live their Christian life. The Gospel is the power of God. Yet, how Christians communicate the Gospel often times undermines the very message we claim to believe. With that said, despite our foibles, God uses the foolishness of His people’s efforts for His glory to expand His Kingdom.
The Bible has much to say about how Christians are communicate their faith. For example, Christians are called to be a people who control their tongue (James 3) and who speak to one another with words seasoned by grace (Colossians 4:6). So how does that relate to the challenge of relativism? Since Christians are called to proclaim a message that confronts the “I feel” attitude, we need to be careful to proclaim what we believe and why it matters to a watching world in a way that honors God and brings Him glory. We do this by communicating the truth of God’s objective truth from His Word by saying, “This is what God has said” rather than “I feel this means this or states this because of…” The Christian is called to proclaim the authoritative Word that confronts the proud and calls sinners to become saints and rebels, servants of His grace. The sad truth is at the end of the day, many people will not be persuaded by the Gospel. Instead of coming to Christ non-Christians would rather continue living under the banner of their feelings than base their thoughts and lives on the authoritative Word of God.
Proclaiming the Gospel and confronting the challenge of relativism requires great care not only in how we handle the Word of God, but also in how the Gospel is proclaimed to the people we are preaching to. Jesus calls His people to love Him and their neighbor. I challenge you to love Jesus by grounding your whole life in the Word of God which contains the Gospel, for the purpose of loving your neighbor with the Word and the message of the Gospel. By taking this approach, you will be able to respond to the challenge of relativism with both your life and the Gospel message which are to increasingly reflect the message of the Gospel. In conclusion, the best way ultimately to deal with and respond to the challenge of relativism in the 21st century is with a life that mirrors the Word of God by the grace of God to the glory of God.
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Last night with my daughter, I was watching the children’s cable channel called Nickelodeon. What was drawing our interest was a show called “The Legend of Korra”, a spin-off cartoon from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Now I understand most may not be familiar with these cartoons, which ultimately is the purpose of this particular post. What I saw last night was quite disturbing. Let me tell you all that completely gone are the days of Bugs Bunny, Popeye, Tom & Jerry and Woody Woodpecker. Those cartoons have been replaced with a New Age belief system that is being fed to our children. I want you to watch at least a clip from the 20 minute video provided below. I am hopeful you will pick up on subtle and not so subtle discussion of spirit possession, transcendental meditation, connecting with spirit guides, and a number of other completely New Age belief systems.
Keep in mind these themes did not just accidentally make their way into this cartoon. This is a planned and purposeful attempt to inundate children with New Age themes under the guise of it “just being a cartoon” and not real life. The idea of make believe is the cover story for the promotion of New Age ideas. For those not familiar with what these New Age beliefs are all about, I want to provide some definitions which are outlined below. I have no doubt this will shock many of you and honestly I hope it does. We cannot just let our children plop themselves in front of the television anymore, hoping that what is on is pure and edifying to their spiritual growth. Many of the definitions I will provide are from New Age websites so these definitions are from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
Spirit Guides – Spirit guides are incorporeal beings that are assigned to us before we are born that help nudge and guide us through life. They’re responsible for helping us fulfill the spiritual contract we make with ourselves before we incarnate. Your higher self helps select these guides, who help us while we are living out our incarnation. Spirit guides can see what’s going on in our lives, and when it’s time for them to actually guide and/or intervene they have several ways they can accomplish this.[i]
Transcendental Meditation – The Transcendental Meditation technique allows your mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought — pure awareness, also known as transcendental consciousness. This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness — your innermost Self. In this state of restful alertness, your brain functions with significantly greater coherence and your body gains deep rest.[ii]
Spirit possession – Spiritual possession is a phenomenon in which a stray being from the Spirit World constantly or temporarily possesses and exerts negative influence on a person living on earth. Most commonly they are known as ‘evil spirits’ and, although many people may scoff at the idea, it is a real and undeniable fact that they exist and influence our lives. Spiritual possession can be the cause of illnesses, mental disorders or even crimes, but this phenomenon is not being treated appropriately since modern medicine and science do not recognize the existence of spiritual possession. Fact is though the phenomenon of spiritual possession is a common occurrence and to prevent or counter it people must have accurate spiritual knowledge – they must know the Truth.[iii]
Let me first ask you if any of the three New Age beliefs mentioned above are promoted anywhere in Scripture as something believers should be involved in or to be anywhere near. The answer is a resounding no.
Let’s examine a few scriptures.
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.”(Lev. 19:31)
‘A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.’ ” (Lev. 20:27)
“for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.” (Deut. 18:12)
“So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.” (I Chron. 10:13)
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15)
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
Ultimately, we are told to flee such things as they are nothing more than attempts by the enemy to lure people aware from the true God to being led by what are essentially evil spirits. As mentioned earlier, these are not simple children’s cartoons. They are overt attempts to make that which God has declared to be an abomination as something that is acceptable in our society. Be cognizant of what your children are watching. Be diligent parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and friends by taking careful note of what is on television, movies, books, and all forms of secular media. Even within what appears to be nothing more than an afternoon cartoon is in fact a clear deception from the enemy, an attempt to lure our children into practices that God has declared are disgusting in His sight. May we declare the words of the Psalmist in such matters: “I will not allow before my eyes any shameful thing. I hate those who act crookedly; what they do does not attract me.” (Ps. 101:3) Remember what is taking place, something the Apostle Paul warned believers about: “For we are not struggling against human beings, but against the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers governing this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm”(Eph. 6:12). After watching that rather wicked (and I don’t mean cool wicked but rather wicked in the biblical sense) cartoon called “The Legend of Korra”, I am further reminded of the urgency and facticity of Paul’s words.
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