Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Apologetics, Featured

Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches

Mapping Apologetics Use the word apologetics and quite likely a great number of things will come to mind ranging from two people dressed in suits on a stage arguing about a variety of complicated approaches to engaging scripture in a manner that seems far removed from something the average laymen could ever understand. Given Scripture commands “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15), it is thus important for all believers to understand what doing apologetics is all about and why it is an essential element of our walk with God and how we interact with the world around us.

Brian Morley in his very helpful book Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches, outlines the various methodologies related to the doing of apologetics. This is a survey book and in it, Morley focuses on providing the reader with an overview of the key figures over the years in the field of apologetics, their respective systems of apologetics, how they are similar and how they differ, and most importantly, Morley shares how each system can be used to do what apologetics should be focused on to begin with, that of sharing the message of Scripture and the truth contained therein.

There is much to enjoy about this book. The topic of apologetics can get quite heady very quickly, especially when matters of a philosophical nature are included as well as the seemingly never ending list of theological terminology that can make many a readers mind shudder. While Morley does not shy away from engaging the technical and philosophical aspects of apologetical methods and their proponents, he does so in a way that helps the reader understand what each apologetics method is focused on doing, why it approaches things in the manner it does, and the pros and cons if you will of each of those constructs.

The one element I most appreciated about this book was the “Thinking it Over” section found at the end of each chapter. In these respective sections, Morley provides a lengthy list of questions for the reader to ponder that both reflect back on the information provided in that chapter and challenging the reader to engage the information discussed on an even deeper level of thought and action. For instance, in his chapter on John Frame, Morley asks the salient question of “Can the believer and nonbeliever know the same thing?” Now Morley covered Frame’s position on that question so the reader can certainly reflect on what Frame thought; however, the intent of asking such a question is to help the reader examine that particular apologists’ train of thought and apologetical methodology and whether that approach can answer some important theological questions.

Other added bonuses provided in this book are definitions of key apologetical terminology and an excellent collection of recommended resources by the specific apologists Morley explores in this book as well as texts written on those apologists and their respective apologetical methods. I would venture to say that even those well versed in the field of apologetics and familiar with the various apologists discussed in this book will find that after reading Morley’s excellent book, they will have added to their body of knowledge and understanding of apologetics in general and the methods by which apologetics is conducted.

This would make an excellent Bible College or Seminary text on apologetics, it would be a valuable book for a church small group to use, and it also is a wonderful tool for all believers to have as it contains a wealth of information on apologetics. As we noted earlier, doing apologetics is not just the responsibility of academics and those who like to debate. All believers are called to defend the faith and to share why it is they believe God’s Word to be truth. Morley’s book will go a long way to helping believers understand the various ways of doing apologetics. I highly recommend this book.

This book is available for purchase from IVP Academic by clicking here.

I received this book for free from IVP Academic 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.”

Read More »

Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Posted by on Aug 8, 2015 in Apologetics, Featured

Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice I live in an area with a large number of people who attend the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, many of my friends and co-workers are of the Catholic persuasion. Most of the time, conversations do not center on matters of doctrinal differences between the Catholic Church and Protestants. As a Protestant, I am well aware of the Protestant Reformation and as a former Seminary student, I am also knowledgeable of the reasons behind the split from the Catholic Church. With that said, I admittedly am not that knowledgeable of many of the specifics of Catholic doctrine. Thus, I was excited to read Gregg Allison’s book Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment.

My hope was that by reading this book, I would be better prepared when conversations regarding the differences between Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical doctrine present themselves. Since I have one co-worker who likes to engage in such discussions, having a resource to both understand her position based on her Catholic upbringing and what the Evangelical approach to similar points of doctrine are would be quite helpful. After reading Allison’s book, I am far better prepared for interactions on matters of doctrine with my Catholic friends and colleagues.

Allison provides the reader with a reasoned and well-researched profile of core Catholic doctrines and the Evangelical response/perspective on those doctrines. He notes in the introduction to this book that he is an “evangelical theologian whose experience with Catholic theology and practice is more extensive and personal than that of most evangelicals.” I found that statement quite comforting as it demonstrates the author is one familiar with the subject matter he is speaking to rather than simply going on a tirade against an opposing doctrine. Additionally, one of his main purposes in writing this book is to not only outline points of doctrinal disagreement, but also to point out when applicable, points of commonality between Catholic and Evangelical theologies. It is those points of agreement that can at times be a springboard for discussion rather than simply focusing solely on where the two sides find disagreement.

Each section and each chapter first focuses on a point of the Catholic catechism, analyzing the specifics of that particular element of Catholic doctrine and how that system approaches Scripture on that subject. That discussion is followed by an Evangelical assessment of the Catholic doctrine, again noting points of agreement as well as points of disagreement, being careful along the way to engage the Scriptural proofs for the Evangelical position.

All in all, I found the information to be fascinating and informative. An example of something I found interesting was the Catholic Catechism’s discussion of sin. I had heard my Catholic friends mention venial and mortal sins which is the idea that some sins are less serious (venial) while other sins (mortal) are a more “grave violation of the law of God.” Allison does an excellent job of explaining the details and what qualifies as sins which belong in either category. Closely connected with the idea of venial and mortal sins is the concept of purgatory. Venial sin “does not result in the loss of sanctifying grace…however, venial sin does merit temporal punishment in purgatory.” According to Catholic doctrine, mortal sin can only be appeased through the “sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.”

Allison rightly notes the Scriptural problems with the core tenets of venial and mortal sins. While he asserts that Scripture does not degrees of sins in regards to “terms of the consequences that different sins produce”, Allison correctly notes that the Catholic approach is far too weighted on trying to differentiate between sins with a resultant allowance to deal with sin by one’s own efforts. The correct and biblical approach is noting that all sin is an affront to God regardless of how “minor” or “major” it may be regarding its earthly consequences. Moreover, while living a life of loving obedience to God’s law should be the goal of all believers, only the shed blood of Christ can deal with the issue of sin and its impact on our relationship with God. Human effort is wholly insufficient, thus the need for Christ to come and die for sin.

This is a book I highly recommend, especially for those like myself who have a number of Catholic friends, family, and co-workers or for those interested in learning about the differences between Catholic and Evangelical doctrines. Well researched, informative and scholarly without losing its accessibility, this is a book I will refer to quite often.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

Read More »

What To Do About Planned Parenthood and Abortion

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

What To Do About Planned Parenthood and Abortion

quotescover-JPG-61-300x300-21463_300x200The news of late has been filled with the disturbing news of Planned Parenthood trafficking in the body parts of aborted babies. Anyone who has watched the horrific videos that have been circling around social media can’t help but notice the sickening glee by which the Planned Parenthood operatives rejoice over the opportunity to use these body parts as commodities. It really breaks my heart that anyone would view these precious unborn babies as nothing more than a means to an end. This anger thankfully is being shared by many across the country.

So what do we do about an organization such as Planned Parenthood or abortion in general? There are a great many calls to defund Planned Parenthood. A worthy endeavor, but unfortunately there is little zeal within the realm of politics to actually pass such a measure. Lots of talk for sure with little demonstrative action taking place and no action likely to take place that will cease federal funding of Planned Parenthood or abortions.

There is arguably more of an opportunity to effect change at the state and local level as the appetite to restrict abortion services seems to be more likely there. Even still, Planned Parenthood is all over the country and has their tentacles extended into all levels of government, supporting financially those candidates who are in favor of the murder of unborn babies in the name of women’s health.

This can all seem very discouraging, namely trying to defund a monstrosity such as Planned Parenthood and abortion. So again….what can one do? I have one suggestion – get involved in supporting adoption and those who offer those services at the local, state, and national levels.

I am the parent of an adopted child so the issue of adoption is very near and dear to my heart. In reality, it should be near and dear to every believer’s heart given the fact that God rescued us from the clutches of sin and death and adopted us as His children. To extend a loving and helping hand to an unwed mother, to a parent who cannot care for their child for whatever reason, to a child who was mistreated by their birth parents and is looking for the loving arms of parents who care – these are things God desires for His people to be about doing.

Even if God has not called you to adopt a child, you can certainly assist those who have been called either financially or through others means of support. You can volunteer at a local adoption agency or crisis pregnancy center. You can be involved in Boys and Girls clubs or inner city ministries that service those whom Planned Parenthood attracts. Churches as a whole can sponsor families interested in adoption. Let me tell you that adopting a child is not cheap. There are many fees (in the thousands of dollars), training that costs money, let alone outfitting your home for a child. The body of Christ can begin to put their money where their mouth is so to speak by investing in families who in turn are investing in the lives of children, both born and unborn.

This is an opportunity for us to act in a way that mirrors how God acted on our behalf. It is a chance to show love and mercy for those who are being targeted for death. Abortion is indeed the murder of the innocent. We should not stand idly by while precious children are being slaughtered and their body parts sold. Political action is certainly one method by which to address this atrocity. However, on a more practical level, we can be involved personally in the lives of those in our community, perhaps even opening our homes to a child and raising them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

What say you? Are you willing to do more than be angry at YouTube videos and new reports? Are you ready to act on behalf of the defenseless? Are you ready to invest in the lives of people who need help and who might feel the only alternative is abortion? The time to act is now. Encourage your local church to become involved with local adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers if they are not already. If they are involved and you are not involved as well, the time to become a part of the solution is right now. Do more than just write a check. Mentor young men and women. Reach out and help those in need, the unborn, the born, and those who are looking for answers. Righteous anger needs to lead to impactful action.

Will you do it?

Read More »

Biblical Marriage: An Institution Worth Standing for in the Face of Secularism

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

Biblical Marriage: An Institution Worth Standing for in the Face of Secularism

MarriageHere at Servants of Grace we believe in traditional biblical marriage—that marriage is between one man and one woman for life under God. In the first two chapters of Genesis, the Bible clearly teaches this position that God created Adam from the dust and took Adam’s rib and made Eve. God didn’t create man to be gay or transgender—He created man in His image and likeness to lead in the home and in the church. He created woman to be a helpmate to the man in the home and in the church. Even at the beginning of the Bible we see clear lines being drawn between what a man is and what a woman is.

Revisionists would have us believe that the institution of marriage is done and over with. Some Christians have even said we should abandon the fight for traditional marriage. Here at Servants of Grace, we believe that standing for marriage is vital to a biblical understanding of creation, God’s purpose for man, and the gospel itself. Paul teaches that marriage is a picture of His relationship with His people the Church (Ephesians 5). To dismiss and even deny marriage is to attack the foundation of these institutions themselves and to render them utterly purposeless.

To attack marriage is to attack God who created marriage. God created man in His image and His likeness. Sadly what we’ve seen in our culture is a move away from traditional biblical values and morals and towards hedonism that is centered on pleasure divorced completely from God. We’ve seen people go their own way and then promote their views as if they are the truth. These same people who are so “open-minded” want nothing more than to shut people down who oppose their viewpoint so they will be the only viewpoint out there. This is the new tolerance in action where people are told by our culture to keep their religion to themselves even while those who oppose biblical Christianity promote their religion publicly. The new orthodoxy of our culture is the newest form of hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, Christians should not be silent. We have a Word from God that is superior in every way to what the new orthodoxy of our culture teaches. Traditional marriage has stood the test of time. No culture in the history of mankind before has gone where America is going morally. It’s not surprising though. We’ve allowed the minority in our country to rule the majority. We’ve allowed those who are politically liberal to become the major voice and dictate to the rest of the population what we’re going to do. Marriage is still an institution worth standing for.

In a culture that devalues the truth, there is little surprise that there is currently an overreaction occurring in our culture towards traditional models of values. The former biblical values are grounded in absolute truth while the new orthodoxy of our culture is grounded in subjective feelings, subject to the latest and greatest in scientific research. For the new orthodoxy, secularism not the church is the pillar and ground of truth. Yet, God has established only one institution, the Church upon which He has said the gates of hell will not persevere over, and for which He bled, died, and rose for. This means that Pastors, church officers, ministry leaders, and churchmen and women everywhere will need to make a decision and count the cost for following Jesus in an oversexualized world.

As Christian men and women, we will need to be the voice of wisdom calling in the streets to our culture and not be silent about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will need to declare the whole counsel of God to sinners who have chosen to rebel against God’s holy and just law. We will need to declare the goodness and mercy of our God while we preach the justice and wrath of God that burns against the wicked. As Christians, we are to preach the gospel in faithfulness to God’s Word. Through this faithful preaching, God will bring the dead to new life in His name through His death, burial, and resurrection.

The only hope for our country is not new policies or laws—we’ve already seen where that goes. The only hope is the gospel. This is good news. Christian marriage is grounded in God, in the gospel, and firmly planted in the teaching of the Word of God. The Word of God has stood the test of time and will continue to stand because behind the Word of God is the God of the universe who created man in His image and likeness. He who is faithful and true will be faithful to His Word. This is why Christians should stand for marriage and cry out to everyone to repent and believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is still in the saving and sanctifying business. Christian, trust His Gospel—His Word is still true. Proclaim the Word faithfully in a godless culture that wants nothing more than subjective truth when what it needs is absolute truth and absolute morals that biblical Christianity believes and practices.

Read More »

The Future of Marriage in America and the Response of Christians

Posted by on Jun 26, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

The Future of Marriage in America and the Response of Christians

MarriageOver the past several years, I’ve written quite a lot on marriage. I’ve done so because I believe that marriage is a divine institution established by God between one man and one woman for life. Today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of gay marriage. The gay community is going to view this as a decision that justifies their view that they are right in their own eyes and that the law of the land favors what they want with their own lives. Here’s the thing– there’s a fundamental difference between being right in the eyes of the law and being right in the eyes of the Lord God, the ultimate Judge.

The Lord God created man in His image and likeness. Man is a sinner by nature and choice. At no point in the history of mankind has a country legalized gay marriage until fairly recently. Some people will now say they can be “gay’ and “Christian” because the law justifies their view. We’ve seen this particular brand of theology already and it’s already been responded to time and time again.

How should Christians respond to the SCOTUS decision? We should respond to this and every other challenge to the biblical definition of marriage by preaching the Word of God and declaring forth God’s vision for marriage between one man and one woman for life. We’ve increasingly seen how the cultural views of traditional biblical values are eroding. Nothing about the decision of the SCOTUS today is surprising. Given their trajectory and how they view and handle the Constitution as a “living document” rather than as the rule of law that they are to uphold, the Supreme Court has truthfully today usurped its Constitutional rights, responsibilities, and privileges.

Christians are called to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13) but supremely to obey God and submit to His law. Governments and nations are filled with leaders who are sinners by nature and choice. These leaders, whether politically elected officials or people chosen for their position by those who are elected are all ultimately accountable to the Lord God Almighty. God is the One who can drive a government official or anyone out of their mind for a season as He did with Nebuchadnezzar. What is needed now more than ever in our country and world are people like Daniel and Joseph — men and women who will refuse to bow the knee to a culture obsessed with consciously violating God’s law and spurning His Word.

The Church is the only institution redeemed thro­­ugh the blood of the Lamb of God Jesus Christ who bled, died, and rose so the Church could be holy and blameless in His sight. The Church has a responsibility in the world to be holy and to proclaim not their opinions but the Word of God. Make no mistake about it friends, things are about to change in our country. The future of marriage in our country has changed. We’ll continue to see this decision bear ungodly fruit for decades to come. What we need more than ever is not to convince people of our position but to remain faithful to the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus called us to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor comes from the fruit of a heart that has been changed by the gospel.

Some people will cry out and say we’ll there goes our culture. Our God is not surprised by the decision that happened today. Our God is in the heavens and His counsel is perfect and just. Man’s wisdom is foolishness next to the wisdom of God. God uses the foolishness of preaching to bring men and women who are wise in their own eyes to behold the beauty of God in Christ.

Christians have a superior Word in the Bible from our God who never changes. As Christians, we have a mission field literally right outside our front door. Our job is not to convince people of our position. Our job as Christians is to faithfully preach the Word and the gospel. The Lord uses our preaching and our testimony to open people’s eyes and bring them to saving faith. He uses our words and our work to testify to Himself and to expose false teaching and thinking.

Gay marriage is not the start of our country’s downward spiral on this issue. The Lord knows the end from the beginning. He is the rightful ruler and creator of all. Those on the Supreme Court who voted against the traditional definition of marriage will be held accountable on the last day for their faithlessness to God. In the meantime, let’s be faithful to Him and declare His Word. Let’s love our neighbor because we truly love God. He will use ordinary you as you are faithful to Him. It may not look like you want and you may not get results, but the answer isn’t to change people’s mind about gay marriage. The answer is to preach the Word faithfully and declare forth that Jesus died in the place of sinners and for their sin so their heart of stone would be replaced with a new heart, with a new identity in Christ, and new affections for the glory of the Risen Christ. The gospel is the only hope for our country and for the world. Let’s truly believe the gospel is good news and proclaim it and live by it to the glory of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ.

Read More »

The Supreme Court, Perverted Sexual Logic, and the Judgement of God

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Apologetics, Contemporary Culture, Featured

The Supreme Court, Perverted Sexual Logic, and the Judgement of God

MarriageToday, marks the first day of deliberation between the Supreme Court on the issue of gay marriage. This issue is not a new one. I’ve written on this issue so much because I believe it’s an issue that Christians must stand clearly and loudly on. Following Genesis 1-2, I believe that marriage is established by God. God created man and, therefore, He sets the rules in regards to His creation. When a man seeks to pervert the law of God there will only be destruction. This is because man is not morally or spiritually good but instead bound in his sin with eyes to only see his own point of view instead of God’s. God is the righteous ruler and the only justifier of the wicked.

People today say that we aren’t to judge. By this logic then Jesus Himself should never speak. Jesus judges people. He will hold all men accountable for who they say He is. He will hold man accountable to His demands for them to repent and believe in Him. People today say it’s not fair for God to do this. These are the same people pointing the finger in the sky at God and blaming Him when natural disasters occur. Such perversion demonstrates their depravity. The perverted logic of our culture is on full display in this Supreme Court case. The perverted sexual logic of our culture seeks for permission for its promiscuity while excusing the rights and opinions of others who oppose their viewpoint.

The twisted sexual logic of our culture tells us to do whatever we want, with whoever we want, whenever we want. Then it requires everyone to approve legally of a sinful lifestyle. That, Friends, is exactly the logic that is used to justify pornography and homosexuality. It’s a complete affront to what the Bible teaches.

People today want to live however they want to live. The world tells us that faith is to be a private thing. All the while it parades around what it believes on television, in movie theaters, at the grocery store, and the list goes on and on. There is hardly a place we go to these days where we aren’t confronted with sexual perversion. On nearly every television show, we are confronted with gay and lesbian encounters. In movies, we’re inundated by sexual perversion of every sort and kind. Our culture truly has lost its mind in regards to sexual matters.

Yet, it says when we preach the message of biblical sexuality that God created marriage between one man and one woman that we’re “judging” people. True biblical judgment has God as its focus. True biblical judgement focuses on what Jesus has done in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul spends the first three chapters of his epistle explaining the depravity of man. On full display in our day is the perversion of man. Man instead of worshiping his Creator has exchanged the truth for a lie. Instead of worshiping Him who created man, man instead consciously and purposefully chooses to worship what is created.

People today say that Matthew 7:1 excuses Christians from judging. If Christians make clear biblical statements, they are accused on the basis of Matthew 7:1 of judging others. If we follow this same logic, Jesus Himself is judging those whom He is speaking to in the Sermon on the Mount. It was Jesus, after all, who spoke more about hell than any biblical figure in the entire Bible. If Jesus cannot speak, as He does clearly and loudly to us, about judgement then we restrict His speech. This means we’re telling the Creator and sustainer of all life, the One who gives us breathe, that He can only tell us certain things about life. This twisted logic is exactly what many people are doing. They have neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. They don’t want to consider biblical arguments because their hearts and minds are blinded to the reality of who God is. They have no desire for God because they love darkness rather than the light.

This is why the message of the gospel begins with the bad news of our sin. Jesus taught that what comes out of a man’s mouth demonstrates what’s in his heart  (Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15). This is why Paul emphasized the depravity of man in the first three chapters of Romans. Man apart from Christ is a sinner by nature and by choice. This is the clear teaching of the entire Bible. This position has been affirmed by the Church for two thousand and fifteen years. The Bible doesn’t stop at our sin. It goes on to explain why Jesus came. Jesus the sinless Lamb of God became our substitute on the cross and died in our place. He took upon Himself the full wrath of God and died in our place for our sin. When people today say, “You can’t judge me” because of Matthew 7:1, what people are saying is you can’t tell me how to live. This isn’t what Jesus is talking about there. He’s talking about hypocritical judgment not based upon the facts.

The Supreme Court has a monumental decision that will change the moral and ethical course of our country. Justice Roberts at the Supreme Court hearing speaking about gay marriage said, “You’re not seeking to join this institution but change what this institution is.” That’s exactly what this “debate” is all about– redefining marriage to be something it was never intended to be which was noted by another of the justices as well. Marriage has always been defined as between one man and one woman for the history of mankind. Marriage is a God-ordained institution. Changing that institution to be something other than what God ordains is an abomination and a direct affront to the character and glory of God who created man in His own image and likeness. Furthermore, gay marriage is a disgusting perversion of the order of mankind. God gave man, man-parts and woman lady-parts, not the other way around. This is just another demonstration of the depravity of man and a confirmation that Paul had it right in Romans 1 and in several other places in his epistles about the sexual perversion and the immorality of man.

On full display today in the Supreme Court is the modern notion that one can do whatever they want, whenever they want, with whoever they want, and then get “legal” permission that requires everyone to approve of it. People today say Christians are bigoted because they preach and believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Yet, homosexuals can preach unchallenged their message of absolute equality between the sexes with no distinction. This is the logic of our culture and the battle we face. May the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of those who still have ears to hear and remove the blinders from the eyes of the unrgenerate so that they may hear, see, and know Christ.

In response to the twisted sexual logic of our culture that teaches man to do whatever they want with whoever they want, whenever they want it, we should respond that God will hold them accountable. Christians should respond to the claim that others can make laws to support their promiscuous lifestyles which will make everyone legally approve of their lifestyles with the response that God knows their evil deeds and will hold them accountable for every sinful thought and deed. The same logic, I’m explaining is also used to justify the use of pornography and homosexuality.

This is why we must stand on the Word of God, all the more. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, Christian you must count the cost. There is coming a day very soon likely where in America, we will be persecuted physically over this issue. Settle it in your hearts now to stand in Christ. Settle it in your heart that living however you want is not God’s best for you. Throw yourself upon the finished and perfect work of the Savior who bled, died, rose for you. He is your life. He is your treasure. Look to Christ and live. He is the only One who can open the eyes of those committed to sexual perversion. He is the only One who can open the eyes and hearts of the unregenerate. So preach all the more in faithfulness to God’s Word. Stand firm on the Word of God. Don’t shrink back. God is still in the business of using His Word through His Spirit to open the eyes of the blind so that they can see, know, and delight in Christ.

Read More »