Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Choosing A Faith?

Are you trying to pick a faith? What are the tools people use when it comes to picking a faith?


Christian Apologist Urges Interaction with Atheists in Public Square

Christian Apologist urges interaction with atheists in the public square

http://rcmetcalf.blogspot.com/ 2008/04/christians-urged-to-meet -atheists-in.html

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Recovery of the Christian Mind

Discipleship of the Mind/The Recovery of the Christian Mind

Within Christian discipleship, scholars, theologians, and philosophers are asking, what ever happened to cultivating the intellectual life of the Christian? There have been several books written on this subject. One book that I recommend is Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J. P. Moreland

It is imperative for Christians to understand the history of anti-intellectualism in the church. In this brilliant book, Dr. Moreland traces the history of what has happened in relation to the Christian mind.

Moreland discusses the history of the pilgrims arriving to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Pilgrims along with other American believers placed a high value on the intellectual life in relation to Christian spirituality. The Puritans were highly educated people (the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was between 89 and 95 percent) who founded colleges, taught their children to read and write before the age of six, studied art, philosophy, and other fields as well. Evangelical scholars such as Jonathan Edwards were scholarly and well informed about other fields other than theology. Christians originally founded several American universities. The minister was regarded as proficient in both spiritual and intellectual matters. (1)

When the first Great Awakening happened in the United States from the 1730's to 1750's, Christianity was not prepared for the philosophical thought that began to undermine Biblical authority in the late 1800's. In other words, Christianity was not prepared for the philosophies of David Hume (1711-1776) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), German higher criticism, and Darwinian evolution. During the middle 1800's, Christianity continued to see an anti-intellectual approach in sermons. Ministers such as and Charles Finney who preached during the Laymen's Prayer Revival ( 1856-1858), delivered simple sermons that were more tailored around emotions in contrast to sermons that were reflective and doctrinally informed. Moreland notes that many positive things did come out of this period. However, the downside was that since thousands of people were converted on the basis of emotion and warm fuzzy feelings, these new converts were not trained to think theologically or doctrinally. (2)

Moreland has also commented on the impact of Christians refusing to be informed about the language of ideas in the marketplace.

As Moreland says:
Instead of standing up and doing the hard work of responding to the critics, Christians opted out and said, It doesn't matter what the facts say, I feel Jesus in my heart and that's all that really matters to me. So we opted for a subjective pietism instead of hard thinking on the issues, and therefore we lost our place in the public square. The way to deal with vain philosophies, wherever they may be found, is to have good philosophy, not to abandon the art of critical thinking altogether. (3)

Another book that has traced the history of anti-intellectualism in the church is Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do About It by Os Guinness. In this book, Guinness says:
Loving God with our minds is not finally a question of orthodoxy, but love. Offering up our minds to God in all our thinking is a part of our praise. Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety. We need to affirm certain truths: Intellectualism is not the answer to anti-intellectualism, for the perils of intellectualism-supremely in Gnosticism- are deadly and ever recurring. Or passion is not for academic respectability, but for the faithfulness to the commands of Jesus. Our lament is not for the destruction of the elite culture of Western civilization but for the deficiencies in our everyday discipleship as Christians. For anti-intellectualism is truly the refusal to love the Lord our God with our minds as required by the first of Jesus’ commandments. Thus, if we take the commands of Jesus seriously, we cannot dismiss the charge of anti-intellectualism as elitism or intellectual snobbery. As God has given us minds, we can measure our obedience by whether we are loving him with those minds, and disobedience whether we are not.(4)

In his book,The Opening of the Christian Mind: Taking Every Thought Captive to Christ author David W. Gill makes a significant contribution about the relationship between intellectualism and discipleship by stating that we should advocate Christian minds, not intellectualism. Gill says:
Let me stress one more time that I am not advocating intellectualism in the Christian life! We must give our brains to God. But we are more than brains. I do indeed want people to develop their minds under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Mindless emotionalism or traditionalism, segmented fragmented lives and ignorance disguised as simple faith are all terrible deformations of Christian discipleship. But so is arid, dry intellectualism. Developing a Christian mind is but one crucial aspect of Christian discipleship.

1. Moreland, J.P Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. 1997. 22-23.
2. Ibid.
3. Koukl. G. The Value of Philosophy. Retrieved November 9, 2007. Available at http://www.str.org/site/.
4.Os Guinness. Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think And What To Do About It. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 1994, 18-19.
5. Gill, D.W. The Opening of the Christian Mind: Taking Every Thought Captive to Christ. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press,1989, 30.


The Importance of the Resurrection: What if Jesus has not been resurrected from the dead?

There cannot be an atonement without it (1 Cor 15: 1-17)
There could not have been an ascension without it (Acts 1: 9-11)
No Ascension means there is no foundation for the local congregation (Eph 4: 10-13)
There is no sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus (John 7: 37-39;14:26;15:26;16:7).
There is no new birth/ supernatural regeneration (John 3: 3-7)
Jesus cannot fulfill the role of our advocate and priest (1John 2:2; Rom 8:34).
Jesus is a false prophet (Deut 18:22; Matt 12: 38-40).
Jesus could not be installed as Son of God (Rom. 1:4), as universal Lord (Rom. 14:9; Eph. 1: 20-21; Phi. 2: 9-11), and judge of the living and the dead (Acts 17:31).
There is no return without it (Zech 14:1-21). Just as Jesus ascended in a physical sense, he will return in the same way.

Defining Resurrection

Resurrection is completely different from reincarnation which is a many-times event. Reincarnation is also categorized as a rebirth of a soul into a new and different but still physical and mortal body. Resurrection is a one-time event where the believer receives not a second body but a transformed body. In resurrection, there is continuity between our present bodies and the transformed body to come.

Resurrection is not resuscitation. There are three resuscitations in the Gospels: Luke 8:49-56; John 11:38-44; Luke 7:11-15. Lazarus was resuscitated. He went on to live on in his old mode of but still had to face a second death. However, Jesus was not resuscitated, but resurrected, he was changed. His body was transformed into what Paul calls a glorified body. He never died again. Therefore, it is important to remember that Jesus is not the only one in human history that has been raised from the dead ( if we call it resuscitation), but he certainly is the only one that has ever been resurrected!

Resurrection is not Translation. Elijah and Enoch did not die but were simply translated to heaven (2 Kings 2:11; Genesis 5:24). Translation is defined as the bodily assumption of someone out of this world into heaven while resurrection is defined as raising up of a dead man in the space-time universe.

Resurrection is not the same as paganism- a vague, shadowy semi-self or ghost survives and goes to the place of the dead, the dark, gloomy underworld. The myths of dying and rising gods in pagan religions are merely seasonal symbols for the processes of nature and have no relation to historical individuals.

We as believers now live in a resurrection state. For after noting that God “made us alive together with” Messiah (this is a past event), Eph 2:5 says: “by grace you are now in a state of salvation” (indicating a present resurrection state).

Under Plato’s influence, the Christian church has often affirmed the “immortality of the soul” in the sense that the soul of every person, by divine fiat, will survive death and exist forever. Although the concept behind these phrases is biblical, that is, that human beings do not cease to exist, either at or after death, there is no biblical precedent for attaching the terms “immortality” to the word “soul.” Immortality is never predicated of the “soul”; “this mortal body” is destined to “put on” immortality (1 Cor 15: 53-54). It is not by birth, but by grace and through resurrection that immortality is gained.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Knowing and Doing

Knowing and Doing: What can Christians learn from a Jewish model of education? The goal of the Jewish model is not just mere memorization of repeatable facts; the goal is to live out the truth. In this approach, truth is designed to lead to transformation. In the Jewish model, the student has not learned a thing when he or she can repeat it to the teacher; it is learned only when it is reflected in the student's life. One ofthe biggest struggles for Christians has been how to have the proper balance between both orthodoxy (right belief), and orthopraxy (right practice).

Jesus and Judaism

The Jewish Essence of Christianity
Christians from a variety of denominational backgrounds are discovering the Jewish essence of the Christian faith. Jesus calls his people to "make disciples of the nations" (Matt.28:19). When Christians embark on understanding the Jewish essence of Christianity, this is an important part of discipleship.

What are some of the aspects in understanding the Jewish essence of Christianity?

The Jewishness of Jesus
As Philip Yancey says, “Is it possible to read the Gospels without blinders on? Jews read with suspicion, preparing to be scandalized. Christians read through the refracted lenses of church history. Both groups, I believe would do well to pause and reflect on Matthew’s first words, “a record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.” The son of David speaks of Jesus’ messianic line, which Jews should not ignore; a title without significance for him.” Notes C.H. Dodd,"The son of Abraham speaks of Jesus’ Jewish line, which Christians dare not ignore either." As Jaroslav Pelikan says:
"Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms, would there have been as Auschwitz, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion and icons of Mary not only as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven but as the Jewish maiden and the new Miriam, and on icons of Christ not only as Pantocrator but as Rabbi Jeshua bar-Joseph, Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth?"

The Jewish Aspects of Jesus’ life:

Jesus participated in Mikvah: (Matt 3:13-16)
Circumcision (Luke 2:21): Jesus’ parents are obedient to Mosaic Law by having him circumcised on 8th day
Mary’s Purification (Luke 2:22-24): Mary follows purification law (Leviticus 12)
Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem every year at Passover: (Luke 2:41)
Jesus’ model prayer bears resemblance to typical Jewish prayers:(Matthew 6:8-13)
Jesus wore “tzit-tzit” or fringes: (Matthew 9:20)
Jesus revered the Temple and ceremonial worship: (John 2:16)
Much of Jesus’ teaching is done in context of Jewish Holy Days: Sabbath (Matthew 12); Feast of Tabernacles (John 7); Feast of Passover (Matthew 26); Hanukkah (John 10)
Jesus taught in the synagogue: (Luke 4:14-20; John 18:20)
Jesus gathered disciples:(Matthew 8:23)
Paul says Jesus became a servant to the Jewish people: (Romans 15:8)
Jesus settled disputes: (Mark 9:33-37)
Jesus debated other rabbis: (Matthew 12:1-14)
Jesus viewed His mission to lost sheep of Israel: (Matthew 15:24)
Jesus commissioned the seventy to go to the lost sheep of Israel: (Matthew 10:5-6)
Jesus viewed himself as being revealed in the Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms, (Luke 24:44); (John 5:39)
Jesus taught Scripture was authoritative: Jesus quotes passages from the Torah in the temptation in the wilderness: (Matthew 4:1-11)
Jesus discussed how Scripture (The Tanakh) is imperishable in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:2-48)
Jesus also discussed how Scripture is infallible: (John 10:35)


Does it seem that it is harder and harder to build relationships with other people?
Does it seem that we live in a culture of busyness? It seems to me like the overflow of technology has been a blessing and a curse. Recently, our state (Ohio) lost power because of the fallout from Hurricane Ike. How odd it was for people to have to actually engage one another instead of watching television or being on the internet.

Furthermore, of all people- the community of Messiah followers should have strong relationships with one another. But that still seems like something that is a struggle. Busyness, busyness, busyness! Maybe we should ask if it is possible to simplify our lives.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn't glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21 NASB)

Theologians, philosophers, and apologists have made significant comments in relation to Romans 1:18-21.

Here are a few of them:
1. The revelation of God in nature is mediate, but it is so manifest and so clear that it does not necessitate a complex theoretical reasoning process that could be achieved only by a group of geniuses. If God's general revelation is in fact "general," in that it is plain enough for all to see clearly without complicated cosmological argumentation, then it may even be said to be self evident. The revelation is clear enough for an unskilled and illiterate person to perceive it. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma encounter with God's revelation is not maintained in its lucid, threatening state, but is repressed. It is "put down or held in captivity" in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable, and as a result humans attempt to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. (Sproul, R.C, Gerstner, John and Arthur Lindsey. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.1984, 46-59).

2. Former atheist J. Budziszewski:
I am not at present concerned to explore Paul’s general claim that those who deny the Creator are wicked but only his more particular claim that they are intellectually dishonest. Notice that he does not criticize nonbelievers because they do not know about God but ought to. Rather, he criticizes them because they do know about God but pretend to themselves that they don’t. According to his account, we are not ignorant of God’s reality at all. Rather, we “suppress” it; to translate differently, we “hold it down.” With all our strength we try not to know it, even though we can’t help knowing it; with one part of our minds we do know it, while with another we say, “I know no such thing.” From the biblical point of view, then, the reason it is so difficult to argue with an atheist—as I once was—is that he is not being honest with himself. He knows there is a God, but he tells himself that he doesn’t. How can a person explain how he reached new first principles? By what route could he have arrived at them? To what deeper considerations could he have appealed? If the biblical account is true, then it would seem that no one really arrives at new first principles; a person only seems to arrive at them. The atheist does not lack true first principles; they are in his knowledge already, though suppressed. The convert from atheism did not acquire them; rather, things he knew all along were unearthed. ( Giesler, N. L. and Paul K. Hoffman. Why I Am A Christian. Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 2001, 49).