May 2009

nancy pearceyNancy Pearcey explained in her book, Total Truth, that every worldview consists of three basic elements: creation, fall, redemption.  Every worldview starts with an account of beginnings (where everything comes from, and how everything is supposed to be), which in turn shapes its concept of the fall (what’s wrong with man and his world) and redemption (how to fix man and his world).  Because the fall and redemption logically follow the creation story whoever has the authority to shape a culture’s creation story is de facto the “priesthood” of the culture, “possessing the power to determine what the dominant worldview will be.”  This is important for two reasons.

First, the creation story of our modern, secular society is Darwinian evolution.  According to evolution, there is no design or purpose to the universe.  There is no right and wrong.  Morality is whatever helps someone pass on their genes to the next generation.  The problem with man is not moral, but biological and environmental.  Man is competing against everyone else for survival.  In such a worldview the Gospel becomes absolutely irrelevant.

The only way the Gospel will be effective in modern culture is if we replace the Darwinian creation myth with the Christian creation story.  Indeed, the Christian message does not begin with Christ, but with creation.  Rather than starting our message with man’s sinfulness, we need to start our message with man’s dignity rooted in creation.  Beginning with sin instead of creation is like trying to figure out a book by starting in the middle—you won’t know the characters and plot.  Even redemption ceases to make sense because the purpose of redemption is to restore us back to our original created state.

When Paul talked with the Jews he started with Christ because they already understood creation and the fall.  When he addressed the Greeks (Acts 17), however, he started with creation: God made the world and everything in it (you’ll have to remember that the Greeks believed the universe was eternal, not created by God).  He pointed out that if God made us, He must have some qualities like us.  He can’t be stone.  A non-personal being could not have created beings like us.  Only after establishing the Creator did Paul move on to sin and redemption.  In a culture that is fast becoming Biblically illiterate our approach must be similar to Paul’s approach to the Greeks: we start with creation.  Only in that context does the fall and redemption make sense.

house_of_cards3Michael Medved makes a compelling argument that the existing “religious protections” being written into same-sex marriage laws – that provide legal protection for religious groups who object to same-sex marriage – are a house of cards just waiting to be toppled: 

The drive for same sex marriage stalled in New Hampshire over insistence by Governor John Lynch that the legislation must include strong protections for religious institutions and individuals who oppose such unions. This tactic – now adopted by gay marriage advocates across the country – may provide office holders with political cover but will offer very little legal security for defenders of traditional marriage. Legislative “conscience” provisions won’t survive lawsuits by agitators or judgments by activist jurists. If gay marriage is a fundamental human and constitutional “right,” then how could faith-based groups or religious individuals legally discriminate against the exercise of that right? If a florist declines to provide services to a same sex wedding, or a religious club refuses to rent its facility for a gay nuptial, there will be immediate and aggressive legal action to guarantee “equal protection of the laws.” If laws (like the provisions endorsed by Governor Lynch) authorize discrimination against same sex couples, it’s easy to envision judicial decisions invalidating them as unconstitutional. It’s now a well-established point of law that theological doctrine can’t protect institutions or individuals if they discriminate on the basis of race. … If gay identity is equivalent to racial identity (a key contention of the gay marriage movement), logic requires that unequal treatment based on sexual orientation should receive no more sanction than unequal treatment based on race.

I think Medved is right.  Including such religious protections is just a way of pacifying religious conservatives.  Once same-sex marriage has been entrenched in the law, however, any opposition to it will be litigated against.  Indeed, this is the pattern of the pro-homosexual lobby.  In the beginning, they lobbied for civil unions.  Then they lobbied for civil unions to have the same rights and obligations as marriage.  But they were not content with that.  In addition to having all the same rights as married couples, they wanted their relationship to be designated by an equal name: marriage.  They said that anything less than full equality in every respect is discrimination.  And the courts have bought it every step of the way.  So why wouldn’t they also buy the argument that allowing religious groups to decline participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies is an example of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, comparable to discriminating on the basis of race?  They can, and mark my words…they will.  “How will same-sex marriage affect you?” people say.  It will eventually prevent us from opposing it in deed, and possibly speech.  That’s how.

driscollMark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington, wrote an article for Fox News responding to a recent Newsweek article reporting on the decline of self-identified Christians in America.  According to Driscoll, we must distinguish between Christendom and Christianity.  Christendom is the visible, cultural expression of Christianity in the world, while Christianity consists of those who have had a transforming experience with Jesus and are living out their faith in their daily lives.  Within Christendom there are many whose lives are not noticeably different from their non-Christian counterparts.  They are professing Christians rather than practicing Christians.  Driscoll contends that while Christendom is no doubt diminishing in the United States, it is not because the actual number of practicing Christians is diminishing, but because larger numbers of professing Christians are simply dropping the “in-name-only” label they have identified with in the past.  Why?  Because there is no longer the same social benefits that once accompanied church membership, and there is much less stigma today than in the past for abandoning Christianity.  I would encourage you to read his piece.  It’s a good thesis, and a good read.


HT: Justin Taylor

prop8Yesterday, in a 6-1 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the voter initiative to amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between a man and woman only.  This is the same court that forced same-sex marriage on California last year, when they overturned a 2000 law defining marriage as between a man and woman only, as being unconstitutional.  Now that the voters amended the Constitution to define marriage in such a fashion, what could they do?  It’s difficult to say the Constitution is unconstitutional!

dichotomyChristian apologetics is an intellectual discipline that offers a rational justification for Christianity.  One would think Christians would heartily embrace a discipline whose aim is to show the intellectual viability and superiority of the Christian worldview.  Ironically, Christian apologists often face opposition from both unbelievers and believers alike.

Many Christians think apologetics is either unnecessary, or detrimental to faith.  The latter understand faith to be commitment of the will in the absence of reason, rather than trust based on good reasons.  Having reasons to believe, then, leaves no room for faith.  This understanding of faith has no basis in Scripture.  Indeed, God, Jesus, and the apostles all provided reasons for others to take their claims seriously.  And they did so for good reason: beliefs are caused by reasons.  If they weren’t, we would be unable to control what we believe.  Beliefs would just pop in and out of our minds inexplicably.  A Christian could be in church worshipping Jesus, when suddenly, for no reason at all he stops believing in Jesus and starts believing in Buddha.  A man could be walking his dog when suddenly, for no reason at all, he begins to believe he is walking a cat.  No, such is not possible because beliefs are caused by reasons.  Beliefs are something that happen to us given sufficient epistemic conditions.  We cannot just will to believe something.  To demonstrate, stop believing in God right now.  Don’t just think the thought, “I don’t believe in God,” but make yourself believe that God really doesn’t exist.  You can’t do it, because genuine belief requires reasons, and you have good reasons to believe God exists, and no good reasons to think He doesn’t.

Those who think apologetics is unnecessary often claim the Spirit’s work is all we need for conversion.  While it’s true that the Spirit’s work in our hearts is necessary for conversion, it is not sufficient.  Indeed, if the work of the Spirit was sufficient in itself for conversion, then why do we need to present the Gospel to them?  It’s because faith is contingent on knowledge.  A person cannot believe in Jesus if they do not know about Jesus.  God’s Spirit works together with our presentation of the Gospel to bring about conversion.  Now here’s the rub.  If faith requires knowledge, and apologetics delivers knowledge, why oppose the use of apologetics in evangelism?  Apologetics serve to help remove intellectual barriers to the faith, so that one can submit to the working of the Spirit in their hearts.  As such, it is vitally important to evangelism, and should be embraced by Christians.

Indeed, Peter himself thought so.  He told us to “be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).  Paul understood evangelism to consist of both the “defense and verification of the Gospel” (Phil 1:7), and instructed us to “make the most of every opportunity,” knowing how we “should answer everyone” (Col 4:5-6).  Apologetics is not just a nice add-on to Christianity, but a Bible-based discipline integral to our evangelistic efforts.

davidRavi Zacharias tells the story of a trial in which a lawyer was defending a pornographer of the basest sorts.  The lawyer asked the plaintiff, “Have you ever gone into an art gallery?”  The plaintiff responded, “Yes.”  The lawyer continued, “Have you paid to go into that art gallery?”  Again the plaintiff responded, “Yes.”  “Were there paintings of naked people in that art gallery?”, the lawyer asked.  “Yes,” the plaintiff responded.  “So why do you call that art, but Playboy pornography?”  The plaintiff did not have a response.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a piece of art featuring nude figures, and pornography?  Is there a difference?

In A Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis wrote about a man who ordered milk and eggs from a waiter in a restaurant.  After tasting the milk he commented to the waiter that it was delicious.  The waiter replied, “Milk is only the secretion of a cow, just like urine and feces.”  After eating the eggs he commented on the tastiness of the eggs.  Again the waiter responded that eggs are only a by-product of a chicken.  After thinking about the waiter’s comment for a moment the man responded, “You lie.  You don’t know the difference between what nature has meant for nourishment, and what it meant for garbage.”

Ravi Zacharias notes that while both art and pornography utilize nude figures, the purpose/motives for portraying the naked body are definitively distinct.  Pornography utilizes nude figures for the pure purpose of stimulating the baser instincts of individuals; instincts that will not be satisfied by that alone.  Art, on the other hand, utilizes nude figures for the purpose of highlighting the beauty of man.  While pornography engenders lust, art engenders admiration for the glory and beauty of the human body, and thus the glory of its Maker.

Rational BeliefIn the February 2005 issue of Stand to Reason’s bimonthly newsletter, Greg Koukl shared some sound advice concerning the way we talk about our Christian faith to non-believers.  I think you will find his advice valuable.  He wrote:

If I said “Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States,” people would know I was talking about historical facts.  By contrast, if I said, “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus,” most people would not think I was talking about historical facts, but personal faith: my sentiments, my feelings, my preferences.

From their perspective, words like “faith” and “belief” don’t describe the world, they describe me.  Statements about Jesus may reflect personal “truths” (i.e. “true for me”).  But they’re not true; they are not facts.  They are merely “beliefs”-well-intentioned falsehoods, useful fictions, convenient illusions.  That’s not what we say.  It’s what they hear.

Let me suggest a simple adjustment.  Since there is often a difference between what we say and what they hear, don’t give others the chance to misunderstand.  Instead of using emotive “faith” language, use the language of truth.  Don’t talk about your beliefs, talk about your convictions, about what you’ve been convinced of.  Don’t talk about faith, talk about truth.  Don’t talk about values, talk about what you understand the moral facts to be.

I’ve actually encouraged Christians to ban words like “faith” and “belief” from their vocabulary.  These words no longer communicate what we intend them to.  It’s not that faith isn’t valuable.  It’s vital.  But faith is often misunderstood as a “leap,” a blind, desperate lunge into the darkness.  It sounds too much like religious wishful thinking. … When he [an Christian ambassador] talks about Jesus, he is careful to communicate that he is talking about facts, not just the kind of religious wishful thinking the words “faith” and “belief” frequently conjure up.

I couldn’t agree more.

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