Rapid Fire Segment

Part Four: Rapid Fire Segment

The key to understanding frequently asked questions about the bible is actually reading the bible. I don’t mean reading verses from Leviticus in isolation (or anywhere else for the matter) stripped of their context and bent to mean any kind of vile or wild thing. I mean reading entire chapters or books even, to understand what the meaning behind the message as a whole is. You don’t need me to tell you these things. All the answers you seek are in the bible. What I’m sharing may be helpful for some, but this is not the come all be all and no human author ever will be.

Sex & Gender

  1. What is the meaning of marriage? Ask Tim and Kathy Keller. (Book / Video)
  2. What’s wrong with premarital sex? Take it away, Bobby! (Video)
  3. Interracial marriage? Yes. Moses had jungle fever. (Numbers 12:1)
  4. Are there gender roles? Yes. (Man / Woman)
  5. Why shouldn’t women preach? Sheologians explain. (Podcast)
  6. Does God hate homosexuals? No. (Jackie Hill Perry Testimony)
  7. Is divorce ever permitted? Yes. (Part I / Part II)
  8. What can I do about my struggles with lust? Run like hell. (Video)
  9. Why are Christians against abortion? It’s murder. (Video)
  10. Does the bible permit rape? No. Rapists get the death penalty. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27)

Social Justice

  1. Does the bible justify slavery? No. (Atheist vs Christian Debate Clip)
  2. Does the bible justify racism? No. (Matthew 28:19)
  3. Is Jesus the white man’s God? Jesus is Jewish.
  4. But didn’t slave owners force Christianity on slaves? No. Ask a slave. (Book)
    Besides that, you can’t get a more white name than Joseph Smith. He’s the white prophet.
  5. What does the bible say about _____ rights? The bible isn’t about social reform.
  6. Does the bible endorse the death penalty? Yes. (Exodus 21)
  7. Are Christians Pacifists? Jesus gives us permission to use weapons for self defense.

The Bible

  1. Isn’t the bible written in dead languages? No. Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. (Learn)
  2. Why so many translations? (Language Issues)
  3. Which version should I read? (Choose your manuscript)
  4. What about copyists errors? There are none of concern. (Check it)
  5. How do we know we have the right books? (Canon)
  6. Are there lost books? No. (How we know)
  7. What are the dead sea scrolls? (Glad you asked)
  8. Christians aren’t supposed to _____, right? Read Leviticus, then read Galatians.
  9. Is that just your interpretation? (Eh, not absolutely)

Jesus & The Church

  1. Did Jesus have a wife? .. No.
  2. Is Jesus a democrat or a republican? No.
  3. Why do Christians eat shellfish and pork? (Sit down and eat this bacon wrapped shrimp).
  4. Did the church invent hell? No. Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone.
  5. Isn’t Jesus a ripoff of other gods? No. (Horus disagrees)
  6. Isn’t Christmas a ripoff of the Winter Solstice? No. (Find out Next Week)
  7. What about Thanksgiving? (Find out Next Week)
  8. Wasn’t Hitler a Christian? No. (1 John 2:4)
  9. What about Christians that do wicked things? If they don’t repent, see above answer.
  10. Even the Crusades? The Crusaders were on the defensive.
  11. Why isn’t the church doing more for the homeless? (Ask big brother)
  12. Why are there so many denominations? (Well….)
  13. What about pastor scandals? (Those guys are in trouble..)
  14. Should I tithe? I can’t answer this one with one word.

 

Alright, here’s the part where I stop flying through this and rant a little bit. No, there is no standard for tithing in the New Testament. But, those that get excited about that are revealing something about themselves. Are you happy you’re not given a standard for giving to various ministries? Are you happy you’re not given a standard for caring for your pastor, his wife, and their children? Are you happy you’re not given a standard for giving to the poor, sick and needy? If one of your hangups with church is you’re clutching tightly on to your wallet and you don’t want to help where it’s needed, you may as well not even attend anyway. You can’t love God and money. That’s harsh, but those are not my words. They came from Jesus Himself (Matthew 6:24).

Other FAQs

  1. What about religions older than Christianity? It fulfills Judaism, the first religion.
  2. Where did Cain’s wife come from? (Genesis 5)
  3. Where did the nations that oppose Israel come from? Cain’s descendants. (Genesis 4)
  4. Is rock or _____ music the devil’s music? No.
  5. Will my pet go to heaven? There will be animals there. Not sure about specific ones.
  6. Can I get a tattoo? Some will say no, but I agree with those that say you can.
  7. Should I have a drink? Again, not all agree, but I say yes.
  8. Doesn’t the bible say “judge not”? NO. Please stop saying this.

Further Study

Answering the Biggest Objections to Christianity (Q & A) – Ravi Zacharias
Ligonier Roundtable (Q & A) – Sproul, Lawson, MacArthur, & Mohler
Suffering and Sovereignty (Q & A) – Derek Thomas & RC Sproul
RBC Fall Conference ‘11 (Q & A) – Voddie Baucham, Michael Morales, The Sprouls
Panel Discussion (Q & A) – Francis Chan, Al Mohler, John Piper, & Thabiti Anyabwile
Questions About a Biblical Church (Q & A) Paul Washer

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The Lord and The Myths

Part Three: The Lord and the Myths

There are important questions to ask when considering the world’s religions. You may ask yourself “Why should I follow Jesus?”, “what about all the other religions in the world?” or “is there more than one way to God”? The bible has answers to all these important questions in the person of Christ. As always, I intend on expounding on that by pointing you to scripture concerning this. While it may be in the interest of some to que up other religions and debunk them one by one, this format isn’t really suited for that (nor am I remotely knowledgeable enough to talk about all of them extensively). In that space, I will just point you to those that have already invested their time in that challenge.

World Religion Study

Jesus Among Other Gods (video or book) by Ravi Zacharias
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (video or book) by Nabeel Qureshi
The Street Apologist – Mormonism (video) by Jeff Durbin
Understanding the Cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses (video) by James White
Defend the Faith Against Works Righteous Cults (video) by James White
Christianity vs. Other Religions (video) by John Lennox
Kingdom of the Cults (book) by Walter Martin

Christ Stands Alone

Have you ever wondered what sets Christ apart from other world religions? They all have their central figures that tell us where we come from, where we are now, and what’s to come after this life. They all claim to know what pleases and displeases God. They all declare they know the road to heaven, nirvana, or the equivalent of thereof. On the surface level, most religions are pretty similar. However, every aspect of even the coming of Christ is all together different than what’s presented by other religious figures.

Over a span of roughly 1,500 years, texts pointing to Jesus were being written. These texts consist of poems, letters, songs, documentations, consensuses, prophecies, and other literary styles. The authors of these texts are separated by time, geography, social status, and language. There were a multitude of hands involved from prophets, to priests, to kings separated by all these boundaries and still pointing to the same messiah.

The integrity and preservation of this collection of books is like nothing else in antiquity, Christ Himself says His word is (see Mark 13:31). There are no books of the age that have as many different cross reference sources as the bible. There have been multiple attempts to destroy the bible and have Christ’s ambassadors slain, yet the word is still there and being continually translated into other languages. Some of the sources we have as of this writing date within 100 years of their original manuscripts.

By comparison, Homer is 500 years removed from the original and there are 643 copies. Caesar is 1000 years removed, and there are only 10 copies. Pliny is 750 years removed and there are only 7 copies. Plato is 1,200 years removed and there are only 7 copies. It goes on and on. The reliability of scripture in comparison to other ancient documents is simply unheard of. It has 5,600 sources to scrutinize! The people that were alive when the events took place were there to scrutinize the text. Nothing else comes remotely close it! What’s in these texts about the arrival of the messiah is even more astounding.

The prophet Isaiah lived 800 years before Christ. And yet, it was he that recorded that the coming Christ would be born of a virgin. As extraordinary as this entrance was in and of itself, it’s something that’s unique to Christianity. Not only was it recorded centuries before how Jesus would enter into human history, but when too! The prophet Daniel, who lived 500 years before Christ tells us this. He predicted the rise of four great empires before the coming of the Messiah. We know those empires as the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and finally the Roman empire that occupied the Jews in the days of Christ. We have both an unusual method and a time for the coming of Christ. This is not something other religious figures have. This is unique to Christianity.

We’ve established a particular entrance and a time sensitive window for the Christ, but there is much more. The life of Christ is all together different from the presentations of other gods. Throughout His life, Christ performed very public and very spectacular miracles. Thousands upon thousands came to see this Jesus heal the sick, care for the poor, and give to the needy. There were thousands of eye witnesses to the works of Jesus, something also unique to Christianity.

For a few examples from other religions, Joseph Smith was given a golden tablet (that has never been found) by an angel in private. Muhammed never performed miracles. There are others that never made claims to have access to divine powers or to the source of a divine powers. They only claimed to be mere men, and nothing more. With Christ, this is not so! Christ doesn’t proclaim Himself a mere man. Christ claimed to be God incarnate, something that the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would be (see Isaiah 9:6).

This is what Jesus meant when He declared Himself “one with the Father” (see John 10:30). This is what the opening words of John mean (see John 1:1-2). This is what He meant when He said “before Abraham was, I AM” (see John 8:58 /  Exodus 3:14). This is what He meant when He said He was the first and the last (see Revelation 1:17-18). This is what Thomas really saw for the first time when He touched Jesus’ post resurrection wounds and cried out “My Lord and My God!” (see John 20:28).

In the life of Christ, He spoke on His own authority, something not heard of in His day. Prophets would speak by appealing to the authority of God. Teachers of the day appealed to the influence of their teachers. But Jesus did not do this. Jesus spoke on His own authority. He would say things like “You have heard it said, but I say..” in appeal to His own name. With all these things and so much more pointing to the divinity of Christ, there are those that say Jesus never claimed to be God. Those people may not get what Jesus was saying and doing, but the Jews did. They tried to kill Him for blasphemy when He claimed to be one with God (see John 8:59).

After living a spectacular life of healing, teaching, admonishing, and serving, Christ died an  unusual death. Not only is the graphic nature of how He departed unusual, but the documentation of how it would happen before it happened is something to marvel at. There are Psalms written 1,000 years before the incarnation of Christ that tell us how He was to die (see Psalm 22:16), how the people around him would react to it (see Psalm 22:18), the condition of His body (see Psalm 34:20) and where he would be lain (see Isaiah 53:9)! That last one isn’t a psalm, but you get the picture here. Christ died an unusual death that was predicted hundreds of years, even a century before in some predictions, before He walked this earth.

Get this: we know where Gandhi’s tomb is. We know where Joseph Smith was buried. We also know where Muhammad’s shrine is. We know where Confucius was laid to rest along with a host of other religious figures. Here’s the major reason you can trust Christ: we have no idea which tomb was His. If you’re wondering why that’s relevant, there are some pretty startling inclinations about His claims considering this.

Prophets, sages, and workers of divination had their burial sites decorated and adorned in days gone by. Every year, people would go on pilgrimages to see these places and leave gifts. This practice still goes on to this day, but no one is going to Jesus’ tomb. Jesus wasn’t there long enough for gifts to be brought to His burial site. There was no point in initiating that sort of tradition for Jesus, because He appeared to His followers after He was buried — they knew He was not there because they saw Him with their own eyes. The place was eventually forgotten. To this very day, we do not know exactly which tomb Jesus was laid to rest in.

For the single most influential man to ever walk the face of the earth to just vanish without a trace is perplexing. Why would a people so concerned with documenting their history just omit from their writings something so vitally important? The events following the death of Christ create a compelling argument for what sets Him apart.

There are some people that might look at all this and cross their arms. Despite all of this evidence (and this is just a snapshot!), they’re guarded. Alright, let’s look at the events following the death of Christ. This is where things get even more unusual!

Peter, a man who cowered before a little girl when asked about his affiliation with Christ (see Luke 22:54-62) somehow managed to muster up enough courage to be crucified upside down AFTER the crucifixion. Jesus closest friends scattered and hid when the Romans seized Him, and all of them, sans John, died a martyr’s death. What would make those men turn from frightened for their lives to being willing to preach Christ to the very men they fled from? Without the presence of Christ, what was there to give them the assurance that death would be gain for them?

Saul, a man of power and influence, hated Christians. He sanctioned the death of the first recorded Christian martyr. He represented the face of everything Christians had to fear in that age and he gave it all up to follow Christ. No more being high esteemed by the people. No more power. No more riches. No more influence. Christ appeared to him, gave him a new name, and this once Christian killer went on to write the majority of the New Testament before he himself was killed for his faith. If He didn’t witness the risen Christ with his own eyes as he said, why did he give up the life he had?

Furthermore, the early Christians had hell on earth to deal with. The Romans were throwing them in lions dens, crucifying them, lighting them up like tiki torches for their version of a festive bonfire, stoning them, and inventing ways to torture and kill. Yet, these brave men and women went to those pits and were hung on those stakes. They refused to deny Christ. What would possess a people to have such unshakeable faith in the face of all this? They had everything to lose and absolutely nothing to gain, yet they placed their faith in Jesus. What does that mean to you?

I’m gonna lay it out for you. Every religion has some story about origin, the meaning (or lackthereof) to life, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. While a path to paradise is laid out for you in these other religions, Jesus turns this issue on it’s head too. Jesus claimed to be the way to heaven (see John 14:6). Jesus claims that He is the living God and He has to come to us. That’s fundamentally different from any other religion!

You can’t build up good karma to get to heaven. All roads don’t lead to the same destination. There is nothing you can do to make yourself righteous. Instead, God came down to us, a people that did (and still don’t all over the world) want Him, to save us and usher us into the kingdom of heaven. No other religious figure in history speaks this way. And yet, there is still much more that separates Him from the pack.

I’ve said before that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. To know why you should follow Jesus, you need to know who Jesus is. Some might say Jesus was a wise teacher. Some might say He was a prophet or miracle worker. There are some that think He was a revolutionary of His day, speaking love into a culture that was being domineered by professional executioners. Even still, some of His contemporaries feared Him and thought Him possessed by a demon (see John 8:48). Who do you say that He is? How you answer this question is important to Him (see Matthew 16:15).

Yes, Jesus was all of those things. He was a wonderful counselor that taught the ignorant. He was a great physician that healed the sick. He was the Prince of Peace that taught love like no one before and no one since. But He was also Mighty God who all things exist by and are sustained through and the Everlasting Father with the power to forgive sins. Who do you say Jesus is? How you answer this question means everything.

Further Study

The Case For Christ (book / video / movie) by Lee Strobel
Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection? (debate) William Lane Craig vs Bart Erhman
Why Should I Believe the Bible? (book) by Ed Strauss
More Than a Carpenter (book) by Josh McDowell
Historical Reliability of the New Testament (book / video) by Craig Blomberg
The Reliability of the Old Testament (video) by Josh McDowell
Prophecies in the Psalms (webpage) Got Questions?

Justice and Mercy

Disclaimer: To say that this next part is intimidating wouldn’t do it justice. There’s a lot I don’t understand and a lot I may not even be mature enough to speak of in a manner that begins to do it justice. I’m going to bank on someone that knows more about this stuff questioning why I’d bother even trying, but this is where I’m at on this subject right now. I’m going to do my best with this and point you to both scripture and speakers that are more educated and sophisticated than I am. I’m also going to be acting on the assumption that God exists from this point forward due to the naturalist worldview not being able to account for an objective standard of good.

“God is just. God is holy. God cannot violate his attributes. He cannot do something that contradicts Himself. He is a righteous God. Now, that is a good thing. It would be terrifying to know that this universe was created by an evil god. An omnipotent god that was evil would be absolutely terrifying, so it’s good that God is just. But then it presents also another problem: if God is just, what does He do with us?” – Paul Washer (Short Summary / Full Sermon).

It’s hard to explain the weight of this to a skeptic. We’re taught that our good comes from some special innocence we’re born with, our more positive attitudes, and self sacrifice, service, and other means. We are taught that there is an inherent goodness in everyone. We believe that those we see as good should be praised for their contributions and we want to be recognized and appreciated as well. There is one HUGE problem with this: God says the exact opposite about our nature.

In the Old Testament, David writes of being born in sin (see Psalm 51:5). In the New Testament, Paul says that we’re born children of wrath (see Ephesians 2:3). While there is some debate that those verses don’t mean that we’re born sinners, the thought that any are good is put to rest by Jesus Himself (see Mark 10:18). Jesus flat out tells people to not call Him good unless they believe that He is God.

What does that say about our nature? None of us are righteous. Not even one of us (see Romans 3:10-12 / Psalm 14:1-3 / Psalm 53:1-3). There are no notable excuses mentioned. None at all. This rallies against everything that we perceive to be an inherent good. We’re born in sin and under the curse of Adam. The pride of man in his self proclaimed inherent goodness prevents him from seeing both himself and God in the proper light.

God is not only the source of good as noted in the previous chapter, but he’s also the standard of what good is. This makes God the judge over all that’s good and all that’s evil. But man, blinded by his pride can’t see this. He wants to put the judge in the defendant’s seat so he can complain. He’s perpetually guilty of the sin of our first parents: namely the desire to be the ones that truly “knows” what good and evil is.

Being made in God’s image, we already know what good and evil is. We just don’t get to sit in the judgement seat and decide the boundaries of it by our own standards. We keep insisting on doing it anyway, to the point where our understanding of scripture is obscured. Instead of seeing the goodness of God and seeing Him in scripture, we read it as if it’s about us (see the conflict this creates here). When we don’t understand scripture, we miss the holiness and goodness of God leading us to treat Him the way we treat one another: as someone that’s guilty of not upholding to the standard of goodness we all know exists.

In light of all of this, a common question goes something like this: “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” The underlying preconception in the question is that bad things shouldn’t happen to “good” people. This is an important question that people have asked throughout the generations. A proper understanding of who God is gives us the answer (hear answers from Ravi Zacharias / Voddie Bauchum / Frank Turek / John Piper / Norman Geisler). For the sake of giving a naturalist worldview a fair comparison, PragerU offers a short and insightful video (check that out here).

With this understanding, we see that God is the source of good, the judge of good and evil, and now we’re moving on to see how God is sovereign over all things good and evil. When faced with the trauma that evil can present in this life, understanding that God is in control is crucial. Without that being true of God, He looks like us when calamities happen. We’re the ones that try to fix things when they go wrong. We’re the ones that freak out when things don’t pan out the way we planned. We’re the ones that have to compromise as we go because life gets difficult sometimes. A God that does these things is not worthy of worship. His plans can be thwarted by the unknown. Fortunately, that kind of impotent God does not exist.

How is the sovereignty of God demonstrated in scripture? God declares the end from the beginning. He already knows the names of every person that will be saved when the final judgement comes. He wrote their names in the book of life before a single being was made (see Revelation 13:8 / Daniel 12:1 / Malachi 3:16-18 / Exodus 32:32). When the fall happened and mankind was separated from fellowship with God, He already had a plan in place for redemption. The first prophecy concerning the coming of Jesus comes shortly after the introduction of sin (see Genesis 3:14-15). In Joseph’s story, he’s sold to Egyptian slave traders. By the end of his life, he was in the position to spare both all of Egypt and the brothers who betrayed him from starvation (Genesis 37-50). God told Abraham and Sarah that he would bless the world through their seed, even in their old age. The nation of Israel is born out of them. There are many stories to choose from that show that despite all the calamity goes on in a world thrown into chaos by sin that God is not phased and His hand is not moved aside by the evil of man. In the words of R.C. Sproul, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.”

The sum of it all is this: God is the source, the standard, and the judge of what is good. Being made in His image, we can recognize that we’re endowed with the knowledge of what good and evil is. The pride of man tempts him to place himself in the judge’s seat, a place he cannot work to make himself worthy of. His problem is he is unrighteous and tainted by sin. God, encompassing all that is holy, cannot violate His own holiness by calling the unrighteous the righteous.

Therefore, can we say that there is evil in God when He punishes the unrighteous for any reason? When the men before God’s thoughts are only evil all the time (see Genesis 6:5) is there injustice to be found in Him when he dishes out punishment? Yes, good people (I speak in a human way) do die. In the case of those people, we have the comfort of knowing that all things work out for those that love Christ (see Romans 8:28).

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If you know Christ, you have all the assurance you need that He is just, fair, patient, and kind even when you don’t fully understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it. There’s nothing outside of His control and nothing that won’t work out for the better in the end. This life isn’t all there is and can know these things because He promised these things. Those of us that put our hope in Him all long for the day when we can go to the place He’s preparing for us (see John 14:1-4). As Paul said, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

 

Further Study

Is God a Moral Monster? (video or book) By Paul Copan
Is God a Moral Monster? (debate) Matt Slick vs David Smalley
I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (video or book) by Frank Turek
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Part 1 & Part 2) by RC Sproul and Derek Thomas
Why Does Evil Dominate the World? (video) by John MacArthur
The Mystery of Evil and the Miracle of Life (video) by Ravi Zacharias
Answering the Problem of Evil (video) by Jeff Durbin

Bonus: Donall and Conall explain why it’s ridiculous to say that God doesn’t exist because He’s mean.

Apologetics I: The Image of God

Disclaimer: All of the answers you’re looking for are in the bible. I, a pastor, or any well educated theologian can tell you all about what we believe, why we believe it, and what we know about history that corroborates with it, but you have to know Jesus and place your faith in Him as the mediator of your sins to be saved (see Romans 10:9-10). The pharisees, that is, the church elders of His time, knew the scriptures so well that they could recite them verbatim. Even so, they did not recognize that those sacred texts were talking about Him (see John 5:39-47). Frankly put, their knowledge did not save them. What you know will NOT give you good standing with God.

Apologetics – An Introduction

This is my meager attempt to provide a very basic and introductory level of Christian apologetics. Many men more brilliant, educated, articulate, and respected have undertaken this venture before me. I’ll be directing whoever reads this to their books, lectures, and debates to get a more indepth look into the answers I’m going to attempt to explain. Some of this material is available for free and I’ll provide those links whenever I can. Some of it will cost something, but I’ll stick to referring to relatively cheap or free resources as they come to mind.

Providing a good apologetic, a defense of the faith, is something some Christians struggle with. Some may not know why they believe what they believe. Some may know why they believe what they do, but aren’t able to clearly articulate it. This can be frustrating for the skeptic that has questions, but this is important to God as well (See 1 Peter 3:15). Knowing what you believe, why you believe it, and properly expressing your faith isn’t just a useful conversation starter. It’s a command from God.

What you know may not redeem your soul, but knowledge is still important. When questioned about the greatest commandment, Jesus addresses this (see Matthew 22:34-40). God wants you to love Him with your mind. A Christian that’s failing to do this is in sin. You may have been lead to believe that you have to turn your brain off to believe in the word of God, but the bible is a very intellectually rigorous text that contains some of the thoughts, feelings, and motives of God. We are limited in our capacity to fully understand God (see Deuteronomy 29:29), but He has given us the capacity to understand what we need to know about Him in order to be saved.

If you are serious about gaining knowledge, even wisdom, you should pray for it before reading scripture (see James 1:5). If you humble yourself and truly seek to know Him, God will give you all the wisdom you need (see Jeremiah 29:13). If it’s still not abundantly clear that using your head is an act of worship, there are plenty of other verses that reveal that it is so (see Job 12:12 / Psalm 37:30 / Proverbs 3:7 / Proverbs 4:6-7 / Proverbs 13:1 / Ecclesiastes 2:26 / 1 Corinthians 1:25 / Colossians 2:2-3 / James 3:17 / 1 Corinthians 1:30 / Proverbs 29:11 / Proverbs 14:1 / Proverbs 15:12 / Proverbs 19:20). These verses are all snapshots of what God has to say about wisdom. To gain a more robust understanding, I’d suggest reading all of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament and James in the New Testament.

The verse I want to emphasize the most is Proverbs 1:7. It’s one of the verses I look at as a knowledge lynchpin. If Christ be true, any supposed wisdom that does not flow out of Him is a lie. This is leaning into the realm of presuppositions, a place I couldn’t do the proper justice to, but the claim is that God is the source of truth. Christ even claimed to be the embodiment of truth (see John 14:6). In our time, people speak of truth in terms of relativity, but Jesus does not speak this way.

Entire books have been written on aspects of knowledge I’m scratching the surface of, so it makes sense to pass further study on to one of those well studied theologians.

Further Study

Expository Apologetics (lecture) by Dr. Voddie Baucham
Ultimate Proof of Creation (book) by Dr. Jason Lisle

Part One: The Image of God

It’s important to know who God is and what he requires of us. It’s also important that we get the order of creation right so we can know with absolute certainty where our standing is. Are were here for animals or are they here for us? What does it mean to be human? How should we relate to one another as men and women? What does God say about all this and what is the cultural consensus? Which one of these views comports with reality?

What God says about us in every stage of life is in conflict with what man says about us every step of the way. He Himself tells us directly that if we are not with Him, we are against Him (see Luke 11:23). For a few contemporary examples, all the distinctions new age spiritualists and progressivists are pushing to do away with are drawn out clearly for us in scripture. They claim men and women are not different. They say that gender is fluid. They’re not only contending with basic biology that everyone can see, they’re contending with what God has made plainly visible.

God says that the creation of man and woman was done with intent and purpose. This is true of every man, woman, ethnicity, and what we understand as race. We are different, yet we have the same value as image bearers of God. Being created in His image, we share something that’s distinctly different from the rest of creation (see Genesis 1:27 for all these claims). Men that oppose God will instead say things like we’re stardust and we’re the product of chance acting on matter over time with no rhyme or reason. If what God says is true instead of what man says, what does it mean to be made in His image?

As a child, I always thought that this concept just meant that we have a form like His. Because of Christ entering into His own creation, that’s partially true, but it means a lot more than that. It means we are created to reflect God’s characteristics in a finite way. We love art because God is creative (see the creation account). We are wrecked by suffering and sorrow because God is good and there is no darkness in Him. (see James 1:17). We love to share and bless others because God is the giver of all things. We love to love one another because God is love.

God is above us setting the standard for us and the beasts of the field are below us, placed here to accompany and help us. Unlike us, they do not bear that precious image. A chicken does not ponder what it means to be a chicken. It won’t marvel at a painting by Vincent Van Gogh and be amazed by its beauty. It won’t be breath taken by the greenery of countryside areas, large waterfalls, the Grand Canyon, or pictures of the vastness of space. It won’t listen to Frederic Chopin and be moved by how well he was able to capture emotions with his piano. It won’t be stirred to applaud a masterful performance of a Shakespearean stage play. A creature such as that couldn’t fathom what joy the good humor of Charlie Chaplin once brought. It’s a simple beast, and simple beasts don’t have a concept of meaning, value, beauty or purpose.

We do not hold beasts to the same standards that we hold one another. Think about it this way: when a beast is doing something you don’t like, would you chastise it the same way you would a person? Some small beasts like to steal and hide things. No one in their right mind is going to attempt to have the animal prosecuted. No one says that a violent beast murders another beast after a clash between animals. Beyond the animals, what obligation does a tree have to grass? Why are these questions important? It’s because we have a standard to live up to that’s indwelled in us. We are made in the image of God.

Think about your own dignity. If someone tried to catch you in a private moment, say for instance, getting out of the shower or changing clothes, your instinct is to cover up. Why is that? Why do we react as if we have some inherent dignity to protect? Why is there something in us that is displeased with others that ignore the calling to protect said dignity? It’s because we’re made in the image of God.

No one in their right mind will say that a beast is walking around naked. No one in their right mind says that a beast is homeless when it’s wandering it’s own habitat. No one accuses beasts of being lewd when they mate whenever and wherever. No one accuses a beast of assault when it attacks another beast or even a human. However, you and I are held to a different standard.

This leads us to our inherent problem: we are broken mirrors that couldn’t hope to accurately reflect the image of God. God’s standards of righteousness are so high, that harboring anger towards a brother is the same as murder and looking at another person lustfully is the same as adultery (see Matthew 5:21-30). It’s not just what we say or what we do, it’s what’s in our hearts that fail time after time to reflect the glory of God the way we were intended to. With the bar set so high, how could we possibly even dream of living consistently with who God is? We can’t.

This is why we have convictions and guilt. This is why we want to see justice when a crime is committed. This is why want to protect the weak and marginalized. This is why we reward the honorable and despise the dishonorable. This is why we march for life or whatever cause stirs our hearts. We know without a doubt that there are things that should be and things that should not be because we bear the image of God. This is so indwelled in what we are, that there’s no escape from this idea that there is an absolute standard that we all inherently know about and that we should all strive to live up to.

There is much to be said, but let’s consider the alternative. Let’s say that there is no God and we’re not made in His image. Let’s say all that exists is chance acting on matter over time. The reality of our existence is strictly material. All that exists can be tested or observed and there is some empirical evidence for it. What happens to everything that’s immaterial about our experience? What happens to meaning? What happens to purpose? What happens to truth? What happens to good? What happens to evil? What happens to justice? What happens to beauty? What happens to love?

“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” – Richard Dawkins in River Out of Eden (see the full quote here).

Think about the repercussions of a world in which what Dawkins says is true. When someone’s daughter is kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, something evil hasn’t happened. It’s just what is. When someone is suffering from cancer, something bad isn’t happening. It’s just what is. When someone’s son is murdered in cold blood, something detestable hasn’t happened. What has happened is simply what has happened. Your weeping, your cries for justice, your very life all amount to absolutely nothing.

“In science we have to be particularly cautious about ‘why’ questions. When we ask, ‘Why?’ we usually mean ‘How?’ If we can answer the latter, that generally suffices for our purposes. For example, we might ask: ‘Why is the Earth 93 million miles from the Sun?’ but what we really probably mean is, ‘How is the Earth 93 million miles from the Sun?’ That is, we are interested in what physical processes led to the Earth ending up in its present position. ‘Why’ implicitly suggests purpose, and when we try to understand the solar system in scientific terms, we do not generally ascribe purpose to it.” – Lawrence Krauss in A Universe From Nothing

Science cannot tell you why, which is why Krauss is cautious about the question. A strictly materialist universe can’t tell you why anything is because there is no reason for anything. There is no meaning, no value, and no purpose. He will say things like this, but on the other hand, he will attempt to prescribe meaning and value to life (see him talk about it here). He talks about the universe having no purpose and in the same breath talks about human purpose. If you let him talk long enough, he’ll tell you all about the “shoulds” and “oughts” of life, when according to his worldview, there is no ultimate standard for how anything is “supposed to be”.

“Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, ‘this might be all part of God’s plan,’ or ‘there are no accidents in life,’ or ‘everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves’ – these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.” Sam Harris on human suffering.

We should be beside the broken hearted and weeping with those that weep (see Romans 12:15). Amen and amen. It’s true. But why is Sam speaking this way? He’s accusing believers of not being compassionate about the suffering of other human beings, almost as if they had some intrinsic value. It’s almost as if he believes we have a duty to love and support one another simply because we’re human beings. Every time Sam rallies on about what wrongdoing people of faith are supposedly responsible for, he’s turning his back on his on worldview. He believes there are things we should do and things we shouldn’t. He might deny it with his mouth, but he does not truly believe everything and everyone is here by some random purposeless cosmic accident.

“Who are your favorite heroines in real life? The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.” – Christopher Hitchens in Hitch-22: A Memoir

Where does Hitchens get the idea of beauty? By what standard did he measure such a concept? What of foulness? Anyone can claim that there is no God and convince themselves that their stance is the right one, but no one can escape being made in the image of God. No one truly believes the love we experience is strictly chemical processes. No one truly believes there’s no inherent meaning or value in anything. No one truly believes that there is no such thing as justice. Though many will say they really do believe these things are true, not one of us can truly live that out consistently because we are made in God’s image.

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” – Carl Sagan on Cosmos

Needless to say, these men are all educated, sophisticated, and respected in their fields. They represent the face of skepticism in public view. They will all deny a creator and an ultimate standard that we should aspire to, but their suppression of that reality causes them to walk in constant contradiction of what they claim to be true. Hitchens especially was an interesting case.

Christopher Hitchens opposed abortion, racism, feminism, and the list goes on. He wrote an entire book that contradicts the ground he stands on called God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. By what standard does he make these value judgements? What is right or wrong about poisoning everything if there is no such thing as right or wrong? What Hitchens was guilty of, and what all skeptics are guilty of, is suppression of the obvious truth.

We have inherent value. There is a such thing as absolute truth. Justice and mercy are important (see these points debated between a pastor and the vice president of a skeptic club here). There is much more to be said about being made in the image of God, but I’ll close with some rhetorical questions. What moral obligation does highly evolved bacteria have to other highly evolved bacteria? If everything is meaningless, purposeless, and the future is miserable as Lawrence Krauss says, what solace is there for the person that’s whaling in agony? How does such a cold, vast, and uncaring universe produce men that weep to begin with?

Further Study

The First Three Chapters of Genesis (Free Online) – Moses
A Universe From Nothing (video or book) by Lawrence Krauss & Richard Dawkins
What Does It Mean to be Human? (streaming video) by Ravi Zacharias
Subjective Moral Reasoning (streaming video) by Ravi Zacharias
Objectivity & Morality (Debate Clip) (streaming video) by Jeff Durbin
Skeptic Morality (Debate Clip) (streaming video) Eddie Tabash vs. Greg Bahnsen
Worldviews in Conflict (streaming video) by Greg Bahnsen

A Dream

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This man is standing with his back turned to people that openly show hostility and hatred towards him. These people would likely have him dead at any given chance they could get away with it. There’s a man holding a anti-semetic sign in one hand and a confederate flag in the other while one man is giving a nazi salute and another is dressed in KKK garb. Yet, there he stands, not only with his back to them, but to protect them. That’s what a hero looks like. That is what love looks like.

It takes bravery to do what this man does for a living. His job is to lay down his life in service, whether it’s for someone with good intentions or not. This is what he does to regularly to put food on the table. Everything could potentially be taken away from him in an instant, but there he stands. It’s men like him that are going to turn the tide of bigoted attitudes towards people of color, not violent protests.

You cannot kill an ideology with hatred. An ideology in and of itself is something that’s immaterial. It exists outside of the physical world. It’s in a person’s thoughts and in a person’s heart. If you cause a person with a dangerous ideology, that doesn’t stop it from advancing in the thoughts and hearts of others. In some cases, the anger and hurt left in the wake of wars on harmful ideology can actually cause it to grow and advance, rather be silenced and defeated.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” – MLK

MLK is another modern hero, well known for refusal to engage with those that hated him with violence and hatred. What he did sparked a dream for generations to come to dream also. Hand in hand, putting to shame those that opposed him and his supporters in the past and for generations to come.

He looked into the eyes of enemies that persecuted him and saw them as men and women with lives of equal value and dignity. He envisioned a world in which we could live alongside one another sharing that brotherhood and he died for it, but his dream lives on to this day.

I believe the reverend drew from two things to anchor him in his resolve: firstly, Genesis 1:27, which establishes the equality of all men and women from the very beginning; and Matthew 22:36-40 in which Jesus answers what the greatest commands are: love for God and love for neighbor. Maybe 1 Peter 4:18 motivated him, in which Peter shares that love covers a multitude of sins. Regardless of what verses inspired him, his mark has been made.

Christians, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this kind of display rock the world. Think of the original 12 disciples. All of them less one died gruesome deaths. The only one that died a natural death lived his life scarred and outcasted. What did God do with the love they had for people that hated them? He set the entire known world on fire! No matter how many people were set ablaze alive, thrown into lion’s dens, or crucified, the spread of Christianity could NOT be contained. The very people that wanted Christianity stopped at all costs eventually became followers of Christ themselves. If you would like something in the current time that God has worked through this kind of love, He’s got you covered there too.

China, in which people are killed for being Christians, is experiencing a boom in underground churches. Under the looming threat of arrest and/or death, the numbers of professing Christians is growing instead of declining. The momentum is swinging in favor of the Christians so much that China is actually projected to become the biggest Christian nation in the world.

I’ve said all that simply to say that if you have a problem with hate groups, you not only have to call their evil to repentence and oppose it at every opportunity, but you MUST love them with equal fervor. That’s what’s going to kill hate fueled ideology. Love! Martin was right in his following in the steps of Christ. We’re only going to see a decline in open hatred by responding in open love.

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering just how to effectively do that to people that don’t like you for whatever reason.

 

 

Made to Suffer

 

What would you say to someone that asked you where God was when they suffered a traumatic loss or some sort of violent tragedy? How would you show a reverent love for God and compassion for your grieving neighbor? How would you support what you’re saying with what God has revealed to Himself about us? This commenter disgracefully shows us how to disregard love, scripture, and compassion in one fatal fell swoop (S/N: reformed Christians that are young in their faith don’t seem to have a clue what compassion, grace, or sympathy are. It’s a serious problem, y’all. I digress….)

So, where was God? I immediately think of John 11:35, the shortest verse in the bible, “Jesus wept”. Jesus was weeping in this moment due to the passing of his friend, Lazarus. Isaiah 53, written roughly 700 years before Jesus entered creation, predicts Him in His humanity as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His own family thought Him a madman, He had no home to rest His head, those closest to Him all abandoned Him when He needed them the most, and the people of own tribe were constantly plotting to have Him murdered. Jesus was witness to much disease and death, and also to the oppression of the tax collecting Jews and Romans.

The notion that God does not understand our pain is off the mark. Jesus felt it firsthand. It was so bad near the end of His life, that He got hematidrosis, a very rare condition where humans sweat blood. All the way back then, God was with us in the form of Jesus, entering into our suffering and showing love and compassion for us when we had none for Him.

So, is God not all powerful? Could He not stop the murderer, rapist, sexual molester, or other heinous criminal? Yes, God could stop all of that. We long for the day when all of the pain and suffering of the world is finally put to death itself. This is where Jesus in His divinity steps in, because there does indeed come a reckoning for sin. The debt owed for that sin is death (Genesis 2:17 / Romans 6:23). All of us fall short of God’s righteousness in some way, and because of the chasm it creates, we don’t have peace with God. In short, we all deserve the death penalty. None of us has offered God, who lacks nothing, something to deserve the blessing of life or the comforts of it. If God again wiped the world clean of all of us, it would still be justice, but He instead shows grace.

What is God doing about all this pain if He has the power to stop it and understands how it feels? God is 2,000 years ago entering His creation as the man, Jesus Christ and living the perfect life and offering up the perfect sacrifice, which was His own life. God is rescuing the rebels, the very people who hate Him and love sin, and reeling them in to be His hands and feet, the very ambassadors of the message of reconciliation with God. God is showing us that there will be justice and that our pain is not in vain.

Paul, a man who was at the execution of the first Christian martyr was used as a prime example of this. This man went from persecuting and killing Christians to writing the vast majority of the New Testament. That’s what Jesus is doing with and through the rebels. Paul, along with all the other apostles lived incredibly difficult lives. All but one faced execution, and yet they still went on empowered by what Christ has done in them and is still doing in the world now.

To anyone that would ask me where I think God is in their suffering, I say let me grieve for you and with you in your sorrow. Let me be there for you and try to comfort you. Let me attempt to meet you in your pain the way Christ came and met us in our pain all those years ago. Let’s not pretend there are simple answers and we should just smile through our sorrows, denying the limits of our humanity. Jesus wept in his Humanity, but in power, made a way for peace, justice, and restoration. He’s still doing that today.

This is but an overview: many that are wiser and more mature have already said a lot more than I have, but here are a few recommendations:

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller

If you have five minutes, watch this:

 

If you have an hour, watch this:

The Skeptics Annotated Bible

A Christian turned skeptic set out on the laborious task of showing that the bible is not inerrant, not the word of a loving God, and the reason for faith is largely because people don’t actually read the bible or teach all of it. Here’s a blurb from the author:

“The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible (SAB) attempts to remedy this imbalance. It includes the entire text of the King James Version, but without the pro-Bible propaganda. Instead, passages are highlighted that are an embarrassment to the Bible-believer, and the parts of the Bible that are never read in any Church, Bible study group, or Sunday School class are emphasized. For it is these passages that test the claims of the Bible-believer. The contradictions and false prophecies show that the Bible is not inerrant; the cruelties, injustices, and insults to women, that it is neither good nor just.”

Have a look at the full site here. The author put in quite some time and effort into this project. There’s even a random verse from the bible displayed on the homepage that could be troubling for some believers. Through and through, it’s all pretty elaborate. He divides his arguments up by category, even! To his credit, he even links the Christian response to his website, a response that took seven years to complete. See the rebuttal to SAB here.

In this back and forth, it’s presupposed that truth, rationality, morality, and consistency are all of the utmost importance. What worldview gives the basis to account for any of that? Why is the outcome of examining the bible for errors or atrocities of any relevance? These two authors have all the same information and are coming to differing conclusions. What does this mean about the problem that remains? Who’s being consistent with their worldview in this debate?