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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Icons of Evolution - 10 Years Later

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Does God Seem So Hidden?

Why isn’t God more obvious? Or as a student once said to me, “If God wants people to know he exists, then why doesn’t he just show up or write his name in the sky or something?” This is just one of the issues related to the hiddenness of God. We all struggle with making sense of why God seems present and active at certain times but painfully distant and uninvolved at others.

Well, to the student’s question, I think there are two things we could say. (1) Because God is good and all-loving and because of the kind of relationship He desires to have with those He created, humans have been given enough evidence to either accept or reject Him. We can suppress this evidence (Rom. 1:18-20) or turn from idols to the true and living God (1 Thess. 1:9). God gives us all the freedom to love Him or reject Him.

If God just “showed up” one day in all his power and glory, people would be compelled to believe. They would have no choice in the matter, but this would destroy the significant freedom necessary for a loving relationship to exist. (2) In addition, God doesn’t want people to merely believe intellectually that He exists (even demons believe in God cf. James 2:19). What God wants is relationship. He wants people to become part of His family.

So what are we to make of all the verses that talk about God hiding from His followers? Isaiah 45:15 says, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior” (cf. Ps. 10:1; 44:23-24). But why does God hide?

First we know that God’s desire from the beginning was to be present with humanity in a life-giving relationship. But when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God and His ways, we see God seeking them out while they are the ones hiding (Gen.3:9-10). We also need to remember that the world is not as it ought to be—sin, pain, and death were not God’s original design for creation. It is within this context that God is working out His plan of redemption and restoration. God has His reasons for seeking and hiding.

Sometimes God hides because people are disobedient or indifferent toward him and this is a form of judgment (cf. Isaiah 59:2; Micah 3:4). Other times God hides for a season so that we will seek Him more earnestly. Unfortunately, this is part of how He teaches us to live dependent and grateful lives.

Then there are those moments of pain and loss where it is a mystery why God seems so far away. With the Psalmist we cry out, where are you God? (cf. Ps. 88:13-14). Jesus experienced the excruciating silence of God while on the cross (Mark 15:34). Ultimately, Jesus is our example for trusting God when the silence is deafening.

We can learn to trust completely without complete understanding. And we can rest in the promise that God has given, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (29:13 cf. James 4:8).

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

6 Ways to Protect Your Kids on YouTube

2 billion videos viewed every day around the globe on You Tube...24 hours of new content uploaded every can we wisely engage this medium? Found a helpful article at Covenant Eyes:

YouTube Tips for Parents

In a “broadcast yourself” culture, parents are in a unique position to help the Internet generation guard their eyes and hearts.

  1. Establish a YouTube account for yourself – It is both easy and free to sign up for an account. Simply go to and click on the “Create Account” link in the top right-hand corner. You will be asked a few details about yourself, including a date of birth. By stating you are over 18 you will be able to have access to all of YouTube’s content, including content not available to minors or those who don’t have an account. Make sure you guard your password so no one else can access your account.
  2. Monitor YouTube – Make sure your underage kids have not lied about their age and created their own 18+ YouTube accounts. Check your kids Internet history, or better yet, use good Web accountability services like Covenant Eyes to see which YouTube videos they view.
  3. Restrict YouTube – Cris Logan says, “We know that 79% of a child’s access to inappropriate content occurs right through the home. If a parent is doing their job with regard to parental control and filters, the likelihood of their child accidentally coming across pornographic material will be significantly reduced.” YouTube has created something called “Safety Mode” to help parents to better guard against adult content. While this is a good precaution, it will not catch all inappropriate content and can be circumvented with relative ease. That’s why it can be helpful to go with software solutions, like the Covenant Eyes Filter, that can selectively filter inappropriate videos.
  4. Get to know YouTube – Cris Logan recommends parents start surfing around on YouTube, see what this video sharing culture is like for themselves, “and be ready to have an open dialogue—an ongoing dialogue—with your child regarding what they’re seeing, what they’re doing with this site.”
  5. “Flag” videos and teach your kids about flagging – Beneath each YouTube video is a small flag icon. When logged into your account you can “flag” a video you deem inappropriate. Usually YouTube staff will review this video within an hour or so. As you use YouTube, train yourself and your teens to be good cyber citizens and call out videos that do not meet the Community Guidelines.
  6. Have fun with YouTube – There are thousands of videos on YouTube to enjoy. As you come across these videos, you can make them one of your “Favorites” in your account. Perhaps you will want to create an account for your teen (YouTube account holders who are 13 to 17 years of age do not have access to all the videos on YouTube). You can then start creating a catalogue of these favorite videos for you and your family to enjoy.

To hear the whole interview with Cris Logan about YouTube, visit the Covenant Eyes blog, Breaking Free.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How should Christians think about evolution? - New Video

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Science Based Morality?

Here is a good post over at Breakpoint:
Each of us believes that certain things are wrong, not because we believe they are wrong, but because they really are wrong. And that applies to the moral relativist as well.

If you want to see a relativist sink into a sophistic seizure, ask him about the “virtues” of cruelty, rape, cheating, bigotry, or exploitation. Even the most liberally minded among us believe such things are wrong, even if they don’t know why.

Take the University of Maryland professor who recently engaged a member of the Genocide Awareness Project. In a ten-minute exchange on moral ethics, the professor exhibited great difficulty with the concept of morality, including the terms of the debate: human essence, value, and rights. Nevertheless, she had no difficulty calling her interlocutor’s reference to “mankind” offensive and “wrong.”

On the question of abortion the professor was more measured: “I think it is actually morally impermissible to kill fetuses.” She quickly added that she didn’t know why it (or, for that matter, genocide or lynching) was wrong, and went on, at some length, to suggest that neither does anyone else. It is something we need to think more deeply about, was how she left it. This, from a professor of philosophy.

Help on its way

For people like the befuddled prof who haven’t a clue why, for instance, the Holocaust was immoral, Sam Harris aims to help. Make no mistake: Harris is a rationalist and trenchant atheist who is highly critical of religion and religious folk. But he is also a moral realist who believes in objective moral truths -- truths, he is confident, that can be grounded in science to form a system of shared moral values.

His argument goes something like this: The natural world operates according to natural laws discoverable through science; morality is a part of the natural world; therefore, morality follows natural laws discoverable through science.

Logically, his argument is flawless. Practically, it suffers from several serious weaknesses.

Yes, but…

Christians would agree that morality has the features of law, in that it predicts certain outcomes from certain actions. But while the moral law is predictive, it is not deterministic like the laws of gravity or electromagnetism. If it were, mankind would be reduced to automata slavishly following its moral program.

C.S. Lewis once pointed out that the moral law is not about what humans do; it is about what theyought to do. As such, the moral law is not discernible, scientifically or otherwise, from actual human behavior.

Harris would be quick to say that morality is about behaviors that enhance human and animal flourishing, and we know, scientifically, what many of those are: the provision of proper medical care, education, sanitation, clean water.

Indeed, applied science is responsible for doubling human life expectancy over the last 150 years and for cleaner air and water than at any time since the Industrial Revolution. Then again, the early 20th century programs for eugenics, forced sterilization, and selective breeding were morally justified on scientific grounds, as are the arguments today for human cloning and embryo-destructive research.

And that brings up another weakness in Harris’ argument: While science can help us toward a desired outcome, it cannot tell us what outcome we ought to desire. Science has no moral voice; it is only a tool for moral agents who assign values to things.

For example, medical technology enables us to harvest stem cells from an embryo, but it doesn’t tell us whether killing a human being at the earliest stage of life is right or wrong. As to the bigger question, is it right to sacrifice the few for the well-being of the many, science can only shrug.

With no transcendent criteria, the calculus of every moral dilemma is left to the privileged class of beings deemed “persons” and whose only touchstone is the whim of their collective preferences. And that leads to a third problem with Harris’ schema.

Who is my neighbor?

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would deny the moral probity of the Golden Rule. Treating our neighbor as we would want to be treated has been recognized as a universal good in nearly every world religion and civilization since (MORE)

The bottom line for science is that is can only describe what is not prescribe what should be. You cannot move from an "is" to an "ought."

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

How Do We Know the Bible Includes the Right Books?

Were the books of the New Testament selected by Emperor Constantine for social and political reasons in the 4th century (cf. The Da Vinci Code) or were the books included in the New Testament Canon because they fit with the authoritative teaching that can be traced back to Jesus himself? Was this simply a power play? Another example of history being written by the winners?

I think the best way to come at this is by asking which of these documents tells us the truth about the faith that was preached and received in the early church (cf. Jude 3). This is a theological question—what did the early church believe and preach from the very beginning?
New Testament scholar Darrell Bock points to three kinds of texts contained in the New Testament writings that show us what the earliest Christians believed.
  1. Schooling—We find doctrinal summaries Christians would memorize and read alongside Old Testament texts when they would gather together for worship in house churches (e.g., Rom. 1:2-4; 1 Cor. 8:6; 15:1-5).
  2. Singing—they would sing their theology in hymns and show their devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., Col. 1:15-20 & Phil. 2:5-11).
  3. Sacraments—Baptisms and the Lord’s Supper were practiced on a regular basis and pictured the basic elements of the salvation story as core theology (e.g., Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Eph. 4:4-6).
These creeds, hymns, and practices predated the writing of the New Testament documents (remember that this was an oral culture and most people could not read). Think of these as “oral texts” the earliest Christian community read and practiced before there was a completed Bible. These foundational beliefs are sometimes called the “Rule of Faith.”

With that in mind, how were the books chosen? There were three criteria used to decide which books were received as authoritative—as canon. First, was a book written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle (apostolicity)? Mark was accepted because he was an associate of Peter and Luke was accepted because of his relationship to Paul. Or to put it another way, if the book was not from the 1st century it was not Scripture because it could not be traced back to the apostles who were taught and commissioned by Jesus (who was crucified in A.D. 30-33).

Secondly, did this book conform to the teachings / theology of other books known by the apostles (orthodoxy)? Recall the points made about the schooling, singing, and sacraments in the life and worship of the early church. Hebrews would be an example of this.

Finally, was the book accepted early on in the life of the church and by the majority of churches across the region (catholicity)? It was important that a book wasn’t just accepted in one location, but that lots of Christians in different cities and regions accepted it.

Early Christians recognized the authority contained in these writings already; they did not arbitrarily pick which ones would become authoritative for the Church. The early Christians were very careful and thoughtful about which books would get the label ‘Scripture’ alongside the Old Testament. It is simply a fact of history that by the end of the 2nd century (before Constantine), the four Gospels, Acts, and the letters of Paul are already recognized as authoritative and being used that way in house churches. Now some discussion about a handful of books continued on through the centuries between the Eastern and Western churches. But, while there was no universal declaration concerning the final list, it is safe to say that the canon was effectively closed by the time of the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is God Just a Human Invention Video

Here is a video of my co-author Sean McDowell talking about the evidence for God, enjoy!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God is both Transcendant and Immanent

“For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.” – Isaiah 57:15

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Gospel Coalition Reviews Our New Book - is God Just a Human Invention?

Thanks to Denise Heebner over at the Gospel Coalition for her review of is God Just a Human Invention? Here is a little of it:
There are questions being asked today that we can’t afford to ignore. Is faith irrational? Are miracles possible? Can people be good without God? These are just a few of the philosophical and biblical questions being asked by people who want intelligent answers. The problem is the people willing to answer these questions are not always the ones inside the church. There is a strong voice outside of the church that has crept into popular culture and is avidly proposing that there is no God, no biblical worldview, and no truth found in the Scriptures. In Is God Just a Human Invention?, Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow take a look at the logic and reasoning behind this New Atheist movement, set out to show their error, and provide truth from a biblical standpoint.

This book is both timely and practical as it engages the New Atheist movement. This movement is a 21st century surge that proposes the idea that atheists no longer need to take a tolerant approach towards religion. Instead they use evidence, mostly scientific, to discredit religious truths. McDowell and Morrow engage in 17 of the more popular questions raised by the New Atheists. “It seems a growing number of people—on both sides of the God question—are no longer content to ‘play church.’ Either what people believe is true and they are going to attempt to live out their faith in all areas of life, or it’s false and people shouldn’t waste their time going through the motions of their childhood faith if it really doesn’t make any difference. . . . This is both an opportunity and a challenge for people of faith” (p.12). McDowell and Morrow rise up to this challenge as they systematically explain and breakdown the arguments raised by the New Atheists.

Is God a Human Invention? is split into two parts. The first part responds to scientific and philosophical challenges, while the second part responds to moral and biblical ones. Each chapter...(read the rest)

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Think Christianly?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Engaging the Spirit of the Age Without Losing our Soul

"In this climate, the crucial challenge is to present Christianity as a unified, comprehensive truth that is not restricted to the upper story. We must have the confidence that it is true on all levels—that it can stand up to rigorous rational and historical testing, while also fulfilling our highest spiritual ideals. Christians are called to resist the spirit of the world, yet that spirit changes constantly. The challenges facing our generation are not the same that faced an earlier generation. In order to resist the spirit of the world, we must recognize the form it takes in our own day. Otherwise, we will fail to resist it, and indeed may even unconsciously absorb it ourselves." - Nancey Pearcey (Total Truth)

Amen...may we show ourselves faithful in this generation! Here are some verses that need to guide our path...(Romans 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Jude 3; 2 Cor. 7:1; 2 Tim. 2:15)

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What Do Millennials Believe?

Ed Stetzer has a new blog post on some of the beliefs of the Millenials (born between 1980-91); here are a few of the findings:
  • Thirty-eight percent of Millennials say their religious beliefs have no influence on their lives.
  • Thirty-two percent indicate their beliefs have a strongly positive influence.
  • Fifty percent say a church or house of worship has no influence on their lives. Twenty-two percent indicate a church has a strongly positive influence.
  • 18 percent of all Millennials indicate they get a lot of guidance or advice from sacred texts such as the Bible, Torah or Koran, while another 24 percent get some. The most common answer (37 percent) is none at all.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

I've Got Good News...

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying." - Titus 3:3-8

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

What is Irreducible Complexity?

“By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” —Michael Behe (from Darwin's Black Box)

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Christ and the Challenge of World Religions by Craig Hazen at Biola University

Here is very helpful video on apologetics by Dr. Craig Hazen (and a link to one of his books below). Also, check out the M.A. Biola Apologetics program.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by Michael Licona

Here is a thoroughly researched and extensively documented new book on the Resurrection by Michael Licona that needs to find a home in your library if you are a pastor, apologist, or teacher.

Book Description:
The question of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection has been repeatedly probed, investigated and debated. And the results have varied widely. Perhaps some now regard this issue as the burned-over district of New Testament scholarship. Could there be any new and promising approach to this problem? Yes, answers Michael Licona. And he convincingly points us to a significant deficiency in approaching this question: our historiographical orientation and practice. So he opens this study with an extensive consideration of historiography and the particular problem of investigating claims of miracles. This alone is a valuable contribution. But then Licona carefully applies his principles and methods to the question of Jesus' resurrection. In addition to determining and working from the most reliable sources and bedrock historical evidence, Licona critically weighs other prominent hypotheses. His own argument is a challenging and closely argued case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Any future approaches to dealing with this "prize puzzle" of New Testament study will need to be routed through The Resurrection of Jesus.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Brother of Jesus on the Logic of Sin

“But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” – James 1:14-16

We have all experienced the logic of sin James lays out in this passage. Memorizing it and quoting it (out loud) when confronted with what we know to be sin will help us overcome in that moment (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). That was what Jesus did when he responded to Satan's lies with an "it is written..." (Luke 4).

How is your arsenal of "it is written's?" Anything for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind?

I'm reloading mine. If Jesus needed to hide God's word in his heart (Psalm 119:9-11), then certainly I do!

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Christianity, Politics, and Faithfully Engaging in the Process

Christianity Today Interviews Michael Gerson on Christianity and Politics:

Christians' retreat from American politics would be a mistake, argues Michael Gerson, against those who prefer more behind-the-scenes forms of cultural engagement. As President George W. Bush's speechwriter for five years, and now as senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Engagement, Gerson has seen first-hand how policy has tangible cultural effects. Gerson recently co-authored City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era(Moody) with Peter Wehner and began a one-year fellowship with the ONE Campaign, the Bono-backed nonprofit devoted to funding international aid programs. Gerson will be working on the campaign's religious and conservative coalition on development, disease, and trade issues. "I am not, however, in charge of distributing U2 tickets," he says.

Gerson spoke with CT online editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey about why Christians should remain vigorously engaged in the political sphere.

You gently critique the Religious Right, saying, "The biggest problem with the Religious Right has not been tonal or strategic but rather theological." Could you flesh that out? How might Christians approach politics differently?

We are in a moment of transition. There's a discontent with an older model of social engagement. One reason is tonal. The Religious Right reacted to the aggressions of modernity, to the impression that leading institutions were imposing an alien vision on American society. Its fundraising appeals presented politics through the prism of a bitter divide. It was the children of light against the children of darkness.

Another element is political and strategic. Because it brought many moral concerns to public life, the Religious Right became an appendage of another political ideology: the Republican Party. So you would see voter guides that were not only on moral issues but also on tax policy and missile defense. I am a conservative, but I think the Christian faith stands in judgment of all political ideologies. When it's too closely identified with any of them, it becomes a tool in someone else's power game.

The third element is theological. After 9/11, when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson publicly blamed the suffering of the American people on various American sins, they left out other sins: exploitation of the poor, pride, and vanity. When an American religious leader says that Orlando might be destroyed because of Gay Day, and a hurricane hits Disney World on Gay Day, it seems cruel rather than compassionate.

The book also addresses the underestimated virtues of the Religious Right. The movement led conservative Christians back into social engagement after a period in the wilderness, and it raised issues about the value of human life and the importance of traditional values and family. (read the rest of the interview)

We need careful reflection and we need faithful action. Voting tomorrow is an important exercise of our civic responsibility and our call to engage as good ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

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