This page has moved to a new address.

Think Christianly

Think Christianly: January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Becoming Rooted and Established in Your Faith

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”—Col. 2:6-8

“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered”—C.S. Lewis

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Joel Osteen's Moment on Homosexuality — Your Own Moment Will Come Soon Enough

"Joel Osteen didn’t get where he is today by staking out controversial positions on biblical and moral issues. America’s prophet of Your Best Life Now built his reputation and his international following on an updated version of prosperity theology, laced with ample doses of pop psychology. The ever-smiling and effervescent pastor of America’s largest congregation has done his best to avoid association with doctrinal matters. More to the point — he has done his best to avoid talking about sin.

Osteen would rather offer platitudes about attitudes. “God wants you to be a winner, not a whiner,” he asserts. Talking in any detail about sin would be to insert negativity into his relentlessly upbeat message.

But now, Osteen finds himself in the midst of controversy. Last night, Joel and Victoria Osteen appeared together on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight and, boxed in by Morgan, Joel Osteen reluctantly confessed that he believes homosexuality to be a sin.

“Yes, I’ve always believed, Piers, the Scripture shows that homosexuality it’s a sin,” he said. He added: “But you know, I’m not one of those that are out there to bash homosexuals and tell them that they’re terrible people and all of that. I mean, there are other sins in the Bible, too. I think sometimes the church — and I don’t mean this critically — but we focus on one issue or two issues, and there’s plenty of other ones. So, I don’t believe homosexuality is God’s best for a person’s life. I mean, sin means to miss the mark.”

Pressed even harder by Morgan, Osteen was asked if singer Elton John is a sinner. He responded: “Well, it’s strictly back to what the Scripture says. I mean, I can’t — I can’t grab one part and say God wants you to be blessed and live an abundant life, and not grab the other part that says, you know what? You know, live — live that kind of life. So it comes back to the Scripture. I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.”

Morgan appeared shocked at Osteen’s statements and accused the pastor of being hateful and judgmental. He also asked what Osteen would say directly to Elton John or any other homosexual. Osteen made no reference to the Gospel at all, but he did say that God would give strength in the struggle.

At one dramatic moment, Morgan rebutted Osteen’s claim to be non-judgmental: “I’m not so sure though, you see. I think you are a kind of judge. And I — I think you can’t abrogate that responsibility. I think what — because of your influence — there’s seven million — eight million viewers every Sunday, when you say things like homosexuality is a sin, it’s a big statement to make. You are a judge, and you’re encouraging your congregation to believe that....” (read the rest of Al Mohler's article)

How would you answer?

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Becoming a Pro-Life Statesman

Pro-life expert Scott Klusendorf lays out a really helpful framework for how to grow as an ambassador for life whatever your context may be (by the way, wouldn't it be great if the next time Anderson Cooper or Bill O'Reilly did segment on abortion choice / pro-life issues that Scott was asked to be an expert on the show?)

A colleague of mine asked what adjustments pro-life advocates should make to better position themselves for 2011 and beyond.

That's a loaded question that's best left to brighter minds, but my general reply was as follows: Pro-life Christians should bring God glory. At the practical level, that means they must not only state their case persuasively, but transform themselves into winsome statesmen without sacrificing the intellectual content of their ideas.

I then sketched out a rough (and very incomplete) outline of what that transformation might look like, including those principles that I strive to live by as a pro-life apologist.

Thesis: The pro-life statesman completes five key tasks:

I) The pro-life statesman presents a persuasive case for life in forums where our message most needs a hearing:
A. in Catholic and Protestant high schools
B. in presentations to clergy
C. in debates at high schools and universities
D. in training seminars for lay people
E. in talks to elementary age children
F. in worldview courses for high school students

II) The pro-life statesman engages the debate in the academy:
A. in philosophy:
1. He defends the substance view of human persons
2. He challenges naturalism as a foundation for human rights and ethics
B. in Law: refutation of moral and legal neutrality
C. in Ethics: He helps Christians think biblically about medical technology related to the edges of life (beginning and end of life)

III) The pro-life statesman clarifies theological misconceptions
A. in Evangelical theology: He challenges the mistaken belief that we should only preach the gospel and never do politics--but he does so without sacrificing fidelity to the gospel or Scripture
B. in Catholic theology: He confronts the mistaken belief that social justice requires that all moral issues carry equal moral weight
C. in Pastoral theology: He engages clergy who mistakenly think the gospel of grace means ignoring sin
D. in personal theology: He challenges the mistaken view that individuals must get a personal assignment from God to do pro-life work
E. in youth ministry theology: He challenges the claim that today's twitter generation can't handle serious pro-life content

IV) The pro-life statesman connects the dots
A. in churches: He helps pastors win connecting biblical truth to abortion
B. in politics: He graciously explains why all political parties are not equal in their defense of human life
C. in pregnancy center ministry: He inspires staff and volunteers to minister to women AND impact culture

See his excellent book: The Case for Life.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Don't be cruel to yourself, engage in theology!

Theology matters, is deeply personal, and always relevant. What we need to do today is trade in self-help for sound theology.

In his classic work, Knowing God, J.I. Packer reminds us, “We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you.”

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord” (Jer. 9:23-24 NASB)

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Recovering Christianity As A Knowledge Tradition Means Saving Minds As Well As Souls

As humans, we were designed to act on knowledge in everyday life. If you and I don’t think the Bible and other sources of knowledge about God, morality, and the spiritual life are possible and we are not growing in this knowledge; then following Jesus in everyday life will be next to impossible because we always default to what we know. Moreover, there appears no good reason to exclude the knowledge claims of Christianity simply because they are “religious.” If they do not hold up to scrutiny, that is one thing. But Christianity, which is rooted in history, makes many claims, some of which are empirically testable, while others are testable by non-empirical means. The crucial point to grasp is that Christianity rises to the level of being either true or false, and it can be known to be true or false (cf. Luke 1:1–4).

If Christianity is relegated to the realm of fairy tales, which may provide personal significance or meaning but not knowledge, then people will continue not taking the claims of Jesus or the Christian worldview very seriously. If, however, people are invited to consider the claims of Christianity as a knowledge tradition then chances are good that they might come to know the living God and live life according to the knowledge provided in His Word. Charles Malik summarizes this idea well: “The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world.”

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Abortion Doctor Charged in Newborns’ Killings

The New York Times has posted an article that I hope will begin to awaken America's conscience on this issue. The brutality that is abortion must be seen for what it is and sometimes only shocking details like these will have any impact. Moral facts--when we can clearly get them before us--are obvious to us because we are all made in the image of God. I hope and pray that the exposure of this story saves at least some precious unborn human persons.

"A 69-year-old Philadelphia doctor who performed abortions was charged by prosecutors on Wednesday with the murder of seven newborns who were killed with scissors and of a female patient who died of an overdose of anesthetics.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a family practitioner who had not been certified in obstetrics or gynecology, oversaw a medical practice that regularly performed late-term abortions.

On at least seven occasions, babies born alive during the sixth, seventh and eighth month of pregnancies were killed by having their spinal cords severed with a pair of scissors, District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement.

A grand jury investigation found that although complaints about Dr. Gosnell and his Women Medical Society clinic in west Philadelphia had been made to a variety of government health and medical licensing officials for more than 20 years — including about the deaths of women during routine abortions — the doctor was never officially sanctioned.

Most of Dr. Gosnell’s patients were low-income immigrant and minority women" (more)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do Our Brains Create God?

This sounds like a sophisticated challenge...but its really not. My friend Brett Kunkle humorously shows why in this video. Sean McDowell and I also address it in our book Is God Just a Human Invention?--here is an excerpt.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What is the nature and source of biblical authority?

There is a growing confusion over the nature and source of biblical authority. David K. Clark clarifies “the functional view of authority makes a grievous error to the degree that it collapses the critical distinction between the recognition of the Bible's authority by the church and the Bible's inherent possession of authority. For evangelical theology, a community's act of recognizing a document as authoritative for its thought and life is essential, but this is not the reality, the power, or the force that gives a document its divine authority. That is, the church's act of receiving the Bible as divine is not the ontological ground of the Bible's being God's Word. Rather, for evangelical theology, it is God's act of inspiration that grounds the Bible's status as God's revelation. So this is the salient distinction: the ontological ground of the text's authority is not the same as the epistemic acceptance of the text's authority. For evangelical theology, the first idea, the ontological ground of authority, lies rooted in the objective reality of the triune God speaking through the Spirit's inspiration. The second concept, the subjective recognition of the Bible as God's Word by a believing community, is the appropriate human response to the authority of Scripture. These two ideas work together, and both are absolutely necessary. The objective authority of the Bible rooted in God's inspiring action stands against allowing any contemporary agendas to gain control over the theology. The subjective recognition of the Bible as authoritative guards against a dead orthodoxy that pays lip service to divine truth even as it pursues other agendas.” From David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology, ed. John S. Feinberg, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 65.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What is Inerrancy? by D.A. Carson (Video)

Because of God’s perfect character and the fact that He cannot lie, it follows that His revelation to us would be without error. Theologian David Dockery offers a good summary of this doctrine, “When all the facts are known, the Bible (in its original writings) properly interpreted in light of which culture and communication means had de- veloped by the time of its composition will be shown to be completely true (and therefore not false) in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author, in all matters relating to God and his creation."

And even though none of the original manuscripts exist today, biblical scholars have sufficiently demonstrated that the Bible has been accurately and reliably preserved for us. Therefore, the Bible you can buy today is essentially the Word of God. Indeed, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Passages to explore: Psalm 19:1–4; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; 17:17; Romans 1:18–25; 2:14–16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 1:1–2; 6:18; 2 Peter 1:16–21.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Living well flows from thinking well

"Your intellectual life is important . . . for the simple reason that your very character, the kind of person you are and are becoming, is at stake. Careful oversight of our intellectual lives is imperative if we are to think well, and thinking well is an indispensable ingredient to living well." - Jay Wood

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Faith, Evidence, and the Promises of God

Mark Twain once quipped, “faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” That isn’t Christianity. The fact that some Christians may have blind faith is not the same as Christianity itself championing blind faith and irrationality. Historic Christianity has always emphasized that faith and reason go together. In everyday terms, faith is simply trusting in what you have good reason to believe is true. Faith in the Christian life is trust that God is who he claims to be and will do all that he has promised to do. This is reasonable because God has shown himself to be reliable and trustworthy. So faith is not belief in spite of the evidence, but belief in light of the evidence.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Does Scientific Naturalism Provide Safe Quarter for Christian Theology?

“For if Darwinism is true, then religion and morality are nothing more than irrational, upper-story beliefs inhabiting the realm of value rather than fact. We are sometimes reassured that this is not a bad thing, because after all the subjectivity of the value realm renders it immune to rational scrutiny. The marketing pitch can be quite seductive: Scientific naturalists say they will acknowledge that there are certain moral and religious feelings that science cannot account for—if, in return, theology will agree not to intrude into realms investigated by science. In other words, if Christians would just relinquish all claims to objective truth, then they would be granted an arena where their beliefs are secure from criticism.” – Nancy Pearcey
That’s not a good deal at all and we should reject it—precisely because we are Christians who stand in a knowledge tradition. So I am with Peter on this one: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Labels: , , , , ,

Is Archeopteryx the Missing Link?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Faith, Heart, and the Holy Spirit

Christian faith involves the whole person. The biblical term that best captures this concept is heart. Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The term “heart” in the Bible includes the intellect, emotion, and will. Theologian Robert Saucy summarizes, “It is important to grasp the biblical truth that in the heart, the operating center from which all behavior flows, thought, feeling, and will all come together in a unified whole.” Taken in this holistic sense, a person trusts Christ with the heart. In this act, cognitive, volitional, and affective elements converge. Christian faith is neither irrational nor opposed to reason. However, it includes more than just rational content.

According to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in any person’s coming to faith in Jesus Christ (cf. John 16:8–11). I can’t put it any better than David Clark does, “The Holy Spirit permeates this process. He works to overcome the blinding effects of sin and to lead a person toward openness to the Christian message. The role of the sensitive apologist [or evangelist] is to defend the truth that the Holy Spirit then drives home to a needy heart and mind. As minimal Christian truth initially sinks in and is intellectually acknowledged, the Holy Spirit persuades a person to respond to the Person the truth reveals. When response comes, understanding is deepened. Another step of deeper reliance is possible. And the process of growth continues.”

Labels: , , ,