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Think Christianly

Think Christianly: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Christian Citizen and Loving Your Neighbor

Here is short post on loving your neighbor and being a Christian citizen by Dr. Frank Beckwith:
Although the Bible says little about how Christians should be involved with politics, it seems to me that there are principles found in Scripture that can help us to think more clearly about the question. For example, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Does that refer only to their eternal souls? Apparently not, since even a casual reading of the Gospels shows our Savior tying Christian virtue to practical action on behalf of one’s neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most forceful illustration offered by Christ. But today, of course, the issues that drive many Christians to political action are contentious moral issues such as on abortion and the nature of marriage. What does it mean to love our neighbor when it comes to those issues? Does it mean that we do not employ the resources of law to make sure our neighbor is not harmed? For instance, in abortion, a tiny neighbor, the unborn child, is killed. Ought we to protect him? He is, after all, our neighbor too. And in the case of marriage, if the government were to allow same-sex marriage everywhere, and if opposing it is equivalent to visceral bigotry (as the opponents of prop 8 claim), would this not put Christians and their churches in the crosshairs of marginalization and persecution, simply because they believe...(read the rest)
Beckwith has an excellent book on Politics:

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Technology is Influencing Families

Technology and media are everywhere. And it is not without effects. There is a new Barna study out that talks about this. Here is an excerpt:

Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.
Americans’ dependence on—what some might call addiction to—digital technology is apparent in the study’s findings. One out of three parents and nearly half of 11- to 17-year-olds say there are not any specific times when they “make the choice to disconnect from or turn off technology so they can have a break from it.” And those who take such breaks tend to be driven by convenience rather than intentionality. For example, only 10% of parents and 6% of teenagers say they try to take off one day a week from their digital usage.

This reliance translates into some interesting behaviors and habits. Nearly half of both parents and teens said they emailed, texted or talked on the phone while eating in the last week. Two out of five youth and one-third of parents have used two or more screens simultaneously during this time period. And half of students and one-fifth of parents have checked email or text messages in bed in the last seven days. The question arises whether families are in control of their technology or being controlled by it. (read the rest)

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Welcome to College is FREE on Amazon Kindle For a Limited Time (spread the word!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Atheist, Christian students square off in debate

"Two Christian students and two atheist students squared off Tuesday night in a 90-minute high school debate about the existence, role and relevance of God. Focusing on the philosophical implications of believing in Christianity vs. atheism, the students explained to an audience of about 125 why their beliefs made logical sense and attempted to poke holes in the other side's arguments....."

The Christians are Sean McDowell's students (my coauthor of Is God Just a Human Invention?). Awesome!

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Summary of What the Bible Teaches About Hell

Last night I taught a seminar at our church addressing the question - Is Hell for Real? What follows is a brief overview and summary.

Biblical Passages:

“This final dimension of judgment and hell is anticipated in the Old Testament (Dan. 12:1-2; Isa. 66:24) and taught in every section of the New: the Gospels (Matt. 5:22; 29-30; 7:13, 23; 8-12, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 49-50; 18:6-9; 22:13; 23:33; 24:51; 25:30, 41, 46: 26:24; Mark 1:24; 5:7; 9:43, 45, 47-48; Luke 3:17; 4:34; 12:5; 13:3, 5; 16:23-25, 28; John 3:16-18, 36; 5:28-29; 8:21,24); Acts (10:42; 17:31); the New Testament letters (Rom. 2:5, 8-9, 12; 6:23; 9:3, 22; 1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 2:15-16; 4:3; Gal. 1:8-9; 6:8; Eph. 5:6; Phil. 1:28; 3:19; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:3, 9; 2:10; Heb. 6:2; 9:27; 10:27, 39; James 4:12; 2 Peter 2:1, 3 ,4, 9, 12, 17; 3:7; Jude 4, 6, 7, 13); and the Apocalypse (Rev. 2:11; 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10-11, 19; 16:19; 17:8, 11; 18:8, 9, 18; 19:3, 15, 20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8; 22:15). Plainly, the New Testament has much to say about the final destiny of the unsaved.” (1)

Summary of what these passages reveal about the nature of hell:

“The Bible’s picture of hell, therefore, indicates that upon death some people will be translated into a different, nonspatial mode of existence. They will be conscious, and they will await a resurrection of their bodies, at which time they will be banished from heaven and secured in hell where they will experience unending, conscious exclusion from God, his people, and anything of value. This banishment will include conscious sorrow, shame, and anguish to differing degrees, depending on the person’s life on earth.”—J.P Moreland and Gary Habermas (2)

As Christians, what should our response be to the doctrine of hell?

“No orthodox Christian likes the doctrine of hell or delights in anyone’s condemnation. I truly wish universalism were true, but it is not. My compassion toward those in other world religions is therefore expressed, not in pretending that they are not lost and dying without Christ, but by supporting and making every effort myself to communicate to them the life-giving message of salvation through Christ.”—William Lane Craig (3)

1 Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 168.

2 J. P. Moreland and Gary R. Habermas, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 291.

3 Politically Incorrect Salvation by William Lane Craig.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Welcome to College Featured on The Point Radio Today

Friday, May 13, 2011

Half of New Testament was forged? Bart Ehrman says yes...

(CNN) - A frail man sits in chains inside a dank, cold prison cell. He has escaped death before but now realizes that his execution is drawing near.

“I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come,” the man –the Apostle Paul - says in the Bible's 2 Timothy. “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

The passage is one of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament. Paul, the most prolific New Testament author, is saying goodbye from a Roman prison cell before being beheaded. His goodbye veers from loneliness to defiance and, finally, to joy.

There’s one just one problem - Paul didn’t write those words. In fact, virtually half the New Testament was written by impostors taking on the names of apostles like Paul. At least according to Bart D. Ehrman, a renowned biblical scholar, who makes the charges in his new book “Forged.

“There were a lot of people in the ancient world who thought that lying could serve a greater good,” says Ehrman, an expert on ancient biblical manuscripts.In “Forged,” Ehrman claims that:

  • At least 11 of the 27 New Testament books are forgeries.
  • The New Testament books attributed to Jesus’ disciples could not have been written by them because they were illiterate.
  • Many of the New Testament’s forgeries were manufactured by early Christian leaders trying to settle theological feuds.

Were Jesus’ disciples ‘illiterate peasants?'

Ehrman’s book, like many of his previous ones, is already generating backlash. Ben Witherington, a New Testament scholar, has written a lengthy online critique of “Forged.”

Witherington calls Ehrman’s book “Gullible Travels, for it reveals over and over again the willingness of people to believe even outrageous things.”... (rest of article on CNN by John Blake)

Two must read reviews of Ehrman's book Forged that argue that the Biblical authors are who they claimed to be:

Dr. Darrell Bock Note: there are multiple posts on his blog on Forged

Also, for a great introduction to New Testament authorship issues, see:

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When Are Teenagers Ready To Date?

This past sunday I spoke to our teenagers and college students on how to have healthy dating relationships. Here are 3 ways you know if you (or if you are a parent your son / daughter) is ready to date:

1. When you have a picture in your mind of the “right kind of person” you will not settle less for (silhouette).
  • A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold – Proverbs 22:1
  • A good rule of thumb: If you would not marry this kind of person, then don’t date this kind of person. Date actual, not potential.
2. When you are more interested in / focused on BECOMING the right kind of person than FINDING the right person.
  • Cultivating your relationship with God and building character now is the best thing you could do for your future relationships.
3. When you know what physical / moral / emotional boundaries you will not compromise on in order to get that other person to like you.
  • Special note for girls: If this guy is pressuring you physically or morally, run as fast as you can in the other direction! WHY? He obviously does not respect and obey God. And if he doesn’t respect and obey God's Word, then he will break your heart to get what he wants…you are worth WAITING for!
The Bottom Line: Being lonely with hope of a GOOD relationship is much better than being stuck in a BAD relationship filled with frustration and regrets…and worse still if you get married to them someday with NO WAY OUT.

"He who walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm" - Proverbs 13:20

This is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to dating relationships. Click here to learn more about healthy relationships during the high school and college years

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

If I Had been born in India, would I Have been a Hindu?

The short answer to this question is that nothing really follows (with logical necessity) from where I happen to be born; the truth or falsity of a religion is not determined by where someone is born. Paul Copan responds, “the same line of reasoning applies to the pluralist himself. If the pluralist grew up in Madagascar or medieval France, he would not have been a pluralist!” Furthermore, this question seems to imply that people can’t escape the cultural views they were born into. Also, the number of conversions from within closed countries to a different belief system undercut the weight of this objection. Finally, the notion of the Christian God’s providential ordering of the world rules out people being born somewhere by historical accident:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of you." - Acts 17:24-27

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Friday, May 6, 2011

WAY FM Welcome to College Interview on Mornings with Brant - Jonathan Morrow

Hello everyone! I had a blast on mornings with Brant (WAY-FM) talking about college life. Here is the audio.

WARNING - Shameless Plug Alert - Here is my book Welcome to College. This would make a GREAT graduation gift for seniors or students already in college. Youth Pastors could work through these chapters with groups and there are small group discussion questions in the back. Also, for parents to work through with their teenagers while in High School to prepare them for the opportunities and challenges of college life.

What People Are Saying:
"This is the book I’ve been waiting for. . . It is the single best volume I have ever read for preparing students for how to follow Jesus and flourish as his disciple in college."—J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

"Jonathan Morrow has both the intellectual resources as well as the practical experience to provide an effective students’ survival guide to university life. I’m impressed with the wide array of issues he discusses, from intellectual challenges to financial problems to sexual snares to getting enough sleep! All this is done in easily digestible bits for the student on the run."—William Lane Craig, theologian and author of Reasonable Faith

"Jonathan Morrow has written an extremely practical, insightful guide for navigating the challenges of college life. It is wide ranging and wise. I enthusiastically recommend it!"—Paul Copan, Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University and author of Is God a Moral Monster?

"I love this book. Being in college myself, this book is phenomenal. Jonathan does a great job of having a little bit for everyone. Whether you need relationship advice, a little lesson in apologetics, to just basics like how to take care of your health. It really is great. To college students" This isn't one of those cheesy books your grandparents buy you and the you use to fix that lop-sided dorm bed. This is the real deal!" - Josh (student)

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some Advice For Katy Perry On Her “Very Public” Evolving Faith Journey-Keep Asking Why

Pop icon Katy Perry was recently on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and was interviewed about what it was like growing up. In her words, “I didn’t have a childhood.” The article goes on to explain how the twenty-six-year-old’s inquisitive side was relentless and says she felt compelled to push the boundaries strict family life. She said: ‘I have always been the kid who's asked 'Why?'’

Kids and teenagers need a safe place to ask big questions and grapple honestly with life—their experiences, hopes, fears, doubts, and desires. Christianity is the kind of thing that you can investigate—it will hold up to scrutiny. It actually rises to the level of being true or false and there are good reasons to believe that Christianity is true.

Let me be clear. It is not my intention here to pass judgment on how her parents—who the article says are evangelical Christians—raised her or what they did or didn’t do. I don’t know. I was not there. I do know already how hard it is to be a parent. But apologist Josh McDowell’s words are appropriate here: “Truth without relationship leads to rebellion.” We must remember these wise words. Maybe that's her story.

Now for some—admittedly unsolicited—advice to the mega pop star for her spiritual journey and her understanding of faith. Perry explained: ‘In my faith, you're just supposed to have faith. At this point, I'm just kind of a drifter. I'm open to possibility.'

Being “open minded” can be a good thing for a season of exploration. However the goal of opening your mind is to eventually close it around truth. But the notion of faith for faith’s sake that she espouses is both ubiquitous in our culture and deeply flawed. Here’s why: Faith is only as good as the object in which it’s placed. Sincerity is not enough. That is true when it comes to parachutes opening when they are supposed to or whether the God of the Bible exists. If our own desires, experiences, and beliefs are the object of our faith then we are doomed to an ever changing faith because our beliefs, desires, and experiences constantly change. We need something outside of ourselves to anchor our faith—something or someone that is a worthy object of faith. I would suggest Jesus of Nazareth as an excellent candidate to investigate.

Moreover, I would gently remind Katy that belief is not what ultimately matters—truth is. In other words, people are entitled to their own beliefs, but they are not entitled to their own truth. Our believing something is true does not make it true. The Bible isn't true simply because I have faith. Truth is what corresponds to reality—telling it like it is. There is a way the world is and we either cooperate with it or bruise ourselves against it. Truth is discovered, not created.

So with much compassion for a young woman who is now on the biggest stage there is, I would encourage Katy to keep on looking and keep on asking the why questions. Because it may be that what she really rejected was not the life Jesus offers, but a caricature of Christianity that says it’s all about the rules you need to follow. At the end of the day, Christianity best answers the big “why questions” of life.

  • Why are we here?

  • Where did we come from?

  • What is life all about?

  • Is this life all there is?

It may be that she is running so hard away from her past that she is not running toward anything. But one day she will stop running away and ask where she is going. I hope and pray that when that day comes she will find the truth that has been there all along—her heavenly Father who created and loves her longs for her to come home. (Luke 15:11-31)​

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

William Dembski on BioLogos, Karl Giberson, Francis Collins, and the Merits of Theistic Evolution

William Dembski engages the theistic evolution debate in a recent review. Here is a taste:

Throughout their book, Giberson and Collins overconfidently proclaim that Darwinian evolution is a slam-dunk. Thus one reads, "There has been no scientific discovery since Darwin--not one--which has suggested that evolution is not the best explanation for the origin of species" (21-22). No theory is that good. Every theory admits anomalies. Every theory faces disconfirming evidence. Repeatedly readers are informed that mountains of overwhelming evidence support Darwin's theory and that the authors are "unfamiliar with any premier scientists who reject evolution." And just so there's no doubt, in that same paragraph, they reiterate, "There are certainly a few scientists who reject evolution . . . But these are never premier scientists." Oh, you reject Darwinian evolution; you can't be a premier scientist.....(read the rest)

This is a critical debate because the question of origins is hugely important. For more on faith and evolution, click here.

H/T - Evolution News

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is Hell For Real?

What if Hell doesn't exist? That is a question asked by Time magazine during Holy Week. Here is a video promo for my upcoming equipping seminar (Thanks Andrew Humphreys!)

Everyone is talking about hell these days. TIME magazine even had a cover story on it during Holy Week asking—Is Hell Dead? When it comes to this topic everyone has questions: How could a loving God send people to hell? Is hell forever? Will everyone be saved in the end? What about those who have never heard of Jesus? Did Jesus really believe in hell? In this timely seminar, equipping pastor and author Jonathan Morrow will be responding to these and other issues from a distinctively Christian worldview so that we can better understand what the Bible teaches about this topic and how we can engage others when these issues come up in conversations at work, home, or on campus. When: Wed. night May 18th from 6:30 – 8:30 at Blackman Middle School. Childcare $10 per family at the door. Please sign up by emailing or putting the bulletin tab in the giving box.

If you are in the area, come on out! (please sign up) I address this question in this book as well:

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Monday, May 2, 2011

What Would Jesus Say to Gandhi and Osama Bin Laden? Some Christian Reflections On Getting What We Deserve

From Fox News to the Huffington Post, Time Magazine to the New York Times, Gandhi and Osama bin Laden are trending in the headlines these days…but for different reasons. But the questions people are asking about each of them are not unrelated. They have to do with good and evil, justice and love, and people getting what they ultimately deserve. But people are also bringing God—and even Jesus (who claimed to be God by the way)—into it too. This sounds like a conversation worth having.

So let’s talk a little about Gandhi, Bin Laden, and the scandal of Christianity.

Is Gandhi in heaven right now because he was good enough?

Is Osama bin Laden in hell right now because he was too evil?

What would Jesus say to each of these men? These questions get to the heart of Christianity.

By our standards Gandhi was a good person. Surely, if people like Gandhi can’t earn their way to heaven, then you and I are in trouble. But we are immediately plagued by a deeper question—how good is good enough? The Bible’s answer? As good as God. Absolute perfection is the standard. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 cf. Romans 3:23). As admirable and noble as Gandhi’s efforts were to dignify the invisible of India, he falls short of God’s perfect standard.

That is scandalous in our eyes, but the message of the Bible is clear. Incidentally, this is yet another reason why no one would have invented a religion like Christianity. It has the audacity to tell us—even the most virtuous among us—that we are not good enough (notice I did not say that we are not loved cf. John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). We cannot save ourselves.

So is Osama bin Laden in hell right now because he was too evil?

This is the inverse of the Gandhi question. Can someone be too bad? Are some people simply too evil to be forgiven?

Christianity teaches that there is no one so far gone that cannot be forgiven—even Bin Laden. Here’s why. Christianity teaches that even when we are dead in our sins that God can make us alive with Christ. How does he do this? God “forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:13-14). Think of it. Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to pay the penalty for every sin ever committed (cf. 1 John 2:2).

Again, scandalous!

Put as plainly as I can, Christianity teaches that you, me, Gandhi and everyone else on the planet are in the same boat as people like Osama bin Laden unless we have accepted Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. Either we pay or Jesus pays—but justice requires someone to pay (cf. Romans 6:23).

But if God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why can’t he just forgive everyone so there wouldn’t have to be a hell at all?

This question gets to the heart of one of the most common objections to the idea of hell. The answer lies in what it means for God to be perfectly good. In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis addresses this objection by observing the important distinction between condoning evil and true forgiveness: “To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, to treat it as if it were good. But forgiveness needs to be accepted as well as offered if it is to be complete: a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness.”

The goodness of God would be violated if he just looked the other way. Theologian J. I. Packer helps us see this:

“Would a God who did not care about the difference between right and wrong be a good and admirable being? Would a God who put no distinction between the beasts of history, the Hitlers and Stalins (if we dare use names), and his own saints, be morally praiseworthy and perfect? Moral indifference would be imperfection in God, not a perfection. But not to judge the world would be to show moral indifference. The final proof that God is a perfect moral being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed himself to judge the world.”

Since all of us expect this level of moral integrity and consistency from human judges, shouldn’t we at least expect the same from God?”

The cross stands as a constant reminder that hellish existence is not the only option for people; it doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn around; we can change our mind. Jesus’ word for this was repentance. The gospel is a universal declaration that hell is not God’s desire for anyone (2 Pet. 3:9). But the Bible is very clear that hell is simultaneously the punishment for our sins and the consequence of our desire for life apart from God. (For more on the question of hell, I address it here)

Lewis once admitted that, “I would pay any price to be able to say truthfully ‘All will be saved.’ But my reason retorts ‘Without their will, or with it?’” No matter what your circumstances may be, you always have a choice. No one is ever “too far gone.” (Read: Osama bin Laden).

And in the same breath, no one can ever be “good enough.” (Read: Gandhi)

The good news is that God has provided in His Love what His Justice required. The great exchange is available to anyone who will embrace the scandal of the cross:

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-25)

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

So what would Jesus say to Gandhi and Osama bin Laden?

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

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