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How does one say this, after all these years, all these friendships, all these interactions?

It’s been quite a ride, for one thing. And it’s coming full circle.

When I started this blog on another platform almost 15 years ago, I thought it was going to be about Christian strategy. It quickly morphed into an apologetics and ethics blog, however. Now I’m returning to that original strategic intention now. I’m doing as part of a group, on a different platform, for a new purpose fitted to a new day in our world. It’s still got plenty to do with ethics and apologetics, but it’s focused now on strategies to bring more thinking Christianity into the Church.

I’ll write several posts here to explain and introduce that over the next few weeks. And then I’m going to retire this blog.

The published posts and comments will remain, of course.

The Community

It really has been a great run. I’ve treasured my time with the community of commenters here: Charlie Scott, SteveK, Holopupenko, G. Rodrigues, BillT, scbrownlrhm, Melissa, Victoria, Jenna, Billy Squibs, JAD, djc, The Deuce, Medicine Man, bigbird, and so many other supporting commenters. It’s dangerous to begin building a list; I’ll miss someone crucial to my time here. I must apologize for that in advance.

I think as well as the loyal opposition. doctor(logic) comes first to mind: he was one of the first and one of the most engaging. Also Paul, Sault, Tony Hoffman, David Ellis, Raz, Nick Matzke, Tom Clark, OlegT, Jacob Stump, James Lindsay, Ray Ingles, Shane Fletcher, Keith, Ordinary Seeker, Larry Tanner, Gregory Magarshak, John Moore, Skepticism First, and so many, many others who have enlivened discussions here for so long.

Would You Be Willing … ?

If this blog has meant something to you over the years, would you be willing to say so in comments?

I’ve met some of you face to face, including one atheist who asked me never to tell about it — and I haven’t, though I still wish we could have recorded that meeting, or een sold tickets to see it! Nothing violent about it; we had a great breakfast together. And some lively debate!

Here is where I’ve honed my writing skills. Here is where I learned much of what I know about apologetics ministry. Holopupenko taught me to appreciate Thomism, much of which I even agree with now! Others taught me that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, which drove me to further study.

Behind the scenes, too, this was where my son, Jonathan, taught me an awful lot about web design and especially WordPress, as he also developed a whole series of outstanding design themes.

The Content, the Connections

Here, too, is where I found a network that connected me with writing opportunities online with First Things, Breakpoint, the Christian Apologetics Alliance Facebook Group, the Apologetics Bloggers Alliance, and ultimately The Stream, where I now do the great majority of my writing. I can’t begin to say enough thanks for the friendships gained through all that extended network.

Would You Also … ?

Would you consider contributing toward the needs of the next phase?

It was great, when it was at its best. At its peak this blog was seeing something like 35,000 page views a month. On this WordPress platform alone, after I switched from the original, this post is the 2,345th I’ve written. Commenters have written more than 60,500 comments. Four years ago I ran a test on a random sample of blog posts, and estimated that by then I’d blogged just under half a million words, not including comments (which were much more voluminous).

The Recognitions

This change isn’t easy. I’ve been agonizing over it literally for months. I’ve got a lot of history here. Three years ago Feedspot honored this blog as the top-ranking individually-hosted Christian blog on the internet. As of this writing, Feedspot is still ranking it the number two Christian philosophy blog, right behind Edward Feser’s. Since Feser is a Roman Catholic, that would make this the top Protestant Christian philosophy blog in Feedspot’s view.

Also at various times Thinking Christian has ranked at or near the top of several lists at Blogmetrics.

In time it will disappear from all those rankings, I know. It’s going to be hard to let that go.

So Why On Earth Would I Leave This Behind?

Why move on, then? I’ve changed. The world we live in has changed. The Church has changed, too — but it’s not keeping up with the rest, and that alarms me. American Christianity is moving toward persecution, in terms that Jesus himself defined in Matthew 5:11-12. Anti-Christian hostility is well documented. Even where individuals aren’t facing hostility, the Christian view of reality is under persistent, consistent attack. It’s only likely to increase as our culture polarizes more and more.

And we’re not ready for it. For that reason, along with a growing group of friends and colleagues, I’m turning my focus toward Christianity’s readiness for what’s ahead.

Many of my colleagues in apologetics have asked, “Why won’t the Church adopt apologetics as part of its equipping?” It’s a great question. We at the Spiritual Readiness Project are turning it into a matter of research. We want to be able to answer that great question, from the perspective of the churches — and especially the pastors who have so much else to think about.

We want to know very specifically how we can help. And then over the course of 3 to 5 years we intend to produce books, articles, and conferences to serve the Church in this vital area of equipping.

If that weren’t so crucial, I wouldn’t leave here. But it is.

The Past Few Years: The Good and the Bad

The pace here has decreased over the past few years, too. When I joined Ratio Christi’s national leadership team some five or six years ago, my writing time diminished. Later on I tried to keep things going here while also writing for The Stream, which might have worked had my heart not been turning toward the Spiritual Readiness Project.

When I quit writing here as much, the commenting community I’d enjoyed so much here dissipated, too. It only makes sense. There wasn’t nearly as much reason to come and converse. Not only that, but the quality of skeptic/atheistic commenting has diminished greatly; either that or it’s always been this poor, and my patience with it has worn out.

I’ve told would-be bloggers, “Whatever you do, write something you enjoy writing about!” I’m doing that at The Stream almost every day, and loving it! But I’m also finding new excitement in the Spiritual Readiness Project. It’s a team effort, which like The Stream is a welcome break from years of solo blogging. And I’m choosing the venues I think will matter more over the next several years.

Transition Begins Now; and Thank You!

I’ll write few more transitional posts here, since I really want you to know about the Spiritual Readiness Project. Then I will turn all my attention there, The Stream, and other writing (including a book in progress), and be done writing here.

I leave here with a lot of joy in my heart for all God has allowed me to do and to experience here. I say this with love in my heart, and great appreciation: Thank you all for reading, sharing, commenting, and making my life richer through it.

Stay connected!

Be sure to visit, follow, and subscribe to the Spiritual Readiness Project!

The post Time for Change: Retiring this Blog to Focus on a Crucial New Initiative appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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News came out a couple weeks ago about Raphael Samuel, a 27-year-old Indian man who’s reportedly suing his parents for bringing him into this world without his consent.

“Life was imposed on me…. I want to make it a legal right for a child to sue a parent…. Ideally the parents should not have the child. But if they do have the child, they must compensate the child, they must guarantee property for the child, they must guarantee a good life for the child.”

Antinatalist Raphael Samuel Explains The Reason Behind Suing His Parents - YouTube

Okay, he’s a nut case. My Facebook friend Roger Browning answered it just as seriously as it deserves:

This will obviously be thrown out. Penal code 706.4.2(a.1) clearly states “consent is assumed unless fetal form 603[1]b is filled out and filed in triplicate. Original copies must be time stamped by a notary public and in witness of, not less than, three (3) witnesses unrelated to the non-concenting party”
It’s on him for not filing the appropriate paperwork prior to the 24 week deadline (4 month extensions available in New York, Virginia, and Rhode Island, and 13 others in cases of rape and incest).

The Man Who Chose To Live and Die

But there really was a child who was born by his own consent. His parents never guaranteed him any property, in fact he never owned any at all, to the day he died. His parents didn’t guarantee him a good life. No such luck. He had “no place to lay his head.” He was constantly under pressure from enemies who wanted him killed, but in the end it was a friend, of all people, who betrayed him. He died horribly, painfully, humiliatingly at a very young age.

He had the choice, though, right from the start. There was never any necessity that he suffer helplessness or dependency. He never really had to feel heat or thirst; never had to experience the pressure of temptation; never had to die. For the rest of us, that’s absolutely unavoidable. Not so for him. Of course he did go through all that, but unlike every other person who’s lived, he did it all completely by his own choice.

Of course you know who I’m talking about. (Maybe this should have been a Christmas post, but Raphael Samuel didn’t time it that way for us.)

The Man Who Chose To Be a Sacrifice for Us

This morning on Facebook I saw the question,

So the big deal with Jesus is that he sacrificed his life for normal humans. … I mean he was God in the flesh right? … Wait though, when normal people die we don’t get to come back to life and then dematerialize and get transported to heaven where we rule the universe for eternity? What was the sacrifice again?

I asked him in reply,

What was the sacrifice again? Would you choose to do that if you could live forever in absolute power, control, freedom, lack of pain?

Jesus did it for us willingly (John 10:11–18) because of his love (John 13:34–35) and for the joy of bringing us to God (Hebrews 12:1–2).

There are so many reasons to worship him. This is one more.

Image Credit(s): Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds, Wikimedia.

The post The Man Who Gave His Consent To Be Born appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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Why are some Christians more interested in apologetics than others? Do you think you know the reasons? Probably. But only partly.

The Spiritual Readiness Project has just released a research report this morning on What Motivates Interest In Apologetics?

Read it online or download the printable version.

Prepare to nod your head in agreement with some of the findings, and to be surprised at other — especially the two big factors we found that don’t seem to motivate many people’s interest in apologetics.

Why this research?

Christians working in apologetics have been asking for years, “How can we get churches more interested in apologetics?” We’ve used a naive, intuitive, seat-of-the-pants approach to figuring that out. F could name some shining exceptions, especially work led by Sean McDowell, Greg Koukl, and Brett Kunkle, plus Summit Ministries and Impact360. They’ve found powerful ways to instill interest in young people for the first time. The rest of us? For the most part our best answer has been, “Give them the resources and they will come.”

For some people, that’s exactly the answer they need. So it’s a good one; and yet for all the resources we’ve developed, we’re still not seeing churches rise up and grab hold the way we believe they should.

Enter the Spiritual Readiness Project, a multi-year research and training initiative, taking a serious problem-solving approach to the question of apologetics in the church. We’re a team of four people seriously interested in apologetics, and also trained in social sciences, seeking to understand the motivational basis of the question. We’re starting with research, and we’ll be ending with at least one book, plus conferences and web-based training and resources.

I’ll be very interested in your comments on what we’ve found. (Trolls will be thrown back under their bridge.)

The post Who’s Interested in Apologetics and Why? New Research Reveals New Answers appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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I was just looking at a Facebook battle over whether women tend to suffer emotional distress after an abortion. A secular psychiatrist said there’s no evidence; someone else insisted there was.

As Christians we are committed to truth. We need to know what we’re talking about, to make sure we’re speaking truth, before we engage in these kinds of arguments. I’m not sure the Christian in this discussion was succeeding in that. That doesn’t mean she’s wrong; in fact as a strong pro-life advocate I think she’s right in most ways, just not in the way she was standing for in this debate.

Even with a Master’s degree in psychology, I wouldn’t try to win the battle the way she’s trying to win it, for four reasons.

1. Research-Paper Wars Are Always Hard to Win

First, it’s difficult to win any war of this type, comparing research study with research study. That’s especially true for those who do not keep in close touch with the literature. It’s study vs. study, paper vs. paper, authority vs. authority, and for those who don’t have the professional qualifications to wield the authority properly, there’s really no chance at all of winning.

Remember, I say that as one who would like to say the pro-life view on women’s post-abortive emotional health is adversely affected. I’d like to be able to cite that research, too. The reason I don’t is because research studies are like people: If you only look at one, you’re not getting the whole picture.

Studies hardly ever all agree with one another; and when I look at a page linking to studies showing adverse effects, I don’t know whether these studies have been cherry-picked. If they have, then they don’t carry scientific authority. If I don’t know whether they have been, then I can’t cite them with any authority.

2. Few of Us Have the Knowledge to Use it Authoritatively

For issues that have been studied multiple times, researchers have a tool called meta-analysis that’s designed to ferret out what they all agree on, if anything. Unfortunately in the debate I’m watching, I can’t take time to read the links offered. Two are freely accessible; they total 230-plus pages, which is too much for me to tackle right now. One of them relies heavily on meta-analyses. Both of them also use a different but also acceptable methodology: simple inspection of the studies, looking at the quality of the research and drawing conclusions only from the best. (Another one for which only an abstract is available appears to do the same.

Therefore, unless you or I are able to answer the challenge on the level that Faizal has raised it, then we really aren’t able to answer. We can’t use the authority of psychological research unless we take that research seriously.

3. Authorities Can Be Biased, and Research Flawed Regardless

Second, however, the APAs are both politically influenced. In the field I’m more familiar with, homosexuality and transgender, it’s very clear their research is politically biased. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if abortion-related research were likewise biased.

Meanwhile the social sciences have been suffering a serious crisis of replicability: Findings aren’t holding up when re-tested. Is that the case with post-abortion studies? It wouldn’t be surprising — although the research summaries linked above do cite an impressive number of studies, which reduces the likelihood of that flaw.

I cannot say more than that myself. I know neither the literature nor the history of abortion-related studies. I can say it wouldn’t surprise me if it were politically biased or otherwise flawed, but I cannot say that it actually is. In fact, if I were to say it without knowing, I’d be guilty of the same thing: Letting my bias determine my conclusions instead of the facts.

4. Guilt is Still Guilt, and God Still Has the Final Word

Third and finally, it’s also a mistake to suppose that psychological science knows all the answers. Faizal says fundamentalists impose guilt. In fact guilt is an automatic effect following upon sin, and it can only be erased through God’s forgiveness.

Psychological science knows nothing of this. Women may or may not be able to ignore and suppress their feelings of guilt — and we live in a world where many women can find strong support for suppressing those feelings — but guilt is what it is, regardless of whether one “feels it” or not.

In other words, most of us don’t have the resources to employ psychological authority in these discussions. But that doesn’t mean we have to bow to it. Psychological science is neither the only source of relevant knowledge, nor the most authoritative. God has the final word.

The post How and How Not to Use Psychological Research Regarding Abortion and Other Social Issues appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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Groundbreaking “Lewis-esque” article now available again!

Five years ago I published an article at Touchstone magazine that I titled “Too Good to be False,” and which they titled, “The Gospel Truth of Jesus.” Leading New Testament documents scholar Daniel Wallace paid me the compliment of calling it “Lewis-esque.”

For quite a long time Touchstone displayed it for free on their website, but now it’s behind a subscriber paywall. The copyright is mine, so today I’m republishing it here.

Being five years old, obviously this argument has been discussed before.

A Story of Unmatched Ethical Perfection

This article runs long for a web page, so here’s a shorter form, reprinted from an earlier blog post:

It begins with Jesus’ ethical perfection, unmatched in all of Western literature, and I believe also in all world literature besides. He is the one character portrayed as possessing perfect power while being perfectly other-oriented, without flaw or exception.

This combination is rare beyond rare. The degree to which he displays this dual perfection seriously stretches the meaning of “unique.” Lord Acton said it well: “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely;” but according to the accounts we have, Jesus had absolute power, yet he was absolutely uncorrupted. (To understand that rightly with respect to Jesus, you must take “absolute” in its most absolute possible sense.)

That means that if his story as portrayed in the Gospels really were invented, then those who thought him up concocted a character far greater than any other in all the history of human imagination. No one else has demonstrated the ability to compose a character anything like that. Maybe someone could have, but the fact is, no one has. That’s a hint—not proof, but a pretty good hint—that his greatness surpasses the reach of human imagination: that he is unimaginably great, in the most literal sense of the word.

Where Did Such a Character Come From?

Still we have his story. The skeptics suppose that it really was the product of human imagination. I can’t tell you that’s impossible, since we have only a strong hint that it might be; but I think I can safely say it’s exceedingly unlikely to have happened the way they say it did.

For what they tell us is that Jesus’ character was concocted through a disjointed, error-riddled process of corporate cognitive dissonance reduction. It originated in a culture where even a hint of human deification would get a person stoned to death. That’s where they think this character’s unmatched, divine ethical perfection came from.

And it happened not just once but four times. The number of Gospel accounts we have in the Bible is significant here, not because of how they might or might not confirm one another, but because the authors had four distinct opportunities to get it wrong—to introduce some flaw into Christ’s self-sacrificial, other-centered character—but none of them did. Therefore skeptics must suppose that this decidedly imperfect community not only introduced his ethical perfection but maintained it perfectly over multiple tellings of the story.

The Evidence is Against Its Being Merely Imagined

I think what they’re imagining could best be described as a miracle of a different sort.

You can choose which explanation to believe. Take Jesus’ life as true, and you’ll find it fits into a long history, a back-story, as it were. More than that, it’s the central piece in a coherent world picture.

Meanwhile there’s no reason to think that the skeptics’ proposed “community of faith”—actually, non-community of cognitive dysfunction, as I explain in the article—could or would have concocted a character of Jesus’ overwhelming ethical magnificence.

The skeptical version has no coherent back-story. It fits nowhere in what we know of human nature, of literature, or the context of the times. That is, it fits nowhere except by power of shoehorn and sledge hammer (and never mind the bits and pieces flying everywhere!) wielded for the purpose of keeping God out of the story.

If the story of Jesus is unimaginably great, but the story exists anyway, then it’s unlikely it came about by means of the imagination. It’s far more likely that it’s true.

Image Credit(s): Public Domain Photos.

The post Jesus Is Too Good To Be False appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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Let’s start by agreeing Shermer is right, as he opens this interview: Humans do seek out evidence that supports our beliefs. We do tend to cement our convictions more than we question them. He’s also wrong, though, when he tells Stephen Colbert (at 1:40), “The only way to tell, really, the difference between these true patterns and false patterns is science.”

I’m happy to leave the most obvious flaws in that thinking for you to discuss in the comments. For starters, it’s a performative self-contradiction/self-defeating statement, and it’s over-optimistic with respect to the “debunking” human factor in science. I see these topics debated all the time. 

Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.

That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.

That’s a scientific attitude, in a way. Scientists are loathe to say experiments prove anything; instead they “fail to confirm” or to “disconfirm.” Every conclusion is a working conclusion, subject to later amendment. I’m speaking in ideal terms here, for scientists are human beings, too. (I’m also excluding evolution, which for mysterious reasons gets exceptional treatment as “Fact, Fact, FACT!“)

Heuristics, Science, Art, and Morality

The history of science supports this tentative approach. We keep learning, and therefore unlearning. What once was certain is now rejected as false; therefore the safer route is never to say anything is certain. Working conclusions are good enough, anyway: They lead to new technologies or new theories; or if they prove not to work after all, they point away from themselves toward new ideas.

But not everything is science. Not every false conclusion has the same heuristic value. Some are just deadly. Not every branch of knowledge has the same learning-unlearning-new learning growth characteristic science has, either. Science has progressed by orders of magnitude over the past few years, much less centuries, but has music? Poetry? Drama? How much better was Tennessee Williams than Sophocles? Who today is orders of magnitude ahead of Shakespeare? (Is anyone even a match for Tennessee Williams?)

There is such a thing as heuristic science, so eternal skepticism has its usefulness there, but there is no such thing as heuristic music. Even less is there any such thing as heuristic morality; the very term contradicts itself. Moral truths have no scientific tests, though, so on Shermer’s line of thinking, one should never adopt any moral conclusions. The problem with that should be plain, however. Skepticism cannot be known to be a virtue unless one knows of such a thing as virtue. His position incinerates its not only its own logic but also its own reason for being.

We Won’t Be Fooled Again!

He seeks to minimize false beliefs so We don’t get fooled again!  (I’m sure he skips the “get on my knees and pray” part.) In some skeptics’ case, it sounds a lot like, “We won’t get embarrassed again!” Because there is that image to keep up, you know.

But a ship navigated by skepticism can only land at random ports, and after each landing skitters off again just in case it’s the wrong place to be. Maybe one port is right, maybe not, so the safest bet is to stay out of them all. (We won’t get vulnerable again!)

Colbert asks (at 4:04), “What about religion?” Shermer says, “There are so many prophets and they conflict with each other…. <inaudible> What kind of experiment could we possibly run to tell the difference between whether this is the one true religion or this is the one true religion?”

I wonder what kind of experiment can the ship run to tell whether this is the right port or this other one is. None, obviously. Why would this even be the kind of knowledge someone would gain by experiment? How would you know where to start, anyway, since we haven’t even defined what it means to be the right port? Keep the ship at sea!

Likewise with religion. Shermer refuses to land, because he might land in the wrong place. No, worse than that: He sees that there are wrong places to land — there must be, considering their contradictions — and concludes therefore that there is no right place to land.

The Skeptic Who Wasn’t

At this point I must introduce one way besides science by which we can know a conclusion is untenable. If it doesn’t follow from its premises — if it’s irrational — then one ought not land on it. Yet this Shermer does: When he will land on no religion, in view of the fact that they all might be wrong, he lands on a conclusion that is demonstrably irrational.

Let me replay it in case you missed it: Every religion has a chance of being false, therefore we should conclude that none of them is true. There’s another: Our experimental methods, designed for heuristic knowledge in the natural world, don’t give us certain knowledge in the extra-natural world; therefore we conclude that there is no knowledge of the extra-natural world.

Neither conclusion follows from the premises, but Shermer commits to both of them. He’s not such a good skeptic after all. He believes both of those conclusions even though they might be — no, even though they certainly are false.

In fact everyone, Shermer included, happily lives with truths not known through science. Christians like myself are convinced that history (including its documents, artifacts, archaeology, and more), philosophy, and even science point directly toward the reality of God in Jesus Christ.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But I have made it my business to maximize true beliefs, where truth matters as much as this does.  I am quite convinced there are good reasons to consider this a true belief. I won’t skitter away from it like a scaredy-cat, just because there’s a chance it might be wrong.

Image Credit(s): Dave Fayram/Flickr.

The post Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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Happy New Year! It could be a great one, if we’ll finally wake up, get equipped, and reach out. That’s why I want to ask you to take thirty minutes to watch at least the first half of this video.

Dr. Michael Brown and I were talking on his Line of Fire radio program about my Stream article, Church, Wake Up! An Urgent Call to Action. (Also mirrored on this site. The Line of Fire title you see below is for the show’s second half hour.)

This took place a couple weeks ago, but I saved posting it until now because too many of us are too busy just before Christmas. I’m trusting you won’t be too busy now. At least read the article, please. It matters.

What Is Sex-Change Regret? - YouTube

This is a call to action. It’s based on new, serious challenges we believers face. We’re in a situation where people with power, hostile to the faith, are moving toward full-on anti-Christian totalitarianism — and it’s growing still. But this is also the year things could begin to change.

As Michael knows — and says — I’m no chicken-little doomsday preacher. I’m just saying what I’m seeing. If your own observations aren’t enough to convince you, realize there’s considerable social science supporting this. It’s a direct threat to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Most urgently, it’s a direct assault on young believers’ faith. It’s putting their eternities at risk.

A Plan For Your Church’s Response

It’s happening, and the Church is asleep to it. One reason I think we won’t look it in the eye is because we don’t know what to do. We need not feel so lost. In my Stream article I list six basic steps every church should be taking today. Here’s the short version, directed mostly at church leaders, especially pastors.

  1. Tell the whole truth. Don’t hold back! Let your congregation know how we’re at risk.
  2. Again, tell the whole truth. God is still God. His Word is still His Word, and that includes His moral instruction.
  3. Third: Remind them Jesus still lives, and we must live for Him, no matter what.
  4. Fourth: Lead the way in engaging the battle through prayer.
  5. Fifth: Equip your people with answers.
  6. Sixth, and finally (because people often remember most what they read last): Show and teach how to engage the battle in love.

These steps can make all the difference. Realistically? Yes! How? I unpack that lightly in that article. Over the next several weeks I’ll follow through in greater depth. Stay tuned here and at The Stream.

This isn’t about defensiveness. It’s not about running scared. Jesus’ followers are secure. He saved us completely on the Cross. I can live in total freedom and joy in him, given that knowledge. But what about the people we love? What about our friends, co-workers, neighbors — and our family members, especially our children and grandchildren?

2019 could be a great year for us if we gear up to reach out, fully equipped to speak the truth in love. But only if we wake up and start taking action. Now’s the time.

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The post Why 2019 Must Be Your Church’s Year to Wake Up, Get Equipped, and Reach Out appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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We Christians get charged with believing things uncritically, not showing sufficient curiosity about other beliefs, or about how ours could be true. I’ve got the same sort of question for atheists.*

Commenter Benjamin Cain supposes that the God Christians worship is a “human-like,” “monstrous,” “psychopathic,” “jealous, irrational, sadistic tyrant,” who waved the equivalent of a “magic wand” to create humans. That’s all found in one comment. He’s not alone; Richard Dawkins led the way in it in The God Delusion, and I’m sure others beat him to it, though not so famously.

Now, this isn’t merely a statement about God; it’s a statement about Christians. Either we are content to follow a God of that character, or perhaps we don’t realize our God is like that. Is there any other option? I can’t think of one. This is our god, if Cain is right, and we choose to follow him. Could there be any explanation for our behavior, other than we want a god like this, or else we don’t realize that’s the god we worship?

(I’m using the lower case for “god” here, since this really isn’t the God in whom we believe.)

Atheists often say that Christians would reject the Bible if we ever got around to reading it. That fits with the latter option, that we don’t know who our god really is. The former view shows up, perhaps, in the idea that we’re theocratic homophobic moral idiots.

I’m Not Defending Christianity Here; I’m Wondering About Atheists

Neither of those viewpoints feels like much of an attack on Christianity, requiring some kind of defense. They’re so wide of the mark, there’s nothing to defend. It would be like medieval soldiers in Paris raising their shields when British archers were raising their bows toward Scotland.

Cain’s comments say almost nothing about Christianity, in other words. If there’s any message in there at all, it’s that we’ve done a horrible job of teaching the history of Christianity. I am quite sure many young people grow up in church, never knowing that ideas like Cain’s aren’t just theologically false, they’re historically impossible. I mean that in the strongest possible sense of “impossible;” and in terms anyone should be able to recognize, regardless of their beliefs about God. For (as I said) this isn’t just a theological error, it’s a historical one. In view of that, and in order to make a point an atheist should be able to assent to, my explanation here will have nothing to do with theology, and everything to do with history.

Have Christians Missed This “Truth” About God All These Years?

Let’s start with the latter idea first: That Christians follow this horrific god because we don’t realize that’s the kind of god he is. Atheists have it figured out; somehow we’ve missed it. If so, then we’ve missed it for centuries. We’ve missed it in all the hundreds of libraries’ worth of debate, dialogue, and discussion we’ve carried out on the Bible; for the history of Christian doctrine is a history of dispute over the texts and their meanings. We’ve missed it in the hundreds of commentaries we’ve written in every language. We missed it in the Marcionite dispute over including the Old Testament in our biblical canon. We’ve missed it in millions, no doubt, of sermons and homilies on the entire Bible.

Seems unlikely to me. Maybe Cain is right; but if so, then I have to wonder how he came to such a confident understanding of the truth, without displaying even a shred of visible curiosity how this could be so. How could Jerome have missed it when he translated the Bible into Latin? How could Augustine have missed it? Was he too intellectually dense? How about Aquinas? Galileo, who held to his belief in Scripture even when disputing a very small segment of its meaning? Kepler? Brahe? Berkeley? Newton? Faraday? Locke? … all the way to von Braun, Collins, Lennox, and more? Were none of these men smart enough to see what was there?

Are Christians Content With a God Like This?

No, that couldn’t possibly be the answer. Too many men and women, from ordinary thinkers to those who are widely recognized as geniuses for all the ages, have had too much opportunity to see it. Surely they didn’t all miss it. So it’s certain that Christians knew it was there (if indeed it was) long before Dawkins and Cain. So if this is the kind of god we follow, and if we know it is so, and if we’re following this god voluntarily, then apparently we’re content with following such a hugely despicable character.

Now, perhaps Cain doesn’t know this, but for Christians down through the centuries, to “follow” our God has meant to imitate his character. That was Mother Theresa’s stated life intention. It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s too. Same with Joan of Arc. Florence Nightingale. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Clara Barton. William Booth. The converted John Newton. William Wilberforce. Francis of Assisi. St. Patrick. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Maybe they missed the memo about what kind of god they followed? (Maybe they were idiots, in other words?)

Christians following this awful god were world leaders in expanding education, literacy, and medicine. Even before Julian’s famous complaint that the “impious Galileans” were caring for pagans during the plague, better than pagans were caring for their own, Christians have led the way in going outside their own cultural groups and helping others. Every Doctor Without Borders, every UNESCO program, is essentially following a trail first blazed by Christian missionaries. Still today, Christian humanitarian giving outstrips non-Christians’ giving, at least in the U.S.

Apparently we’re all doing a perfectly horrible job of following the petty, mean, horrific god we think we’re following.

Decency, Not Perfection

Now, I don’t mean to imply that Christians are perfect in following a way of self-sacrificial love. My point here isn’t that we’re perfect followers of the God we’ve been teaching all these centuries. My point is that if we’re supposedly following this other god Cain finds in the Bible, we’re doing a perfectly horrible job at it.

I gather that many atheists dislike Christians’ standards on marriage and morality, and they fear we’re just in it for the theocracy. Even that, though, isn’t bad enough to qualify us as following this god Cain thinks we follow. We’re not perfect, but we’re not (on the whole) monstrous sadistic psychopathic tyrants.

Again, here’s what I find odd about Cain’s position (and Dawkins’): They don’t display the slightest curiosity as to how Christians could knowingly follow such an unremittingly terriblem awful god, yet still do some reasonably decent things in the world. Maybe Cain asks such questions somewhere in his oeuvre. Dawkins doesn’t.

Maybe There’s a Third Answer

If they had any curiosity at all, they’d approach the question differently. They’d say something like this: *“You Christians don’t seem to be a totally idiotic group, down through history at least. You haven’t been perfectly monstrous for all time, either. Even if you’ve held to some positions I find distasteful, still, you’ve done some real good in the world. I find that hard to understand, given what I see of this God you claim to worship in your Bible. Have you done any serious thinking on that? What have you concluded?”

Of course we’ve done serious thinking on it. Of course we’ve reached some serious conclusions. How is it, then, that atheists can think they can make such strong, final pronouncements about our God, based on their own quick, off-the-cuff or (frequently) cut-and-paste assessments? How can they possibly be so uninterested in so much of the world’s history? How can they be so content with knowing (or at least acting as if they know) so little?

There’s much in today’s cultural disputes that I understand, and much that I do not. This is the oddest mystery of them all. I’d be glad if someone could clear it up for me. And if any atheist actually wanted to know what Christians have thought on these matters, he or she would be most welcome to ask.

*Pardon the generalization “atheists.” I’m raising questions here about atheists I’ve encountered online and in print. Not all atheists would provoke these kinds of questions in the way Cain and Dawkins have done. I don’t claim to know how Cain would answer. When pressed on questions similar to these, Dawkins has resorted to “The Courtier’s Reply,” which is no better than not answering at all.

Image Credit(s): João Silas/Unsplash.

The post Why Aren’t Atheists Show More Curiosity About Their Own Beliefs appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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We Christians get charged with believing things uncritically, not showing sufficient curiosity about other beliefs, or about how ours could be true. I’ve got the same sort of question for atheists.*

Commenter Benjamin Cain supposes that the God Christians worship is a “human-like,” “monstrous,” “psychopathic,” “jealous, irrational, sadistic tyrant,” who waved the equivalent of a “magic wand” to create humans. That’s all found in one comment. He’s not alone; Richard Dawkins led the way in it in The God Delusion, and I’m sure others beat him to it, though not so famously.

Now, this isn’t merely a statement about God; it’s a statement about Christians. Either we are content to follow a God of that character, or perhaps we don’t realize our God is like that. Is there any other option? I can’t think of one. This is our god, if Cain is right, and we choose to follow him. Could there be any explanation for our behavior, other than we want a god like this, or else we don’t realize that’s the god we worship?

(I’m using the lower case for “god” here, since this really isn’t the God in whom we believe.)

Atheists often say that Christians would reject the Bible if we ever got around to reading it. That fits with the latter option, that we don’t know who our god really is. The former view shows up, perhaps, in the idea that we’re theocratic homophobic moral idiots.

I’m Not Defending Christianity Here; I’m Wondering About Atheists

Neither of those viewpoints feels like much of an attack on Christianity, requiring some kind of defense. They’re so wide of the mark, there’s nothing to defend. It would be like medieval soldiers in Paris raising their shields when British archers were raising their bows toward Scotland.

Cain’s comments say almost nothing about Christianity, in other words. If there’s any message in there at all, it’s that we’ve done a horrible job of teaching the history of Christianity. I am quite sure many young people grow up in church, never knowing that ideas like Cain’s aren’t just theologically false, they’re historically impossible. I mean that in the strongest possible sense of “impossible;” and in terms anyone should be able to recognize, regardless of their beliefs about God. For (as I said) this isn’t just a theological error, it’s a historical one. In view of that, and in order to make a point an atheist should be able to assent to, my explanation here will have nothing to do with theology, and everything to do with history.

Have Christians Missed This “Truth” About God All These Years?

Let’s start with the latter idea first: That Christians follow this horrific god because we don’t realize that’s the kind of god he is. Atheists have it figured out; somehow we’ve missed it. If so, then we’ve missed it for centuries. We’ve missed it in all the hundreds of libraries’ worth of debate, dialogue, and discussion we’ve carried out on the Bible; for the history of Christian doctrine is a history of dispute over the texts and their meanings. We’ve missed it in the hundreds of commentaries we’ve written in every language. We missed it in the Marcionite dispute over including the Old Testament in our biblical canon. We’ve missed it in millions, no doubt, of sermons and homilies on the entire Bible.

Seems unlikely to me. Maybe Cain is right; but if so, then I have to wonder how he came to such a confident understanding of the truth, without displaying even a shred of visible curiosity how this could be so. How could Jerome have missed it when he translated the Bible into Latin? How could Augustine have missed it? Was he too intellectually dense? How about Aquinas? Galileo, who held to his belief in Scripture even when disputing a very small segment of its meaning? Kepler? Brahe? Berkeley? Newton? Faraday? Locke? … all the way to von Braun, Collins, Lennox, and more? Were none of these men smart enough to see what was there?

Are Christians Content With a God Like This?

No, that couldn’t possibly be the answer. Too many men and women, from ordinary thinkers to those who are widely recognized as geniuses for all the ages, have had too much opportunity to see it. Surely they didn’t all miss it. So it’s certain that Christians knew it was there (if indeed it was) long before Dawkins and Cain. So if this is the kind of god we follow, and if we know it is so, and if we’re following this god voluntarily, then apparently we’re content with following such a hugely despicable character.

Now, perhaps Cain doesn’t know this, but for Christians down through the centuries, to “follow” our God has meant to imitate his character. That was Mother Theresa’s stated life intention. It was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s too. Same with Joan of Arc. Florence Nightingale. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Clara Barton. William Booth. The converted John Newton. William Wilberforce. Francis of Assisi. St. Patrick. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. Maybe they missed the memo about what kind of god they followed? (Maybe they were idiots, in other words?)

Christians following this awful god were world leaders in expanding education, literacy, and medicine. Even before Julian’s famous complaint that the “impious Galileans” were caring for pagans during the plague, better than pagans were caring for their own, Christians have led the way in going outside their own cultural groups and helping others. Every Doctor Without Borders, every UNESCO program, is essentially following a trail first blazed by Christian missionaries. Still today, Christian humanitarian giving outstrips non-Christians’ giving, at least in the U.S.

Apparently we’re all doing a perfectly horrible job of following the petty, mean, horrific god we think we’re following.

Decency, Not Perfection

Now, I don’t mean to imply that Christians are perfect in following a way of self-sacrificial love. My point here isn’t that we’re perfect followers of the God we’ve been teaching all these centuries. My point is that if we’re supposedly following this other god Cain finds in the Bible, we’re doing a perfectly horrible job at it.

I gather that many atheists dislike Christians’ standards on marriage and morality, and they fear we’re just in it for the theocracy. Even that, though, isn’t bad enough to qualify us as following this god Cain thinks we follow. We’re not perfect, but we’re not (on the whole) monstrous sadistic psychopathic tyrants.

Again, here’s what I find odd about Cain’s position (and Dawkins’): They don’t display the slightest curiosity as to how Christians could knowingly follow such an unremittingly terriblem awful god, yet still do some reasonably decent things in the world. Maybe Cain asks such questions somewhere in his oeuvre. Dawkins doesn’t.

Maybe There’s a Third Answer

If they had any curiosity at all, they’d approach the question differently. They’d say something like this: *“You Christians don’t seem to be a totally idiotic group, down through history at least. You haven’t been perfectly monstrous for all time, either. Even if you’ve held to some positions I find distasteful, still, you’ve done some real good in the world. I find that hard to understand, given what I see of this God you claim to worship in your Bible. Have you done any serious thinking on that? What have you concluded?”

Of course we’ve done serious thinking on it. Of course we’ve reached some serious conclusions. How is it, then, that atheists can think they can make such strong, final pronouncements about our God, based on their own quick, off-the-cuff or (frequently) cut-and-paste assessments? How can they possibly be so uninterested in so much of the world’s history? How can they be so content with knowing (or at least acting as if they know) so little?

There’s much in today’s cultural disputes that I understand, and much that I do not. This is the oddest mystery of them all. I’d be glad if someone could clear it up for me. And if any atheist actually wanted to know what Christians have thought on these matters, he or she would be most welcome to ask.

*Pardon the generalization “atheists.” I’m raising questions here about atheists I’ve encountered online and in print. Not all atheists would provoke these kinds of questions in the way Cain and Dawkins have done. I don’t claim to know how Cain would answer. When pressed on questions similar to these, Dawkins has resorted to “The Courtier’s Reply,” which is no better than not answering at all.

Image Credit(s): João Silas/Unsplash.

The post Why Aren’t Atheists More Curious About How Their Beliefs Could Be True? appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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Western society is rapidly moving toward totalitarianism. I never would have thought it possible — yet it’s happening. Christianity in particular is under attack, at risk like never before in our part of the world. I’m not new to these issues, but a recent National Review article by John Daniel Davidson was still a kick in the gut for me. We must wake up. We must rouse ourselves to action.

From Davidson’s article: Peter Vlaming, a teacher at a small-town Virginia school, was fired recently for “misgendering” a trans person. He sought a compromise answer, but trans activists insisted on a totalitarian one. They demanded total obedience to their standards. The board caved to them.

Davidson explains, “School officials, likely terrified of what would happen to them if they didn’t deliver Vlaming’s head on a platter to this student and her family, were only too willing to ruin the man.

Totalitarianism on the Rise

This uncompromising, totalizing punishment is on the rise. No one dare fail to toe the LGBT line. Sane-thinking people are being locked for no good reason out of Twitter, Youtube and Facebook. Apple is poised to enforce a new morality. Davidson reports on 3:30 am rape-and-death-threat phone calls, and tells of an LGBT non-compliant professor’s office door soaked with urine.

You might not see this happening in your town yet. It reached small-town Virginia, not just West Point, but also Gloucester, a few miles to the southeast. It reached Midland, Michigan, where I was born — the “city of beautiful churches,” even.

You can look up those events easily enough. The fact is, everywhere I go, I hear more stories like these.

These events are accelerating. They’re reaching more and more of our country and the world. They are totalizing. LGBT activists allow absolutely no dissent. This is thought-control in action.

The new American totalitarianism has other faces besides LGBT — Antifa comes to mind — but gay and trans activism is at the forefront.

A New Thing In History — And Not a Good One

And it’s different than any such movement in history. That is, every successful totalitarian movement in history has an octopus’s tentacles reaching throughout all society. This is no different in that sense. Unlike all others, though, this one has no visible head; there is no identifiable dictator running it.

This is unique in history; we’re seeing a new thing here. It’s insidious, too. The lack of such a leader could fool us into thinking there’s nothing going on except some occasional, spotty surges of controlling behavior. Don’t let that catch you unawares. This is widespread, and it’s for real.

Davidson ended his article, “To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, society won’t collapse over this, but it will eventually cease to be divided on the question. It will become all one thing or all the other.” I disagree. Totalitarianism is collapse.

Are you awake yet?

So I am very concerned. I hope you are too. I urgently hope you will see what’s going on, and that it will move you to action.

That’s not all I hope for, though! I still have strong hope that this will come out for good in the end. God is still God, after all, and our hope is always in Him.

A Call to Action

Yet we must act.

Our response must center in our churches, which is certainly our most strategic point of action. In our churches we have massive numbers of people. We have widespread distribution. If the local church will take action, we can turn this around.“

But where to begin? Pastors, you must take the lead.(I’ll be speaking mostly to you from this point forward.) Readers who aren’t pastors, please take on all the leadership you can, for you too can make a difference where you are. But please, pass this along to your pastor as well.

If the local church will take action, we can turn this around.

Pastor, you must stir your church to constructive action. And you can do it. Here’s a suggested outline to follow. It won’t all fit in one message or even a month or two of them, but then the LGBT movement didn’t arise in a day, either. It took decades. The point is, we’ve delayed too long already; we’ve got to get started.

Six Strategic Steps You Can Take to Help Quell the Crisis

First: Tell the whole truth. Don’t hold back! Let your congregation know how we’re at risk. All of us are at risk. Learn what’s going on. Study the cultural situation. Read The Stream, for starters. However you do it, please: Wake up your people!

Second: Again, tell the whole truth. God is still God. His Word is still His Word, and that includes His moral instruction. He hasn’t changed His mind on any of it. He’s also still our Lord and Savior, and we’re still in His good hands — no matter what.

Third: Remind Jesus still lives, and we must live for Him, no matter what. That includes repentance in many ways for many of us, and standing with all that His Word teaches, for all of us. To suffer for Him — if necessary — is worth it. We must not fall away from the only One who saves.

Equipping the Church

Fourth: Lead the way in engaging the battle through prayer . This movement may have no identifiable human head, but the enemy of our souls is surely pushing it from behind the scenes. Call on your people to both fast and pray. Pray like we’ve never had to pray before; for we are at risk like we’ve never been before.

Fifth: Equip your people with answers. 2 Cor. 10:3-5 says spiritual battle takes place in the realm of thoughts and opinions. The current battle is mostly an ideological one. Your church must gear up for that as well — and it can! It just requires some strategic preparation.

This point may be less familiar than the other five, so I’ll give it a bit more explanation. Obviously, to know good answers we have to begin by facing the questions squarely — the right questions, that is. If there’s one that overrides them all in this day, it’s this one: Everyone is telling me the Christian approach to sexual morality is hateful. Please, tell me so I can understand, why isn’t it hateful? What’s good about it? How can I be confident it’s good?

The other side will resort to anything; we will resort above all to speaking the truth in love.

Your older members may not be bothered with that question, but your younger ones are. They need those answers. Now. They need practice — real training — in speaking those answers clearly, under conditions of hostile fire, for there is plenty of that in their world.

Older Christians need to know, too, for why should parents or grandparents be tongue-tied when pre-teens and teens ask them about these things?

Following that initial question there will be others to answer. Your youth will tell you what they are; just ask. But start with this first one. They might not always voice it out loud — it’s dangerous to ask it in church — but you can be sure they’re thinking it.

Sixth, and finally (because people often remember most what they read last): Show and teach how to engage the battle in love. The other side will resort to anything; we will resort above all to speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), secure in confidence that our strong refuge, the rock that is higher, our Savior Jesus Christ, has the victory.

The Stream has been posting articles articles on these topics all along. Recently the site has begun aggregating many of them under the Spiritual Readiness tag. Keep your eye on that page for more to come, especially resources you may need for equipping your people with answers. And for a sneak preview: The Spiritual Readiness Project is getting set for a true public launch not long from now.

Help Wake Up the Church!

This post is republished with permission from The Stream, which wants to help wake up Christians everywhere to this urgent, yet still hopeful, situation. We ask you — in fact we urge you — to distribute this article in accordance with the conditions stated at the original post:

You are welcome print this article or post it on your website, provided that your purpose is consistent with ours: to help move the Church to constructive action. The entire article must be included along with a link to this page and the notice, “Used by permission.” (The permission granted here applies only to this article.)

Image Credit(s): Steve Lelham/Unsplash.

The post Urgent Call to the Church: Wake Up and Take Action! appeared first on Thinking Christian.

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