Archive for the 'Thoughtful Christianity' Category

Contemporary music in church to the lyrics of spiritual death

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Recently a fellow introduced me to this Christian song by Flame, Start Over‘. You can read its lyrics at Flame Lyrics (2000-2016).

Is this an example of the type of music being heard in your Christian church service?

Has Alistair Begg hit the mark with his assessment of contemporary Christian music (CCM)? See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&feature=youtu.be

1. Who is Alistair Begg?

Alistair Begg(photo Alistair Begg, senior pastor, courtesy Parkside Church)

 

His ministry’s homepage states:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church.

In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church.[1]

Alistair Begg is a Scotsman who has been pastor at the one church since 1983 near Cleveland, Ohio. Are you and I ready for that pointed critique of CCM in churches, by this experienced pastor, to address the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing? Three weeks ago,[2] I attended a near-by Baptist church for the first time. What kind of music was presented? The band with 6 female singers up front on the stage, led the congregation in singing contemporary songs (some were identified as from Hillsong) that I had never heard before. The melodies were unsingable for me, a very average singer. The words were available on the digital screen for the congregation to see.

My estimate was that they were meant to be performed and not for congregational singing. We had to stand for about 10-15 minutes as the band took us from one contemporary song to another. I sat down after about 7 minutes as my legs were weary. I’m no youngster.

2. Contemporary music killing theology

CCM is killing theology in song. Sound biblical teaching is rapidly on the descent. Take a read of the lyrics from this song by Jesus Culture (the music ministry from Bethel Church, Redding CA):

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song? See my assessment of this song in:

clip_image002 What’s wrong with these CCM songs?

I’ve addressed some of the music issues previously in these articles:

clip_image004 What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

clip_image004[1] Worldliness in church music

clip_image004[2] Entertainment versus Worship

clip_image004[3] Do words matter in worship songs in church?

I’m not discussing the style of music but the content of the words. In recently written CCM, where is the depth of words such as in these lyrics?

Charles Wesley.jpg(portrait Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

And Can It Be That I Should Gain[3]

 

by Charles Wesley

 

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

clip_image006

(music & words, courtesy openhymnal.org, public domain)

3. Crisis point

I’ve been a Christian for around 50 years. I’m considered an oldie by many, including my grandchildren, since I’ve recently reached 70 years of age. I won’t take nonsense behaviour from them and I do not tolerate theological baloney in the lyrics of CCM or older music. Much of what I hear online in the promotion of CCM and what I hear from the platform of contemporary evangelical churches lacks sound theological content. It fails to glorify God in his majesty and point to the cross and the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve presented only a few examples in this article, but it is representative of what is being pumped out by evangelical churches in Australia.

4. Sermons join the light-weight chorus

What is just as alarming is that the sermons from the pulpit are as theologically lite as the songs in the service. My son obtained an MDiv degree from a renowned evangelical theological college in Brisbane, Qld and he was told by one lecturer not to worry about reading any books that were more than 10 years old.

Do you understand what that means? God’s great teachers throughout church history, from Athanasius and Augustine to Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer and many others are irrelevant to the church of today. That’s a theologically noxious view that will poison the biblical life out of any church.

Then you encounter what I was exposed to on a Christian forum on the Internet where a Pentecostal believer told me, ‘I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’.[4] I was discussing with him the theology of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones who died in 1981.[5]

5. The here and now false teaching

I tackled this fellow’s false teaching:[6]

So you ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. Does that mean you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant (and I know you are), you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, who you claim had a ministry that is ‘out of date’. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Lk 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have lived before us – way before us! Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this fellow!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with his ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘ (my emphasis). Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’ short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. It really is pathetic that this person wanted to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.
Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). But this poster excludes them and their influence!

5.1 The here and now promoter in full flight

Here he how he responded to what I wrote immediately above:

I was saved in 1971 under the tutelage of Bob Johnson. He himself was mentored by Dr. C.M. Ward who was greatly influenced by John Wesley. If pedigree is your thing then there’s enough pedigree there for me. The point is that all these men had their Ministry at their time but the only historical characters that I am concerned with are those that are represented in the Bible. Nothing I have ever learned from reading any thing by the ECF’s [early church fathers] and all these men down through history has enlightened me one bit. What does enlighten me is my Bible. It is what has taught me that many of these men taught false Doctrine. I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before, accept as it relates to my Lord and Savior. I don’t denigrate them I just don’t deify them or put them up on a pedestal for everyone to look at. They served their purpose, but they’re dead now and God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If all you have to say is based on your knowledge of what these men taught and you have none of it yourself, then exactly what is it you do know other than what you read in books about them? It’s great that you have been able to recently secure your doctorate and I applaud you for that but that doesn’t mean is that do you need to use all these past Scholars to justify your opinions. Those opinions should be justified and corroborated by the word of God.

The thing you don’t seem to get Oz is that this is a discussion forum with live people and I can’t very well question and discuss with those who are dead and gone as to why they thought what they did. You see I know how to think for myself. Maybe you should try it?[7]

Note his language, ‘I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before’. This is Gnosticism in action. His knowledge is from living in the present, the here and now. The inference seems to be that he does not want the correction of historical teachers. He assumes that ‘many of these men taught false Doctrine’ (i.e. early church fathers), but he gave not one example in that post. Some did promote erroneous doctrine when compared with the Bible such as Origen’s allegorical preaching in which he inserted material that was not in the text. Others taught baptismal regeneration (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose). See the article, ‘Baptism and salvation’.[8] Arius was a Unitarian heretic who did not believe Trinitarian theology, but he was corrected at the Council of Nicea.[9]

However, in what way is that different from today with the teaching of error such as modern Gnosticism,[10] baptismal regeneration,[11] Unitarianism[12] and what is taught in some Contemporary Christian songs? Living in the present without knowledge of history does not preserve anyone from exposure to false doctrine.

6. Conclusion

The best antidote for exposing false doctrine is with a person’s and a church’s thorough knowledge of Scripture. To be able to recognise the false, know the truth.

Contemporary Christian music is feeding modern Christians a new diet of doctrinally light teaching. Much of it is existential, egocentric and focussed on what Jesus can do for ME. We are not being taught theology in song like we did under the songs of Charles Wesley, John Newton, Isaac Watts, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, and a trail of biblical hymnists who have preceded us.

Pastor Alistair Begg has exposed the repetitive, bland material being sung in many Christian songs in the church services of the twenty-first century. The disease the church is suffering is in the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing. Sadness surrounds the fact that many in the evangelical church accept this music as what is needed in a church that wants to reach young people.

If we ignore the content of the church music we sing, we will become theologically light-weight in our understanding of the Trinitarian Lord God and his mission in the world.

What’s happening in your church? Are you whooping it up with rap music and heading towards spiritual death in your congregation? Or, are you careful about the lyrics you sing and are making sure they conform with biblical integrity? Try raising this issue (at the appropriate time) in one of your church’s cell groups. Please understand that I’m not talking about hymns sung to an organ being superior to contemporary style music. I’m discussing the content of the songs you sing and how they match biblical faithfulness in content.

However, there are elements of insensitivity by musicians to the content of the word s. Today[13] I visited a local Baptist church where the congregation sang, ‘Be still and know that I am God’, which is a meditative chorus that emphasises the need to quieten a person’s heart and meditate on who God is. However, what did the drummer do (he was accompanied by organ, piano and rhythm guitar)? He created a loud, thumping, drumming interlude that was totally out of place for such a meditative song. He sounded more like a drummer for a rock band in a nightclub. Such insensitivity should be addressed by musical directors in a church.

clip_image007

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

Notes


[1] ‘About Alistair Begg’, Truth for Life. Available at: https://www.truthforlife.org/about/about-alistair-begg/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[2] I’m writing this on Tues, 2 May 2016.

[3] 2012 HymnsUntoGod.org (public domain USA). Available at: http://www.hymnsuntogod.org/Hymns-PD/A-Hymns/And-Can-It-Be-That-I-Should-Gain.html (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[4] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, 23 April 2016, StanJ#123. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-5 (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[5] See MLJ Trust (Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Available at: http://www.mljtrust.org/meet-mlj/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[6] Christianity Board, op cit., OzSpen#127.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#130.

[8] By Matt Slick, CARM.

[9] See James R White, ‘What really happened at Nicea?’ (CRI 2009). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/what-really-happened-at-nicea/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[10] See Dr Douglas Groothuis’s article, ‘Modern Gnosticism’ (CRI 2016). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/modern-gnosticism/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[11] The Orthodox denomination promotes baptismal regeneration. See the article, ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’, available at: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/02/17/born-experience-baptismal-regeneration/ (Accessed 8 May 2016). The Roman Catholic Church endorses baptismal regeneration. See, ‘What is baptismal regeneration?’ Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson 2016. Available at: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/416-what-is-baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[12] Key promoters of Unitarianism today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and the Unitarian Universalist denomination. See ‘Unitarian Christianity’ at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/AUCChristian.htm (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[13] This was Sunday, 8 May 2015, in the greater Brisbane area.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

Only read authors who agree with you?

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

clip_image001

(image courtesy polyvore.com)

By Spencer D Gear

Could you imagine understanding Bart Ehrman’s theology to the point of agreeing with him or refuting him without reading what led to this kind of statement, ‘In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine’ (Ehrman 2014a:353)?

However, that’s not what one fellow thought as he started a thread on a Christian forum on the Internet. He asked: Does this sound like a reasonable approach for Christians to deal with opposition?

  • Know both sides of an argument, but my library is almost all from Christians. Is that illogical? He didn’t think so because:
  • He’s a doubting Thomas who weighs arguments and liberal opposition to Christians comes across as ‘No Duh I could have come up with that one!’ He considers that he could have invented that objection and he doesn’t need the arguments of liberals as he can come up with a good enough response without reading them.
  • The arguments most often boil down to supernaturalism vs naturalism and the liberal considers the case closed, but the Christian has lots more evidence to prove and they need lots of technical skills. It is much harder to defend the Bible than to attack it, so why allow the liberals the time of day to defend their view? Why pay money to buy liberal material when they have a ‘home field advantage’ over Christians? The liberal plays reckless offense while the Christian is constantly on the defence.
  • I seek conservative scholars who cause some anger for conservatives as they seem to be critically analysing the data but they still try to defend supernaturalism.
  • He feels like he’s facing an average 10-year-old who is bashing the supernatural and finding ‘holes’ in the Bible. He considers the real skill is in knowing Greek, Hebrew, context of Scripture, and knowing how to put the pieces together. Then he makes the audacious statement: ‘. I seriously think there’s no skill at all in attacking the Bible!! Bart Ehrman[1] in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me, yes he makes good objections but ANY context/language ignorant person can make good objections!’
  • So, why should he pay money to read ‘experts’ attack the Bible when the skill is in defending it.
  • He asked if he made sense or was he delusional? Should he get more balance into his library?
  • Fair and honest conservative scholars properly represent the arguments of skeptics anyway.[2]

Defenders know the enemy

I take a different perspective for these reasons:[3]
1.    When Paul was in the midst of the Areopagus (Mars Hill), he had done his research on alternate religions in the area: ‘I perceive that in every way you are very religious … observed the objects of your worship …found also an altar with this inscription “To the unknown God.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you…’ (Acts 17:22-23 ESV). He ‘read’ the enemy before he proclaimed the truth.

2.    Especially when it comes to Easter and Christmas seasons in Australia, the people who will be called upon by secular media for articles or to comment on these two celebrations will be radical liberals such as John Shelby Spong, the Jesus Seminar fellows, Bart Ehrman, liberal Uniting Church or Anglican clergy/scholars, etc. The evangelicals are not the ones given priority for comment and articles. To be able to respond to these liberals, whether by articles or in letters to the editor, I need to know what the enemy teaches. When Spong was in our capital city of Canberra in 1991, an article about him was published in the Canberra Times by Robert Macklin, ‘The Gospel truth?’ (Aug 4, 1991) which focussed on Spong’s attack on fundamentalism. I was pastor of an evangelical church in the ACT at the time and I asked for a right of reply which the CT published as, ‘The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong‘ (Aug 11, 1991).  I would not have known the details of Spong’s heresy without reading him. I have a few of his books in my library. I have since reviewed his book, A New Christianity for a New World (2001) in Spong’s swan song — at last!  Exposure to Spong’s false teaching has led to these further articles: Spong’s deadly Christianity and John Shelby Spong & the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia).
I find it always helpful when critiquing a liberal scholar or teacher of a false gospel to quote from his or her material. It affirms our own credibility.

3.    I compled a 5-year research project in my PhD dissertation (thesis-only in the British system) which examined the presuppositions of John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar concerning his views of Jesus’ resurrection. I would not have understood his perspective as comprehensively so that I could assess it unless I read extensively in his material. I discovered that he has a particular leaning to scholars who support his view. Here’s a grab from my thesis:

If historical scholarship is not used to discover absolutes or certitudes, but only by its best reconstruction to arrive at a decision ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ (Crossan 1995:x), how does a scholar decide between divergent conclusions concerning aspects of the historical Jesus by various scholars? It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original). Why would he want to preserve his opinion and scholarship and retain it in-house? Is there a possible presuppositional bias coming through?

So Crossan only wants to quote from fellow liberals who represent his ‘intellectual debts’. I do not want to be among evangelicals who only quote each other. There is a substantial amount of good scholarship among evangelicals, but I do not choose to read them only. That would not be good research nor enable me to give a penetrating, but balanced, response.

This person on the Christian forum stated that ‘Bart Ehrman in all honesty sounds like a 10 year old to me’. But that’s not how he sounds to the general populace or the Christian laity when he shows up in the mass media. The media doubters love his kind of objections to the Bible.

That’s why I consider that if I’m going to refute Ehrman, I need to know his material and the arguments he uses so that I can refute them or agree with them in the media and among friends or enemies. When Ehrman is in the media, do you take advantage of the ‘comments’ or ‘letters’ sections to challenge and refute him?

Ehrman’s heresy about Jesus

clip_image003(photo of Professor Bart D. Ehrman, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

What does Bart Ehrman believe about the divine Jesus? He stated:

In early Christianity, the views of Christ got “higher and higher” with the passing of time, as he became increasingly identified as divine. Jesus went from being a potential (human) messiah to being the son of God exalted to a divine status at his resurrection; to being a preeminent angelic human being who came to earth incarnate as a man; to being the incarnation of the Word of God who existed before all time and through whom the world was created; to being God himself, equal with God the Father and always existent with him. My own personal beliefs about Jesus moved in precisely the opposite direction. I started out thinking of Jesus as God the Son, equal with the Father, a member of the Trinity; but over time, I began seeing him in “lower and lower” terms, until finally I came to think of him as a human being who was not different in nature from any other human being. The Christians exalted him to the divine realm in their theology, but, in my opinion, he was, and always has been, human.

As an agnostic, I now think of Jesus as a true religious genius with brilliant insights. But he was also very much a man of his time. And his time was an age of full-throated apocalyptic fervor (Ehrman 2014a:353-354).

These are hardly the words of a 10-year-old skeptic who doubts the nature of the God-man Jesus. It is a view of Jesus that needs a full-blown and thoughtful rebuttal. What is happening in the research and thinking of this eminent scholar who is debunking the core of Christianity – the divinity of Jesus? This is not child stuff. This is serious business that requires a full-blown apologetic for a response.

Thankfully, one evangelical lecturer in theology, Dr Michael Bird, at the Anglican Ridley College, Melbourne was prepared to expose Bart Ehrman’s errors in, ‘How God became Jesus: Bart Ehrman gets it wrong, again’ (ABC Religion and Ethics, 16 April 2014).

clip_image005Mike Bird (courtesy Ridley College)

 

Bart Ehrman wrote, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, Mike Bird and some colleagues wrote a critique with this response, How God Became Jesus: The Real Origin of Belief in Jesus’s Divine Nature. In Bird’s response on ABC’s Religion and Ethics he stated:

Whereas Ehrman likes to point out the ad hoc and adversarial context in which beliefs about Jesus evolved in the course of the first four centuries of the Christian era, Charles Hill demonstrates the remarkable coherence of “orthodox” views of Jesus and their rootedness in the New Testament. Hill shows that what became Christian “dogma” about Jesus was not merely a knee-jerk reaction to various debates going on inside the church.

So despite the fact that Ehrman’s book is genuinely informative in places, my co-authors and I think he gets many things wrong – seriously wrong. Yet there is no doubt that many people will lap up the book because of its putative “insider” perspective. Ehrman describes how he once believed that Jesus was God and later came to have a very human and even low view of Jesus. He gives readers the inside scoop on the historical problems and theological paradoxes that traditionalist Christians hope you never discover.

Although Ehrman claims that he is simply not interested in whether Jesus really is God, preferring to limit himself to the matter of history, I suspect otherwise. Ehrman, implicitly at least, is an evangelist for unbelief, enabling sceptics to keep their disgust with Christianity fresh, while trying to persuade believers that their cherished beliefs about Jesus are a house of historical straw.

For all of his failings, Ehrman has at least done Christians one favour. He has challenged us to ask afresh, “Who is Jesus?” While some will say “legend,” some will say “prophet,” some will say “rabbi.” There will be still others who, like Thomas leaving his doubt behind when he encountered the resurrected Jesus, and could not but exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” (Michael Bird, How God became Jesus, 16 April 2014).

Conclusion

Those who are building defences know the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy who is attacking, the adversary who is on the offensive. They know the enemy. Surely this is what the Bible teaches!

Hosea said it in Hosea 4:6: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me’ (ESV).

Paul, the apostle, warned believers about the opposition and the equipment needed to fight challengers:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:10-18 ESV).

John warned:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).

There is wisdom in applying this message from the Book of Proverbs: ‘The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice’ (Prov 12:15 ESV).

Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who killed Jesus? Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the gospel story of the death of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Ehrman, B D 2015. After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity, rev. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, J D 2014a. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2014b. The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, 2nd rev ed. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Ehrman, B D 2013. The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2012a. Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2012b. Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011a. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2011b. Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009a. Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them). New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2009b. God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2006. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005a. Lost Christianities : The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths we Never Knew. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ehrman, B D 2005b. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. New York: HarperOne.

Ehrman, B D 2003. Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press.

Notes


[1] Some of Bart Ehrman’s publications include Ehrman (2015; 2014a; 2014b; 2013; 2012a; 2012b; 2011a; 2011b; 2009a; 2009b; 2006; 2005; 2003).

[2] Christian Forums.com, Theology, Christian Apologetics, ‘Do I have a “flawed” library of study material?’ Dirk1540, 30 September 2015. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/do-i-have-a-flawed-library-of-study-matierial.7910228/ (Accessed 1 October 2015).

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 May 2016.

Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion[1]

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

By Spencer D Gear

Image result for logical fallacies public domain

(courtesy Google public domain)

It is so easy for people to be engaged in a topic in person, in a lecture, or online and use illogical reasoning. I encountered this in two locations recently, one was in an online newspaper and the other was in a Christian forum. Before examining how this happened, I need to define the nature of logical fallacies.

A. Definition of logical fallacies

What is a logical fallacy? 20WL Online Writing Lab (Purdue University) provides this definition:

Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others (‘Logical Fallacies‘).

This Purdue University link gives examples of these logical fallacies, naming of them and how they are used.

B. Examples of fallacies

clip_image002

(By Openclipart)

One of the most helpful lists and explanations of fallacies I’ve found has been The Nizkor Project Fallacies. One of the most common fallacies I hear or read Christians and others use is the red herring fallacy. This is explained:

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious [i.e. deceptive] because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim (The Nizkor Project – Red Herring).

This is an example of how I have heard Christians use this deceptive reasoning (it happened to me recently at a meeting for a Member of Parliament who is an evangelical Christian).

1. Topic A: That Christian MP supports traditional marriage and not homosexual marriage; he’s convinced God invented marriage and heterosexual marriage is God’s order for humanity.
2. Topic B: That makes him a lousy Christian with such intolerance.
3. Topic A was abandoned.

C. An example from an online newspaper

clip_image003

(courtesy Click2Houston)

There was an article in the Brisbane Times,[2] 13 September 2015, ‘Campaign to legalise nude beaches in Queensland’.[3] In the ‘Comments’ section at the end of this article, I responded as Dougie:[4]

 

In this story, one person from Poona stated: ‘You would think that perverts and blokes like that would probably come along as well and we don’t want them in Poona that’s for sure’. That’s exactly what happened at Maslin Beach SA.

On 15 February 1975, Maslin Beach, 40km from Adelaide’s CBD, became Australia’s first legal nudist beach.[1] In 2004, a 36-year-old male paedophile abducted three boys, aged 8, 9 and 10 at an Adelaide park, and took them for a naked swim at Maslin Beach. The boys were not found until the next day. The paedophile “pleaded guilty to abducting the boys and was found guilty of causing them to expose their bodies for his prurient interest” and was jailed for three years.[2]

One nudist went public in Qld., stating that “legal nude beaches have been a part of life in several Australian states and territories for many years without any problems.” [3] The Maslin Beach conviction refutes that idea. We can discover many other problems worldwide associated with nudist beaches.

Notes

[1] CNN Travel, 21 Nov 2011, ‘Naked, wet, free: 15 sexy skinny dips’. Available at: http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/escape/worlds-15-greatest-places-skinny-dip-520132 (Accessed 13 September 2015).
[2] ABC News, 8 July 2005, ‘Man jailed for three years for triple abduction’. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2005-07-08/man-jailed-for-three-years-for-triple-abduction/2054254 (Accessed 13 September 2015).
[3] Paul McCarragher, ABC News Wide-Bay, 21 December 2005, ‘Clothing-optional beaches: A nudist’s perspective’. Available at: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.nude/DWhiDufMnMg (Accessed 13 September 2015).

Commenter Dougie, Location Brisbane, Date and time: September 13, 2015, 6:30AM

What kinds of further responses do you think my comment would elicit? Here are four samples of how those with comments about my post avoided dealing with my content by their use of logical fallacies (you can read several other comments to see further examples):

1. One response:

So on the basis that 30 years after a nudist beach was approved a pervert- who abducted 3 boys somewhere else took them there. we should ban nudist beaches. so. by your logic (and I use the word loosely) if he had taken them to a park we should close all parks – good job he didn’t take them to coles and woollies.[5]

2. Another: Go nude south of the border

Just want to mention that for Brisbane / Gold Coast residents that there is a perfectly legal nudist beach south of the border. It’s called Tyagarah Nature Reserve . As this is a National Park an entry fee of $7 applies.. There is (sic) eco toilets available there as well.[6]

3. Clothes-free everywhere in Europe

Seriously, what is all the fuss about. Clothes free beaches are everywhere in Europe and there doesn’t seem to be any moral decline there. The notion of these areas attracting the wrong type of people is ridiculous. If anything, these beaches should be closer to major centres where the Police can react if required rather than choosing a remote beach that is difficult to access and is unpatrolled by lifesavers. We are supposed to be all about jobs, jobs, jobs and increasing our tourist numbers. Perhaps this could actually help.[7]

These are classic examples of a red herring fallacy. They deal with the content of my post, but present a different view to divert attention from the information I presented. It’s a misleading response and is used to avoid the specifics of the issues I raised. There are also aspects of an appeal to mockery fallacy in bluebird’s response as mockery/ridicule is used as a substitute for evidence to deal with what I had presented as an example for not supporting nudist beaches.

I did respond to Andrew and the claim about free beaches in Europe and no moral decline. I wrote:

So you think, ‘Seriously, what is all the fuss about. Clothes free beaches are everywhere in Europe and there doesn’t seem to be any moral decline there. The notion of these areas attracting the wrong type of people is ridiculous’. There is other evidence.

Are there any reports from Europe of the negative consequences associated with nudist beaches? Let’s check 2 examples:

a. At an ‘open beach’ at Huk, Oslo, Norway, nudists ‘are being increasingly harassed by photographers, flashers and vulgar requests and police have had to respond several times’ in the summer of 2005. ‘I don’t go to Huk any more,’ according to a 52-year-old woman who wanted to remain anonymous. Why? She asked the police to intervene ‘after feeling threatened by a man on the beach’. [1]

b. So, Andrew, is there any other evidence of moral decline? Nudists want more than just nudist beaches for sun baking and swimming. In Holland, a beach for public sex is wanted: ‘The Dutch Naturists Federation (NFN) has called on the government to set aside certain beaches for people who like to have sex in public. Naturists feel that displays of public sex do not belong on regular nudist beaches, a spokesperson for the NFN said in a radio interview…. Public sex involving couples and orgies in the open air are also said to [be] a growing phenomenon.’ [2]

And you want to convince readers and me of no moral decline? Could you have a blind spot or is your reading selective?

Notes

[1] ‘Flashers pester nudists’, Aftenposten: News from Norway (Online), 12 August 2005. Available at: http://vikings.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=537 (Accessed 14 September 2015).

[2] Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10 August 2005, ‘Not under our boardwalk, we’re naturists’ (Dutch naturists want beach for sex in public). Available at: http://www.expatica.com/nl/news/country-news/Not-under-our-boardwalk-were-naturists_131516.html (Accessed 14 September 2015).[8]

4. How do you think another would respond to my comments about what is happening in Europe and the moral decline?

This person stated:

Dougie the nudists in Holland are merely saying they want people who want to have sex on a beach to go elsewhere. Get their own beach. Because Nudists don’t want that on our beaches.[9]

This person again:

So how many paedophiles have there been in churches? Perhaps we should consider closing churches since they obviously attract perverts. The perverts are textiles not nudists. That paedophile in South Australia also bought the boy smokes and alcohol so perhaps we should ban any shop selling cigaretts or any pub in Australia as well?[10]

My reply to this person was, ‘Marskete, your response, like many others in this thread, is a red herring logical fallacy. It does not address the details that I addressed in my post of 14 Sept.’[11] When posters are off and running with their own agendas and not dealing with the specific content of my posts, they have committed red herring fallacies. Logical discussion is, therefore, hijacked in this situation.

D. An example from a Christian forum

I started a discussion on Christianity Board (CyB) about this same issue of logical fallacies being used by posters. I started a thread, ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’:[12] In the thread, ‘The doctrine of OSAS‘, a couple of us have been discussing the serious repercussions of Christians using logical fallacies in discussions on CyB. We have noticed some Christians violating the laws of logic in that particular thread.

I provided some of the above information in the CyB thread. Here are some of the responses that demonstrate that people either don’t know what they are doing or deliberately hijack the discussion.

1. One hijacker: Man’s reason instead of Holy Spirit

This fellow wrote:

Whatever happened to the Holy Spirit, or is He just a figment of mans (sic) imagination?

Oh but we have the bible. books, cds, dvds colleges who need Him any more, lust just trust mans reasoning (sic).

oh_14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Oh how it would be that man could just trust God.[13]

My reply was as follows: ‘Here you are giving us a red herring logical fallacy. You have demonstrated my very point. Don’t you understand what you have done with your kind of response as a red herring? I’m not sure you know what a logical fallacy is when you violate the logical rules of discussion like you have done with this post’.[14]

This fellow continued with a clanger:

never seeing a red heering (sic)…what do they looklike (sic), do they taste nice.

Logical reasoning, trying to fit God into teh (sic) image of man… bible speaks of that somewhere.

There is no logic to God, His ways are not our ways His thoughts not ours.. No matter how big a box you create you will not fit Him in it.

In all His Love[15]

designRed-small The howler is, ‘There is no logic to God’. I couldn’t let him get away with that one. Here is my retort:[16]

You seem to be living in another world where you claim that there is no logic to God. Come on, mate! What kind of a Bible do you read? Is it a Bible with words, grammar, sentences, paragraphs (semantics)? If it is, these are examples of God demonstrating his logical results in the universe.

The mere fact that you are attempting to converse on this forum with a logical discussion demonstrates that God has given you the ability to attempt to be logical.

However, you have built a straw man fallacy here with your view that ‘there is no logic to God’. That is an irrational, straw man fallacy. God has built logic into his universe, but because of the fall of human beings into sin, we botch up logic like you have done with your response to me.

We cannot have a logical conversation when you want to deny the very logic that God has built into the universe to be able to communicate on this forum.

I call you to be a reasonable man who learns the nature of logical fallacies and quits using them.

designRed-small His comeback was:

Remember Saul, Pharisee of Pharisses (sic),

considered all his learning as dung compared to knowing the risen Lord…after his eyes where (sic) opened and when He became Paul.

God is spirit, and the time is when we must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

In all His Love.[17]

This super spiritual perspective needed a rejoinder. I wrote:[18]

You have given another demonstration of what the OP shows. You have responded with a red herring logical fallacy.

Why is your response here a red herring fallacy? It is because you have presented an irrelevant topic when the topic of the thread is ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’. You have tried to divert attention from this topic to try to convince others and me that, like Saul the Pharisee, learning is as dung when compared with knowing the risen Lord. It is deceptive (fallacious) reasoning for these reasons:

(1) The topic under discussion is logical fallacies and how they hijack discussion.

(2)  You have introduced a totally different topic – like Saul, the Pharisee, learning is as dung.

(3) Therefore, you have abandoned the topic of this thread. This exposes your diversionary tactic (the red herring fallacy).

Your kind of reasoning sounds spiritual but it really promotes falsehood because your changing the topic of discussion to what you want to talk about does not engage with the arguments presented in the OP (original post), ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’. It’s an example of a dishonest approach to the topic. Your dishonesty is in hijacking the discussion. You have given a perfect example of the topic of the OP.

I urge you to get back to the promotion of truth by dealing with the topic of the OP and not intruding with your own self-generated topic of diversion.

2. Another response

clip_image004(Socrates, Wikipedia)

These are four points from another’s reply:

I don’t want to debate the use of this system or philosophy or rules of engagement (for lack of a better term), but I do want to bring up a few questions.

(1) What would this system do with one who uses the Socratic Method of reasoning? That is, one who asks a series of questions in order to find a better and concrete conclusion.

(2) What of Ecc 12:13 which tells us to hear the conclusion of the whole matter?
I ask these first two questions because it seems to me that one could dismiss an arguement (sic) too early. In other words, someone can make a statement which to you may not be relevant when if you’d hold your peace, the relevance will appear.

(3) What shall we do with the apostles, servants and even Jesus himself who appear (at least on the surface) to violate such rules?
I have 4 examples in mind, but let me expound on one: In Matthew 12 we find the Pharisees criticizing Jesus and his disciples for picking corn and preparing it on the Sabbath. Jesus starts his reply by talking about David eating the shewbread. Now, he (Jesus) quickly offers a second point and then a third to make his entire response valid. But initially, he was talking about David and the shewbread while the Pharisees were talking about working on the Sabbath. That alone seems tp (sic) be a red herring argument (sic). Like I said, Jesus quickly brought it into relevance, but my point is that Jesus did point to sonething (sic) else outside the initial complaint. Which of course, brings us back to tge (sic) importance of hearing the conclusion.

(4) Is it possible that this system could self destruct? Again, lack of a better term. But I have seen questions posted which are baiting in nature. That is, the question is so carefully asked that theree (sic) is only one answer which is logical, yet the question itself is flawed? All objections to the question can be dismissed by waving the red herring flag or any other of these fallacy flags. No, I don’t have an example to present, but I’m sure that veterans of this board have seen it before.[19]

My answer to him was:[20]

I want to acknowledge that you have some excellent points here that must be considered in any discussion on this topic. However, the OP deals with mistakes in reasoning, which many Christians seem to be ignorant of or deliberately use to divert attention away from a certain topic.

I briefly answer your 4 questions:

(1)  There would be no problem with my engagement with someone using the Socratic method of reasoning with a series of questions. The problem of logical fallacies would arise with, say, a red herring fallacy if those questions were not directed to the topic being discussed.

(2)  I do not disagree with your understanding of Eccl. 12:13 (the KJV gives the better understanding, ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter’, which seems to be a more accurate understanding than the ESV: ‘The end of the matter; all has been heard’. I’m not a KJV-only). Logical fallacies deal with errors of reasoning and not with failure to reach conclusions. It is not rejecting the conclusion or rejecting the notion of waiting until all is heard. They are fallacies of engagement in discussion or debate – in reaching that conclusion.

(3)  I’m not opposed to hearing the conclusion. It is the kind of reasoning that is included. If I were to jump in and say something like, ‘That is not dealing with the topic I raised so it sounds like a red herring to me’, Jesus would legitimately respond: ‘I’m getting to a conclusion that is directly related to your topic and so is this example I’m giving’.

(4)  Could the system self destruct? Possibly, but we are talking about errors of logic/reasoning. Those errors could be challenged to be truthful instead of errors, but evidence would need to be presented for me to understand better what is being claimed. Since God has built logic into the universe, logical errors are subject to being influenced by sinful human beings. Of course there is the possibility that errors regarding logical fallacies could be made.

I don’t regard logical fallacies as a philosophy but as exposing flaws of reasoning. Could someone hide behind exposing logical fallacies? Perhaps. However, it is more likely (as seen in CyB) that people hide behind their use of logical fallacies in derailing a thread and highjacking (or hijacking) a topic.

3. That hijacker again

designRed-small Another usurper gave his two bits on the Christian forum:

I ask God so I can get a better understanding of the bible. He isnt (sic) dead you know,

God is teh (sic) God of the living not the dead.

I would rather know God and Jesus than teh (sic) bible. Knowing the bible cant (sic) save you.

Php_3:8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

And he was a very learned man, Pharisee of pharisees he called himself.[21]

What has he done here? This is how I replied: You have erected the straw man logical fallacy.

So you would rather know Jesus than the Bible?? You can’t know Jesus apart from the revelation of Jesus IN the Bible. That’s the false view you have created with your straw man fallacy.[22]

E. Logical fallacies trip up Christians

clip_image005How do you think Christians could use the following logical fallacies? Let’s use the topic of this article as an example.

6pointColored-small Ad hominem;

‘Only stupid people like you would dare to blaspheme the Holy Spirit by forcing us to examine logical fallacies. What idiotic stuff!’

6pointColored-small Begging the question (circular reasoning);

‘Logical fallacies are corrections of logical errors. Of course I believe in them, including ad hominem, hasty generalisation, red herring and straw man’.

6pointColored-small Genetic fallacy;

‘You only believe in these stupid fallacies because they were taught to you by that philosopher of logic in Uni. If it weren’t for him, you wouldn’t believe this unspiritual stuff’.

6pointColored-small Poisoning the well;

‘You shouldn’t take any notice of this fellow’s teaching about logical fallacies because he’s an Open Theist who doesn’t believe that God is absolutely sovereign in the universe. Don’t believe a word he says about logical fallacies. He’s a Open Theist bad egg’.

6pointColored-small Straw man.

‘John exposes logical fallacies, has a position at University X in the theology department, and teaches that God is absolutely sovereign in the universe. But Bill, one of his fellow faculty members, presents Open Theism in that department and claims that John is really an advocate for modified Open Theism. Therefore, it is false to claim that John supports God’s absolute sovereignty’.

F. Be specific when identifying fallacies

In identifying logical fallacies that a person uses, it is important to state the exact fallacy that is being used. Why should that be?

Firstly, it labels the specifics so that any person with a knowledge of logical fallacies can check the accuracy of the nature of the logical fallacy used so that the person can be challenged. Secondly, it demonstrates that the accuser also has an exact knowledge of the content of the fallacy about which he/she is accusing the presenter.

Logical fallacies are serious impediments to logical discussions in any sphere of debate or conversation. I missed one of these recently at a small political gathering. I was engaged in a discussion with three other people where a former councillor at a local council was part of the conversation. I talked about a former leading politician whom I labelled as arrogant. The councillor chimed in, ‘But he was such a friendly person. Whenever he came to a group, he would be moving among people and greeting them, shaking hands and speaking openly with them’. I realised later that I should have said, ‘That’s a red herring’. How come? My topic was talking about the politician’s cockiness. I was not dealing with his friendliness. I should have said nicely, but firmly, ‘That’s a red herring’. If the councillor objected, I’d say, ‘I was discussing how the politician presented himself on the media as an egotistical individual. I was not talking about his sociability. Now, let’s talk about his narcissistic bent’. However, I missed out on that conversation. I was wise after the fact.

G. Conclusion: What to do about fallacies

It is a common contemporary trend in both the secular and Christian worlds to highjack debates and discussions through the use of logical fallacies. These fallacies need to be exposed in gentle and specific ways. It doesn’t matter whether it is in private conversation or in a public meeting or debate. Know the major logical fallacies that people use and call them out when they use them.

Do not simply accuse a person of using a logical fallacy. Name the fallacy and be capable of explaining its nature.

Notes


[1] Some of this material is based on a thread I started as OzSpen at Christianity Board, ‘Logical fallacies hijack discussion’, 19 September 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21931-logical-fallacies-hijack-discussion/ (Accessed 19 September 2015).

[2] I live in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

[3] Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/campaign-to-legalise-nude-beaches-in-queensland-20150912-gjl98l.html (Accessed 13 September 2015).

[4] Part of my statement is a grab from my article of 2011, Nudist beaches not smart idea for the Smart State.

[5] Ibid., Brisbane Times, bluebird of Brisbane, September 13, 2015, 3:40PM.

[6] Ibid., dodgeymech, Wellington Point, September 14, 2015, 9:13AM.

[7] Ibid., Andrew, South Brisbane, September 13, 2015, 10:45AM.

[8] Ibid., Dougie, Brisbane, September 14, 2015, 12:34PM.

[9] Ibid., Marsketa, Coolum Beach, September 17, 2015, 6:28PM.

[10] Ibid., Marsketa, Coolum, September 14, 2015, 10:33PM.

[11] Ibid., Dougie, Brisbane, September 16, 2015, 5:45PM

[12] OzSpen#1, 19 September 2015, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21931-logical-fallacies-hijack-discussion/ (Accessed 20 September 2015).

[13] Ibid., mjrhealth#5.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#7.

[15] Ibid., mjrhealth#9.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#12.

[17] Ibid., mjrhealth#13.

[18] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

[19] Ibid., FHill#15.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#34.

[21] Ibid., mjrhealth#39.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#40.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Christians stuck for answers

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

lightning icon clip artBy Spencer D Gear

Why are some Christians overpowered by non-Christians with difficult questions? I have met some of these Christians on Internet Christian forums. Whether these questions are genuine or to stir up Christians will unfold only as the discussion proceeds.

I’ve noticed that Christians can be overcome by questions about:

3d-red-star-small The talking serpent that tempted the first woman(Genesis 3:1-5);

3d-red-star-small Why Christianity and not Islam?

3d-red-star-small How did the canon of Scripture come to be formed?

3d-red-star-small Why doesn’t God stop all of the evil in the world?

3d-red-star-small Who made God?

3d-red-star-small John Calvin supported the killing of an opponent. Why?

A. Non-Christian questions for believers

 

On a Christian forum, I interacted with an unbeliever who had questions about a number of Christian subjects. He wrote:

Any number of topics interest me: the authorship of the gospels; how the books of the Bible came to be chosen and why certain others were not included; the nature of morality,; the way the three Abrahamic religions split into three very different, distinct religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity); Biblical archaeology; comparing the flood story in Genesis with the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh; how Jesus has been interpreted and misinterpreted (thinking of books like Wills’s fascinating, What Jesus Meant, and Aslan’s, Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which I am currently reading). I enjoy studying history and literature, and the Bible is one of the books that underpins Western Civilization — that’s why I have enjoyed studying it.[1]

A Christian responded:

Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum. I suggest you check with seminaries to see if there are discussion forums attended by scholars who have done the research to answer you with authority. I suggest that you investigate both liberal and conservative sources. (Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Ca. And Dallas Theological Seminary perhaps.)

If you are looking for scholarly responses to your inquiries then you need to consult scholars with expertise in the areas which interest you. Looking for that level of expertise in specific areas of Christian theology in this forum is a bit like asking the mailman for a diagnosis of an illness.[2]

The non-believer did not like that response as his reply indicates:

You replied to that with the astonishingly elitist comment, “Most of the things you want to discuss are beyond the expertise of the vast majority of people in this forum.”

You dodged my follow-up questions. Why do you think those topics are only to be tackled by experts? You really don’t think the membership here is up to discussing how Jesus has been interpreted or misinterpreted?[3]

Another non-believer jumped in:

I have brought up many of those same topics and others and I didn’t have any better luck than you seem to be having. Some people just feel like these topics are threatening to their faith, but these discussions are important and can be fruitful. I wish that I could have an open discussion with someone who didn’t ignore my remarks and hurl insults at me when I didn’t agree with them. But sadly that is just the way things are. So don’t take it personally when you find it difficult to have a discussion about who you believe wrote the Bible or the Flood, or any other topic. There are Christians who can easily have such discussions and there are those who can’t. 🙁

This is a Christian forum so it is understandable that there might be some resistance, but still…[4]

My response was[5] that I agree with Melissa that it is a shame when she and others raise topics for which it is difficult to have a discussion with Christians on this forum.

B. Many Christians are not equipped for apologetics

Leap of Doubt

(image courtesy ChristArt)

As a Christian, this is no rationalisation of what happens, but I think I can understand why the laity on Christian forums on the Internet are not responding to difficult questions posed by non-Christians. When unbelievers antagonistically attack unbelievers or try to expose holes in Christianity, I can comprehend why some Christians duck for cover. Here’s some of my assessment:

1. Many churches have not equipped their people with answers to some of the apologetic questions you are asking – valid questions. I’ve had to educate myself in these areas. Therefore, many Christians will not respond or give glib answers when they don’t know the answers themselves. Don’t expect them to give in-depth answers. It would be like asking me to give reasons for the nature and need of JavaScript for computers (my son is an IT professional and he gets rather frustrated with his Dad’s inability to understand geek language and concepts).

2. For many Christians whose lives have been changed by the Christ who lives in them, topics like the intricacies surrounding Noah and the Flood, historical origins of the canon of Scripture, the Gilgamesh Epic, etc are not of interest, so they avoid these topics or give light-hearted responses.

3. For me, I don’t have the time to get into details about some of these topics, so I tend to refer to other resources. I contribute on 2 Christian forums on the Internet and if I replied to all of the difficult questions addressed to me, I’d be at this computer for much of the day. I am helped by the fact that I took one of my wife’s touch-typing courses at college many years ago so am a touch typist. That helps me zoom through the typing.

4. So when it comes to historical reasons for the resurrection of Jesus, I refer to substantive research publications such as N T Wright, The resurrection of the Son of God (2003 Minneapolis: Fortress Press).

5. For research on the reliability of the OT and NT, I refer to:

(a) Walter C Kaiser Jr 2001. The Old Testament documents: Are they reliable & relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press;

(b) K A Kitchen 2003. On the reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company;

(c) Craig Blomberg 1987. The historical reliability of the Gospels. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

6. In addition, there are considerable numbers of issues on apologetics topics that can be pursued. I can refer you to some resources if you are interested. For quality research on the text of the New Testament, see Bruce M Metzger 1992. The text of the New Testament: Its transmission, corruption, and restoration, 3rd edn. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press.

7. For information on the formation of the canon of the Scripture, see F F Bruce 1988. The canon of Scripture. Glasgow: Chapter House.

8. However, some Christians find non-Christians come onto Christian sites to be argumentative and they don’t want to go down that route.

9. For me, I would love to provide replies to some of the penetrating questions concerning the Christian faith and engage in a back and forth, but when I get to be a really old man (instead of just an old man), I might be able to do that for only then might I have the time.

10. I urge non-Christians to please be patient with those who don’t have the depth of answers for the depth of questions asked.

11. To this person on the forum, I stated that Jim, the Christian, was telling the truth. Most of the topics the non-Christian wanted to discuss were out of the league of the laity. They are specialist subjects in the Christian community. Please contact a Christian seminary or university with these questions. Why don’t you try these topics on faculty at Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL? Please ask for a faculty member with the expertise dealing with your inquiry.
Most of the laity in my church would not be equipped to answer your questions, nor have the interest. Therefore, if you are serious, I urge you to contact a Christian specialist in these fields. TIU would be a good starter.
Please let us know how you got on when you contacted TIU.

12. There is a further issue that this non-Christian has demonstrated on this forum with some of his answers. Even if I or another provided answers to questions that he asked, there is every possibility he won’t like what I write. But we could at least enjoy the interaction.

C. Churches need challengingWarning

Vehicle equipment construction backhoe

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for churches to wake up. Equip your people for apologetics or they will drown in the quagmire of questions and allegations by secular folks. This will happen at school, university, on the job, and even at church. Many sit in the pews who have significant issues with the Christian faith. I have met and spoken with them.

There are exceptions to this. Take a read of schedules by apologists Norm Geisler, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, Steve Kumar, and Ross Clifford[6]. They do include speaking and training at churches.

This whole discussion is a sad indictment on the evangelical churches especially. They have not equipped their people to answer some of the difficult questions that arise from the Bible – questions of interpretation and of dealing with issues in the real world. I’m thinking of these kinds of questions:

  • Is the Book of Genesis a reliable document in a world dominated by the Darwinian paradigm of evolution?
  • Science mutilates the Bible.
  • You can’t trust the Bible.
  • Why Christianity and not Islam, Hinduism or the occult?
  • Christianity is promoting nonsense.
  • ‘When you die you rot’ (Bertrand Russell). There is nothing after death.
  • You can’t trust anything from history. There is so little information about Jesus. To believe in him is to practise irrationality.

In my approximately 50 years as a Christian believer, I have never attended any church in Australia (or Canada & the USA where I lived for 7 years) that equipped its people in apologetics topics. I’ve had to obtain training in this area from Christian institutions of higher learning.

D. It’s a shame

smiley embarrassed clip artIt’s a disgrace that youth face topics that attack their faith in high school and especially university, but the local church is not equipping them. Well, that’s my experience in 50 years as a Christian. It’s still the problem in the churches in my region. I’m raising awareness among them.

I’m of the view that training in apologetics is neutered by distance education. Apologetics needs the argy bargy of classroom debate as well as input in areas of need. Classroom and workshops are the place for apologetic training.

I refer you to my articles:

I’d also recommend that Christians become competent public speakers and debaters by joining public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters and Rostrum. Since I’m an Aussie living in Queensland, those are Australian links.

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Why I avoid discussing life after death’ (online), David Woodbury#121, January 18 2014, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=113&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122769 (Accessed 29 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Jim Parker#128.

[3] Ibid., David Woodbury#183.

[4] Ibid., Melissa#184.

[5] Ibid., ozspen#194.

[6] Because Rev Dr Ross Clifford is president of Morling College (Baptist), Sydney, Australia and is an active apologist, apologetics subjects are available for pastors in training as a week-long intensive. See: http://www.morlingcollege.com/events/christian-apologetics (Accessed 30 January 2014). I’d be interested to see how that apologetic training translates into the local Baptist churches through these pastors and others who attend the intensive.

 

Copyright (c) 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 July 2016.

Is God eternal and temporal?

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Infinite by algotruneman

By Spencer D Gear

What is God’s relation to time and eternity? Leading conservative theologians give these explanations about the nature of God’s eternity and time:

clip_image002H Orton Wiley: ‘By eternity as an attribute of God, we can mean only that He stands superior to time, free from the temporal distinctions of past and future, and in whose life there can be no succession. This is the sense of those scriptures which speak of the eternity of God, none of which more explicitly set it forth than the reve­lation of the name I AM THAT I AM. From its first declaration made to Moses (Exod. 3: 14) to the final revelation made to St. John in the Apocalypse as that which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Al­mighty (Rev. 1: 8), this name not only declares the Aseity or Self-sufficiency but the Eternity of God’ (Wiley 1940:335).

clip_image002[1]Henry Thiessen stated that the eternity of God means ‘his infinity in relation to time…. He is without beginning or end; that He is free from all succession of time; and that He is the cause of time… That God is eternal is abundantly taught in Scripture…. Eternity for God is one Now’ (Thiessen 1949:122, emphasis in original). Thiessen refers to Gen 21:33; Ps 90:2; 102:27; Isa 57:15 and 1 Tim 6:18.

clip_image002[2]James Montgomery Boice explained that a quality in the name of God that was given to Moses – ‘I AM WHO I AM’ – ‘is everlastingness, perpetuity or eternity. The quality is difficult to put in one word, but it is simply that God is, has always been and will always be, and that he is ever the same in his eternal being’. He explained that ‘this attribute of God is explained everywhere in the Bible’. He referred to Gen 21:33; Ps 90:1-2; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 21:6 and 22:13 (Boice 1986:105).

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Courtesy Open Clip Art Library (Public Domain)

But if you then go onto the Internet where some Bible-based evangelicals are interacting, an interesting mix is found. If you want to encounter some hairy doctrine, try visiting some of the Christian forums on the Internet. There I med Brad who asked:

There seems to be two main views on how God relates to time. Most philosophers today hold to the position that God is Temporal like we are. They say that He operates and responds to events in time successively just as we would. The problem is this means God could not see what has not happened yet because… it has not happened “yet.” The only logical way to know what will happen (without causing it to happen and short circuiting free will) is to somehow experience it. And of course logically if someone has the ability to experience the future and relay it to us, then there must be more to time than only current time. And they must be experiencing time some other way than only temporally.

Some argue that God could just make good predictions on the way things will happen based on His divine observation of the way things are going in the present. Similar to seeing a marble rolling toward the edge of a table and predicting it will fall on the floor. But that isn’t the way Bible prophecy is….

The second view is that God is “Timeless.” The philosophers who view that God is timeless deny God being temporal. In their view God does not exist in or experience time in succession as we do, but rather He exists beyond time. He exists at a non-temporal location called eternity where He experiences all centuries and time at once. An analogy to help us try to even conceive of this would be to take a snapshot picture of every second of my entire life, from birth to death, and arrange them all in one giant frame that I could experience all at once. Of course my eyes and brain would be completely incapable of processing all that at once, but God’s could…..

So you can see how both temporal and timeless views fit scripture on one sense but conflict on another. On the one hand God knew things before the foundation of the world. God can see the future. But on the other hand God called out to Adam asking where he was? He was grieved by man’s sin before the flood. He expressed surprise at Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. And most importantly, we are clearly taught that God does answer prayer as a result of our asking, something that requires temporality. Contemplating all of this left me with a very mind boggling dilemma.

What are your thoughts?[1]

clip_image005(courtesy clker.com)

The thoughts that rolled in

One poster wrote:Temporal is the life we live in the present, it doesn’t pertain to our spiritual life which is what God judges after death. As for the answering of prayers that is in the hands of God. He may answer them in this life or maybe in the next. But I guarantee, that he will only answers prayers that are within his jurisdiction’.[2]

How do you think Brad would reply to the thought that temporal refers only to this life? He wrote: ‘I was wondering why you don’t believe we will experience temporal time in heaven? John describes his experience there within a temporal frame work. Paul does too. Even the prophet Eziekiel (sic) describes his vision of the throne  of God Temporally’.[3]

He continued:

I didn’t notice this the first time.

So do you see yourself as a Christian Judith?

I only asked because most Christians would say that it is being found in Christ and Him alone that renders one not guilty. You seemed to suggest there is more to it than that.[4]

Judith’s response was: ‘There certainly is, for we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this world’.[5]

Temporal time in heaven?

How should one respond to the concept of experiencing temporal time in heaven? I wrote:[6]

I also do not believe I ‘will experience temporal time in heaven’. I will experience aeviternity [7] in heaven (definition given at the foot of this article).

This is why I don’t believe I’ll experience temporal time in heaven. What is the meaning of ‘temporal’? My Aussie Macquarie Dictionary gives these meanings of ‘temporal’:

  1. ‘of or relating to time.
  2. ‘relating to or concerned with the present life or this world; worldly.
  3. ‘enduring for a time only; temporary; transitory;
  4. Grammar a. ‘of, relating to, or expressing time’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:2180).

The reason why I will not be experiencing temporal time in heaven is because time will be over when I get to glory. I thank God that it will be gone forever. I will be experiencing the aeviternal dimension of my existence in the presence of the trinitarian Lord God. My taking warfarin for heart surgery for over 30 years will have finished. All the aches, pains, conflict, wars and rumours of war will be gone forever. What a day, glorious day, that will be when my Jesus I shall see!

Further replies

Another wrote:

I believe God is timeless. That is I believe “time” is a construct of God for man’s benefit, to mark seasons, measure boundaries and changes.

When God asked Adam, Where are you? It wasn’t because God didn’t know where Adam was, it was a question for Adam to think about….in order for Adam to think about where he was at spiritually, having broken fellowship with God.

God can either be in the temporal for the sake of man, while still living in the eternal timelessness. He is after all omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.[8]

She went further:

The Lord impressed me with how while I’m down in the situation feeling overwhelmed, God is above in a multitude of dimension, seeing things that I don’t normally see and He sees it all at once and has it within his power to help me navigate through places that I thought were scary…

At that moment my anxiety vanished forever concerning those trials … I saw from a different vantage point.[9]

Here’s another perspective on Brad’s observations and question, from another poster to that forum:

We live in 4 dimensions: height, width, depth, time/space yet science has determined that there could be up to 11 dimensions (however small). God is outside of our 4 dimensions (which would be beyond time/space) and can see all of human history at one time. One example using another person in the same dimensions would be seeing a parade from a helicopter — those on the ground will only see the parade as it goes by but the person looking down would see the total parade at one time….

So, the descriptions you’ve given about God using feeling, answering prayer, is His way of communicating with us on our level but this does not mean that any of what happens on this mortal realm is a surprise to Him. I think God works through time because that is how we live but does He change His mind? I don’t think so. I think He works through circumstances and time to change us to confirm to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What blows my mind is to consider what our existence will be beyond this realm. Will we still be limited to time after we are raised by God and made “imperishable” (1 Cor 50-54) – or will it time still be a dimension that can be used for God’s purposes? That is, once Christ returns and Heaven is on Earth (Rev 21 & 22), will those in Christ move between time and eternity, like Angels do?

One of my favorite scripture passages is “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

I sense both the pull of eternity God has placed in me but also the limitation of this perishable body to understand what He has done, is doing and will do.[10]

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Photos-public-domain.com

Is God both timeless and temporal?

Brad wrote:

I totally agree that God is timeless. But again let me clarify what that term means to most philosiphers (sic). It doesn’t mean that God has experienced an infinite amount of time temporally (in succession). But rather He is experiencing all temporal time from infinity to infinity, all at once in one timeless instant….

As for Him creating time consider this; In Genesis 1:14 God tells us He created the sun, moon, and stars to be “markers” so that man could measure time, but nowhere does He ever tell us exactly when He created time. Time may actually even be an eternal extention (sic) of Himself….

So is it possible that when God said that a thousand years is as one day to Him, or one day can be as a thousand years, that He was saying just that? That He is both timeless and temporal?[11]

To suggest that God is both timeless and temporal is to say that God is a temporal Being. Such a statement is contradictory to Scripture but an oxymoron – a temporal God?? How should I respond to this post? Here it is:[12]

Perhaps you could consider this. There was no need for God to say at any place in Scripture, ‘I created time at such-and-such a time and I stated it in Chapter & Verse’. Why?

Because the very first verse of the Bible should answer that question, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1:1). From the very first moment God created ex nihilo (out of nothing) the very first thing he made, time began. Time is needed only because there is a creation in which it is to operate.

My proposal is that there is no need for God to state one word about his creating time because that should be understood by us as only creation needs time. At the moment God created the heavens and the earth, time began.
You might like to take a read of these two articles:

 

The unchanging, eternal, timeless God and the temporal

Here’s how I responded to Brad’s opening statement:[13]

clip_image009Thomas Aquinas (courtesy Wikipedia)

Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica (1920), wrote on ‘The eternity of God‘. He said, ‘Eternity is nothing else but God Himself. Hence God is not called eternal, as if He were in any way measured; but the idea of measurement is there taken according to the apprehension of our mind alone…. Eternity truly and properly so called is in God alone, because eternity follows on immutability; as appears from the first article. But God alone is altogether immutable [unchanging]’ (Aquinas 1920:1a.10.2-3).

Norman Geisler has summarised several of Aquinas’s arguments to support his conclusion (Geisler2003:101-103) – unless otherwise stated, the citations are from Geisler:

 

  1. ‘Whatever exists in time can be computed according to its befores and afters. However, a changeless Being has no befores and afters; it is always the same. Consequently, God must be timeless’.
  2. ‘Time is duration characterized by substantial and accidental changes. Substantial changes are changes of substance.  He uses the example of aeviternity [see definition below] (the existence of angels, and the existence of Christian believers in heaven) to demonstrate accidental changes. Accidental changes are those that are changeable. ‘Angels can increase in knowledge by divine infusion, and they have changeableness with regard to choice, intelligence, affections and places’. However, there can be no substantial changes with them – changes of their substance (what they are made of). What is true of angels is also true of elect believers in heaven.
  3. ‘Time is defined as a measurement in terms of befores and afters. God has no before or after, since He is changeless. It follows, then, that He must be timeless, for if he were in time, He could be measured according to a before and an after, which implies change’ (Aquinas 1920:1a.10.6).
  4. ‘Whatever is in time has succession of one state after another. From this Aquinas concluded that whatever is immutable is not temporal. This argument stresses another aspect of time: Whatever is temporal has successive states, one after the other. But as an immutable being God has no changing states, one after another; therefore, God cannot be temporal’.
  5. ‘In brief, total immutability implies eternity [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.2], for whatever changes substantially is in time and can be computed according to befores and afters. Whatever does not change cannot be in time, since it has no different states by which befores and afters can be computed; all are the same – it never changes. Therefore, whatever does not change is not temporal; God is eternal’.
  6. ‘Not only is God eternal, but He alone is eternal [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.3]. The reason for this is that God alone is essentially immutable, since all creatures can cease to exist. But, … eternity necessarily  follows from immutability, and from this, that God alone is essentially eternal’.
  7. Aquinas (1920:1a.10.4) provides these reasons for distinguishing eternity from endless time (in Geisler 2003:102-103):

(1)    ‘Whatever is essentially whole is essentially different from what has parts. Eternity differs from time in this way (eternity is Now; time has now and then); hence, eternity is essentially different from time. In other words, God’s eternity is not divided; it is all present to Him in His eternal Now. So it must be essentially different from time, which comes only a moment at a time’.

(2)    ‘Endless time is not eternity; it is simply more of time. Eternity differs in kind from time; that is, it differs essentially, not merely accidentally, from time. Endless time differs only accidentally from time because it is only an elongation of time. Since endless time is simply time – just more of it – eternity must differ from it essentially. To state it another way, more of the same thing is essentially the same thing; therefore, endless time does not differ essentially from time’.

(3)    ‘An eternal Being cannot change, whereas time involves change by which the measurements of befores and afters can be made. Thus, an eternal Being, such as God is, cannot change. In other words,

(a)    Whatever can be computed according to befores and afters is not eternal.
(b)    Endless time can be computed according to befores and afters.
(c)    Hence, endless time is not the same as eternity’.

‘The eternal is changeless, but what can be computed by its befores and afters has changed. It follows, then, that eternal cannot be endless time. It must be something qualitatively different, not just different in quantity’.

(4)    ‘Aquinas argued that there is a crucial difference in the “now” of time and the “Now” of eternity [Aquinas 1920:1a.10.4, ad. 2). The now of time is movable, but the Now of eternity is not. Eternity is not movable in any way; therefore, the Now of eternity is not the same as the now of time. The eternal Now is unchanging, while the now of time is ever changing. There is only an analogy between time and eternity, not an identity. God’s Now has no past or future; time’s how does’.

clip_image011Dr Norman Geisler, courtesy normangeisler.com

Geisler wrote:

‘Another way to understand the difference between God’s eternity and time is to recognize that time is an accidental change, not a substantial change. A substantial change is a change in what something is; an accidental change is a change in what something has. Aquinas pointed out that time is an accidental change, and only humanity, not God or angels, has accidental change. So only humanity is in time. Angels undergo substantial change (creation), but this does not involve time. The only mode of being that existed before angels began was an eternal mode (God)’

‘A substantial change (for men or angels) is not a change in time, for no substantial change has a before and after in time. eternity is one pole, and time the other. Hence, substantial change for man is a change into or out of time, but not a change in time. God cannot change substantially or accidentally. Since He is a necessary Being, He cannot go out of existence. Since He is a simple Being, He has no accidents. Therefore, God cannot be temporal in any way, since time involves change’ (Geisler 2003:103).

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(Augustine of Hippo, Latin theologian (354-430) – courtesy of Wikipedia)

A beautiful serve from a woman who knows her product

This woman put the challenge to Brad:[14]

Brad (B): I can’t seem to find any philosiphers (sic) who have published a conclusion like Noelle and I have arrived at. That is to say, none of them seem to want to say God is could be both timeless and temporal.

Janet (J): I don’t know why you are consulting philosophers rather than theologians. You can look all you like, but you won’t find any legitimate theologians who posit that God is both temporal AND outside of time because that is a self-contradiction, which cannot possibly be true of God. A God who is a self-contradiction is no god at all. A God who both is limited to time and at the same time outside of time is an insupportable proposition.  What theologians do say, however, is that God is absolutely outside of time but works WITHIN time to accomplish His will, and necessarily so because that is the plane on which we humans live.

B: Would a God who told us not to lie, merely “act” surprised? You can see how a critic might constrew that as deception.

J: Those of us who know God as Truth know He doesn’t “act” at anything.  Are you that critic?

B: So what if God saw the surprise party in advance and could erase that information (temporally) for the purpose of genuinly expressing surprise and thereby relate to us on our level?

J: You are suggesting that an omniscient God can turn His omniscience on and off like a light switch. So He’s omniscient, except when He isn’t? An omniscient God who is sometimes not omniscient is another self-contradiction.  Are you not able to see the absurdity?  Are there any other characteristics of an immutable (go look that up) God that He switches on and off at will?  Why is it important to you that God be surprised by anything?

This was my response to her:[15]

Congratulations on an outstanding post. Thank you for raising the stakes so that we are discussing an orthodox view of God as declared in Scripture.

I would modify one point when you stated:

I don’t know why you are consulting philosophers rather than theologians. You can look all you like, but you won’t find any legitimate theologians who posit that God is both temporal AND outside of time because that is a self-contradiction, which cannot possibly be true of God. A God who is a self-contradiction is no god at all. A God who both is limited to time and at the same time outside of time is an insupportable proposition.[16]

There are a number of liberal theologians who would call themselves ‘legitimate theologians’ who oppose an orthodox position. Here are some statements by liberal existentialist theologian, Paul Tillich (1886-1965), from his Systematic theology (1968). The chapter is on ‘The actuality of God: God as creating and related’ (Tillich 1968:280f). These are a few grabs:

  • ‘The concept of eternity must be protected against two misinterpretations. Eternity is neither timelessness nor the endlessness of time. The meaning of olam in Hebrew and of aiwnes in Greek does not indicate timelessness; rather it means the power of embracing all periods of time. Since time is created in the ground of the divine life, God is essentially related to it. In so far as everything divine transcends the split between potentiality and actuality, the same must be said of time as an element of the divine life’ (Tillich 1968:I.304, emphasis added).
  • ‘Special moments of time are not separated from each other; presence is not swallowed by past and future; yet the eternal keeps the temporal within itself. Eternity is the transcendent unity of the dissected moments of existential time’ (Tillich 1968:I.304, emphasis added).
  • ‘If we call God a living God, we affirm that he includes temporality and with this a relation to the modes of time. Even Plato could not exclude temporality from eternity; he called time the moving image of eternity’ (Tillich 1968:I.305).
  • ‘And eternity is not the endlessness of time. Endless time, correctly called “bad infinity” by Hegel, is the endless reiteration of temporality’ (Tillich 1968:I.305).
  • ‘On the basis of these considerations and the assertion that eternity includes temporality, the question must still be asked: “What is the relation of eternity to the modes of time?” An answer demands the use of the only analogy to eternity found in human experience, that is, the unity of remembered past and anticipated future in an experienced present. Such an analogy implies a symbolic approach to the meaning of eternity. In accord with the predominance of the present in temporal experience, eternity must first be symbolised as an eternal present…. An eternal present is moving from past to future but without ceasing to be present’ (Tillich 1968:I.305-306, emphasis added).
  • ‘A relative although not an absolute openness to the future is the characteristic of eternity’ (Tillich 1968:I.306, emphasis added).
  • ‘God’s eternity is not dependent on the completed past. For God the past is not complete, because through it he creates the future; and, in creating the future, he re-creates the past’ (Tillich 1968:I.306).

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Tillich’s gravestone in the Paul Tillich Park, New Harmony, Indiana (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

As you will appreciate, this is out of the mind of theologian Paul Tillich. In the quotes I have given from these three pages of his systematic theology, not one Scripture is given. Exegetical support was not on the mind of this theological liberal theologian.

However, he was a German refugee and professor at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. His God was the non-theistic ‘ground of being’ with whom a person could have an experiential and existential encounter. So of Tilllich, church historian, Earle Cairns, stated that ‘he dissolved both the Bible and creeds into subjective expressions of human thought to be subjected to historical criticism’ (Cairns 1981:446).

Janet’s response to me included these statements: ‘I have never thought that existentialism lines up in any way with Biblical Christianity, holding as it does, among other things, that that each individual – not society or religion or the God of any religion – is solely responsible for giving meaning to life.  That is about as anti-Biblical as it gets, in my view”.[17]

[18]My response was that I agreed. When people chuck out biblical declarations and replace with existential experience, it leads to any kind of view of Christianity. In my thesis, I’m working through how this happens with the contemporary postmodern deconstructionism that has overcome much of liberal theology. Its outcomes are just as devastating when the reader is the one who determines meaning and not the intent of the original author.
Of Paul Tillich, Janet wrote:

He who wants a salvation which is only visible cannot see the divine child in the manger as he cannot see the divinity of the Man on the Cross and the paradoxical way of all divine acting. Salvation is a child and when it grows up, it is crucified. Only he who can see power under weakness, the whole under fragment, victory under defeat, glory under suffering, innocence under guilt, sanctity under sin, life under death can say: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.[19]

That’s worthy of thought.  And he did work the Bible into that one![20]

Yes[21], it is worthy of thought, much thought. Tillich, at times, was a strange paradox in some of his views. It was he who wrote:

One should eliminate the term “eternal condemnation” from the theological vocabulary. Instead, one should speak of condemnation as removal from the eternal. This seems to be implied in the term “eternal death,” which certainly cannot mean everlasting death, since death has no duration. The experience of separation from one’s eternity is the state of despair (Tillich 1968:II.90).

He failed to weave a lot of biblical theology into that kind of statement.

What does the Bible say?

clip_image017American family Bible dating to 1859 (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Biblically, God’s eternity is affirmed in Exodus 3:14 when God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. Jesus confirmed this meaning when he stated, ‘Before Abraham was, “I AM”‘ (John 8:58). Let’s check out a few other Scriptures:

clip_image019 Genesis 21:33, ‘Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (ESV).

clip_image019[1] Psalm 90:2, ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

clip_image019[2] Psalm 102:27, ‘but you [Lord God] are the same, and your years have no end’.

clip_image019[3] Isaiah 57:15, ‘For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’.

clip_image019[4] John 1:3, ‘All things were made through him [the Word, Jesus], and without him was not any thing made that was made’.

clip_image019[5] John 17:5, ‘And now, Father, glorify me [Jesus] in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed’.

clip_image019[6] 1 Corinthians 2:7, ‘But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory’.

clip_image019[7] Colossians 1:16, [For by him [Jesus, the beloved Son] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him’.

clip_image019[8] 1 Timothy 6:16, ‘who [God] alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen’.

clip_image019[9] 2 Timothy 1:9, ‘who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began’.

clip_image019[10] Titus 1:2, ‘in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began’.

clip_image019[11] Hebrews 1:2, ‘but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world’.

clip_image019[12] Jude 25, ‘to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen’.

clip_image019[13] Revelation 1:8, ‘“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty”’.

clip_image019[14] Revelation 21:6, ‘And he said to me, “It is done! I [God] am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment’.

clip_image019[15] Revelation 22:13, ‘I [God] am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”’.

Norm Geisler has an appropriate summary statement of God’s eternity and creation of time:

God not only created the ages, but He was also before the ages. To be before time and to have made time is not to be in time. Therefore, the Bible teaches that it was not a creation in time, but a creation of time that God accomplished at the beginning. The Creator of time can be no more temporal than the Creator of the contingent can be contingent or the Creator of an effect can be an effect Himself (Geisler 2003:95).

Bill Craig’s understanding is something with which I concur:

If God is timeless, he is also unchanging, but it does not follow that He cannot change. I’d say that He can change and if He were to do so, He would cease to be timeless. And that’s exactly what I think He did. Whether God is timeless or temporal is a contingent property of God, dependent upon His will. What is impossible is changing while remaining timeless. But it seems to me that a timeless being can change and thereby cease to be timeless (Craig, Q & A #37, ‘God and Timelessness‘).

I think that hit the mark. If we are going to speak of God as timeless, we cannot accept that he is a changeable Being. If God changes, he ceases to be timeless – if that is our meaning of timelessness.

What do you and others understand by Bill Craig’s statement that ‘a timeless being can change and thereby cease to be timeless’?

What is our understanding of timelessness? I have a simple definition of timelessness: Timelessness refers to existing outside of time. So the Lord God Almighty is timeless only in the sense that he exists outside of time. His existence outside of time does not impede his interventions into the time realm. It was He who created time.

I recommend the apologetic article, ‘Can a timeless God be personal?‘ [UK Apologetics]

This is a topic that I have not encountered amongst the laity in my part of the world. Are the people in your church interested in this kind of topic of God’s eternity and how He relates to time? I haven’t discussed it in mine. I don’t expect it to have a prominent place in the Bible study I attend this week. Are we concerned about anything of significant interest to the people of God? Is this a place for philosophical meanderings instead of dealing with revealed reality from the Scriptures?

See:

Conclusion

The Scriptures declare God’s eternity, as having no beginning and end, in a number of concise statements:

clip_image021 ‘I AM WHO I AM’;

clip_image021[1] ‘the everlasting God’;

clip_image021[2] ‘from everlasting to everlasting’;

clip_image021[3] ‘your years have no end’;

clip_image021[4] ‘inhabits eternity’;

clip_image021[5] ‘before the world existed’;

clip_image021[6] ‘before the ages’;

clip_image021[7] ‘alone has immortality’;

clip_image021[8] ‘before all time and now and for ever’;

clip_image021[9] ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’.

Therefore, evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, provides an accurate summary of God’s eternity with these words:

God has no beginning, end, or succession of moments in his own being, and he sees all time equally vividly, yet God sees events in time and acts in time’. He explained that ‘sometimes this doctrine is called the doctrine of God’s infinity with respect to time. To be “infinite” is to be unlimited, and this doctrine teaches that time does not limit God or change him in any way (Grudem 1999:76).

With regard to time, Grudem made the following points, supported by Scripture:

  • ‘God is timeless in his own being’;
  • ‘God sees all time equally vividly’;
  • ‘God sees events in time and acts in time’ (Grudem 1999:77-78).

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1920. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. New Advent, 2nd rev edn, available at: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/index.html (Accessed 2 November 2013).

Boice, J M 1986. Foundations of the Christian faith, rev edn in 1 vol. Downers Grove, Illinois/Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church, rev enl edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W 1999. Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Tillich, P 1968. Systematic theology, vols 1-3. Digswell Place, Welwyn, Herts: James Nizbet and Company Limited.

Wiley, H O 1940. Christian theology, vol 1 (online). Kansas City, Mo: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Available at Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-14/ (Accessed 2 November 2013).

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is God timeless or temporal?’ Brad#1, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=1&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122540 (Accessed 2 November 2013).

[2] Ibid., Judith#1.

[3] Ibid., Brad#3.

[4] Ibid., Brad#4.

[5] Ibid., Judith#5.

[6] Ibid., ozspen#14.

[7] The meaning of ‘aeviternity’ is: ‘In Scholastic philosophy, the aevum (also called aeviternity) is the mode of existence experienced by angels and by the saints in heaven. In some ways, it is a state that logically lies between the eter nity (timelessness) of God and the temporal experience of material beings. It is sometimes referred to as “improper eternity” (Wikipedia).

[8] Christian Fellowship Forum, loc cit., Noelle#6.

[9] Ibid., Noelle#8.

[10] Ibid., Cheryl#7.

[11] Ibid., Brad#10.

[12] Ibid., ozspen#17.

[13] My response to Brad#1 is in ozspen#12, ibid.

[14] Ibid., Janet#13.

[15] Ibid., ozspen#18.

[16] Ibid., Janet#13.

[17] Ibid., Janet#20.

[18] Ibid., ozspen#21.

[19] This citation is from Paul Tillich’s, The new being, chapter 11 (online), available at: http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=375&C=24 (Accessed 4 November 2013).

[20] Christian Fellowship Forum, op cit., Janet#20, emphasis in original.

[21] Ibid., ozspen#21.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2016.

When Christian thinking becomes fuzzy

Friday, October 25th, 2013

roberta-and-jim

(photographs of Pastor Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella, courtesy Pulpit & Pen)

 By Spencer D Gear

When I point the finger at fuzzy thinking, I also recognise that I’m a fellow traveller. I can be guilty of illogical thinking at times. When that happens, I appreciate those who care enough about me to point this out. In writing this article, I’m in no way making out that I’m a superior Christian who does not make mistakes or engage in fuzzy thinking at times.

When I use the term ‘fuzzy thinking’, I am referring to fuzzy logic – including the use of logical fallacies, the inability to think clearly, and the ability to read incorrect meaning into a person’s writing and speaking. This too often manifests itself in use of logical fallacies without admitting one uses them; accusation of false meaning to what a person states; and this may get to the point of speaking falsehood about a person.

Are any of you tired of the church being run by CEOs and the promise of growth in the church through following a church growth paradigm? What about that rock band on stage that entertains the group while most of them remain silent and do not enter into the singing what are supposed to be congregational songs?

I had an experience like this in the last 12 months with a local church and its evangelical pastor (well, the denomination has a reputation for being evangelical) when I emailed him to ask if I could attend one of the mid-week groups of his church and would he provide an address. He told me that the group would be way too contemporary for me. I have never met this pastor personally and have never spoken to him. My wife and I had visited his church once when we moved to this region and it was obvious that the person we met as we left the meeting had conveyed our feedback to the pastor. The pastor was in the service but was not the preacher. There was no reading of the Scriptures and their making the service contemporary seemed to be foremost on the mind of those leading the service

What is God’s view?

Bill Muehlenberg

Bill Muehlenberg (courtesy CultureWatch)

I was so impressed by this penetrating insight by Bill Muehlenberg:Dysfunctional Churches Mean Dysfunctional Societies‘, that I sent a group email to my Christian friends. A couple of them responded (which doesn’t happen all that often when I forward a group email link). One brother in Christ said he would share this message with his church.

My friend, Mike, gave feedback to me about that message and provided a link to a powerful message by Jim Cymbala that deals with getting the church back to the fundamentals and addressing the dysfunctional in our churches. I must admit that the name of Jim Cymbala did not ring a bell with me. He’s not one of my known and favourite Christian authors. I have never read any of his books or heard any of his sermons. I have since learned that he has written a number of books published by Zondervan. These are listed on his church’s website at The Brooklyn Tabernacle

Please be assured that I will sit up and take more notice when the name, Jim Cymbala is mentioned after hearing this sermon. His heart seems to be beating with Holy Spirit motivation. However, I will be a critical realist in my assessment of what he says and writes. I can’t buy into his comments about preaching from the Old Testament. Mike’s comment about this is valid when he said that the online DVD of Jim’s sermon was good but he was not in harmony with him when he spoke about refraining from preaching from the Old Testament. Mike said that it all points to Christ, but in the context of Cymbala’s sermon, he can let that slide. Why? It was because ‘he was more taking aim at preachers who simply don’t preach Christ and the cross at all’.

I urge you to take a listen to a message that knocked me off the wall of my comfortable Christianity. Has Jim Cymbala from Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York city, hit the mark or not? Here’s the link to that message: General Council: Jim Cymbala.

I pray that the Lord will use this message to get to our hearts. Some of you may disagree with points of his Pentecostal theology, but his content reminded me so much of the prophetic insight of the late A W Tozer (1897-1963).

Accusation of double talk

I was to experience some fuzzy Christian thinking as a result of forwarding the link to Jim Cymbala’s sermon. This is how it unfolded.

When I sent the Cymbala link to a pastor friend, his reply was that it was ‘great stuff’ until Cymbala ‘referred admiringly to George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons’. He asked if I knew this. His emphasis was that ‘Jim didn’t mention that [about George Wood’s Mormon association] although he rightly preached about the only name’ as proclaimed by Saul who became ‘Paul, the Apostle’, in the chapter Jim C preached from – Acts 13. Dr George O Wood[1] is the General Superintendent of the USA Assemblies of God (A/G-USA).

He went on to accuse Jim Cymbala of using ‘double talk in the Church’. This pastor was careful to use the qualification, ‘in my opinion’. Whenever a person uses these words, I look for solid evidence to back that opinion. It did not come as this pastor displayed some of his fuzzy thinking.

He regards Cymbala has having a ‘perceived successful past’ and that what Cymbala said in this message ‘is obnoxious in the eyes and ears of the Lord’. The pastor gave this proviso: ‘That in my opinion is the biggest hindrance to the move of God for which we all crave. May the Lord deliver us’. This ‘perceived successful past’ language is a put down of Cymbala and what has happened through his ministry at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in downtown New York City. The Brooklyn Tabernacle website provided this information about Cymbala:

In the early 1970s Pastor Cymbala took over the leadership of The Brooklyn Tabernacle on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. The small, struggling congregation numbered less than twenty people and met in a small, run-down building surrounded by the physical and moral blight of the inner city. No money was available for adequate salaries during most weeks in those early years, so Pastor Cymbala and Carol took second jobs and struggled to make ends meet both in the church and at home.

Nevertheless, this was where they felt God had placed them, and they soon realized that it was a unique opportunity to see the power of the gospel of Christ in action by loving and ministering to all colors and kinds of people. Most were poor and many wrestled with the typical inner-city problems of drug or alcohol abuse and the pain of disintegrating families. At the time, the New York City area, with its challenging social problems and urban decay, was kind of a “forgotten mission field.” Most church buildings were nearly vacant on Sundays since their once-strong congregations (and their denominations) had long before fled to suburbia. But Pastor Cymbala and Carol believed that this was the very spot where God’s love could meet the most desperate of human needs. Right away they realized the necessity of real prayer to secure God’s grace and power in their ministry. The Tuesday Night Prayer Meeting, though very small at the start, became a central feature in the life of the church and has remained so to this day.

Realizing the limited impact that any one church can have in a large metropolis like New York, the leadership of the Brooklyn Tabernacle began to plant churches in other needy areas of the city. As they trained pastors and sent them out with small groups of workers from the congregation, a replication of the work in downtown Brooklyn was begun. At the same time, The Brooklyn Tabernacle began to look beyond its own locale to plant missionary stations that have grown and evolved in impoverished places like Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Over the years, other works have been established by the grace of God in Israel, Guyana, and the Philippines. The leadership for most of these ministries has been raised up by God from the congregation, which itself represents so many parts of the world. These missions have experienced a demonstration of the far-reaching power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today Pastor Cymbala oversees a congregation of several thousand people. Many of the inner- city problems are still there, but so is the congregation’s dependency upon the grace of God, who has raised up workers to direct outreach to children, women, men, youth, seniors, the homeless and people in shelters, among others (The Brooklyn Tabernacle).

So my pastor friend was displaying fuzzy Christian thinking with his statement that Jim Cymbala had a ‘perceived successful past’. This is misrepresentation through use of a logical fallacy of biased sample. One could arrive at a conclusion of ‘perceived successful past’ by ignoring or distorting the evidence.

How should I respond to this agitated brother in Christ who is a long-term friend? I have preached in his church.

Fuzzy thinking and judgmental attitude

I replied that I thought he was being way too harsh on Jim Cymbala. The fact that he mentioned George Wood in a sermon does not in any way indicate that Cymbala agrees with what George Wood said and did with the Mormons. With his making that kind of association, I told him that he had committed a genetic logical fallacy. Because Cymbala mentioned Wood does not make Cymbala’s exposition false or improper. A genetic logical fallacy ‘is a line of “reasoning” in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence for the claim or thing’ (Nizkor Project 1991-2012).

I asked: Are you going to invalidate Albert Mohler’s ministry as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary  because he also addressed the Mormon Brigham Young University? See:A clear and present danger‘. I asked him not to associate me with promotion of double-speak. When my wife and I were living in the USA, I was invited to speak (we both sang and played – piano and guitar) at a Mormon break-away group, The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was very clear on where I stood on the exclusivity of salvation through Christ alone.

I told that Christian minister that I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of ‘double-speak’ out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke.

It is my view that Cymbala was spot on with his emphasis from Acts 13:1-4. I think that Jim hit the mark, a message that many contemporary evangelical churches need to hear.

How would you expect my pastor friend to reply?

‘There is no other name’

The pastor said that it was not only that Jim Cymbala mentioned George Wood but also that he did it in ‘in the immediate context of his commending the early Christians for standing for the uniqueness of salvation through Jesus – “there is no other name”’. He claimed that I missed the point because Wood has ‘forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA [Assemblies of God USA] has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

He did clarify that his reference to ‘double speak’ was to Jim C and George W and not to me and my preaching at a break-away Mormon group.

How should I reply?

Misrepresenting my views

I told him that I do not appreciate it when he misrepresents what I said to him. This is what I wrote: ‘I do not endorse what George Wood did, but that does not make a devil of “double-speak” out of Jim Cymbala because he mentioned George Wood who was in the meeting where Cymbala spoke’.

His statement to me was, ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

At no point have I ever said that I justify what the Assemblies of God – USA did. I exhorted him to please not misrepresent my view and invent what I did not say. He can stand his ground. That is his business. But misrepresenting my views is reprehensible.

Jim Cymbala was not engaged in double-speak in his exposition of Acts 13:1-4 and its application to the contemporary church. By this pastor’s saying that ‘Jim Cymbala referred admiringly to George Wood’, it says absolutely nothing about Jim C supporting George W’s position on the Mormons. As I said previously, that is his use of a genetic logical fallacy, which promotes illogic and prevents us having a rational conversation on this topic.

The pastor’s response to my calling him for misrepresenting my view and his use of a logical fallacy was that ‘by arguing about words we will get nowhere. The issue as far as I am concerned is JC [Jim Cymbala] and his impassioned appeal to return to fundamental Christianity with the spectre of GW’s [George Wood’s] treachery hanging over the entire scene. I am sorry that you deduced some attack on yourself by my words. That certainly was not my intention’.

My response was that I did not say that he attacked me. I said that he misrepresented what I said (he lied about what I stated) and that’s what he did. I asked him to repent of this sin towards me and acknowledge the sin he had committed?

We are not arguing about words. I am discussing his illogic in his use of a genetic logical fallacy in his associating Jim Cymbala with George Wood’s ‘liaison’ with Mormons. What Jim said had nothing to do with endorsing George Wood on Mormonism. I asked him: ‘Don’t you understand the danger in conversation when you use logical fallacies? I urge you to gain an understanding on how you did this. I have provided you with a link to the nature of a genetic logical fallacy (see above)’.

His reply demonstrated that he did not understand the seriousness of what he did in misrepresenting = lying about what I said. This person is a long-term friend with whom I’ve had many times of wonderful fellowship in the Lord and disagreement over certain issues. This was another one of the latter. He stated that he did not want to continue the conversation ‘in which you attribute to me an accusation about lies is descending to a level that I don’t want to pursue in the interests of mutual respect and friendship’.

Now he said that he would not continue the conversation, but what did he do? He came back with ‘obviously we both feel disappointed and I’m sorry I raised the matter with you’. Then he went on to accuse me of misrepresenting him ‘in not accepting or inter-relating with my point’. I have no idea what he means by this because I have rejected his point of Jim Cymbala supporting what George Wood is doing with the Mormons. I have been inter-relating with him if that means I am in email conversation with him. However, I have no idea what he is driving at when he accuses me of not inter-relating with his point. If I disagree with his point, does that mean I am not relating with him. That is a misunderstanding of the meaning ofrelatein the English language.

He stated that he feels no need to repent and that he is sorry that I feel the way I do. It has nothing to do with how I ‘feel’. It has everything to do with what he wrote in his email and what he sated about my views. He wrote: ‘Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’.

That is where he was lying about me. I never, ever justified anything to do with George Wood and Jim Cymbala’s ‘liaison’ with Mormonism. I did not justify it. I did not try hard to justify it. I NEVER justified it. That’s where he lied about me. Why can’t he own up to his sin against me on this occasion?

Slipping and sliding Christian

How do you think he replied to my charge that he lied to me when he said, ‘you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’? His reply was that his comment ‘was intended as a generic comment and was not directed against you. To the extent that you saw it that way, I do sincerely apologise. I think taking it in the context most would agree that I was not implying that you were trying to justify GW or JC in their respective views on Mormonism, whatever they may happen to be. I trust this puts the matter to rest. I will not respond further unless something new comes up’.

I find his labelling it as a ‘generic comment’ to be his rationalisation – trying to squirm out of admitting what he did. Why? I doubt his explanation because of the way he was addressing me in the email. When he wrote ‘you’, he was referring to me as he was writing to me. These are his exact words: ”Also you have missed the point. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far and you can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’ (emphasis added). The personal pronoun, ‘you’, is used three times in these two sentences. The meaning comes from the first use of ‘you’ which states, ‘Also you have missed the point’.  Who has missed the point? I have missed the point he is trying to make. He is not making the point to some generic you that he claims. The two uses of ‘you’ that immediately follow are based on the meaning of the first ‘you’. The first ‘you’ is definitely referring directly to me: ‘You have missed the point’. So the other meanings of ‘you’ are also addressed to me. Therefore, this brother in Christ is engaged in slipping and sliding about the meaning of what he said, i.e. he was rationalising his lying behaviour about what he said to me.

I cannot agree that he was using it in the generic sense as the context of those two sentences demonstrate. My view is that he was engaged in fuzzy Christian thinking. He is trying to wriggle out of his lying about me by rationalising. I could be wrong in this understanding, but the context of the three uses of ‘you’ is dictated by the first meaning. And that was definitely directed at me, ‘You have missed the point’.

It doesn’t put it to rest for me because I see it as a classic example of a Christian who is rationalising to cover up his sin against me. He was addressing me directly and when he said, ‘You can’t justify it no matter how hard you try’, he was addressing me in the singular in an email. It was ‘you’ singular to whom he was speaking but he wants to get off the hook by saying that it was intended as ‘a generic comment’. I am not convinced. It was a specific comment to me but he is not at the point of acknowledging it as lying to me. I’ll have to leave it rest with him and the Lord. I have made no further contact via email with him.

This, as I see it, is fuzzy thinking where he is a slipping-and-sliding Christian who is into avoidance. He is not being transparently honest with me. I did my best to convince him, but he was not moved. He gave me his made-up spiel of filtered reasoning, saying it was a generic meaning. It seems as though it was designed to get him off the hook, but I don’t buy it. Fuzzy thinking is what I call it.

What do the Scriptures say about doing things this way? Does it have anything to indicate how people need to deal with those who lie? Both Old and New Testaments are clear about lying being forbidden and what happens to liars:

arrow-small Proverbs 19:9, ‘A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish’ (ESV).

arrow-small Proverbs 12:22, ‘Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight’.

arrow-small Psalm 101:7 ‘No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes’.

arrow-small Colossians 3:9-10 ‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’.

arrow-small  John 2:4 ‘Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’.

arrow-small Ephesians 4:25 ‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another’.

The Scripture is very clear that the false witness, liar, and deceitful person should not be found among Christians. Therefore, my interaction with the Christian pastor who seems to be lying about what I said, is to leave him with the Lord. I am not the final judge. I can only make my assessment with what he said in context. And it certainly seemed to be dishonesty through the words he delivered.

Another side to Jim Cymbala

There’s another perspective on the Jim Cymbala story that I became aware of when I was advised by Steve Langella on 9 March 2017 through the ‘Contact Form’ on this website. Steve’s story of his sister, Roberta Langella, and Jim Cymbala are quite alarming, in my view, and are explained in these two articles:

Flower7The Story Behind the Story – Roberta Langella and Pastor Jim Cymbala – Part 1’ (October 16, 2016), and

Flower7In Roberta’s Own Words – The Story Behind the Story of Jim Cymbala and Roberta Langella – Part 2’ (October 28, 2016).

Flower7 See also Seth Dunn’s article in Pulpit & Pen, ‘Jim Cymbala and the Ghost of Testimonies Past’ (October 28, 2016).

It is my view that this tragedy should not be swept under the carpet.

Being cobelligerent or joining a false anti-Christ religion

I said to my friend that he claimed that George Wood had ‘a liaison with a false anti-Christ religion’ in his association with Mormons. I mentioned that I thought that it would do him good to read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming cobelligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

What is the abortion situation in Australia? These were 2009 figures:

How many abortions occur in Australia?

Life Network Australia – Monday, July 13, 2009

clip_image001 Abortion crosses in a field

An estimated 80,000 – 90,000 surgical abortions are performed in Australia each year.This equates to approximately 250 per day, or one abortion for every 2.8 live births. One in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

An accurate number can not be calculated using the current systems of statistical collection. 5 An analysis of the available data has been prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

There are no statistics available for the number of chemical abortions in Australia. The ‘morning after pill’, Postinor-2 is available over the counter and accounts for an unknown number of early abortions. A combination of drugs, Methotrexate and Misoprostal, is also widely used to induce abortion before 7 weeks gestation. This is done as a general consult by doctors and the number is not recorded.

For anyone or any group that stands against this holocaust, I will join with them to oppose such slaughter as a cobelligerent.

What is a cobelligerent?

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

Francis Schaeffer.jpg

Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a cobelligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

 Theopedia provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[2] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians have issues with a cobelligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration. There are dangers in being a cobelligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions. This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent. Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of cobelligerence. These are:

1. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so outside the authority of Scripture and therefore cannot affirm Sola Scriptura in its practice.

2. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so without “preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For the sake of cultural unity the offence of the cross is purposely removed.

3. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence adopt a secular view of being salt and light—applying that reality to anyone who rallies with them on the social cause which their moral conscience agrees.

4. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so in support of a moral imperative derived from works righteousness thinking God is pleased and society redeemed with the veneer of pseudo-spirituality.

5. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence do so to the purposed exclusion and amputation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in their social causality.

6. DANGER: People who champion co-belligerence must yoke themselves with nonbelievers; they do so in direct disobedience to God’s Word forfeiting His favor and invoking His judgment.

7.DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence lose sight of eternity in those because of temporary social moorings and therefore become calloused and hardened against the very ones that need the gospel. They therefore cannot fulfill the Great Commission for they have elevated worldly concerns above another eternals soul.

8. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence live as political agitators fighting for morality against the very authorities that the Lord has sovereignly placed in power.

9. DANGER: People who champion cobelligerence fight to protect religious rights, violate the Scriptures in John 18:36 where our Lord said, “if my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would be fighting.” But His kingdom is not of this world—all our rights lie only in Christ.

10. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence seldom get around to sharing the gospel with their opponents; the societal concerns on cultural or political issues have overshadowed and robbed them of seeing their opponents as sinners in need of Christ (cp, Luke 14:21ff).

11. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence dumb-down the body of Christ to the status of a political action committee for the purpose of flexing our religious muscle to sway candidates, issues, morals, elections and party platforms to line up with our social-moral values. This violates the standard of Scripture as to the purpose and function of God’s church: “which is the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

12. DANGER: People who champion evangelical co-belligerence will never win the culture wars, though they might improve them some. But they will have failed miserably by sacrificing the gospel message, sound doctrine, theology, the church, and the biblical duties that the Lord has called us to all along “for a piece of political pie” with the reward of temporary fame, increased fortune and the still unrealized fantasy of a moral Christianized world without Christ and His truth at the core.

These dangers are minimised, in my underst nding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of cobelligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a cobelligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

Dr George O Wood

General Superintendent

What about George Wood and the Mormons?

What is the truth about what George Wood has been doing in his meeting with the Mormon leadership and speaking to students at Brigham Young University? There is an organisation called TruthKeepers that was concerned over George Wood’s association with the Mormons. C H Fisher of TruthKeepers opposed George Wood and his association with the Mormons. In September 2013, Fisher wrote:

AoG General Superintendent George Wood Validates Mormonism

Posted on September 25, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

Assemblies of God “CEO” George Wood recently addressed Mormon students and faculty. After reading the article about his speech I am convinced that he did more to validate Mormonism than he did to identify it as outside of Christianity. One of the most chilling statements in the article (Assembly of God CEO addresses BYU students) is, “Wood showed that God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” It is as if Wood doesn’t recognize Mormonism as a cult. But surely he must know the truth. How long will it be before Mormon evangelists are preaching in A0G churches? How can the AoG stop that from occurring since Wood has set a precedent? The part about “God playing a role” in all religions reveals his ecumenical agenda. It is the same agenda as the heretical and diabolical Emergent Church Movement, i.e., the merger of all religions into one under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. What about the next time men in white shirts and black pants, riding bicycles two by two, knock on an AoG adherent’s door? Wood had better hope and pray a weak soul does not answer, especially one who knows that Wood has cast his favor on Mormonism. He will be held accountable for their lives on the Day of Judgment.

It is time for AoG ministers and members to accept the fact that their movement has been infiltrated and seized by emergent heretics that are intent on converting it into the largest New Age denomination in the world. George Wood is obviously a Rick-Warren-style heretic, the friendly face of evil, a beguiling most effective tactic of Satan. Some people may protest my calling George Wood a heretic. I do not do so pejoratively, but as a logical conclusion of his actions and words. I defend my remark by pointing to the fact that we should not be swayed by outward appearances, clever words, or people’s positions. It is tempting to become enamored by the sheep’s clothing, and fail to recognize the evil within. We should also be careful not to be desensitized by the last day’s wickedness that is suffocating our world today. It is obvious to any Spirit-filled believer that Wood is not acting under the auspices of the Holy Spirit. If he is not being led by God, there is only one other entity that could be leading him.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14 NKVJ)

When will AoG ministers and members take a bold stand? It costs something to stand, and the price can be very heavy. Ministers could be charged by the hierarchy for insurrection and excommunicated. Members might lose their membership. However, those are small prices compared to what the persecuted church is paying in other parts of the world. Complaining about the issue on forums and blogs will not solve the problem. I know people stuck in the apostate Episcopal Church that have been complaining about the degradation for decades, but have done nothing about it. They will complain until the day they die and evil will march onward unmolested, gobbling up souls as it goes. If professing Christians cannot even stop one man from perverting their Movement, how are they going to fare in the really dark days of unprecedented evil dominion? If they compromise now, how far will they compromise then to avoid discomfort and inconveniences?

God must be dealing with many individuals about this, but they are ignoring Him. They would never willingly attend a satanic meeting, but they would allow heretics speak at their meetings, to invade their organization, to dominate them, and to represent them. They did not act when Wood invited heretical Rick Warren to speak at the General Council. Therefore, Wood was not hindered from inviting a pagan to speak at the most recent General Council. Again, there was no measurable resistance. Therefore, he is emboldened to speak favorably at a Mormon meeting. When the next outrage occurs, will they express shock and voice complaints until the shock wears off? Will they then mumble until the next outrage occurs only to react in the same way? Everyone appears to be whistling past the graveyard, hoping it will all blow over and things will return to normal. That is not going to happen. It is a spiritual cancer that cannot be wished or ignored away.

Lack of organized resistance allows and in fact emboldens evil people to commit more evil as they grow in power. Whether it is a nation, organization, or a small group, lack of action is the fodder that evil grows in. Cattle may complain about the treatment they are receiving, but will do little of nothing about it. They outnumber their handlers, but allow themselves to be controlled and harvested. Imagine the same number of lions being herded by a few people into a pen for slaughter. I am reminded of an old adage. “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Another one that is equally relevant is, “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” I do not know the source of these quotes, but I recognize the heart.

This was George Wood’s response that was published on the TruthKeepers website of 26 September 2013:

George Wood Explains his Involvement with the LDS

Posted on September 26, 2013 by C.H. Fisher

It was my privilege and opportunity to speak with students last week at Brigham Young University on my faith and family. For those who may have questions regarding my appearance at BYU and meetings with some in the LDS leadership, let me provide some context.

In the greater Salt Lake City area there is an evangelical association called Standing Together. It’s comprised of approximately 100 evangelical churches that in recent years have been reaching out in friendship to LDS leaders and members. Our Assemblies of God pastors and churches in Salt Lake City are involved in Standing Together. Such contacts have produced an openness not previously experienced. Just two weeks before me, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Theological Seminary in Charlotte, spoke at BYU. Two weeks after me, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, will speak at BYU. And, it is my understanding that Ravi Zacharias has been invited to return to preach at the Mormon Tabernacle early next year. He has done so previously.

Two years ago the National Association of Evangelicals held a meeting in Salt Lake City. At that time, Standing Together arranged a meeting with approximately 125 or so of us in the governor’s mansion for an address by a top LDS leader, Dr. Jeffrey Holland. That resulted in a conversation and friendship between him and me that ultimately led to my being invited to speak at BYU and also have opportunity to meet with several LDS leaders and a few members of the BYU Law School and Religious Education faculties regarding common concerns: religious liberty, how to work effectively to resist the cultural and secular pressures to push persons of faith out of the public square, the increasing coarseness within secular culture and the pressure that exerts on youth; as well as issues related to abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and end of life concerns.

I was invited to speak to BYU students on the subject of Faith and Family. There were no restrictions on what I could say. One of the key leaders, knowing my personal testimony, requested that I speak on this subject. Students were not required to attend and gave up their lunch hour to do so. About 400 students crammed into every seat in the auditorium, and the overflow room – twice the size of the auditorium – also filled up with students. For 45 minutes, I spoke freely about how the Pentecostal Movement came to be, how the Assemblies of God arose out of that Movement, how my parents became AG missionaries, miracles in my family including my Dad (through the intercessory prayer of my mother) who was spared from poisoning by Tibetans on the mission field and my sister being healed of near blindness when she was 18. I told how during a revival at Central Bible College she had a vision of Christ on the cross, reached to take blood from the cross to apply to her eyes, but in actual reality took her glasses off and flung them across the platform. When she came out of the vision, she had perfect sight. I talked freely about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. I went on then to share my experience of faith, and ended by noting that faith is not subjective but is based on the objective reality of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. The students listened in rapt attention and when I was finished, gave a prolonged ovation. I leave the results to the Lord.

I’m providing for you a quote from one of our AG pastors, Ray Smith, pastor of Salt Lake Christian Center. He was in the audience at BYU.
———
Dr. Wood,
Thank you so much for your lecture that I was privileged to attend. Your message obviously led by the Holy Spirit was exceptional. I cannot help but intercede for the hundreds of students that were able to hear you talk in their language (Story, Family and Faith) as if you were talking to a group of CBC students. Telling your story of your search for truth and the markers of faith that influence your decisions is, (in my opinion) exactly what they needed to hear. Theology with a personal narrative is so compelling to LDS students. I know that we will see fruit in eternity from your willingness to go out of the box and into the marketplace of the Mormon faith.
———-
The Executive Leadership Team and the Executive Presbytery have been kept fully informed and have approved my willingness to establish these contacts and relationships. I do not pretend to know what the Holy Spirit might be doing within the LDS leadership, but I do believe the Spirit opened this door.

There is much more I could say, but those who trust my leadership will know that I would not have opened this door except the Spirit and our leaders “bade me go.” For those who do not trust my leadership, probably nothing I say will suffice and I simply leave that to the Lord.

There was a release from BYU [Brigham Young University] that some are quoting and I close with reference to that. On the whole the release summarized well my visit, closing with this quote from me, “The whole aspect of the Christian faith, and my personal faith, rests upon whether or not Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.”

There are two brief references in the BYU release that require my clarification.

First, there was no interfaith discussion with the students. The leadership of BYU placed no restrictions on my message to the students and I freely shared about my faith and family. I did have private discussions with several in LDS leadership regarding the differences that separate us doctrinally; but also we discussed where we could work together within the public square on religious liberty and issues of morality.

Second, the BYU release quoted me as saying that “God is playing a role in all religions and that Christians are more united than they sometimes think.” While I do believe that the Holy Spirit is seeking to draw all persons to Jesus, I did not state what was attributed to me, but I do believe that there is common ground on issues facing our country and culture that we can stand united on. If evangelicals, Roman Catholics, LDS and others can stand together on issues of marriage as between a man and woman, right to life, and religious freedom – our country and culture will be better for it.

Finally, I must say that all within the LDS community treated me with utmost kindness and respect. One of their senior leaders said to me, “America needs the Assemblies of God.” I believe that was said most sincerely. I love and pray for the friends I have made within the LDS community over these past two years. I live, pray, and witness in expectation that we will live to see the prophecy of Pentecost fulfilled, that in these last days the Spirit will be poured out on all.

Thank you for your patience and prayers. I trust this explanation is helpful to you. Blessings!

You can read C H Fisher’s response to George Wood’s address at:My Response to George Wood’s Explanation of Involvement with the LDS‘. This is Fisher’s conclusion re George Wood, the Assemblies of God (USA), and the Mormons:

I believe that it is obvious the Holy Spirit was not involved in this event. After two years of involvement with Mormons, Dr. Wood has made some dear friends, bonded with LDS leaders, won their respect, and incited them to believe that they have achieved one of their major goals, acceptance by mainstream Christianity. One could hobnob with a group of atheists in the same manner, speak at their conference, and leave them with the same impression. It all adds up to one thing, i.e., there was no conviction by the Holy Spirit at that meeting. However, Dr. Wood claims that he was led by the Holy Spirit. I find it difficult to believe that a group of people immersed in great darkness, deceived and most likely possessed by demons, would feel comfortable, accepted by, and a kinship with the Holy Spirit. I also doubt that the Holy Spirit would pass up an opportunity to convict such a group of their lostness and bondage. Conviction is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8 NKJV)

Although sinners may feel a Christian’s love, acceptance, and compassion for them, they will also feel conviction. I do not believe that it is possible to be anointed by the Holy Spirit without sinners being convicted. Further, I do not believe it is possible for a Spirit-filled believer to speak to a group of deceived and delusional sinners without his or her words being anointed unless the believer has somehow quenched the Holy Spirit. If ones agenda is to gain respect, cause people to feel comfortable and accepted, and to establish a bond of friendship and communion, there will be no conviction in that one’s words. In fact, that agenda is carried out by thousands of Christian preachers every Sunday morning. Some of them, such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Judah Smith, and other pastors of mega churches, are masters of speaking without a hint of conviction. They convert a great number of followers, not of Christ, but of them. Accolades from sinners after one speaks are the hallmark of a dead message, enticing words of man’s wisdom, lacking the demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power.

Dr. Wood apparently believes that he was led by the Holy Spirit to spend two years with an Emergent group currying the favor of the LDS. But remember, this is the same Dr. Wood that invited a New Age guru, Ruth Haley Barton, to speak at the General Council. He is the same AoG leader that promotes Spiritual Formation and its deadly heresy Contemplative Prayer. It is the same Dr. Wood that supports Emergent heretic Rick Warren. This is the Dr. Wood that engineered and ensconced into the AoG an ecumenical agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. Now he joins with an ecumenical/interfaith group to socialize with and give validity to Mormonism. In my opinion, Dr. Wood is in lockstep with the Emergent Church Movement and will continue to carrying out what he believes is God’s agenda to turn the AoG into the largest New Age denomination in the world. His clever response will be sufficient for individuals that need only the skin of a reason to continue supporting him. For the ones that discern by the Holy Spirit, it falls well short of an adequate explanation.

I have asked my pastor friend to provide me with documentation to support his claim from George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA that  ‘George Wood, who has formed a liaison with Mormons…. GW has now forged a link with Mormons. Yes A/G-USA has gone that far’.

I asked: Has this link denied the Trinitarian faith and the uniqueness of salvation through Christ alone? Has this link with the Mormons denied the deity of Jesus Christ and supported the view that we can become gods (Mormon doctrine)? What evidence does he have that George Wood and the Assemblies of God – USA have denied the fundamentals of the evangelical faith in their ‘liaison’ (his word) with the Mormons?

He has made some strong allegations against George Wood and the USA A/G and their connection with the Mormons. I have asked him to provide me with documentation of this from George Wood and the USA that confirms their denial of fundamentals of the evangelical faith?

A Mormon interview with George Wood

The Mormon publication, Deseret News, published this interview on 24 September 2013,George Wood, head of the Assemblies of God: Flexibility fosters growth’. Was there any emphasis on the fundamentals of the evangelical/Pentecostal faith in this interview? It needs to be remembered that this is the published interview that would need to be consistent with Deseret News policy and LDS doctrine. I could not find any published emphasis on the evangelical fundaments that were significantly different from LDS teaching. These are a few grabs from that interview:

6pointblue-small ‘My parents were pioneer missionaries in China (where he was born in 1943) and Tibet. It has given me a great love for missions and for reaching people who don’t know the Lord’.

6pointblue-small ‘While across the world our doctrine is the same, we have developed a very flexible structure in terms of how the church organizes itself…. We are also very flexible in style of worship’.

6pointblue-small ‘In the U.S. one-third of our people are under the age of 25. Worldwide it is the same. One of the reasons is, while we have stayed true to our understanding of apostolic doctrine, we have been extremely flexible in terms of our structures and worship style and creative in our ways to reach people.

We place a great deal of focus on discipleship and personal experience through … the baptism of the Holy Spirit, where we encourage personal prayer and the laying on of hands from which we expect young people to receive the gift of the spirit evidenced through praying in a language they did not learn, or speaking in tongues’.

There is no firm statement here of salvation through faith in Christ alone, affirmation of the Trinitarian faith and the deity of Christ. It amounts to speculation if we want to assume why there are not such statements. It may be because (1) The context of the interview was not to deal with fundamentals of the faith; (2) George Wood did not make such statements, or (3) George Wood made such statements but those which would conflict with Mormon doctrine were excluded from the published interview. There could be a number of other reasons.

In summary

In promoting an outstanding sermon by Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle online, I got into an unexpected discussion with a pastoral friend who wanted to associate Jim Cambala’s message with an endorsement of General Superintendant George Wood’s (AoG USA) association with Mormons. In opposing Cymbala and Wood, my friend used a genetic logical fallacy, accused me of agreeing with such a view (then backed off, saying the ‘you’ had a generic meaning). He engaged in some fuzzy Christian thinking, in my estimation, in his interaction with me. This short article is designed to demonstrate how Christians ought to quit their fuzzy thinking and get back to transparent communication. I can be guilty of such as well and need to be called to account if I do that.

Sadly, there’s a negative side to Cymbala’s situation with the suicide of Roberta Langella.

Works consulted

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

The Nizkor Project 1991 – 2012. Fallacy: Genetic fallacy (online). Available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/genetic-fallacy.html (Accessed 25 October 2013).

Notes:


[1] This article states that:

The son of missionary parents to China and Tibet, Dr. Wood holds a doctoral degree in pastoral theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and a juris doctorate from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif. He did his undergraduate work at Evangel College in Springfield, MO and served the college in several capacities, including being director of spiritual life and student life from 1965-71. Dr. Wood was ordained with the Southern Missouri District in 1967 (‘General Superintendent Dr. George O Wood’, Accessed 25 October 2013).

[2] Steve Camp, ‘The Great Divide’.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 March 2017.

Choice or determinism in salvation

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Joshua 24:15: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’

Spencer D Gear

Path Pick

ChristArt

It is common in online forums for Calvinists to push the line that people do not have the choice to choose to serve the Lord God or Jesus, or to reject him. This happened in one thread where I contribute.

There was this statement by a noted Calvinist on the forum: ‘Israel didn’t choose to be chosen by God. God took it upon himself to choose them’.[1]

My brief response was:[2]

You seem to be overlooking Joshua 24:14-15,

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (ESV)

Israel has a choice as to which God/gods they would serve. That’s Bible!clip_image001

The reply was: ‘What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?’[3]

I replied: [4]

What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?

The text is clear. Please read it: Choose…

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘whom you will serve’;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods your fathers served’, OR

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘the gods of the Amorites;

10tn_.jpg 0.9K ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).

The ability of contrary choice is given by God to all people. And it started in the garden with Adam in choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil OR not to choose such.

Why do you find this so difficult to understand when the Scriptures are crystal clear? Well, they are crystal clear in my hermeneutical understanding.

This fellow came back:

Joshua told them to choose from between their false gods. He never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God.

He didn’t say "choose this day whom you will server, whether the gods of the Amorites, or the gods your fathers served, or the Lord".

thus, you are using that verse out of context. you are using it in application for something it doesn’t even support.[5]

Is there real choice for unbelievers and Christians in things of God?

Life Voyage

ChristArt

I responded to the above person:[6]

That is not what it says in context. Joshua 24:14-17 reads:

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed (ESV, emphasis added)

Note the points in context:

  1. ‘Fear the Lord and serve him’ (v 14). This is a command to fear the Lord God.
  2. ‘Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord’ (v 14). So their fathers served foreign ‘gods’ and they were commanded to fear the Lord God and to put away foreign Gods. The choice was between the Lord God and false gods. Your charge against me is thus shown to be false.
  3. The v. 15 makes the choice clear: Serve the Lord OR the gods your fathers served OR the gods of the Amorites. They were told that they had a choice to make. That’s what this verse states. It’s a similar choice to what Adam had in the garden to choose between the tree of knowledge of good or evil. He chose the evil and we’ve had to struggle with sinful vs godly choices ever since. That’s Bible.
  4. The people chose to not forsake the Lord and serve other gods (v 16). They had a choice. The ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ was as real for them as it is for us today.
  5. Then evidence is given for the nature of the actions of the Lord God and how he had acted on their behalf in the past. Interesting, isn’t it?, of God providing evidence of his actions on their behalf.

I find this person’s charge that Joshua ‘never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God’, to be false – based on the biblical evidence from Joshua 24.

Spin doctors

Image:Bowl Leg Spin Step 1.jpg

Leg spin cricket grip (WikiHow)

There are various other grips in leg spin bowling in cricket (wrong-un, flipper, stock ball) that are designed to deceive the batsman. When people speak spin, they use terminology and description designed to deceive the listener in some way. In my country of Australia it is standard to hear politicians being interviewed and no matter what the question, the standard or populist party line is promoted. When politicians do this kind of thing in interviews, some commentators call it ‘spin’.

Andrew Bolt’s articles often call politicians for the ‘spin’ they use to try to deceive listeners. See:

16tn_.jpg 0.9KRudd’s spin just cooks that goose worse’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMaking Indonesia spin Labor’s lines’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

16tn_.jpg 0.9KMundine slams Rudd’s “political negative spin”’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).

See the articles:

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin undermines democracy (Sydney Morning Herald);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin: politicians, journalists and spin doctors (BBC interview);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Spin doctor exodus as political wheel turns (The Australian);

5tn_.jpg 1.1K Political spin checklist (ABC, The Drum).

Spin doctors in Christianity

This is the kind of thing that some Christians can get up to when promoting a certain theological perspective. And that’s what it is because, no matter what the interviewer asks, the person interviewed gives the same old, pre-programmed answer that the party line requires. It is an unthoughtful response that does not answer the question asked by the interviewed. It simply goes onto the party line and avoids dealing with the issues raised. See:

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Christian spin doctors (Know it’s true);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Debunking The ‘War On Christianity’: The Dangers Of Out-Of-Control Spin (Americans United);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K A postmodern spin on religion: Pagan Christianity (Albert Mohler, MP3);

20tn_.jpg 1.1K Mortification of Spin is the "best Christian Podcast ever" – Frank Turk, blogger and speaker (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);

Some can get quite brazen in what they call ‘spin’ in association with Christianity. One fellow who calls himself, SinfulSaint, wrote: ‘Apologetics is the art of reframing a belief so that it becomes believable; it’s spin doctoring for religion. I hate to inform you good folks but you all are tools of the spin doctors’ (Topix, ‘Christian Spin Doctors’, SinfulSaint#1).  An immediate response was, ‘Careful, your ignorance is showing:-) I’d verture a guess you are not a member of your local Tea Party:-)’ [BarnsWeb]. SinfulSaint’s reply was:

According to the Bible, the sun revolves around the Earth.(Job 9:7 and Joshua 10:12-13, Psalms 93:1, Psalms 96:10, 2 Samuel 22:16) I’m sorry to disappoint you folks; the sun does not revolve around the earth.

Per the Bible, the Earth is flat (Job 28:24, Matthew 4:8, Daniel 4:10-11). The last time I looked, it was round.

Per the Bible, the Earth has pillars (Job 9:6, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 26:11, Psalms 75:3). Pillars? No comment needed; speaks for itself.

“And the hare, because he cheweth the cud he is unclean unto you.”(Lev. 11:6). Okay, maybe Rabbits evolved a bit since then. Rabbits do not chew their cud. They "re’chew" partially digested droppings in the early morning hours to get more nutrients out of them (SinfulSaint#4).

If you read these verses in, say, the English Standard Version, you’ll find that they do not say what SinfulSaint claims. So SinfulSaint is really using a straw man logical fallacy.

However, I find Calvinists and Arminians can use ‘spin’ on Christian forums. They can give the pre-programmed position of their theological positions to put on an acceptable face for the reader, without engaging in a reasoned response. Thoughtful Christians requires Christians to be renewed in their minds so that they can think Christianly. This also means giving a fair and reasonable interpretation of the biblical text. This is best done when the interpreter has a knowledge of the original languages of Hebrew and Aramaic for the OT and koine Greek for the NT. However, a comparison of excellent modern translations can help to gain the possible differences of interpretation from the original text. I recommend:

2tn_.jpg 1.0K English Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Revised Standard Version;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New American Standard Bible;

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New King James Version (unfortunately it uses the Textus Receptus for the Greek text);

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New International Version; and

2tn_.jpg 1.0K New Living Translation.

Thoughtful Christianity

Think

ChristArt

Christians not only have a new spiritual heart because of their regeneration in Christ, but also they are called upon to have a renewed mind. Here is a sample of NT and OT verses from the ESV to encourage us to ‘think about these things’:

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Romans 12:1-2, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Psalm 119:11, ‘I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K Ephesians 4:23, ‘And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’,

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K1 Peter 1:13, ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’.

A_righttn_.jpg 0.8K John 8:32, ‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (emphases added in the above verses).

Thoughtful Christianity, including an increasing and growing renewing of the mind, is required for all Christians who want to mature in the faith. I find it helpful to have a person with whom I can be accountable to cause me to think about my faith. But be warned! They are as scarce as hens’ teeth. Most of time I have to rely on solid evangelical apologists, theologians and exegetes to help me with the renewing of my mind! My experience is that thinking Christianity that learns to articulate the faith as it relates to issues in our world, is in short supply.

For me, these Christian scholars who have been of considerable help include: Paul Barnett (history), N T Wright (historical Jesus), D A Carson (exegesis, postmodernism), R C H Lenski (NT exegesis), Ravi Zacharias (apologist), Henry C Thiessen (theologian), William Lane Craig (apologist), Norman Geisler(theologian, apologist), Anthony Thiselton (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Kevin Vanhoozer (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Ben Witherington (historical Jesus), Craig Evans (historical Jesus), Gordon Lewis & Bruce Demarest (integrative theology), and other thoughtful evangelicals.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, Skala#65, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-7/ (Accessed 30 September 2013).

[2] OzSpen#67, ibid.

[3] Skala#76, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[5] Skala#83, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#99, ibid.

 

Copyright (c)  2013 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 30 September 2013.

Why is apologetics in such low demand in the church?

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Seeing Eyes

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was in a discussion on a Christian forum on the question, ‘Is Jesus God?’ A fellow responded:

I have the Bible to do that. If they don’t believe the Bible why woud [sic] they believe what some man says? You and I cannot convince anyone that Jesus was God. Only God’s Holy Spirit can lead people into the truth.[1]

Why was the ministry of apologetics dismissed in this response? My observation of churches in Australia and especially in my region of northern Brisbane suburbs, is that apologetics is rarely ever mentioned. I have been to Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Baptist, Churches of Christ and Pentecostal churches and none of them has apologetics as a core platform of ministry in this very secular Australia.[2] Why is this?

Our pluralistic world

The Areopagus (viewed from the Acropolis)

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

Could you imagine the apostle Paul on the Greek Areopagus (Mars Hill) taking the approach of most Aussie churches and not teaching its people to defend the faith in a secular society? Notice the apostle Paul’s approach according to Acts 17:

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them (Acts 17:22-24 ESV).

Notice these points that I make quickly:

clip_image002 He addressed the false religion of the day, ‘in every way you are very religious’ and that religion was focussed, ‘To the unknown god’ (17:22-23).

clip_image002[1] In exposing this false religion he proceeded to tell them about the one true God and his actions. Take a read of Acts 17:24-28).

clip_image002[2] Then he corrected some of their false doctrine (Acts 17:24-31). Notice what he includes: (a) the divine being, God, was not made of thinks made by a person’s hands. He made the world and he is Lord of heaven and earth; (b) He made all human beings in all nations from one man (wow! He believes in creation without evolution); (c) People should seek God, the one true God, in hope of finding him – and he is not far from every one of us; (d) For all of life, we depend on him; (e) It is time for ignorance to end; God commands all people to repent, and have a guess what? (f) All people will be judged according to the absolute standard of justice/righteousness (God’s justice/righteousness). By inference we can gather that this is not the justice of the secular law courts, and (g) The assurance of this absolutely righteous judgment is demonstrated by God’s raising Jesus from the dead and have a guess what? Jesus will be the judge of all people.

How did the secular people on the Areopagus respond? They reacted in a similar way to today:

  1. Some mocked the very idea of the resurrection from the dead;
  2. Others wanted to hear him again;
  3. Some responded to the gospel and believed in Jesus for salvation. These included ‘Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them’.

We can expect a similar response in secular Australia or among secularists anywhere. Some will scoff, others want to hear more, and some will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and responds in faith to Jesus and be saved.

How dare we not equip our people for this? After all, that is what the role of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers continues to be. God wants these continuing ministries for these reasons:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers,[b] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV).

To equip believers for the role of ministry, including the ministry of apologetics, is the role of the ministry gifts of Christ to the church, articulated in Ephesians 4. Where are the pastors and teachers in local churches who are committed to engaging in apologetics and equipping believers for that task? I cannot imagine a pastor-teacher who equips people for apologetics and is not engaged in such a ministry himself/herself.

Now back to that fellow

How should I respond to the fellow who claimed that we only need the Bible and if people don’t believe the Bible, they won’t believe what any person says. Besides, he clamed that no person can convince anyone that Jesus is God, only the Holy Spirit can lead a person to that truth.

I responded as follows:[3]

We live in a world that also has the Muslim Quran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, etc. How are you going to convince peopel that they ought to listen to the Gospel from the Bible?

The Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ [‘your bosom will burn within you’] that awakened them to the ‘truths’ of Mormonism. How will you convince them that the Holy Spirit leading you into the truth is different from the burning in the bosom and that you have the truth?

Should we proclaim to unbelievers, ‘Just believe’?

How would this person respond?

I can’t convince them. It is not my job to convince them. If given the opportunity all I can do is tell them what I believie [sic] and why I believe it. Then they are God’s problem….

All one can do with Mormons is show them where some things in the other writings, the BOM for example, contradict the Bible and wher [sic] some of the prophecies of past leaders did not happen.

Again I canot [sic] convince them of anything. All I can do is tell them wht [sic] I believe and why I beleive [sic] it. Then it is up to God.

I am in sales not management.[4]

This is an example of why the church is in such a sorry state with its ministry of pre-evangelism, known as apologetics. This ‘just believe’ mentality that it is not the Christian’s responsibility to convince anyone of the Gospel and to clear up difficulties with the Gospel, is expressed here as, ‘all I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it’ and the rest ‘is up to God’. This ‘just believe’ mentality is very damaging to the Christian’s and the church’s responsibility to exercise the ministry of apologetics when people have objections to the Christian faith.

The problem with ‘only believe’ and apologetics

Unwanted Truth

(image courtesy ChristArt)

The main problem is that it contradicts what the Scriptures state about what Paul did in Rome: ‘And some were convinced by what he [Paul] said, but others disbelieved’ (Acts 28:24). So the authoritative Scriptures state that Paul was engaged in the ministry of convincing people of the truth of Christ and the Gospel. See also Acts 14:4; 17:4-5 (here the language is, ‘some of them were persuaded’); 19:9 (here Paul was ‘reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus’); and 23:7.

My response was as follows.[5] The problem with this fellow’s comeback is that it contradicts a command of Scripture, which is the primary reason for doing apologetics with people who have questions about the Christian faith, including questions about the reliability of the Bible.

This is what I find in the command of the fundamental statement of 1 Peter 3:15,

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (ESV).

What is commanded of all Christians?[6] The command in the Greek language is translated at ‘honour’ in the ESV. Other translations have the meaning as:

  • ‘sanctify[7] Christ as Lord’ (NASB; NRSV; NAB);
  • ‘sanctify the Lord God’ (NKJV);
  • ‘revere Christ as Lord’ (NIV);
  • ‘you must worship Christ as Lord’ (NLT);
  • ‘set Christ apart as Lord’ (NET);

So Christians are commanded to honour, sanctify, revere or set apart Christ as the holy Lord and they do that by being ready/prepared to make a defence of the faith to anyone who seeks a reason for the hope that Christians have. They must always be prepared for an apologia (a defence of the faith). How is this to be done? It is delivered with gentleness and respect.

The exhortation here is that all Christians must honour Christ by being ready to do this. Whenever we come across someone who asks tough questions about the Christian faith, including penetrating questions such as, ‘Surely you are not telling me that you accept that Bible crap? (which someone said to me)’, we have to be ready to give a defence (an apologetic). What was this fellow recommending? His statement was that ‘it is not my job to convince them’. That is far from the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15. All Christians, including this fellow, are commanded to give a defence of the biblical perspective. I found him to be diluting – even running away from – the biblical exhortation to be engaged in the pre-evangelistic ministry of apologetics.

Apologetics is pre-evangelistic in the sense that it is an attempt to provide answers to objections to the Christian faith that may be in the way of a person receiving the Gospel message. These are some of the primary objections I have struck over many years of proclaiming the Gospel and defending the Christian faith and have addressed them on this homepage.

3d-red-starThe existence of God.

Some of my other articles examine this topic:

clip_image004[1]  A biblical theist responds to an atheist;

clip_image004[1] Evidence for the existence of God; and

clip_image004[2] What is a biblical method for defending the Christian faith (apologetics)?

3d-red-starThe trustworthiness, integrity and accuracy of the Bible.

See my articles:

clip_image004[3]Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

clip_image004[4]Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

clip_image004[5] Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

clip_image004[6] Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

3d-red-star The problem of evil and suffering.

See my understanding in these articles:

clip_image004[7] September 11 and other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

clip_image004[8] Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

clip_image004[9] Did God create evil?

clip_image004[10] Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

clip_image004[11] ‘I will beat the hell out of God’;

clip_image004[12] Can God do anything and everything?

We may never come across anyone who doubts the authority and integrity of, say, the Bible, but we must be ready – prepared – to respond if someone asks. This is not being ready with this person’s remark, ‘All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem’. That is fobbing off our biblical responsibility.

Yes, we need to be ready to share the truth of what we believe, but we are to give a reason (an apologetic) to those who ask questions – even penetrating questions like, ‘You Bible people don’t seem to have an answer for all the garbage that is happening in the world like Syria, the Sudan, Afghanistan, 9/11, the Japanese tsunami, etc.’

Not everyone will need this kind of pre-evangelism, but when they do seek answers, we must be ready, willing and able to give an answer. This includes being prepared to reply: ‘Wow! That’s a penetrating question and I’ll have to think further about it. Can I get back to you?’

Heart faith and defence faith

Heart Guage

(image courtesy ChristArt)

What is interesting and critical about 1 Peter 3:15 is that it links heart faith with defence faith. Those who honour Christ the Lord in their hearts are also those who are ready and prepared to engage in apologetics for the Christian faith. This is not a, ‘Just believe’, or ‘I tell them what I believe’, kind of response.

If Jesus is truly our Lord, we will want to be obedient to the command of 1 Peter 3:15 and not fob somebody off with, ‘This is what I believe and this is why I believe it’. Instead, we will be eager, prepared and ready to ask: ‘What questions do you have about the Christian faith? Let’s see if we can dialogue to find answers for you and if I don’t know the answers, I’ll seek them out and get back to you’.

First Peter 3:15 goes hand in glove with our biblical requirement in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (ESV).

This requirement is that we, as Christians, not only confront the issues that trouble our own thinking, but also deal with the ‘lofty opinions’ of others that are raised against knowing God, the Bible and other aspects of the Christian faith.

This is some of what the ministry of apologetics involves, but this fellow on the forum fobbed it off with his statement: ‘Again I cannot convince them of anything.  All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then it is up to God. I am in sales not management’.

Biblically, I find this to be a false perspective. He is in sales so he knows that there will be those who object to some features of the product and, if he is pressing for a sale, he will deal with the objections. It is his responsibility to give an apologetic for the Christian faith – he is commanded to honour Christ the Lord and to do that requires that he provide an apologetic response to questions about the faith.

Of course God is involved in convincing people of the truth of the Gospel, but that does not exempt him from engaging in pre-evangelism. He is commanded to engage in apologetics with everyone who seeks answers for their objections to the faith.

Will he become ready and prepared to do this with gentleness and respect? Or will he continue to fob off this responsibility?

Resorting to use of a logical fallacy

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacies

When I shared some of the above material with the fellow mentioned, these were some of his responses:[8]

  • ‘I can and do answer such questions but I cannot convince them they are true and neither can you. Does everyone you explain the Scriptures to fall donw [sic] and worship God? There is no command to convince anyone that the Scriptures are true. Only God the Holy Spirit can do that’.
  • ‘I am prepared to do that and do when somone [sic] asks me to, but I have not convinced many that what I beleive [sic] is true’.
  • ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’.

[9]Telling people what you believe and why you believe it is not the ministry of apologetics of 1 Peter 3:15. Apologetics is not declaration, but an endeavour to wipe away the cobwebs of doubt that are presented to us. It is pre-evangelism.

I told him that if his response to me is any guide, he doesn’t seem to be convinced of the need for the ministry of apologetics, so why would he want to give them an effective apologetic answer? I suggested that he become exposed to more of the teaching of Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler on apologetics. Geisler’s book, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Books 1999) is a marvellous resource for so many aspects of an apologetic ministry with an evangelical Christian response.

When he stated, ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’, he was using a straw man logical fallacy. At no point have I ever stated to this person or anyone else on Christian Fellowship Forum that I’m 100% effective in convincing people. Here he has used a straw man fallacy.

What’s a straw man logical fallacy? Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, professor of philosophy, Florida A&M University, gave this definition:[10]

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version  of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

When a person uses logical fallacies, it makes it extremely difficult to have a logical conversation. Therefore, I find it necessary to expose the use of logical fallacies. I have engaged in discussions on other Christian forums in which I found it necessary to draw attention to such fallacies.

I often find that in TV and radio interviews, politicians are experts at using the red herring fallacy. No matter what question is asked by the interviewer, the politician has a political agenda he/she wants to push and will promote it, no matter what the question that was asked.

In this person’s response to me, there were also elements of a red herring logical fallacy. Dr. Lobossiere explained: ‘A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’.[11]

Conclusion

Faith

(image courtesy ChristArt)

The blind faith brigade – the ‘only believe’ folks have contributed to the downgrade of apologetics in the local church. However, this tends to be associated with what is preached from the pulpit, taught in Sunday School classes, and what is shared/taught in Growth Groups/Life Groups associated with the church. We are reaping the harvest of this in the demise of apologetics at the local church level. Apologetics has reached a very low level of importance in the evangelical church, in my view, for these reasons:

  1. ‘To equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Ephesians 4:12) is not high on the agenda in many of these churches. Getting a handful of leaders to do the ministry is standard fare. So equipping other believers is not a strong suit for pastors and teachers.
  2. Learning to defend the faith, using apologetics, seems to be left to leading public apologists for the Christian faith. A pastor said to me recently, ‘Whenever I have people with questions about evolution and creation, I refer them to Creation Ministries International. They have lots of pertinent responses. I’m not equipped to do that’. Amazing! A pastor who doesn’t want to equip himself to an adequate level to be able to provide a ready apologetic for those who question creation.
  3. When one has a presuppositional approach, ‘Just believe’ and ‘I cannot convince you’, which is being defended in some churches, then evidential apologetics will not be considered a necessary ministry.
  4. I attended an evening presentation in 2013 by leading Indian cultural apologist, Vishal Mangalwadi, ‘What GOOD is Christianity?’ At question time I asked him, ‘Why is the ministry of apologetics given such a low priority in today’s evangelical church?’ He pointed to the contemporary emphasis in churches on telling stories about the faith and this does not harmonise well with the nature of apologetics. I found this to be a pointed and true observation. See Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011. Nashville: Thomas Nelson).
  5. I consider that there is an additional problem: Thinking Christianity is in short supply. In churches that place such a strong emphasis on the experience of knowing Jesus and the charismatic gifts (I am a supporter of such gifts), there is a problem integrating a warm Christian faith with logical, thoughtful, apologetic ministry. That’s why it’s important to emphasise 1 Peter 3:15 as these two ministries go together. They are both needed for the health of the Christian Church. However, there is a necessary biblical emphasis on the need ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph. 4:23) and Christians ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col 3:10).
  6. I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon by a regular pastor of a church on the need to be a thinking Christian who engages in logical discussions, exposes logical fallacies, and uses discernment in knowing when to stop a conversation in pre-evangelism when it becomes argumentative.

If this minimising of the ministry of apologetics is not rectified, there are grim consequences for Christian upper high school and university students who have their faith challenged in these places of learning.

To help equip you for giving a defence of your evangelical faith, seek out these Christian apologists:

# Ravi Zacharias

# William Lane Craig

# Norman Geisler

# John Warwick Montgomery

# Lee Strobel

# Josh McDowell

It is urgent for Aussie evangelical pastor-teachers (and pastor-teachers around the world who are convinced of the authority of Scripture) to be engaged in equipping their young people especially to defend the faith. In learning to defend the faith, God’s people gain a deeper understanding of their own faith and learn to grow up in the grace of God.

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is Jesus God?’, Kermit, who responds sometime as ‘k’ for kcdavis222, #9, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=6&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[2] See the articles: (1) Graeme Innes 2009. ‘Are we really the secular nation we think we are?’ (The Punch, 20 November 2009), available at: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/opinions/are-we-really-secular-nation-we-think-we-are-2009 (accessed 25 September 2013); (2) ‘Australia: A Secular Country?’, Religion and Society, 6 June 2012, available at: http://religionandsocietycourse.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/australia-secular-country.html (Accessed 25 September 2013). (3) Chrys Stevenson 2012. ‘Faith in schools: The dismantling of Australia’s secular public education system’, 22 October. ABC Religion and Ethics, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/10/22/3615647.htm (Accessed 25 September 2013), and (4) Helen Irving 2004. ‘Trespasses in the name of heritage’, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/06/02/1086058915692.html (Accessed 25 September 2013).

[3] Ibid., ozspen #14.

[4] Ibid., ccdavis222 #16.

[5] Ibid., ozspen #20.

[6] For some of the following content, I used material from Norman L Geisler 1999. Apologetics, Need for, in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 37.

[7] The footnote was ‘set apart’.

[8] kcdavis222 #21, loc cit., available at:

http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=16&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[9] This is my answer at ibid., ozspen #24.

[10] The Nizkor Project 1991-2011, Fallacy: Straw Man, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[11] This quotation is courtesy of The Nizkor Project, ‘Fallacy: Red Herring’, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/index.html#index (Accessed 25 September 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 March 2017.

Interested in low interest rates? Try apologetics in the church!

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Full Trust

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

I was in a discussion on a Christian forum on the question, ‘Is Jesus God?’ A fellow responded:

I have the Bible to do that. If they don’t believe the Bible why woud (sic) they believe what some man says? You and I cannot convince anyone that Jesus was God. Only God’s Holy Spirit can lead people into the truth.[1]

Why was the ministry of apologetics dismissed in this response?

Our pluralistic world

I responded as follows:[2]

We live in a world that also has the Muslim Quran, the Hindu Vedas, the Book of Mormon, etc. How are you going to convince people that they ought to listen to the Gospel from the Bible?

The Mormons speak of a ‘burning in the bosom’ that awakened them to the ‘truths’ of Mormonism. How will you convince them that the Holy Spirit leading you into the truth is different from the burning in the bosom and that you have the truth?

Just believe

How would this person reply to such content?

I can’t convince them. It is not my job to convince gthem [sic]. If given the opportunity all I can do is tell them what I believie [sic] and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem….

All one can do with Mormons is show them where some things in the other writings, the BOM for example, contradict the Bible and wher [sic] some of the prophecies of past leaders did not happen.

Again I canot [sic] convince them of anything. All I can do is tell them wht [sic] I believe and why I beleive [sic] it. Then it is up to God.

I am in sales not management.[3]

This is an example of why the church is in such a sorry state with its ministry of pre-evangelism, known as apologetics. This ‘just believe’ mentality that it is not the Christian’s responsibility to convince anyone of the Gospel and to clear up difficulties with the Gospel, is expressed here as, ‘all I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it’ and the rest ‘is up to God’. This ‘just believe’ mentality is very damaging to the Christian’s and the church’s responsibility to exercise the ministry of apologetics when people have objections to the Christian faith.

It is also damaging to the promotion of thinking Christianity. Why are Christians required to ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Rom 12:2) if they are not required to do some biblical thinking and living in the real world?

The problem with ‘only believe’ and apologetics

My response was as follows.[4] The problem with this fellow’s comeback is that it contradicts a command of Scripture, which is the primary reason for doing apologetics with people who have questions about the Christian faith, including questions about the reliability of the Bible.

This is what I find in the command of the fundamental statement of 1 Peter 3:15,

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (ESV).

What is commanded of all Christians?[5] The command in the Greek language is translated at ‘honour’ in the ESV. Other translations have the meaning as:

 

  • ‘sanctify[6] Christ as Lord’ (NASB; NRSV; NAB);
  • ‘sanctify the Lord God’ (NKJV);
  • ‘revere Christ as Lord’ (NIV);
  • ‘you must worship Christ as Lord’ (NLT);
  • ‘set Christ apart as Lord’ (NET);

So Christians are commanded to honour, sanctify, revere or set apart Christ as the holy Lord and they do that by being ready/prepared to make a defence of the faith to anyone who seeks a reason for the hope that Christians have. They must always be prepared for an apologia (a defence of the faith). How is this to be done? It is delivered with gentleness and respect.

The exhortation here is that all Christians must honour Christ by being ready to do this. Whenever we come across someone who asks tough questions about the Christian faith, including penetrating questions such as, ‘Surely you are not telling me that you accept that Bible crap? (which someone said to me)’, we have to be ready to give a defence (an apologetic). What was this fellow recommending? His statement was that ‘it is not my job to convince them’. That is far from the exhortation in 1 Peter 3:15. All Christians, including this fellow, are commanded to give a defence of the biblical perspective. I found him to be diluting – even running away from – the biblical exhortation to be engaged in the pre-evangelistic ministry of apologetics.

Apologetics is pre-evangelistic in the sense that it is an attempt to provide answers to objections to the Christian faith that may be in the way of a person receiving the Gospel message. These are some of the primary objections I have struck over many years of proclaiming the Gospel and defending the Christian faith and have addressed them on this homepage.

3d-red-star-small The existence of God.

See:

A biblical theist responds to an atheist;

Evidence for the existence of God;

What is a biblical method for defending the Christian faith (apologetics)?

3d-red-star-small The trustworthiness, integrity and accuracy of the Bible.

See:

Can you trust the Bible? Part 1

Can you trust the Bible? Part 2

Can you trust the Bible? Part 3

Can you trust the Bible? Part 4

3d-red-star-small The problem of evil and suffering.

See:

September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

Did God create evil?

Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

‘I will beat the hell out of God’;

Can God do anything and everything?

We may never come across anyone who doubts the authority and integrity of, say, the Bible, but we must be ready – prepared – to respond if someone asks. This is not being ready with this person’s remark, ‘All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then they are God’s problem’. That is fobbing off our biblical responsibility.

Yes, we need to be ready to share the truth of what we believe, but we are to give a reason (an apologetic) to those who ask questions – even penetrating questions like, ‘You Bible people don’t seem to have an answer for all the garbage that is happening in the world like Syria, the Sudan, Afghanistan, 9/11, the Japanese tsunami, etc.’

Not everyone will need this kind of pre-evangelism, but when they do seek answers, we must be ready, willing and able to give an answer. This includes being prepared to reply: ‘Wow! That’s a penetrating question and I’ll have to think further about it. Can I get back to you?’

Heart faith and defense of faith

What is interesting and critical about 1 Peter 3:15 is that it links heart faith with defence faith. Those who honour Christ the Lord in their hearts are also those who are ready and prepared to engage in apologetics for the Christian faith. This is not a, ‘Just believe’, or ‘I tell them what I believe’, kind of response.

If Jesus is truly our Lord, we will want to be obedient to the command of 1 Peter 3:15 and not fob somebody off with, ‘This is what I believe and this is why I believe it’. Instead, we will be eager, prepared and ready to ask: ‘What questions do you have about the Christian faith? Let’s see if we can dialogue to find answers for you and if I don’t know the answers, I’ll seek them out and get back to you’.

First Peter 3:15 goes hand in glove with our biblical requirement in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (ESV).

This requirement is that we, as Christians, not only confront the issues that trouble our own thinking, but also deal with the ‘lofty opinions’ of others that are raised against knowing God, the Bible and other aspects of the Christian faith.

This is some of what the ministry of apologetics involves, but this fellow on the forum fobbed it off with his statement: ‘Again I cannot convince them of anything.  All I can do is tell them what I believe and why I believe it.  Then it is up to God. I am in sales not management’.

Biblically, I find this to be a false perspective. He is in sales so he knows that there will be those who object to some features of the product and, if he is pressing for a sale, he will deal with the objections. It is his responsibility to give an apologetic for the Christian faith – he is commanded to honour Christ the Lord and to do that requires that he provide an apologetic response to questions about the faith.

Of course God is involved in convincing people of the truth of the Gospel, but that does not exempt him from engaging in pre-evangelism. He is commanded to engage in apologetics with everyone who seeks answers for their objections to the faith.

Will he become ready and prepared to do this with gentleness and respect? Or will he continue to fob off this responsibility?

Resorting to use of a logical fallacy

When I shared some of the above material with the fellow mentioned, these were some of his responses:[7]

  • I can and do answer such quesions [sic] but I cannot convince them they are true and neither can you.  Does everyone you explain the Scriptures to fall donw [sic] and worship God?  There is no command to convince anyone that the Scriptures are true.  Only God the Holy Spirit can do that’.
  • ‘I am prepared to do that and do when somone [sic] asks me to, but I have not convinced many that what I beleive [sic] is true’.
  • ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’.

[8]Telling people what you believe and why you believe it is not the ministry of apologetics of 1 Peter 3:15. Apologetics is not declaration, but an endeavour to wipe away the cobwebs of doubt that are presented to us. It is pre-evangelism.

I told him that if his response to me is any guide, he doesn’t seem to be convinced of the need for the ministry of apologetics, so why would he want to give them an effective apologetic answer? I suggested that he become exposed to more of the teaching of Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler on apologetics. Geisler’s book, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Baker Books 1999) is a marvellous resource for so many aspects of an apologetic ministry with an evangelical Christian response.

When he stated, ‘When you tell me you have been 100% effective in convincing those who ask, get back to me’, he was using a straw man logical fallacy. At no point have I ever stated to this person or anyone else on Christian Fellowship Forum that I’m 100% effective in convincing people. Here he has used a straw man fallacy.

What’s a straw man logical fallacy? Dr. Michael C. Labossiere, professor of philosophy Florida A&M University,gave this definition:[9]

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.

2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

3. Person B attacks position Y.

4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Dedicated to 12 million Holocaust victims who suffered and died
at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime

When a person uses logical fallacies, it makes it extremely difficult – it is nigh impossible – to have a logical conversation. Therefore, I find it necessary to expose the use of logical fallacies in a conversation, especially online. I have engaged in discussions on other Christian forums in which I found it necessary to draw attention to such fallacies. Most will not admit to their fallacious reasoning. I think it’s often because they don’t understand what logical fallacies are and how they use them.

I find that in some/many TV and radio interviews, politicians are experts at using the red herring fallacy. No matter what question is asked by the interviewer, the politician has a political agenda he/she wants to push and will promote it, no matter what the question that was asked. Going off topic in the answer (a red herring) is commonly used by politicians when in mass media interviews.

In this person’s response to me on this Christian forum, there were also elements of a red herring logical fallacy. Dr. Lobossiere explained: ‘A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to “win” an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic…. This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim’.  [10]

Conclusion

Apologetics has reached a very low level of importance in the evangelical church, in my view, for these reasons:

  1. ‘To equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Ephesians 4:12) is not high on the agenda in many of these churches. Getting a handful of leaders to do the ministry by themselves is standard fare in some churches. So equipping other believers is not a strong suit for pastors and teachers in such churches.
  2. Learning to defend the faith, using apologetics, seems to be left to leading public apologists for the Christian faith. A pastor said to me recently, ‘Whenever I have people with questions about evolution and creation, I refer them to Creation Ministries InternationalThey have lots of pertinent responses. I’m not equipped to do that’. Amazing! A pastor who doesn’t want to equip himself to an adequate level to be able to provide a ready apologetic for those who question creation.
  3. When one has a presuppositional approach, ‘Just believe’ and ‘I cannot convince you’, which is being defended in some churches, then evidential apologetics will not be considered a necessary ministry.
  4. I attended an evening presentation in 2013 by leading Indian cultural apologist, Vishal Mangalwadi, ‘What GOOD is Christianity?’
  5. At question time I asked him, ‘Why is the ministry of apologetics given such a low priority in today’s evangelical church?’ He pointed to the contemporary emphasis in churches on telling stories about the faith and this does not harmonise well with the nature of apologetics. I found this to be a pointed and true observation. See Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World; How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (2011. Nashville: Thomas Nelson).
  6. I consider that there is an additional problem: Thinking Christianity is in short supply. In churches that place such a strong emphasis on the experience of knowing Jesus and the charismatic gifts (I am a supporter of such gifts), there is a problem integrating a warm Christian faith with logical, thoughtful, apologetic ministry. That’s why it’s important to emphasise 1 Peter 3:15 as these two ministries go together. They are both needed for the health of the Christian Church. However, there is a necessary biblical emphasis on the need ‘to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’ (Eph. 4:23) and Christians ‘have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ (Col 3:10).(Col 3:10).
  7. I don’t recall ever hearing a sermon by a regular pastor of a church on the need to be a thinking Christian who engages in logical discussions, exposes logical fallacies, and uses discernment in knowing when to stop a conversation in pre-evangelism when it becomes argumentative.

If this minimising of the ministry of apologetics is not rectified, there are grim consequences for Christian upper high school and university students who have their faith challenged in these places of learning.

Why is apologetics of such low interest in the church? It is not given the place it deserves by church leaders in equipping believers for the work of ministry (Eph 4:12) AND I suggest it could be that not enough Christians are seeking answers for some tough, challenging questions that are asked of them by unbelievers. Or, are too many Christians out of touch with unbelievers and their issues against the Christian faith?

Notes:


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, Bible Study & Discipleship, ‘Is Jesus God?’, Kermit, who responds sometime as ‘k’ for kcdavis222, #9, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=6&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[2] Ibid., ozspen #14.

[3] Ibid., kcdavis222 #16.

[4] Ibid., ozspen #20.

[5] For some of the following content, I used material from Norman L Geisler 1999. Apologetics, Need for, in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, p. 37.

[6] The footnote was ‘set apart’.

[7] kcdavis222 #21, loc cit., available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=16&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=122312 (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[8] This is my answer at ibid., ozspen #24.

[9] The Nizkor Project 1991-2011, Fallacy: Straw Man, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html (Accessed 31 August 2013).

[10] This quotation is courtesy of The Nizkor Project, Fallacy: Red Herring, available at: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/red-herring.html (Accessed 31 August 2013).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.

Are unthinking Christians normal for Christianity?

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Think

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

I was reading Bill Muehlenberg’s excellent article on the need for more Christians to think. It was his call to have a renewed mind and respond to the challenges of our secular world in, ‘Let my people think’.

Then came Kurt Skelland’s ‘troll’ by way of response:

If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!

“Most people would rather die than think. And most do.”
Bertrand Russell.

Thinking is inimical to the fanciful claims of religion.[1]

Secularists’ false claims

It is not uncommon to read these kinds of statements on websites of skeptics or atheists. Take a read of a leading skeptic, Paul Kurtz, ‘Why I am a skeptic about religious claims’.

How do we respond to Kurt Skelland’s skeptical claims?

1. ‘If Christians starting thinking there would be no Christians left!’

This is a clear example of someone who doesn’t know the content of the Christian Scriptures. If Kurt’s claim were true, there would be absolutely no use for these Christian statements:

  • Luke 10:27, Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 4:22-24, ‘to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (ESV).
  • Romans 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV)

It is obvious that the Bible teaches: (1) Loving God with our whole beings, and (2) After we become Christians, we are to put off the old way of thinking and be transformed by renewed thinking in the mind.

This is the problem which non-Christian people (unbelievers) face, ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Cor. 4:4).

Kurt has another problem with the Christian faith.

2. Why choose a Bertrand Russell quote?

Honourable Bertrand Russell.jpg

Bertrand Russell 1916. Courtesy Wikipedia

Kurt cited Bertrand Russell, “Most people would rather die than think. And most do”. What’s significant about that? Russell is a friend of skeptics, agnostics and atheists.

On the practical level, this quote may be true for a lot of people. But who was Bertrand Russell? Was Russell an agnostic or atheist? This is what Russell stated:

I never know whether I should say “Agnostic” or whether I should say “Atheist”. It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.[2]

Even in this article, Russell admitted, ‘On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods’.[3]

I have quoted Bertrand Russell at times, but this is to refute his claim on a topic. He said, ‘I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive’[4], and I cited it in my article, ‘Will you be ready when your death comes?’ Bertrand Russell now knows the truth of what happens after death and he will have found that it is very different from what his agnosticism/atheism taught him. Bertrand Russell died on 2nd February 1970.

How do I know? Jesus died and rose from the dead. He has assured all people of what will happen at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). I commend to you Dan T. Lioy’s article, ‘Life and death in biblical perspective’.

Kurt’s Bertrand Russell quote would have only passing significance if it were not for his other emphases in his troll statement. His other emphasis was:

3. ‘Thinking is inimical[5] to the fanciful claims of religion’

In other words, thinking and Christianity do not go together. Notice what Kurt does. He provides not one shred of evidence to support his claim. He is into sloganeering by giving us his opinion. Whenever somebody does this, we need to call them to account by asking things like these:

  • So you are giving us your opinion in one foul swoop of a slogan. That carries as much weight as a car driver, with no engineering experience, going over Brisbane’s Gateway Bridge and saying, ‘That’s not the proper way to build a bridge. Those fanciful engineers didn’t know what they were doing when they built that bridge that way’. You know such a statement had fanciful, irrational overtones. So has Kurt’s claim about thinking being hostile to religion come with evidence?
  • You would never win good grade in any exam with that kind of evidence. You gave zero evidence to prove your point. You’ve made a nonsense statement because it is your idiosyncratic opinion that comes with nothing to back up your claim.
  • Get real. I’m a thinking Christian and I don’t buy into your thoughtless comments.
  • Your statement really is antagonistic to what you are trying to prove. Your statement is inimical (hostile) to thoughtful people who might want to take you seriously.

However, Kurt’s kind of statement can be found all over the www in relation to religion. These are a few grabs that Google helped me find quickly.

  • Freud, ‘religion was our “collective neurosis”’ (HERE);
  • ‘When it comes to magic, religion, politics, geography, on and on, you can write whatever you can dream up as long as you make it consistent within your world’ (HERE).
  • ‘Religion is fantasy. Everything that you have been taught about religion is wrong’ (HERE).
  • ‘The ties between fantasy and religion are quite strong’ (HERE).
  • ‘Religions, like everything else, evolved from earlier myths’ (HERE).

Kurt is echoing the statements of other skeptics. The Los Angeles Times published an article, ‘Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds’ (April 26, 2012). The article begins with this statement:

Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

Another report on this research stated,

In some ways this confirms what many people, both religious and nonreligious, have said about religious belief for a long time, that it’s more of a feeling than a thought,” says Nicholas Epley, a psychologist at the University of Chicago. But he predicts the findings won’t change anyone’s mind about whether God exists or whether religious belief is rational. “If you think that reasoning analytically is the way to go about understanding the world accurately, you might see this as evidence that being religious doesn’t make much sense,” he says. “If you’re a religious person, I think you take this evidence as showing that God has given you a system for belief that just reveals itself to you as common sense (The Huffington Post, 27 April 2012).

So religion is more of a feeling than a thought! That’s not what Jesus thought when he told us that we are to love God with our mind. Also, there is no point in the Christian renewing the mind if thinking is unimportant for the believer. I’m reminded of how the Bereans were commended for their Christian faith:

The brothers[6] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:10-11).

So these Bereans were thoughtful Jews who checked out the apostle Paul to see if what he stated agreed with their Scriptures. Jews/Christians who think have been part of Christianity from the beginning of the Christian era.

4. Conclusion

Kurt is an example of a fly-by-night sceptical, sloganeering person who is motivated to present slogans on a Christian website (Bill Muehlenberg’s Culture Watch). These kinds of people are stirrers who don’t want to present sustainable content with which we can dialogue.

In fact, they are self-refuting in their approach. Kurt wanted to condemn Christians for not being thinkers but his actual post demonstrated to us that he is the one who is not a thinker. If he were thinking about his post, he would be providing sustainable arguments to demonstrate that religion (Christianity especially) is fanciful. And these would be arguments with which we Christians could interact.

Kurt has demonstrated that he is not seeking truth and he did not present truthful statements about why he thinks that Christianity is fanciful.

What is truth?

See:

Preference or truth?’ (Greg Koukl)

What is truth?’ (Paul Copan & Mark Linville)

The nature of truth and exclusivity’ (Ravi Zacharias, YouTube)

Embodied truth’ (Ravi Zacharias)

Why truth matters’ (Os Guinness)

What is truth?’ (J P Moreland, YouTube)

Notes:


[1] Kurt Skelland, 14 September 2012, available at: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/09/13/let-my-people-think-2/comment-page-1/#comment-269299 (Accessed 15 September 2012).

[2] Russell, Bertrand. “Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas.” Positive Atheism Web Site, available at: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell8.htm (Accessed 14 September 2012).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cited in Richard Dawkins 2006. The God Delusion. London: Black Swan (Transworld Publishers), p. 397. This is from Bertrand Russell’s 1925 essay, “What I believe”. It is available for free download HERE.

[5] ‘Inimical’ means ‘unfriendly; hostile’, according to dictionary.com at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/inimical?s=t (Accessed 14 September 2012).

[6] The footnote in the ESV at this point stated, ‘Or brothers and sisters’.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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