The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Lessons from the friendship between a Christian and an atheist

Faith_of_CHIn the early 2000s, a new movement of vocal atheists arose, committed with religious fervor to the propagation of their faith that there is no God, and imagining that the world would be a much better place if religion would just go away. One event that vitalized this crusade of “New Atheists” was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, undertaken by Islamic radicals. After 911, many secularists lumped all religious believers together as part of the problem of violence throughout the world.

There were four leading New Atheists, sometimes named the Four Horseman of the Non-
Apocalypse. These were Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. Each of these authored books attacking religious belief as nonsensical and dangerous, including the best-selling The God Delusion by Dawkins.

Christopher Hitchens’ best-selling book attacking religious belief was God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Hitchens, like the other New Atheist evangelists, was involved in a number of debates with defenders of religion. What many people do not know is that Hitchens developed close relationships with some of the Christians with whom he debated. One of these Christians was a man by the name of Larry Alex Taunton, a Christian apologist (defender of the faith) with an organization called Fixed Point Foundation. In 2010, as Hitchens was suffering from terminal cancer, Hitchens and Taunton held their one-and-only debate in my home town of Billings, Montana. Why Billings? Apparently Hitchens had never been to Montana, and the debate gave him an excuse to travel there.

Hitchens passed away on December 15, 2011, one year after his debate with Larry Taunton. Last week on March 24, 2016, Taunton returned to the Babcock Theater in Billings, the same stage where he and Hitchens had previously debated, to promote his new book about his relationship with Hitchens, called The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. This book has earned praise from both Christians and skeptics, with back-cover endorsements from Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias and prominent skeptic Michael Shermer.

Taunton spoke last week for about an hour and a half, highlighting how he and Hitchens formed a friendship, and how that relationship grew to the point of taking long road trips together. I would like to highlight four key points that stood out to me.

1. Christopher Hitchens was a complex person. Taunton pointed out that while Hitchens was famous as a proponent of atheism and an adversary of religion, Hitchens was not defined by his atheism. Hitchens believed in truth and integrity, and was embarrassed at times by what he heard from fellow atheists. Taunton related a time when Hitchens appeared on a program hosted by atheist Bill Maher (of the documentary Religulous), and ripped into both Maher and Maher’s audience for their shallowness.

Christopher Hitchens’ complexity as a person is not unusual; I would say that most—perhaps all—people are complex. When we are conversing with a person, we should not assume that the persona they present is the complete package, and we should not assume that the person even fully understands all of their own motives and reasons for believing as they do. A person might say they believe there is no God because of some set of logical arguments, but in reality, their reasons for rejecting theism are something totally different, such as a desire to live without certain moral restrains, or that they have not really understood the other side. Likewise, a person might be a theist because they are convinced by the cosmological, moral, or design arguments for the existence of God, but deeper reasons come into play as well. Of course, as a Christian, I would add that there are spiritual influences at work beneath and above all of the human reasons.

2. The logical and moral implications of atheism are frightening. Many consider Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, to be a consistent atheist. People, in Singer’s thinking, don’t have any more inherent value than animals, and in some cases have even less. The implications of Singer’s ethical system include infanticide and euthanasia. Hitchens was appalled by this line of reasoning, and was personally opposed to abortion and capital punishment. Hitchens was more concerned about discovering what was morally right and then working out the logical basis for his beliefs at another time, than he was about following the implications of atheism to their logical conclusions.

3. The importance of relationships. The key to pointing people to Christ is usually not having a better argument, but exemplifying what is written in 1 Peter 3:15, which states,

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (NIV)

Even though Hitchens had written a best-selling book with the subtitle “How Religion Poisons Everything,” Hitchens was able to respect, honor, and be drawn to a Christian who displayed love, gentleness, and respect along with intellectual rigor. We cannot develop a deep relationship with everyone, but we can pray that God would put us in at least one key relationship with an unbeliever in which we can be a powerful witness for Christ.

We all have interests or backgrounds that overlap with those of unbelievers. I have a friend who is on staff at the headquarters of a major Christian ministry. In his role, he interacts with Christians all day, and did not have significant relationships with unbelievers. So my friend joined an African violet club. I had no idea such clubs existed, but it was a way for him to rub shoulders with those outside of his Christian world.

Christopher Hitchens also developed a friendship with theologian Douglas Wilson. One realm of common interest between these two men was their appreciation of the writings of British humorous author P.G. Wodehouse. Hitchens and Wilson could sit and give one quote after another from characters in Wodehouse’s fiction. This small area of overlap was a bridge that enabled the two men to have much more serious conversations and debates, sometimes while drinking beer together in a bar.

4. The importance of taking people into the Scriptures and pointing them to Christ. As Hitchens and Taunton developed a relationship, it became clear to Taunton that Hitchens had a somewhat superficial understanding of the Bible and Christianity. Eventually, Taunton challenged Hitchens to a Bible study. The two men went on a road trip and studied the Gospel of John together, which brought in topics from throughout the Bible as they conversed. This study occurred after Hitchens was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Hitchens was not converted to Christianity—he said if he converted it would be because the cancer had gotten into his brain—but through his relationship with Taunton and others, Hitchens learned that Christians and Christianity were not entirely who and what he thought they were.

Taunton did not hold back when talking about the seriousness of these topics. Christianity is not just a philosophy to affirm or deny, but a call to faith in Christ. We are all moving towards judgment, and Taunton was blunt with Hitchens about his need to turn to Christ. Taunton let Hitchens know that he was praying for him, which Hitchens genuinely appreciated—not because Hitchens thought it would matter but he appreciated the gesture of friendship. Hitchens asked Taunton what he prayed, and Taunton told him that it wasn’t so much for physical healing but that Hitchens would come to faith in Christ. Some would be offended by this, but Hitchens by this point had a good enough understanding of Christianity to know that this prayer was a greater expression of Taunton’s love than a prayer for healing would have been.

I have not yet read The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, but there is reason to believe that by the end Hitchens no longer believed that “religion poisons everything.” Hitchens was able to say about Larry Taunton that “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we’d be living in a much better society than we do.” Hitchens stated this knowing full well that it was Taunton’s faith in Christ that made him into the sort of person who would bring healing rather than poison to this hurting world.

May we as Christians all be this same sort of witness for Christ.

Grace and Peace

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Notes

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens will be available from Amazon starting April 12th.

The debates between Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens were featured on the documentary Collision.

The video of the clash between Hitchens and Maher can be found here: Christopher Hitchens gives Bill Maher’s crowd of leftist automatons a well-deserved finger.

 

 

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

Thankful to God that the atheists are wrong

Answers in Genesis has some new billboards that I actually like, highlighted on today’s Around the World With Ken Ham blog. Here’s one of them:

aig_billboard

As I recently reminded one reader here on The GeoChristian, I am on the same side as the young-Earth creationists. We may differ on a secondary issue—the age of the Earth—but my goal is the same as theirs: to point people to Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I have many reasons to be thankful that the atheists are wrong. Here are a few:

  • I can actually know the God of the universe through knowing his son Jesus Christ as revealed by God in the Scriptures.
  • I can read about mass murderers, human traffickers, drug dealers, and child abusers, and objectively say “these things are evil.” Atheists also view these things as evil, but don’t have a strong foundation for doing so.
  • There is such a thing as a Final Judgement. In the end, all wrongs will be dealt with, and every teardrop will be wiped away from the eyes of God’s people.
  • Good works matter. It really does matter if I give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, or sponsor a child in Africa.
  • Matter matters. God created the universe and proclaimed it to be good. It really does matter what we do with the physical world. It is not just stuff be used for our own purposes, but it all belongs to God.
  • Beauty matters. Art, music, drama, and other expressions of human creativity are not just evolutionary anomalies, but point to God who created humans in his image.
  • The future of God’s people is bright and full of promise. To an atheist, the ultimate future of humanity as a whole is death.
  • Human beings have inherent value and dignity, because they are created in the image of God.
  • Humans also have purpose. Purpose does not have to be constructed or invented, as in Sartre’s depressing work Being and Nothingness. That purpose is to love God and love people.
  • My individuality matters. I am not just a cog in the wheel, but make a unique contribution to my part of the world.
  • For those in Christ, the end of this life is not the end, but the beginning of real life.
  • That new life—which we have a taste of now—will be free of all the hurt and ugliness that mar this world.
  • In the resurrection, we won’t be floating around in “heaven” with harps (that is not a Biblical picture of “eternal life”), but we will be walking around in resurrected bodies on a renewed Earth. That is going to be awesome.
  • For believers, death is only a temporary separation. I am going to see my Dad again!
  • There will be no more pain or sickness.

Grace and Peace

 

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 12 Comments

Around the web 4/21/2013 — Evolutionary evangelism, pink unicorns, and the man who sang before 200 million people

I’D RATHER TALK ABOUT JESUS — Theologian and apologist C. Michael Patton made an important discovery about the “what about evolution?” question back when he was still a young-Earth creationist. Rather than trying to convince an atheist that the earth was only a few thousand years old or that evolution was a big lie, he decided (a work of the Holy Spirit, I would say) that the whole creation/evolution debate was a distraction to effective evangelism:

The first thing she said was “What about evolution?” I immediately responded, “What about it?” She then proceeded to explain to me how evolution disproves Christianity. She expressed a desire to hear the “Christian side” of the issue. I told her that, while interesting and important, it did not make any difference right now. “It does not make any difference? What do you mean? It discredits your faith,” she said. “No, it does not. There are a lot of Christians who are evolutionists. I am not one, but there is no need for me to talk you out of evolution. I want to talk to you about Jesus.”

Read about it here: Forget about Evolution and Inerrancy (For a Minute).

WHO HAS THE INVISIBLE PINK UNICORN PROBLEM? — The website godandscience.org has re-posted my The Pleistocene is not in the bible post.  Some of the categories at godandscience.org include “Answers for atheists,” “Design vs. Evolution,” and “Biblical Creation.” The site promotes a day-age interpretation of Genesis 1. I just read through one of the articles, Invisible Pink Unicorn, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Santa Claus and God, and enjoyed the following section:

The multiverse is commonly given by atheists as a reason why the universe appears to be designed for human life. Accordingly, there are an infinite number of universes that have been created by the magical multiverse. We just happen to live in the one that has the right laws of physics so that human beings are possible. However, according to this belief, an infinite number of universe would allow anything to exist. So, although there may be no invisible pink unicorns in this universe, if there were an infinite number of universes, one would expect at least one of them to produce exactly the right conditions under which invisible pink unicorns would be the dominant life form.

HORSE HYPEREVOLUTION — Naturalis Historia continues its series on YECs and the fossil record and evolution of horses. The problem this time is genetic bottlenecks. See Horsing Around with Genetic Sorting: Horse Series Part IV.

HE’S SINGING EVEN BETTER NOW — Singer George Beverly Shea died this week at the age of 104. In his lifetime, he sang live before an estimated 200 million people—more than anyone else in history—through his 60-year role in Billy Graham evangelistic campaigns. Hear him sing “How Great Thou Art” at the age of 103:

Grace and Peace

April 21, 2013 Posted by | Around the Web | , , , | 1 Comment

Jesus is for geologists (and other scientists)

I’ve always known that Jesus is for geologists, as well as for biologists, chemists, physicists, archeologists, astronomers, and all other sorts of scientists.

There are, of course, many Christians who are scientists, and many scientists who are Christians. As a graduate student in geology, I found rich fellowship with a half dozen Christian geologists-in-training, and there was a Christian on the faculty of the department as well.

Davis Young, a Christian geology professor (retired), and author of The Bible, Rocks and Time, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, and Mind over Magma: the Story of Igneous Petrology, has written what he considers to be his most important book: Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God.

The summary on Barnes & Noble reads:

Bridging the fields of natural science and religion, Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God invites members of the professional scientific community, graduate, undergraduate, and high school science students, science teachers, and members of the general public who are interested in the natural sciences to embrace the Christian faith personally. Employing the theme of good news, this book challenges readers to ponder the question of life after death as a gateway to the overall claim that Christianity, at its best and most consistent, bears good news for both science and the scientist. On the one hand, Christianity, far from being antithetical to science, supplies the rational foundation that makes the scientific enterprise possible. On the other hand, the central message of Christianity brings a firm hope to scientists as individual persons in meeting their deepest needs and desires for genuine significance, purpose, goodness, forgiveness, justice, and relationship with the Creator. In presenting his case, the author eschews pseudo-science and treats with great respect the discoveries of contemporary mainstream natural science, including an ancient universe and Earth, biological evolution, and the standard model of cosmology. The text adopts an informal, personal, conversational style. Good News for Science will be of interest not only to the general scientific community but also to Christians who are seeking a resource to use in presenting Christian faith to scientifically knowledgeable individuals.

As the review says, this would be a great book for

  • Professional scientists
  • Students of science, at either the undergraduate or graduate levels
  • High school teachers and students
  • Members of the general public.

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Grace and Peace

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Archeology, Astrobiology, Astronomy, Atheism, Biology, Chemistry, Christianity, Evolution, Geology, Origins, Physics, Science Education, Theistic evolution | , , , | 2 Comments

Regarding “PCA Geologists on the Age of the Earth”

We moved to a new city last year, and recently became members of a church in the Presbyterian Church in America. We are delighted to be a part of this local church, with its commitment to the truthfulness and authority of the Scriptures, excellent preaching, worship that is rooted in the Bible and the liturgical traditions of the church; and involvement in the community and the world. I don’t yet think of myself as “Presbyterian;” perhaps that will come with time.

As is true in many theologically conservative denominations, the issue of the age of the Earth has been controversial within the PCA. Some place it up there with the doctrines of the trinity and justification by grace through faith as something that must be believed. Others, including many professors at the denomination’s Covenant Theological Seminary, rightly see the Scriptures as ambiguous on the topic.

In 1998, the PCA set up a Creation Study Committee to examine the question. Like many other panels made up of Evangelical Bible scholars, they were not able to come to a consensus on the matter. They did, however, conclude that acceptance of a young Earth is not an essential Christian doctrine, and that one could hold fully to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture while also holding to a universe that is billions of years old.

The report of the committee stated that they expected that the matter would clear up over time once scientists had sufficient data to tip the scales one way or the other. Most Christian geologists are convinced that the data is already in, and has been for a long time. In order to state this case, six geologists, all members of PCA churches, wrote the article “PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth“, which was published in Modern Reformation magazine in 2010.

The authors did not intend to make a Biblical case for the age of the Earth; their starting point was that the PCA Creation Study Committee had already concluded that Bible-believing Reformed scholars were on both sides of that debate. Instead, they laid out geological evidence that they believed would convince the average Modern Reformation reader—a strong majority of whom hold to an inerrant Bible—that the geological evidence we already have points unambiguously to an old Earth.

In their introductory paragraphs, they drew parallels between the modern debate within the church over the age of the Earth, and the geocentric/heliocentric debate that coincided with the Reformation time period. In the battle over geocentrism, otherwise sound Biblical scholars such as Martin Luther failed to dig deeply into the Scriptures to discern what the Bible said and didn’t say about the issue. Granted, in Luther’s day most scientists were against geocentrism as well, but that should not have excused him from doing the hard work of exegesis, which he failed to do.

The authors’ evidence for an old Earth can be summarized as follows:

  • Tens of thousands of geologists worldwide are in virtually complete agreement about the age of the Earth. Even more significantly, their old-Earth interpretations are used successfully in exploration for oil and minerals. If young-Earth flood geologists were able to make predictions that would lead to the discovery of mineral and petroleum reserves, then you can be sure that natural resource companies would be paying top dollar for YEC geologists. They aren’t.
  • Old-Earth geology is not based on naturalism/materialism. It is based on observations of the Earth, and many of the early advocates of an old Earth were devout Christians.
  • The Earth tells a story, and this story is often incredibly complex. But even within this complexity, there are independent means of determining the antiquity of geological events. The authors wrote about Lake Suigetsu in Japan; they could have selected numerous other sites for their first example. Lake Suigetsu contains thin layers of sediment called varves that are usually interpreted to be annual layers, recording a record of accumulation much like tree rings give a record of a tree’s growth. If you count the varves, you can tell how many years of sediment accumulation have occurred. YECs often counter such arguments by pointing to examples where there is evidence that more than one varve has been deposited per year. But the beauty of the Lake Suigetsu varves is that C-14 dates from organic material in the varves correlate very well with C-14 dates from tree rings from the region. A varve that is 2000 layers deep has the same C-14 date as 2000-year old tree rings. In order for the YEC interpretation of these varves to be correct, there would have to be some amazing coincidences. Suppose that the YECs are right, and lets say that twenty varves formed in one year. If this happened, then twenty tree rings would have had to have formed in roughly the same year, and the rate of either C-14 production in the atmosphere or the rate of C-14 decay would have had to adjust by just the right amount as well in order to deceive modern geologists into thinking the varves and tree rings were both annual records.
  • The authors wrote more about Lake Suigetsu, as well as about plate tectonics. Go ahead and read the article for more details.

The authors conclude with a warning that echoes a common theme here at The GeoChristian:

“If the earth is old and Christians insist it is young, we risk becoming a tragic obstacle to faith for those both inside and outside the church. Non-Christians who logically understand geology conclude that the path to Christ requires belief in an intentionally deceptive god and choose to place their faith elsewhere. Covenant children who are raised with the impression that a young earth is integral to Christianity have their faith needlessly undermined when they are later confronted with the overwhelming evidence of the earth’s antiquity, and many leave the faith. It is our prayer that no Christian would be such an obstacle!”

The eight PCA geologists are David Campbell, Lyle Campbell, Chip Cates, Gregg Davidson, Keith Long, Richard Mercer, Kent Ratajeski, and Davis Young.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Dr John Reed, a YEC geologist and PCA member, has written a short response and long response to the Modern Reformation piece. I have read both and plan to review them soon.

May 6, 2012 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , , | 15 Comments

The tragedy of “creation evangelism”

The following item was originally posted in October 2009, and I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries (sometimes with a little editing). This post quotes from Michael Spencer, the late author of the blog Internet Monk (Dispatches from the Post-Evangelical Wilderness).

Creation evangelism: using young-Earth creationism (Earth < 10,000 years old, most of geology is the product of Noah’s flood) to win people to faith in Christ.

There are many people who have come to faith in Christ through young-Earth creation ministries such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and a multitude of smaller organizations. I rejoice when people come to Christ or have their faith strengthened.

There is another side to this, however. These same organizations also needlessly drive perhaps millions of others away from Christ. The arguments presented by the young-Earth creationists for a young Earth or a global flood may be convincing to those who don’t know much science (and specifically, geology), but when critically examined these arguments are far from persuasive. The result is twofold. First, scientists (and other scientifically-minded people) are driven away from Christ. They are basically told that in order to become a Christian, they have to check their brains at the door. The second result is that many of our young people eventually leave the faith, not because of what the Bible actually says, but because of what the young-Earth organizations have given them as solid evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. When they see that these arguments are not valid, they often chuck their Christianity along with their young-Earth creation dogmas.

Here’s a tragic story, illustrating the failure of “creation evangelism” from Internet Monk: Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.

Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.

A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.

She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.

She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.

Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.

“I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

No doubt, Niki has met many Christians who told her that she could not be a Christian and “believe” in evolution. No doubt, few, if any, of those Christians took the time to explain what they meant by evolution. Most probably meant that the Bible teaches that the earth is 10,000 years young, that no biological death of any kind happened before sin and the major Creationist ministries such as AIG have all the answers to the hard questions of physics, astronomy and science. (”Were you there?”)

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Was Niki ever told about the the thousands of Christians in the sciences who believe the “Big Bang” is evidence for creation by God? No, she wasn’t. Was she told of the many conversions to Christianity among scientists who have been moved by the evidence for God as creator now available in astrophysics? No, because that would complicate the views of Creationism she was told were non-negotiable.

Was Niki ever told that the vast majority of Christians on planet earth don’t believe now and haven’t ever believed science and Christianity answer the same questions in the same way? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that millions of Christians believe in some form of evolution? (For Catholics, it’s in the Catechism!) Some form of an old earth? That millions of Christians do not accept the claims of the Creationist ministries as representing the Bible accurately or correctly? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that even atheists are largely agreed that evolution does not equal atheism, and atheists like Dawkins are wrong to claim that is the case?

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Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian.

Many are zealous defenders of young-Earth creationism. They try to use it to try to win non-believers to Christ, and blame Satan when it doesn’t work. But how much of this resistance to the gospel is due to Satanic blinding, and how much is due to the errors of young-Earth creationist teachings on topics such as the age of the Earth, the geological work of the flood, or biological evolution?

With love for the body of Christ and unbelieving scientists.

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This was originally posted on October 4, 2009. Click here to read the original comments.

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Ken Ham and I are in complete agreement

I believe the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, and that the Bible doesn’t say much one way or the other about biological evolution. I believe that young-Earth creationism is neither necessary Biblically nor valid scientifically.

Ken Ham is president of Answers in Genesis, and believes the Bible requires an approximately 6000-year old Earth and that most fossils were deposited during Noah’s flood. He believes that to accept an old Earth is a compromise of Biblical truth.

But we are in agreement on something that is far more important than the age of the Earth or the extent of Noah’s flood, and that is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ken Ham had a blog post yesterday (A Warning to the Contemporary Church) where he responded to a Christian critic whose testimony of how he came to be “born again” was rather ambiguous. Ham writes:

To me this kind of testimony is a warning to the contemporary church, as it appears to me this testimony involves some sort of experience or feelings. He is trying to come to God through experience, but what is missing? Not one verse of Scripture was quoted—not one.  What also was missing were any mention of words like these: sin, repentance, salvation,  faith, Jesus—the Son of God, grace, and belief.

There is no mention of Jesus—no doctrine of humanity (that man is fallen), and no doctrine of the Son (we can only come to God the Father through the Son).

…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved  (Romans 10:9)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:17)

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  (John 3:36)

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

The gospel isn’t “God gave me peace when I listened to a song.” It is not a warm, fuzzy feeling.

The gospel is the good news that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that those who trust in Christ have a new relationship with God and will have eternal life in and with him for all eternity.

I don’t know where this critic, a professor of New Testament Language and Literature at a liberal arts college, stands before God; only God knows. I would expect a New Testament professor who professes to be a Christian to be able to give a clear statement of faith, and he didn’t. Ken Ham, on the other hand, gave a clear outline of the gospel.

Amen brother Ken Ham. Preach Christ and Christ alone as the way to God.

Grace and Peace

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 25 Comments

Albert Camus — evangelist?

From “Saved by an Atheist” by Rob Moll, who returned to faith in Christ in part through reading The Plague by Albert Camus:

Yet the biggest influence on my spiritual journey was the novels and philosophy of Albert Camus, a French existentialist of the 1940s and ’50s—and an atheist. C. S. Lewis warned, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.” Camus should have been safe territory for me, but as I like to say now, I was saved by an atheist.
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Though atheists may argue that the existence of a supreme being is impossible, their arguments often reveal a belief that God just doesn’t behave as they think he should.
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Camus was right, I knew, and I, too, had plague. I was sick and in need of a Physician. Camus’ willingness to accept the truth that human beings are fallen allowed me to do the same. Camus held a mirror to my face—in a way that no pastor, preacher, or professor had—and I knew I needed salvation.
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Certainly not all atheists lead readers to such Christian conclusions. And just as certainly, not every atheist writer deals as honestly with himself and with God as Camus. But, at their best, atheists show Christians how our teaching or our practice is failing our society.

In The Plague, Camus describes Father Paneloux, a priest who has no real answer to suffering but nevertheless thunders that the plague is God’s judgment on a wicked city. The epidemic is the fault of the people, he says, and it will remain until they repent. But Camus presents the death of a child as a counterargument: a good God would not punish an innocent child with such suffering.

The church’s inability to answer the problem of suffering is still atheists’ most common complaint against God, and it teaches us how we may be setting people up for spiritual disappointment and failure. Maybe the modern church puts too much emphasis on better living through God. Or perhaps we don’t adequately explain that God suffers with us and redeems our suffering without eliminating it. Whatever the cause, atheism remains an attractive worldview for those who have witnessed suffering or been in pain and can’t reconcile the idea of a good and powerful God with the reality of life on earth.
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Atheists may have an arsenal of arguments against God or religion. But at heart, rejection of God seems not to be a purely logical choice against the possibility or desirability of God. Rather, it is often a rejection of God’s people. Atheism’s recent popularity should serve as a warning to us. Apologetics conferences and passionate rebuttals may have their place. Certainly we should be ready with reasons for our faith. But before we begin dueling on blogs and arming ourselves with television talking points, let’s learn to see atheists not as deniers of God, but as wrestlers with him. And let’s remember that their deepest arguments against belief are the people they’re arguing with.

Grace and Peace (from one who also has the plague)

August 25, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , | 1 Comment

The tragedy of “creation evangelism”

Creation evangelism: using young-Earth creationism (Earth < 10,000 years old, most of geology is the product of Noah’s flood) to win people to faith in Christ.

There are many people who have come to faith in Christ through young-Earth creation ministries such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and a multitude of smaller organizations. I rejoice when people come to Christ or have their faith strengthened.

There is another side to this, however. These same organizations also needlessly drive perhaps millions of others away from Christ. The arguments presented by the young-Earth creationists for a young Earth or a global flood may be convincing to those who don’t know much science (and specifically, geology), but when critically examined these arguments are far from persuasive. The result is twofold. First, scientists (and other scientifically-minded people) are driven away from Christ. They are basically told that in order to become a Christian, they have to check their brains at the door. The second result is that many of our young people eventually leave the faith, not because of what the Bible actually says, but because of what the young-Earth organizations have given them as solid evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. When they see that these arguments are not valid, they often chuck their Christianity along with their young-Earth creation dogmas.

Here’s a tragic story, illustrating the failure of “creation evangelism” from Internet Monk: Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.

Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.

A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.

She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.

She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.

Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.

“I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

No doubt, Niki has met many Christians who told her that she could not be a Christian and “believe” in evolution. No doubt, few, if any, of those Christians took the time to explain what they meant by evolution. Most probably meant that the Bible teaches that the earth is 10,000 years young, that no biological death of any kind happened before sin and the major Creationist ministries such as AIG have all the answers to the hard questions of physics, astronomy and science. (”Were you there?”)

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Was Niki ever told about the the thousands of Christians in the sciences who believe the “Big Bang” is evidence for creation by God? No, she wasn’t. Was she told of the many conversions to Christianity among scientists who have been moved by the evidence for God as creator now available in astrophysics? No, because that would complicate the views of Creationism she was told were non-negotiable.

Was Niki ever told that the vast majority of Christians on planet earth don’t believe now and haven’t ever believed science and Christianity answer the same questions in the same way? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that millions of Christians believe in some form of evolution? (For Catholics, it’s in the Catechism!) Some form of an old earth? That millions of Christians do not accept the claims of the Creationist ministries as representing the Bible accurately or correctly? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that even atheists are largely agreed that evolution does not equal atheism, and atheists like Dawkins are wrong to claim that is the case?

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Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian.

Many are zealous defenders of young-Earth creationism. They try to use it to try to win non-believers to Christ, and blame Satan when it doesn’t work. But how much of this resistance to the gospel is due to Satanic blinding, and how much is due to the errors of young-Earth creationist teachings on topics such as the age of the Earth, the geological work of the flood, or biological evolution?

With love for the body of Christ and unbelieving scientists.

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 16 Comments

Christian or hippie — which would you choose?

One of the pastors at my church passed along a story from Dry Bones Denver: “Ask Me Why You Deserve HELL”: Reflections on the DNC. It is a bit dated, being from the Democratic National Convention here in Denver last summer, but it is also timeless. The author was with friends in the downtown area and observed a group of Christians whose behavior was somewhat less than loving, and a group of young anarchists who welcomed the pastor and his friends with open arms.

Here’s the christians:

“Ask me why YOU deserve to go to HELL!” My heart dropped and I hung my head in shame as I approached the banner waving these poisonous words. Riot police surrounded the group of christians (emphasis on the little “c”), protecting them from the enraged and ever-growing crowd of pedestrians; men, women and children. Other signs that littered the street corner and held up traffic for blocks on the 16th St. Mall read:

• “Homo sex is a threat to national security”
• “Looking for change? Then do what Christ said and repent. Hell Awaits You.”
• “You are headed for Hell”
• “WARNING: Baby Killing Women, Party Animals, Rebellious Women, So Called Christians, Liberals, Jesus Mockers, Porno Freaks, Muslims, Drunks, Homosexuals, Sex Addicts, Mormons…GOD WILL JUDGE YOU!”

Here’s the hippies:

Tattooed and dread-locked hippies relaxed in the sunshine. Droves of police, outfitted in full riot gear with masks down and guns out, stood nearby occasionally walking in single-file through the crowd to make their presence known. I took it all in, amazed by the eclectic group of people. We walked up to the hippie gathering and saw a sign that read “Doc’s Place” and another one that said, “Food not Bombs.” As it turned out, “Doc’s Place” was a volunteer-run, free medical clinic. Anyone could come by and receive limited, but free, medical care. “Food not Bombs” was a group that thought “…dropping food instead of bombs…” was the cool thing to do, so they decided to fix three meals a day for anyone who wanted food. They cooked everything on-site and if you ate, the only requirement was that you wash your own dishes in the provided buckets of soapy water, and then hang them in a tree to dry.

Here’s a quote from the conclusion:

Friends, I witnessed two very different groups of people this week. One group was filled with hate, judgment, and self-righteousness. The other group was loving, accepting, and humble. One group was insulting and abrasive and the other group just wanted to serve food and take care of people. One group called themselves Christians, the other group stayed as far away from them as they could. The way I see it, one group looked and acted like Jesus, and it wasn’t those who claimed to be His followers. This is the ultimate tragedy.

Read the entire story here.

Grace and Peace

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | 15 Comments

Switching religions

A significant number of people move from their childhood faith to another, as shown in this diagram from Eclectic Christian and Internet Monk:

religiousswitching2

Most who “change faiths” do so by age 23 or 24. After that people are mostly set in their ways.

Note that we Evangelicals lose about as many of our own children as we gain converts through evangelism. Something is seriously wrong here.

Grace and Peace

P.S. Eclectic Christian has a larger version of this diagram.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Christianity | , | 5 Comments