Posts tagged Apologetics

Apologetic Wednesday: Lazy Light Shining

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LazyLightWhen it comes to Christian evangelism, it seems that most people’s default strategy is “living out my faith before others.” I have heard It countless times, okay, I have even said it myself. “Well, I will just do my best to live for Christ and hopefully they will take notice. Maybe they will even ask questions.” Yet, is this a scriptural approach? Does it yield high returns? Is this what God expects?

Let me begin by saying that it is expected that we will live a life of righteousness before others. “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV). Notice, I did not say a life of piousness. Christians are not to walk around looking down their nose at others. We are not “heavenly sandpaper” called to rub the rough edges off of people. If we are in a relationship with Christ, it is assumed that it will be apparent in our lives before others.

There is surely an evangelistic quality in the way we serve God through the way we think, behave, and relate to others. There certainly may be times where the interaction others have with us may be their greatest, or only, interaction with Christianity and the gospel. Our lives should reflect Christ intensely, exhibiting a magnetic quality that brings people to desire God through our love, care, and willingness to help. With that being said, however, the “I am just going to let my light shine” is often spiritual laziness or insecurity.

Now don’t get me wrong. Evangelism, I feel, is deeply connected to relationship building. I am not for Gatling gunning people with scripture. I also think that simply handing out tracks at the local Wal-Mart is largely ineffective as well. Many people are more willing to hear us out if it is done within the context of relationships. Yet, we do not always get the luxury of developing meaningful relationships with everyone we come in contact with, and we are incredibly more likely to build relationships with people that are more like us. Even when we build relationships with people, how long do we wait before we start to discuss our faith? Sometimes we wait years! Surely, this is not effective evangelism!

So why is “I am just going to live out my faith before others” the preferred strategy by the predominance of Christians? Because it is safe. There is less risk and we still feel, or we tell ourselves anyway, that we are witnessing to others!

When we look at the apostles, certainly we see them living out their faith. Yet, if that were all they did, how far and how fast would Christianity have spread? We see Paul being very aggressive in sharing what he knew to be true. He engaged people. He looked for inroads to the Christian message in conversations. He wasn’t stuffy, condescending, or weird about sharing his faith. He was open, honest, and bold about his relationship with the risen savior.

As Christians, we have to talk about our faith! Why? Because of what hangs in the balance. If I had the cure for cancer, would my strategy be to throw on a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I have the cure” and wait for people to approach me about it? No, I would want to make sure that I was proactive, vocal, and hope that I could bring that cure to as many people as possible!

If, we as Christians really believe that the hope for a broken world is Christ, why are we not vocal about it? I think there are a multitude of factors that lead many Christians to take the “Let my light shine before others” approach.

For some, as I said before, it is simply sloppy and lazy Christianity. It is the path of least resistance. We don’t have to do anything extra. If people want to know, they will ask. Other times, it is fear that we will offend others, and at times, we probably will. Sometimes the offense will be our own fault, other times it will be the fact that some people find the truth offensive. We are not perfect, and we will make mistakes. All we can do with mistakes is apologize for being insensitive and learn from our mistakes. Our conversation should always be seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6) and we should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

Many Christians also fear that they will be asked a question for which they do not have an answer. My response is, so? It happens. There is nothing wrong with saying, “That is a great question. I am not sure how to respond to that. Let me think some about it, read further, and I will get back to you.” This is far preferred over making up a response or giving a sloppy answer. It is okay to say “I don’t know”. We cannot know everything! This is not an excuse, however, to be intellectually lazy! Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (I Pet 3:15) This is the call to apologetics. We should spend time preparing for questions, but this in no way implies that we can answer every question hurled at us on the spot.

Last, we as Christians often fear the way that other people will perceive us. None of us want to be the bible thumping nut-job that people feel the need to escape from. We worry that people might reject us if we are vocal about our faith. There is much to say about this. Regardless of whether people reject us or not, we are still called to vocally share our faith with others. Fear is not a legitimate excuse to avoid doing what God commands, nor is it worth withholding the cure the world needs. Still, I honestly think that we would be surprised by the people who would love to chat about God, meaning, and the other big questions that we often have. Last, even if some people think we are “weird” what does it matter? Are we trying to win the favor of people or God? (Gal 1:10)

When it comes to sharing our faith, simply living Godly lives before people is good, but it does not cut the mustard. Nothing can come from conversations that never happen. As the late Ziz Ziglar said, “Aim at nothing and you will hit it every time.” Maybe it is time to aim higher than “I will let my light shine” and actually engage people in conversation.

You are a Christian because somebody cared. Now it’s your turn. – Warren Wiersbe

 

 

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

 

What Does It Matter What I Believe?

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What Does It Matter What I BelieveEveryone has beliefs. Everyone thinks (some more than others) about where they came from, what their purpose is, how they should handle morality, and whether or not there is a God. We all have a worldview, that is, we all wear a set of lenses that color the way we view the world.

We live in a pluralistic society where many ideas, thoughts, and beliefs collide. There is a tremendous amount of white noise to wade through in order to articulate and solidify one’s belief system. The fact that there are millions of “experts” on the Internet willing to delve out free advice, of which they have no credentials to do so, does not help. Faulty, poor, and incorrect information is as available as oxygen. Yet, despite the quagmire of internet quacks, truth is readily available for those who seek it.

Today, many ask the question, “Well, what does it matter what I believe anyway?” There are different reasons people pose this question. Probably the most common reason is relativism. You believe what you want, and let me believe what I want. What does it matter to you anyway? Others, are just intellectually lazy. They might assert, “There are so many ideas out there. How can I possibly wade through it all? Who am I to say that one view is right and others are wrong?” This still smacks of relativism slightly, but the person does not want to take the time to seek, ask questions, and better understand what reality looks like. It could also be that they fear finding out a truth that might challenge their lifestyle or a belief they have just settled on. Another reason a person might ask “What does it matter what I believe” is pragmatism. Many view the significance of a worldview or pattern of thinking by its practical benefit. Does it make me feel good? Is it helpful? Does it promote the welfare of those around me? Beliefs then tend to change as needs change. Thus, it doesn’t matter what I believe, as long as it is helpful to me.

So, what does it really matters what we believe? Well, quite a lot actually. People tend to treat their beliefs as though they create fact or construct reality. When it should be the other way around. We should build our beliefs on what best corresponds to truth. I might believe that I will one day play in the NFL, but the facts certainly do not correspond to reality. Reality lets me know that I have no chance of ever playing pro football. Thus, that which we believe that does not correspond with what is real will one day come knocking. If don’t believe in policemen that will not be a viable excuse when I see red and blue lights in my rearview mirror (As a fun exercise why don’t you try that excuse the next time you are pulled over? “I don’t believe in the police so I don’t have to answer to you!”). No, whether we like it or not, reality will eventually make certain demands on us regardless of what we believe. God is no exception. If we do not believe in God, and He is real, which I think He is based off my own examination of the facts, then one day we will have to give an account for our lack of belief.

Another reason our beliefs matter is that they have consequences. Our worldview always translates into life. What we think becomes how we act. This is the reason many people live dramatically different lifestyles. It all begins in our thinking. Yet, correct beliefs lead to positive living. When we watch people crash and burn it is usually due to the fact that they had an incorrect view of the nature of reality, other times it is due to the fact that they chose to disregard the consequences they knew reality would bring.

How do our beliefs affect our lives? A couple of examples are in order. If I subscribe to the belief of Karma, then I will be less likely to help others because they must be paying off some negative Karmic debt. If I believe in the teachings of Christ and apply them, I will have sympathy on those suffering or in need. If I believe there is no God or ultimate purpose in life, I might be more likely to ignore the plights of others and focus only on my needs. A difference in believe leads to a difference in behavior.

What we believe always has consequences! This is no exception for the church. I sometimes am astounded by the current climate of Christian culture that places theology on the back burner and focuses on immediate practical living or “self help Christianity”. Certainly, there are practical teachings in the Bible. As believers, we need to focus on the practical verses and how they are applied to daily life, but we cannot do so at the expense of the theological. What we believe about God impacts everything about our Christian lives. When we have incorrect beliefs about God these ideas too have consequences. An incorrect handling of theology and doctrine can be deadly and impacts the lives of others. How we view God, hell, salvation, predestination, etc. drives the way we live, pray, evangelize, and serve.

Our beliefs shape our values, and our values shape our actions. – Karl Graustein

Walk good. Love Wise. Be Blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Loving the Idea of God

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idea of godWith 78% of Americans labeling themselves as Christians one quickly wonders, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” When you look across America, you don’t see nearly 8 out of 10 people acting like Christ. That is in fact what it means to be a Christian, to act like Christ. Now I am not saying that if you are not a perfect model, then you aren’t Christian. I am also not saying that Christians don’t backslide, rebel, or make God a low priority at times. I am saying that if 78% of Americans are Christians, then we have gotten drastically away from what Christianity is and should be.

I think what we see in our culture is more likely that there is a much smaller percentage of people that are Christians and a higher percentage of people that like the idea of God. That is to say, there is a vast difference between loving God and wanting to do what He wants you to do and loving the idea of God. The latter is self-serving and me focused while the former is self-denying and God focused.

Why would anyone love the idea of God? Well, because God provides a sense of purpose and instills hope. He is someone we can turn to when times become difficult. He is a genie that can be summoned by rubbing the magical lamp when we are down on our luck. God certainly offers a myriad certain emotional and psychological benefits.

But loving the idea of God does nothing to change who we are. That is, one can love the idea of God and remain totally the same. Live how you want, look out for you, and find comfort in the idea of God. Is that where much of America is? You tell me.

Do the following characteristics seem to apply to the populous as a whole? Would you say that many are lovers of themselves? That is, they take the place of priority in their lives? Is money the main focus in society? Are many boastful and proud? Is abuse prevalent? Do child respect parents? Is America ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God? These attributes are a paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3:2-4. Then, Paul goes on to say in verse 5 that people will have a form of godliness, but deny its power. “I will take just enough God to make me feel good, but not enough to change who I am.”

We should examine our lives and see if there are any areas where we just “like the idea of God” instead of living for God and loving Him with all of our “heart, soul, and mind.” In relation to Apologetics this means wanting to know more about God for the sake of knowing Him better, drawing closer to Him, and removing obstacles for others as opposed to simply acquiring knowledge. It is tempting to fall into the trap of wanting to have “the answers” for the sake of having them and not putting them to their proper use!

We should also, as believers, be willing to point out the difference between liking the idea of God and actually loving God to those around us. That means untwisting the gospel when it gets twisted. It means calling out those that preach a false Gospel (though always coupled with love) and exposing the prosperity gospel as a means to serve self.

Liking the idea of God may offer certain benefits while letting one live the way they want, but everything has its price. Living for ourselves will cost us high premiums, because life isn’t simply about us.

We are His servants, not He ours. He has called us to live lives of loving service and worship, not godlike supremacy. He blesses us, but not always materially. In no way can we “write our own ticket” and expect Him to follow our script – nor should any real believer even desire such a scenario. The life of the Christian is a life spent in pursuit of God’s will – not a strategy to get Him to go along with ours. –John MacArthur

 

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Abusive Christian Parents

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Abusive Christian ParentsDid you know that there are thousands of Christian parents abusing their poor kids? Odds are, you probably didn’t. It is truly horrific. What are they doing? Beating them? Making them kneel on rice? Forcing them into hard labor? No, it is something much more sinister. They are homeschooling their kids and perhaps even teaching them to believe in creationism. Startling, isn’t it?

On August 1-3, 2013, the Texas Homeschool Coalition will be hosting its annual conference. Thousands of Christian families will attend the conference and be indoctrinated in this twisted propaganda. Yet, this year, there will be a hitch. A group of vocal atheists that hail from Dallas, known as “The Nones”, will be protesting at the conference in order to show the immoral nature of indoctrinating your kids will your values. I am sure that is something that no one else on the planet does. Who wants to instill in their children what they believe to be the truth?

One of the atheists affiliated with the group states that there must be some way of regulating homeschooling. Well, homeschooling is regulated. To legally homeschool, at least in Texas, you must follow state law. Now, granted, some homeschoolers take a really poor approach to education. Yet, there are some public and private schools that are also less than ideal. There are many homeschoolers, however, that get a remarkable education. I am willing to bet that what is most bothersome to the atheistic group is that the curriculum is geared at promoting a Christian worldview, yet this will happen in the home regardless of the education. The beliefs of parents are passed on to children. This goes for atheists, theists, pantheists, agnostics, etc.

“But wait. If home schooled kids are taught creationism or intelligent design they won’t get a competing secular perspective.” Well, I can’t speak for all home schoolers, but I can speak for myself. I was home schooled as a child. The curriculum I used was very theologically conservative. Yet, over the years I was exposed to a great diversity of worldviews. I was taught to think critically, for myself. I challenged and questioned much of what I was taught as a child. Some of my beliefs about God and the formation of the universe are different than what I was taught as a kid. I am willing to bet this is the case for many that are home schooled.

If the concern is a fair and balanced approach to origins, then why is evolution the only possible option for public schools? Why are kids not presented with other ideas? Can it not include evolution, theistic evolution, and intelligent design? Why don’t we teach all children that according to a naturalistic worldview, the universe pulled itself up by it’s own bootstraps and arose from nothing?  I don’t want my kids to be sheltered and graduate to feel that I held something back from them. I want them to understand the many competing ideas. I can assure my atheists friends that my children will be well versed in the many competing ideas about origins, but they will also get a healthy dose of what I believe. That is just how it works.

Parents who want to spend their own money, give their own time, and instill their own worldview into the education of their own children have every right to do so. Christians have that right and I support the atheist to do the same thing. It’s called freedom.

One of the members from the atheistic group goes on to make the statement, “It’s immoral to me to teach your child that the earth is 6,000 years old.” How is this immoral? Might it be incorrect? Certainly! I think it is very reasonable to believe the earth is older, but immoral? The theist might say that it is immoral to teach your child that there is no God or that morality is relative. Again, it might be wrong, but immoral is certainly a stretch.

She then goes on to say, “You’re an ape and you’re an animal. And to deny that is ridiculous. You’re still one anyways!” Let’s think about this. You’re an animal (according to naturalism), and it is immoral to teach your kids to believe in something like creationism. This is a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Animals are not moral creatures. Sure, they exhibit altruistic behavior. Dolphins have been known to save people drowning, but this is simply a case of man benefiting from behavior that is advantageous in the animal kingdom. Animals often exhibit “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” type of behaviors. We also see other problematic behaviors in the animal kingdom like: rape, brutality, killing over territory, and plundering. Are these behaviors immoral? Do we have prisons for monkeys, lions, and bison? Of course not, that would be absurd. Animals will act like animals. So if we are animals, and to deny that is ridiculous, then why should anything be considered immoral? You can’t have it both ways. Under naturalism, morality is a social construct that is relative. So what is the big deal? I’ll teach my kids what I want and you teach yours what you want. When we are all dead and the universe dies of heat death who will really care what we taught our kids (according to naturalism)?

To the atheists that will be protesting at the Texas Home School Coalition conference I wholly endorse your right to practice your freedom of speech. I also endorse the Christians families present to educate their kids in the way they see fit. To all of the home schooling families at the convention let’s teach our children to think critically, inform them, and help them stand on truth.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Apologetic Wednesday: Love Then Logic

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Love Then LogicIt is roughly one o’clock in the morning. It is a pretty familiar scene for me. I sit working in front of my computer in a dimly lit living room while the rest of my family sleeps. I watch my son over a monitor that streams live to my cell phone. As is often the case, he wakes up crying. I walk into his room to console him. He wants in my bed. I pick him, hug him, and place him gently beside my wife. He snuggles into her and is back to sleep in an envious matter of seconds, safe and secure.

I enjoy this time of life. My children are dependent upon me. I can allay their fears, bring comfort to their hearts, kiss away their pains, and shelter them from an often toxic and harsh world. Yet, I know one day they will make their own way. Their decisions will be their own. It will no longer be I that guides their every step.

Early yesterday morning, I read an article before I began my day. It was written by Rachael Slick, which is the daughter of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry founder, Matt Slick. In her article she tells about her childhood, which she seems to paint as restrictive, sheltered, and legalistic, and her journey into atheism. She recounts all the time that her father spent pouring into her good reasons to embrace Christianity. Then one day, she thinks of a question that she cannot answer, and walks away from her faith. Though her article does not make it clear, she seems to walk away quickly without really wrestling with the question that sent her spiraling away from the center of her Christian universe. It is also interesting to note that the question she felt posed a great problem for the Christian is really not problematic for belief in God.

As I read her story, I felt deeply saddened, but I also felt the crushing weight of responsibility. As a father of two, I hope I can instill into my children the love of God and why faith in Jesus Christ is reasonable. Why? Because I know that what they believe about God is the most important thing about them. Yet, as I read her article, it caused me to think about my own children and their journey through life as they formulate their own worldview. What if my children also decided to depart from the faith? What would I do? I would love them. Plain and simple, I would love them. There is nothing that can ever separate them from my love. No decision they could ever make can change the fact that I love them, and always will.

I have seen so many Christians who allow a host of different things to form a chasm between them and the people they love. Yet, we would do well to remember that there is nothing that can kill love, it is we that choose to withhold our love and affection.

As I read Ms. Slick’s article, it seemed (and I am psychologizing here) that though her father poured philosophy into her young mind early on and taught her to employ sound logic; she might have missed out on something she needed much, an understanding of God’s deep love and experiencing that love. We must remember that love isn’t something to be earned. It can only be given. It is the same with God. We can’t earn it. It is something He gives freely.

As Christians and Apologists (if you are a Christian you are called, though some to a higher degree than others, to be an apologist and have a reason for the hope you have) we need to remember that it is our love that must precede our logic. Do I want my children to develop solid answers for what they believe? Absolutely! Do I want my kids to remember their dad as being a defender of truth, who sought truth regardless of where it leads, and studied hard to make a case for Christianity? You bet! But long before they remember my arguments I want them to remember my love, because without a heavy dose of love from their dad my arguments won’t seem to carry much weight. In fact, without my love all of my words will just sound empty, like a “clanging symbol” that is beat annoyingly.

Let’s continue to redefine the way the world views Christianity. We are not a group of people scared by current scientific research. We do not cower down to the philosophies of the secular mind. We are not sheltered and fearful of “being bullied.” We have reasons for what we believe. But can we, as believers, please employ love before logic? Can we make sure that the world knows God’s love and be ambassadors of that love? Can we make sure that Christianity isn’t just a cognitive exercise, but also is a love story between God and His creation?

Ms. Slick, though you may not believe in God, He still loves you. To my own children, I will always love you regardless of the decisions you make. To the rest of us, may we remember the words of the Apostle Paul:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:38-39

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

The Most Important Thing About You

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Most ImportantA.W. Tozer once stated, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” As of late his words have become embedded in my mind. Several times daily this sentence is conjured up within my conscious thought. I have not been able to escape his words.

How right Tozer is. The single most important thing about us as human beings is what we think about God. Yet, how often do we think about God? In Luke 10:27, Jesus reminds us to Love the Lord your God with all your mind. To do this, we must spend time thinking about God, reading about God, learning about God, and obviously employing logic to defend and articulate what we think about God to others; so they might come to know the hope we have.

So the question is not only what do we think about God, but also how often do we think about it and how well. Much of Christianity focuses only on the practical aspects of the Bible. What can I find in scripture that is immediately applicable? I have heard countless Christians say, “I just need something from scripture to help me deal with my daily problems.” That is definitely a part of Christianity. The Bible is full of practical teaching that is directly applicable, but we must not limit our intellectual diet to what is immediately practical.

Theology is also of great import. What is Theology? It is the study of God. It asks, “What is God Like?” “What is God’s nature like and what are His desires?” “How is God involved with mankind and what does he expect of us?” You see, Theology, though many do not see it’s immediate importance, is the foundation for what we think about God. Poor Theology leads to an incorrect or damaging picture of God, and the most important thing about us is marred.

Maybe you ask, what does it matter? Why is what I think about God the most important thing about me? Our view of God drives every other facet of our lives. What we think about God is the foundation of our beliefs about life, morality, family, identity, ethics, purpose, and our future. Then our beliefs, in turn, set the course for how we live our lives. Our Theology, affects every decision we make and every action we take (sorry, that sounded like a cheap rip off of the police).

What you think about God is the most important thing about you. How often do you think about God? What are you learning? How are you growing? Are you expanding your Theological understanding?

So what do you think about God?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Things to Know About Senate Bill 5

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Senate Bill 5On June 25, Senate Bill 5 was under consideration for legislature in the state of Texas. The bill would require that all abortion clinics be certified as ambulatory surgical centers and would not allow abortions to be performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Democratic Senator, Wendy Davis, had other plans. She filibustered the bill and delivered a 10 hour speech in hopes of delaying the vote. The bill was eventually voted on, amidst the chaotic circus of protesters, and passed, but it occurred after midnight and was rendered null. On June 26, Governor Rick Perry called for a special session on July 1st to reconsider the bill.

It is important for us to take into consideration the importance and dramatic scope of Senate Bill 5, for if it passes dramatic changes will take place involving how abortion services are delivered in the state of Texas. The passing of the bill would mean the closing of roughly 80% of abortion clinics in the second most populated state in the union! There are approximately 215 abortions performed daily in Texas. What would that number look like if Senate Bill 5 passes? How many lives will be spared from premature obliteration under surgical blades and suction hoses?

I hold to the view that life begins at the moment of conception and believe that abortion is a moral evil regardless of when it is performed. I stand firmly on the substance view of human personhood, which states that every organism is a substance of a particular kind of being that undergoes changes, but these changes do not affect what they are essentially. Many try to delineate when exactly life begins based on many different criteria. In other words, they may speculate that life begins when the fetus reaches certain development milestones such as cognizance or sentience. Yet, just because a human cannot exhibit all of it’s capacities all the time through life does not mean it is not a full-fledged human being! This is the idea behind the substance view of personhood.

When it comes to abortion, the argument about when life begins has become largely moot because many pro-choice advocates agree that the unborn child is alive. The issue has become that of autonomy and personal liberty. Many in favor of abortion view their right to personal liberty as taking precedence over the child’s right to life, which is completely absurd. One person’s freedom to choose overrides the unborn person’s right to live.

The question I would like to pose, is why shouldn’t late term abortions (after 20 weeks) be abolished? It has been well documented that babies in late term abortion feel pain, possibly as early as 6-8 weeks gestation. Many will argue, well drugs are administered to send the child into cardiac arrest so the surgical procedure is not felt, yet, who says that being sent into cardiac arrest is not painful? I personally have no desire to see what it feels like, but I have spoken to some that say it is not pleasant, to say the least. Why wouldn’t we want to stop late term abortions if they potentially cause the unborn to experience even the slightest amount of anguish? Is it not humane to refrain from doing so? Yet, the real issue at hand is the closing of so many abortion clinics across the state. It appears that the pro-choice advocates are more concerned about availability than the potential pain it might inflict on the unborn. It would also make sense that these procedures should take place at surgical centers. We wouldn’t want women having abortions at chop shops, butcher houses, or in coat hanger closets would we? Why not pass this legislation? Because it would bottleneck the availability of abortions, that’s why.

We should also be reminded of what late term abortions look like.  One must consider the development level the unborn has reached at this juncture. Francis Beckwith states that at 13 weeks the child can “kick his legs, turn his feet, curl his toes, make a fist, suck his thumb, bend his wrist, turn his head, frown, open his mouth, press his lips tightly together. He drinks amniotic fluid.” Then he says at 22 weeks, “He is now about a foot tall, weighs one pound. Fine baby hair begins to grow on his eye brows and head. He sleeps and wakes just as he will after birth.” If that sounds all too human, it is because it is human. This is the point of development reached by a child when late term abortions are performed.

Recently, the highly credentialed, Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortionist who is now pro-life, described late term abortion procedures in explicit detail. He was testifying in support of a bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks nationwide. The procedure he describes is known as “Suction D&E”. In his testimony, he placed in display the primary instrument used to extract the fetus called a Sopher clamp. He states, “This instrument is for grasping and crushing tissue. When it gets hold of something, it does not let go.” He continues, “Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard…You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.” He laments that the most difficult part is removing the head. “You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you.

There have been 57 million legally induced abortions within the United States since 1973. Lets pray that Senate Bill 5 passes. It will save the lives of some, though the many will be killed.

Every life matters. Let’s weep with the 57 million that never experienced all that life offers. Let’s pray for legislation to be enacted that speaks for those without a voice. Let’s create a culture of life.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

How To Sniff Out Bad Arguments – Part 3

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bad arguments 3 copyEveryone believes something. All people have a worldview that they hold to. Some are thought through well, and others not so much. Daily, people’s worldviews collide as they interact with one another. The beliefs and ideas that people hold to are varied and often contradictory. It should be obvious that all contradictory ideas and belief systems cannot all be correct. They may all be wrong, or one may be correct, but two or more conflicting ideas cannot all reflect reality accurately. That being said, people from varied worldviews often argue, or make a case for, their beliefs. Some offer strong and well seasoned arguments, while others give shallow and putrid arguments. The Christian must be able to sniff out the poor arguments if he is to properly engage the varied beliefs of the world around him.

One problematic manner in which people argue is referred to as “begging the question”, which is also known as circular reasoning. This is where a person assumes their belief to be correct in the first place. This happens all the time. “The Bible is inerrant because everything it says is true.” “Science is the only way to know truth because science can’t be false.” “America is the greatest nation on earth because no other nation is so great.” Look at the evidence.

There is also the “straw man.” People often try to exaggerate, distort or misrepresent an opponent’s argument. They construct a man of straw that they can easily tear down instead of actually engaging the real argument. “Atheists just hate God.” “Christians don’t believe in science.” “Intelligent design advocates believe the world was created 6,000 years ago.” “If everything needs a cause, then who created God.” “The Bible advocates murdering homosexuals.” All of these are misrepresentations of someone else’s ideas and allow the person stating them to look as though they are destroying the competition. Look to make sure that ideas presented are correct and not exaggerated or misrepresented.

Another, often employed, fallacious attempt to win an argument is where the only evidence provided supports the person’s belief or idea. Here, the arguer assumes the other person’s ignorance. They ignore contrary, and often overwhelming evidence, that opposes their point. One such argument often heard is, “The fact that Christianity has started all the wars shows that it has an averse affect on the world.” Well, what about the wars waged by atheistic regimes? What about the good things Christianity has done for the world? Is it possible that some wars have nothing to do with religion? We must make sure that the person we are having a discussion with is not appealing to selective evidence and leaving the contrary evidence out. True discussions examine all the evidence.

Some people fight really dirty when arguing their point. They intentionally try to distract the other party or change the subject. This is often referred to as a “Red Herring”. The term comes from Fox Hunting, where the fish, a Red Herring, would be drug across the path of the fox to throw the dogs off of it’s scent. This is often a last ditch effort when a person is losing an argument. They may try to change the subject, create an uproar, tell a joke, anything to take the focus off of the immediate discussion. “While the Christian believes that Jesus rose from the dead as evidence for Christianity, we know that many Christians just assume the beliefs of their parent.” Here a new topic is introduced and the data about the resurrection of Christ is avoided. “Atheists support evolutionary theory to explain life on earth, but the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.’” The topic of evolution is avoided and scripture quoted instead. Stay with the original argument like a dog on a bone. Additional points can be addressed after the current item under discussion is dealt with satisfactorily.

Another common fallacy is where people make generalizations to quickly. They take the exceptions and make them the rule. “Laws condemning abortion are wrong. Think how horrible it would be for a woman raped to be forced to raise the child that resulted from that rape.” This is clearly the exception. The vast majority of abortions are elective and have little to do with rape. A universal case is made from atypical evidence. We must look at the big picture. There are always exceptions and they must be dealt with, but the exceptions cannot be generalized too quickly to the overall issue or population.

So many poor methods are employed to make a case for an idea or worldview by Christians, Atheists, liberals, and conservatives. No one is exempt from using poor logic or crafting bad arguments. Yet, the Christian has been commanded to “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV) This means growing the ability to identify faulty arguments. The Christian needs to learn how to think instead of allowing people to tell them what to think!

Walk good. Live Wise. Be blessed.
Josh

How To Sniff Out Bad Arguments – Part 2

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bad arguments 2When it comes to having discussions with people about beliefs, worldviews, and ideas, we can often miss poorly constructed arguments and poor thinking without realizing it. We know that ideas come in many shapes and sizes. Some of the arguments, or cases that people present, stink, while others are formed with much precision and consideration. Part of the Christians calling in sharing the Gospel is looking for poor ways of thinking, including our own.

When it comes to arguments we must constantly work to make sure the other party stays on task. Often, irrelevant matters are smuggled into a discussion to win an argument. It happens all the time. We have to learn to spot these fallacies when they are employed.

Some people try to dodge the issue under discussion by attacking their opponent. They try to bully people into buying into their ideas. Logic goes out the window and threats are used. Often people will attack a person’s character  in an attempt to win the argument or because they have not thought through their position well. For example, in court a lawyer might try to persuade a jury to throw out the testimony of a witness because he is a drunk. The fact that a person drinks does not necessarily damage what he witnessed while sober. Just because a minister had a sinful past does not mean he is not dedicated to the Lord’s work in the present. Some people will attack a person’s argument based on circumstances surrounding them. I once had an individual tell me that we should not employ the apologetics of C.S. Lewis because he studied Norse (pagan) mythology. This is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Some people bypass logical principles by trying to argue from ignorance. This is where people hold to an idea until it is proven false. In other words, ignorance is bliss. This is a land where closed minds are grown and thrive. Ignorance doesn’t prove anything. We must look at the evidence. I have heard atheist argue, “God doesn’t exist because I have never seen any evidence for him.” Then Christians are just as guilty, “God must exist because no one can prove he doesn’t.” Both of these arguments lack any substance. We must examine the positive evidence and weigh it.

Many people employ the weight of what the majority holds to be true in attempt to win an argument. “Everyone else believes this and your are stupid if you reject it.” There is a problem with this line of thinking. Everyone can be wrong. The vast majority of people use to believe the world was flat. The majority of Germans believed that Jews were an “inferior species”. Just because everyone holds to a belief does not make it so. What is the positive evidence? Don’t be bullied by the “everyone else believes this” steamroll.

Along similar lines, some will appeal to authority figures to give weight to poor arguments. “Lawrence Krauss holds to the idea that the universe arose from nothing so it is true.” “Stephen Hawking believes we live in a Godless universe so there is no God.” “Fox news said that the President has an alcohol problem so you can take that as the gospel.” “Joel Osteen says if you just live right all your problems will go away and so it is.” Just because someone in an authority position makes a statement does not make that statement irrevocably true. What is the evidence? We should listen to people in authority, as long as they are an actual authority. Often authorities in one field try to act as though they are authorities across many other disciplines and this diminishes their weight of their statements. The theological and philosophical rantings of Richard Dawkins is a prime example of an authority overstepping their bounds. Ultimately, all appeals to authority boil down to the evidence that authority has to support their statements.

In attempt to shape a discussion in their favor, advocates of certain beliefs often attempt to appeal to pity or tug at people’s heartstrings in order to win an argument. “Well, if abortion isn’t legal women will be having back ally, coat hanger abortions that are unsafe.” “A loving God wouldn’t allow people to suffer in hell.” What are the facts? Leave emotion out of it. Let’s deal with the arguments.

Some people will try to eschew arguments based on the age of said argument. “That idea went out years ago.” “Believing that sex before marriage is wrong went out of vogue with the sexual revolution.” Ideas do not have expiration dates. The soundness of an argument or correctness of a statement has nothing to do with age. At times people may also implore you to accept their statement based on the future. “One day research will prove this.” “Data will eventually show that God does not exist.” The available data in the present rules the day. We can deal with future discoveries as they arise.

The more we practice sniffing out poorly constructed arguments the greater our sense develops for doing so. Continue to scrutinize the worldviews, ideas, and beliefs that people present, whether in the media, in online forums, from those in academia, or sitting in a circle of friends; you will spot bad arguments everywhere.

I am not encouraging an attitude of skepticism, only clear and correct thinking. When it comes to engaging culture, demolishing false ideological strongholds, or challenging the beliefs of others it is not attacking the opponent, appealing to an authority, or the age of the idea that wins the day. The way an argument is won is due to thinking through one’s own position and holding to facts grounded in evidence that best conform with reality.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Continue Reading Part 3

How To Sniff Out Bad Arguments – Part 1

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bad argumentsRecently, I went shopping with my wife. She had a few things to do and we were in somewhat of a hurry. We decided to divide and conquer. She sent me on quest to buy a candle for a friend of hers in order to save some time. That sounds like a bad idea doesn’t it? Apparently, she trusted my judgment in picking out a fragrance for her friend. I made my way into the alien world of Bath and Body Works. How many different scents can there be? As I started conducting my sniff test, I noticed something quickly. Some of the candles smelled wonderful (Summertime S’mores or Watermelon Lemonade anyone?) and other ones just plain stunk. Some of them made me feel a little nauseous even.

It is this sense that arguments are like candles, some of them stink and some of them don’t. When I say arguments, I don’t mean the form of two people bickering. I am referring to giving a defense for a belief or making a case for an idea. It is the Christian’s job to spot bad ideas and false arguments. We are to expose false ideas for what they are. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

Bad arguments occur both within and outside of Christianity. At times, Christians construct ideas based off of their own desires or misinterpret scripture. This is how heretical doctrines are birthed or cults take root. There are also a multitude of bad ideas outside of Christianity that do not conform to reality.

As believers we need to be able to spot bad arguments, both our own and those of others. Sometimes people don’t intend to set forth bad arguments and a dialogue about them can change their view. Other times people fear the outcome of changing their view and they argue their point while they remain uncertain about it’s correctness. Then there are some that intentionally try to smuggle in bad arguments so they can be right. With that being said, lets sniff out some of the of the various ways that people argue poorly. These are often referred to as logical fallacies.

First, we may often notice that people use ambiguous terms, or accordion words that can be stretched, when they formulate their arguments. We see an equivocation of terms. Norman Geisler reminds us, “Ambiguity is one of the seven deadly sins of correct thinking.” Words mean different things to different people. Ambiguous language takes different forms. It may simply be a word a phrase with different meanings. Consider the following phrases. “He gave her cat food.” Did he give a lady’s cat some food or did he give the lady the cat’s food? “I like to eat grandpa.” Is someone telling grandpa that they like to eat, or do they consider older men a delicacy? “The lady hit the man with the newspaper.” Did she hit the man holding a newspaper or did she smack him with the newspaper? Words or phrases with different meanings can cause serious problems when trying to defend or engage a worldview.

We should also be aware that personal experience, worldview, and circumstances often affect how people use words as well. Terms like evolution or Christ are often laden with different meanings to different people. I have even seen people equivocate on the word “nothing”, using it as a universal negation and then as an absence of certain properties. Before any discussion can yield positive results, terms must be defined. Each party must know to what the other is referring, and how they view and understand the terms involved in the discussion. Unless each party understands the meaning behind the other person’s words, it is difficult to respond to or critique an argument.

Walk good. Love wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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