Tag Archives: Gospel

A new series of posts about the adventures of an effective Christian woman

If you want to have conversations with people, prepare
If you want to have conversations about Christianity, then prepare

I try to encourage my Christian friends to study topics related to the Christian worldview, and to make connections between the Christian worldview and topics like economics, science, politics, etc. I want them to have deep conversations with non-Christians. Well, I just noticed that Laura, who writes at An Affair With Reason, started a series of posts about her experiences having these conversations.

She has two posts so far. In the first, she provides an introduction to the series:

By the grace of God, an ordinary day for me includes at least one significant spiritual conversation. The conversations are spontaneous, and the people I talk to are those I come across in the mundane activities of life: construction workers I see while walking my dog, neighbors out mowing their lawn, CrossFit coaches and athletes, my husband’s coworkers, the pest control man, the UPS man, the woman at the grocery store, and the customer service representative who took my call.

[…]Because spiritual conversations are so fun for me, I enjoy sharing them with others. People ask me often, “How did you get into that conversation?” and “How does this happen to you nearly every single day?”

In one sense these conversations do “happen to me” in that I don’t plan them, but it would be far more accurate to say that I create these conversations by living my life in a way that causes me to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks me for a reason for the hope that is in me, and then paying attention for opportunities to get a foot in the door. Hence, many people have suggested that I publicly share what I’m doing with others so that they may benefit from practical, real life examples of conversations that they may seek to emulate in their own lives.

I’m so delighted with this, because I am always urging my Christian friends to read more, listen to more podcasts, and watch more debates, so that they are equipped to have these sorts of adventures.

Laura posted the first conversation in the series, with her previous pastor:

For two years I had tried to persuade my pastor to allow me to teach a small group or conference on apologetics. I set up appointments so he and his staff could get to know me. I shared my background and experiences, gave them opportunities to ask me questions, and even offered references from other churches where I had taught. I offered to show videos and facilitate discussions on the teachings of well-known apologists like Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, and J. Warner Wallace so the church leadership wouldn’t need to worry about platforming a heretic, and I shared my blog so they could see my work for themselves. Several months later, the entire church leadership admitted they had not read my blog and probably never would.

Over the next couple of years I continued to offer to introduce apologetics to our congregation through any format deemed appropriate, but nothing came of it. Eventually, my husband was relocated and our pastor, along with a dozen others, helped us load our moving truck in exchange for pizza, soda, and one last evening of fellowship.

During our conversation, as we were sitting on the empty floor, eating pizza on paper plates and drinking soda from plastic cups, my pastor mentioned that he frequently visited a certain coffee shop in the area that was very unfriendly to Christianity. The owners even had a sign on the wall that said, “No crazy talk”, which they had made clear included talk of Jesus, miracles, and the gospel. I commented that it seemed like the ideal place to share truth with people who needed to hear it, and I asked if that had been his experience.

“How do you even begin to discuss those things in an environment where the gospel isn’t welcome,” he replied.

“Personally, I would go with the Cosmological Argument, but you could always share the Teleological Argument. If you’re talking to college students, though, I’d definitely look for opportunities to share the Moral Argument. Young people seem to relate most to that line of reasoning,” I said.

“Sorry, what did you say,” he asked, as if I had just begun speaking in tongues in front of his Presbyterian congregation.

“The Cosmological Argument,” I repeated.

Blank stare.

“And the Teleological Argument”

“Teleo-what,” he asked quizzically.

“It means having a purpose or a design,” I explained.

“So how would you go about sharing these arguments with non-Christians,” he asked.

It was getting late and we were all exhausted, but this was important. This is what I had wanted to share for two straight years. I looked at my watch and told them I needed four minutes per argument in order to explain adequately. I was given the green light, and for the next twelve minutes I summarized for my pastor and about ten others what I had not been able to share with the congregation.

So she doesn’t really spend much time describing the conversation, because that’s not what this series is about. You can ask her for book recommendations if you want to handle it like she did. But the rest of the post explains why she prepared to have this conversation, and what pastors can do to equip people in the church to have these conversations.

This is not the first time I’ve linked to her, I also did here for her post about apologetics and here for her post about talking to Muslims. What I like about her is that she has a mature view of the Christian life that I really respect. When I read her writing, I can tell that she is not involved in Christianity to feel good or to be liked. She has a goal in mind, and she has done hard things to be prepared to reach it.

I have also tried to get apologetics into the church. I normally try to bring in the Focus on the Family True U DVDs, which feature Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. Without success. In my experience, pastors tend to not really understand challenges to Christianity, or they don’t know how to respond to them, or they just don’t want people in the church to get upset by having to do work. Read the rest of Laura’s post to get her solution to the problem.

How do you explain the gospel to a non-Christian in two minutes?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here’s my attempt, then we’ll see an expert do it.

I hope that everyone who reads my blog is passionate about the gospel and understands it enough to explain it to others. It is so practical, you can see the need for it immediately when you talk to people in any detail. People are in rebellion against God. We want to seek our own happiness from rational constraints, moral constraints, judgments and feelings of shame. We want to not have to care what other people think of us (unless they agree), and this goes double for the God of the universe. This is literally infuriating to God, since he is the one who gives us so many blessings. It is proper for us to to recognize and respect him in our decision making – even if we find his greatness offensive to our pride. Instead of respecting God, we attribute the blessings to blind luck. We refuse to acknowledge God in our decision-making, and not just in moral issues but in everything we do. This is just astonishing ingratitude, and for this we deserve to be punished. However, God has given us a way to be reconciled with him, by allowing his own Son to be punished in our place. This punishment of Jesus pays the debt that we owe to God for our rebellion against him. If we acknowledge this sacrifice by Jesus, and put him in place as our leader and mentor, then God will forgive us and we will be reconciled with Him. And so, a relationship with God can begin, and it lasts forever. That is the gospel.

Here is famous evangelist Ravi Zacharias explaining the gospel in two minutes:

For those who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a good thought about the gospel from J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

I think it’s very important to get all of this clear, and nothing makes it clearer than when you get to know a non-Christian and really hear their reasons for not looking into whether God exists. Ask them what they think life is really about, and what motivates them, and see where God is in it. I think we get confused by non-Christians because they can sometimes be very nice to other people. But the real standard is whether people recognize and acknowledge God as he really is, and respond to him in a relationship.

Is Tim Keller right to say that New York City brings the gospel to Christians?

Can New York City can teach Christians about the gospel?
Can New York City teach Christians about the gospel?

(Source)

Here is a short guest post from my friend the software engineer.

Tim Keller dusted off an old pearl of wisdom of his and re-posted it on twitter. I discovered it on Facebook as many of my friends were making fun of it. One Twitter user remarked:

I think it’s been three years since the last time you tweeted this. I predict no misunderstanding this time.

To which Keller responded:

It happens every time. Hard to understand this–unless you realize how much the city can teach us and how much we learn about Christ through common grace, other Christians, the humbling that happens here. Oh well.

I can conjure up in my mind a way for this to not be meaningless tripe. It could be that Keller has in mind the number of ways men made in the image of god remind him of god’s grace and represent an opportunity to live out the sacrifice Jesus called us to.

But I have a hard time believing it doesn’t mean something else. That Keller has in mind here that we should allow the city and its emergent values to exert undue influence over us. I have a hard time believing this because I don’t see Keller’s church actively changing the culture around them and thereby setting an example for the rest of us to follow.

I would further submit that one of the reasons Tim Keller’s church has not been successful in changing the city is that they are too busy succumbing to the social justice influences that are popular today.

Why don’t people take churches like Keller’s seriously anymore? Perhaps it’s precisely because those churches have, as Keller tweeted, allowed the city to bring them the gospel.


OK That’s it for my friend’s post. I was supposed to add two of my beefs with Tim Keller. The first one is that he’s far left on questions of origins.

Here’s an article from Creation.com. I am not a young Earth creationist, I’m an old Earth creationist. Still, my YEC software engineer friend (a different software engineer) tells me that they are the best and largest YEC site.

They say:

Timothy Keller, author of The Reason for God (see our review), recently authored a paper for the theistic evolutionary organization Biologos (see Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos) titled “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” (read the entire paper here). In this paper, he wrestles with how to present science to Christian laypeople in such a way that evolution and the Bible seem compatible.

[…]Keller devotes several pages to showing that believing that evolution happened as a biological process does not necessarily mean that one has to embrace the “Grand Theory of Evolution” involving naturalism and social Darwinism.

The young Earth creationists are concerned that evolution is not what God described in the Bible. Old Earth creationists think it’s worse than that. Not only does evolution not agree with the Bible, it doesn’t agree with good science either. The problem with Keller is his disagreement with what mainstream science shows about the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, irreducible complexity, etc.

But that’s not the only problem with Tim Keller.

Here is what he says about a statement signed by conservative Christians disagreeing with “social justice”:

A controversial statement signed by more than 9,000 evangelicals and Christian organizations deploring social justice as a dangerous concept to the Gospel, belittles Christians who talk about race and justice, says Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

[…]The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel was released early this month with initial signers including John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, who recently denounced evangelicalism’s “newfound obsession” with social justice.

Among other things, the statement notes that: “Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for ‘social justice.’

If you want to know what Tim Keller really thinks about moral issues, you can read his opinion / editorial in the far-left New York Times, where he has nothing to say about the traditional teachings of the Christian worldview (voluntary charity, chastity, pro-life, natural marriage, not coveting your neighbor’s wealth, limited government, people defined by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin).

Moderate conservative Doug Wilson notes:

So get the vantage of two hundred years from now, and have a doctoral student in American history examine Keller’s op-ed piece for any reference at all to abortion, or to the fact that Planned Parenthood, subsidized by our tax dollars, sells baby parts. It is not there.

[…]So why didn’t more churches apply what the Bible requires of slave-owners two hundred years ago? The answer is that back then it would have taken courage to do so, just as it would take courage today for Keller to denounce Planned Parenthood in The New York Times.

Keller does denounce sins in this piece. But he is still being careful because the sins he denounces are safe sins to denounce—we know this because they are all the sins that the secular world routinely uses to denounce the conservative Christian world. There is the sin of not working for “better public schools,” or not working for a “justice system weighted against the poor,” or “to end racial segregation,” or failing to “lift up the poor.” It is as though we found John the Baptist chiding the Israelites for failing to see the moral imperatives contained within Herod’s economic stimulus programs.

And that’s because the readers of the New York Times, and the residents of the city of New York are pro-abortion (which is the equivalent of slavery in our modern times).  In fact, New York is pro-infanticide – they have a law that allows infanticide. And this did not deserve a mention from Tim Keller in his New York Times editorial. Perhaps he thinks that infanticide is one of the things that New York city has to teach traditional Christians about the gospel.

Did the early church invent the divinity of Jesus over a long period of time?

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity

How early is the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus?

When I answer this question, I only want to use the earliest, most reliable sources – so I can defend them on historical grounds using the standard rules of historiography.

The 4 sources that I would use are as follows:

  • The early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and 1 Corinthians 1
  • A passage in Philippians 2
  • Two passages from Mark, the earliest gospel
  • A passage from Q, which is an early source of Matthew and Luke

So let’s see the passages.

1 Corinthians

I’ve written before about the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which skeptical scholars date to 1-3 years after the death of Jesus, for a variety of reasons I covered in the previous post. Here’s the creed which definitely makes Jesus out to be more than an ordinary man. Ordinary men don’t get resurrection bodies after they die.

Here’s the passage: (1 Cor 15:3-8)

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,

8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 talks about Jesus being “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Paul is identifying Jesus with the divine.

21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

But it gets even stronger! You all probably already know that the most important passages in the Old Testament for Jews is the famous “Shema“, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The Shema is a strong statement of Jewish monotheism.

Here’s the passage:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

So how does Paul fit Jesus in with this strong statement of Jewish monotheism?

Paul alludes to the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.

4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.

5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),

6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Holy mackerel! How did that get in there? Paul is splitting the roles of God in the the Shema and identifying Jesus in one of the divine roles! Jesus is not an ordinary man. That passage “through whom all things came” foreshadows John identifying Jesus as “the Word of God”, which “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Holy snark – did you guys know that was all in here so early?

The date for 1 Corinthians is 55 AD. It should be noted that skeptical scholars like James Crossley accept these passages, and you can check it out in the debate audio yourself.

Philippians

Check out Philippians 2:5-11.

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The date for Philippians is 60-61 AD. Still within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and written by an eyewitness who was in contact with the other eyewitnesses, like Peter and James, whom Paul spoke with numerous times on his journeys to Jerusalem.

Mark’s gospel

Mark’s gospel is the earliest and atheists like James Crossley date it to less than 40 AD, which is 10 years after the death of Jesus at most. When you read the gospel of Mark, you are getting the earliest and best information available about the historical Jesus, along with Paul’s epistles. So what does Mark say about Jesus? Is Jesus just a man, or is he something more?

Check out Mark 12:1-9:

1He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.

2At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.

3But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

4Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.

5He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’

8So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.

And Mark 13:32, talking about the date of the final judgment.

32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

And again, this passage is establishing a hierarchy such that Jesus is being exalted above all men and the angels, too. And the passage is embarrassing to the early church, because it makes Jesus look ignorant of something, so they would not have made this passage up. Jesus is not an ordinary man, he is above the angels – God’s unique Son.

The “Q” source for Matthew and Luke

Here’s Matthew 11:27, which is echoed in Luke 10:22:

27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Since this passage is in both of Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, scholars believe that it is in the earlier “Q” source used by both Matthew and Luke. Q predates both Matthew and Luke, and so it is also fairly early (maybe 67-68), although not as early as Mark and Paul. Bill Craig writes that this passage is also embarrassing because it says that no one knows Jesus.

Guest post: Fred Rogers, the patron saint of niceness

Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons on the Mr. Rogers show
Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons on the Mr. Rogers show

The following is a guest post by a friend who wants to remain anonymous. He is a Christian apologist who works in the software industry.


The marketing machine for the latest Tom Hanks movie portrayal of Mister Rogers is in full swing. And they’re trying hard to sell the movie to the Christian community. A recent Christian Post article claims:

‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ was Fred Rogers’ mission field, wife Joanne says

“One of the most important things we accept and know is that Fred was first and foremost a minister in the Presbyterian Church,” Joanne Rogers told The Christian Post.

The trouble with this is that if the show was Fred Roger’s mission field, he failed because people know him more for being nice than for preaching Jesus.

It’s telling that one of the most common “surprising facts” shared about Mr Rogers is that he was a Presbyterian minister. If we hadn’t been told this, we wouldn’t know it based on his work and legacy.

A commenter on Facebook writes:

His job was to do a kids show not to proselytize. Did Jesus go around preaching when He was called to be a carpenter? No He did His job.

I’m sure people asked Mr. Rogers what his motivation was and there’s nothing wrong with having private conversations about it and not using the television to preach. People don’t watch kids shows to be preached at. That would be a misuse of his platform! 😒

Is that true? Let’s take the case of Fred Rogers’s longtime friend and frequent show guest, Francois Clemmons. In addition to being a talented broadway actor, Francois Clemmons is proudly gay. And there’s no indication that Fred Rogers pressed Francois Clemmons to repent and turn to Jesus.

“He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.””

Which is even more sad when you consider that Fred Rogers took a brave stand against racism

He found racism to be an important enough subject to import the foot washing example of Jesus but there’s no indication that he called Francois Clemmons to repent for his sinful lifestyle choice.

“But did Mr. Rogers ever condemn you?

No. He said, “Sometimes people do get married and they settle down, they live a different life. You can’t go to the those [gay] clubs. . .That may not be the answer for you, Franc; you have to consider something else. What, I’m not sure. But that may not be the route for you.””

I don’t expect, nor would I advocate for, Fred Rogers to do nothing but condemn Francois Clemmons. But it’s pretty telling that in all of their years working together, with Fred knowing Francois’s sexual orientation, that Fred never saw fit to tell him where his sinful lifestyle would eventually lead according to Scripture and plead with him to repent.

Fred Rogers is being lionized by popular media. You have to ask yourself why. Especially in a culture that still condemns Chick-fil-A for what its founder’s son said nearly a decade ago. The reason is not because Fred Rogers looked like Jesus. Quite the contrary. It’s because Fred Rogers was soft and effeminate. Fred Rogers is what the world wants Christians to look and act like so they can more easily push around and otherwise mold Christians.

Again, our commenter on Facebook responds:

A children’s show on a public network is no place to be preaching the gospel. Should a flight attendant spend all their time preaching and trying to convert people!? They have a job to do. If the Holy Spirit moves them to say something then fine but you’re going to turn people off if you’re acting like a salesperson and not doing your actual job! I am dead serious. The workplace is to be professional and do your job. If you want to preach be a preacher. Otherwise be careful how and when you bring it up. You have a whole private personal life on your time off to get involved in that kind of stuff!

Do we expect Christians to be sharing their faith all the time they are at work? No. Like every other profession the flight attendant has certain required duties to perform. But we are told to work as if for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23). At the very least that means that there is a mode of working that marks us as Christians. Part of that is the joy and peace that Fred Rogers displayed, yes, but that inevitably leads to others wondering about the source of that joy and peace (1 Peter 3:15). And that’s when an opportunity arises to explain to nonbelievers who Jesus is and why we should _want_ to pay the greatest price (Matthew 13:45-46) of giving up our own lives, characterized by sin (2 Timothy 2:25), to follow him.

If Francois Clemmons never felt judged by Fred Rogers then that is a serious condemnation on the ministry of Fred Rogers. It means, at the very least, that Fred Rogers was not doing his job in calling Francois to repentance so that he could come to a knowledge of the truth. The only truth that has any hope in saving anyone.