Tag Archives: Worldview

A Harvard University student explains how evidence changed her mind about God

Harvard University student discovers apologetics
Harvard University student discovers apologetics

Here’s a must-read article  about the effectiveness of apologetics on college campuses in Christianity Today.

Excerpt:

I don’t know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: “But how do you know what the Bible says is true?” By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and “shoot all the atheists.” My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, “Truth”), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard’s Christian journal, defending God’s existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we’d argue into the wee hours; when apart, we’d take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible’s contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like “It takes faith” could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn’t do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics. After all, atheists had been developing ethical systems for 200-some years. In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma, declaring, “God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”

Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn’t stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

Now, I’m going to get into a lot of trouble for saying this, but I think that if you are a Christian and you are in a secular university, then you really need to have put in the effort to study the areas of science, history and philosophy that are relevant to the Christian faith. This is regardless of your personal abilities or field of study. We must all make an effort regardless of how comfortable we are with things that are hard for us to learn.

Granted, most people today are not interested in truth, because we just have this cultural preoccupation with having fun and feeling good and doing whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it. Most atheists I’ve met are like that, but some are more honest, open-minded, and they just have never encountered any good reasons or evidence to think that God exists and that Jesus is anything other than a man. There are a lot of atheists like that who are just waiting to hear some decent evidence. Our job is to prepare for them and then engage them, if they are willing to be engaged.

I think that definition of love she cited – self-sacrifice for the true good of another person – is important. I don’t think that ordinary Christians like you or me spends time on apologetics because we “like” it. I know lots of Christians who are in tough, expensive academic programs trying to get the skills they need to defend truth in areas that matter. They do this because they know that there are people out there who are interested in truth, and who are willing to re-prioritize their lives if the truth is made clear to them. We need to be willing to serve God by doing hard things that work.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Is asking “Am I going to Hell?” a good rebuttal to scientific arguments for theism?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

I want to use this woman’s story to show how sensible atheists reach a belief in God.

Excerpt:

I don’t know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: “But how do you know what the Bible says is true?” By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and “shoot all the atheists.” My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.

As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto is Veritas, “Truth”), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.

It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for the Ichthus, Harvard’s Christian journal, defending God’s existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we’d argue into the wee hours; when apart, we’d take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible’s contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like “It takes faith” could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn’t do that.

And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics. After all, atheists had been developing ethical systems for 200-some years. In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma, declaring, “God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”

Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.

By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.

I wouldn’t stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.

So, I want to point out the progression of her beliefs from atheist to deist to Christian. First, she listened to the scientific arguments for God’s existence, which took her to deism, which is a variety of theism where God just creates the universe and then doesn’t interfere with it after. Those arguments, the Big Bang and the cosmic fine-tuning, were enough for her to falsify atheism and prove some sort of theism. After that, she remained open to the evidence for Christian theism, and finally got there after looking at other evidence.

But this makes me think of how some of the atheists that I talk to do the exact opposite of what she did. I start off by explaining to them scientific evidence for a Creator and Designer. I explain the mainstream discoveries that confirm an origin of the universe (e.g. – light element abundance predictions and observations), and I cite specific examples of fine-tuning, (e.g. – the gravitational constant). I explain protein sequencing and folding, and calculate the probabilities of getting a protein by chance. I explain the sudden origin of the phyla in the Cambrian explosion, and show why naturalistic explanations fail. I talk about the fine-tuning needed to get galaxies, solar systems and planets to support life. But many of these atheists don’t become deists like the honest atheist in the story. Why not?

Well, the reason why not is because they interrupt the stream of scientific evidence coming out of my mouth and they start to ask me questions that have nothing to do with what we can know through science. See, evangelism is like building a house. You have to start with the foundation, the walls, the plumbing, the electricity, etc., but you can’t know all the specific details about furniture and decorations at the beginning. But militant atheists don’t care that you are able to establish the foundations of Christian theism – they want to jump right to the very fine-grained details, and use that to justify not not building anything at all. Just as you are proving all the main planks of a theistic worldview with science, they start asking “am I going to Hell?” and telling you “God is immoral for killing Canaanite children”, etc. They want to stop the construction of the house by demanding that you build everything at once. But, it is much easier to accept miracles like the virgin birth if you have a God who created the universe first. The foundation comes first, it makes the later stuff easier to do.

So rather than adjust their worldview to the strong scientific evidence, and then leave the puzzling about Hell and Old Testament history for later, they want to refute the good scientific arguments with “Am I going to Hell?”. How does complaining about Hell and unanswered prayer a response to scientific evidence? It’s not! But I think that this does explain why atheists remain atheists in the face of all the scientific evidence against naturalism. They insulate their worldview from the progress of science by focusing on their emotional disappointment that they are not God and that God isn’t doing what they want him to do. That’s the real issue. Authority and autonomy. In my experience, they are usually not accountable to science, although there are, thank God, exceptions to that rule.

Alisa Childers and Lori Alexander ask: does Rachel Hollis have a Biblical worldview?

Christians seem to have lost the ability to say no to "follow your heart"
Christians seem to have lost the ability to say no to “follow your heart”

(Image source)

I’ve sometimes struggled with getting young, unmarried Christians to follow my advice, especially about learning apologetics and developing a Biblical worldview. For some, their priorities seem to be more in line with the secular culture than what I would expect from a follower of Jesus. So, I am thankful for wise Christian women like Alisa and Lori who are able to make a persuasive case to them.

Let’s start with The Transformed Wife (Lori Alexander), who responds to a Facebook post by Rachel Hollis. (H/T Lindsay)

She writes:

There is a post going around Facebook that was written by a popular “Christian” woman named Rachel Hollis. I am going to share it with you and my comments are in parenthesis.

[…]I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. ( I love Jesus and I don’t cuss because God doesn’t want any unwholesome words to come out of our mouths.) I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol. (I love Jesus and I don’t drink alcohol. No, it’s not a sin to drink alcohol as long as it “just a little” or “not much” as clearly outlined in Scripture; for we are commanded to be sober.) I love Jesus, and some of my best friends are gay. (I love Jesus but my gay friends are struggling against their sins.) I love Jesus, and I adore hip hop music. (I love Jesus, and I adore worship and praise music! Most hip hop music promotes worldliness which we are to have no part with.) I love Jesus, and I totally read romance novels where vampires fall in love with librarians or school teachers or female detectives with a tortured backstory. (I love Jesus and I try to only read those things that are true, honest, just, pure, and of good report as stated in Philippians 4:8.)

[…]Diversity is our jam. (Christlikeness is our jam.)
Judgment is our enemy. (We are to make righteous judgments and clearly judge between right and wrong. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” – Romans 12:9)

[…]I love everyone AS THEY ARE and if you’re in this community that means you commit to loving everyone as well. You know, just like Jesus would do. (The same Jesus that said that if your right eye causes you to sin, then pluck it out and if your arm causes you to sin, then cut it off? And the same Jesus that told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more? Are you talking about this Jesus? Yes, He loved people but he hated the sin that so easily entangled them and kept them in bondage…)

Alisa Childers did a more apologetics-oriented review of Rachel’s book on her blog. (H/T Eric, Terrell, Lindsay)

She has five points:

  1. Lie #1: You come first, and your happiness depends on you
  2. Lie #2: You should never give up on your dreams
  3. Lie #3: Religious Pluralism is true
  4. Lie #4: Judgment is bad
  5. Lie #5: Sin is not the problem

Let’s look at #2:

Lie #2: You should never give up on your dreams.

[…]]​What is Rachel Hollis’ dream? I felt actual sadness when I read it:

I’m a big fan of displaying visuals inside my closet door to remind me every single day of what my aim is. Currently taped to my door: the cover of Forbes featuring self-made female CEOs, a vacation house in Hawaii . . . and a picture of Beyoncé, obvi.

Jesus never called us to chase after power, money, and fame (and He actually had quite a bit to say about those things). He called us to lay our pursuit of all that stuff down and follow Him. He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

Are female CEOs and Beyonce advancing the Kingdom of God? How does a vacation house in Hawaii advance the Kingdom of God?

And also #3:

#3. Religious Pluralism is basically the idea that all roads lead to God. There is no right way or wrong way to think about God, and my religion is no better or more “right” than yours. This is a message Hollis shouts from the proverbial rooftops. The only problem? It’s a worldview. It’s an actual religious belief about God that claims to trump all others.

What do I mean? If you claim that all religions are equally valid and true, then you are excluding all religions that don’t affirm that.

Hollis writes,

. . .Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. . .Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.

Logically, this sentiment can’t be true—because all religions contradict each other at some point. And Christianity is, by nature, exclusive. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) Religious Pluralism is a dogmatic religious belief—and it contradicts Christianity.

If I had to take the spin off what Rachel is saying, it would be this:

  1. Be your own Lord instead of accepting Jesus as Lord (e.g. – Jesus defines marriage as one man and one woman, for life)
  2. Don’t worry about sanctification or holiness or discipleship
  3. Get your worldview from culture: feel good, be liked, don’t judge

I have non-Christian co-workers that I speak to regularly, and her view is essentially the same as their secular left worldview. Making herself God, inventing her own morality by consulting the secular left culture around her, embracing postmodernism and moral relativism, demanding acceptance and approval from Bible-believing Christians for doing what feels right to her, etc.

Christians should plan so they avoid doing evil and harming others

What sort of life outcomes should we expect from Rachel, when she surrounds herself with non-Christian peers and advisors? I would argue that she is less likely to achieve the life outcomes that a Christian is supposed to be aiming for. It’s not just that Rachel doesn’t want to do what the Bible says. It’s that she is taking action to go down a path that leads to outcomes that no Bible-believing Christian would want.

OK, the next paragraph is the most difficult paragraph in the post, so just be ready to read something a bit rough.

When a Christian woman wants to have premarital sex with a non-Christian she is attracted to, she doesn’t write on Facebook how she is setting out on a course that will result in an abortion, or a divorce that deprives her children of a father, or dependency on social programs paid for by her neighbors. She starts out by writing a post like Rachel wrote, explaining how she has managed to reconcile her Christian upbringing with all her new non-Christian behaviors, non-Christian influences, and non-Christian friends. Her parents and pastors remain silent, because after all, she is so tolerant and accepting, it just seems “nice”. But when the predictable damaging outcome arrives later, then she will holler to everyone about Jesus, grace and forgiveness, i.e. – “who are you to judge me?”.

What happened? The function that Christianity plays in such a person’s worldview is 1) as a feeling that the universe will mysteriously make her desires work out, so that she feels good. And 2) as a “get out of judgment free” card, so that no one can disagree with her or teach her. Jesus is not her leader. He is her cosmic butler.

Note: Christian men do the exact same thing.

Well, God does forgive sin. But only those who sincerely repent of it, and who don’t encourage others to do it. If your priority is to do what you want, then punt to grace when your own bad choices blow up in your face, it’s a very good sign that you were never a Christian at all. David sinned with Bathsheba because he was far from the battlefield. To be a Christian means that you never stop fighting against your own sin, and you’re always arguing against sin in the marketplace of ideas. No Christian should ever publicly assert that a sin is “acceptable”. If we do it, we should regret it, not “accept” it.

The Christian life is not a life of following your heart, avoiding the wisdom of proven Christians, and then acting surprised when your sin destroys you. You need to be actively planning out how to avoid sinning, and arguing persuasively against sin in public. For example, you can can make wise choices with your education, career and finances in order to avoid the temptation to steal, gamble or defraud others. Since the Bible is against premarital sex, abortion, divorce and same-sex marriage, but the culture is not, then you can change your convictions about these things to be in line with the Bible instead of culture by reading research papers on these topics. Instead of putting Christianity down to the level of “faith”, you should study so that you can trust Jesus’ teachings and be ready to promote the truth claims and moral values of the Bible to others.

Christians ought to be about protecting others from the damage caused by selfish adults who want to choose immoral behaviors. Doing the right thing is an engineering project. With your choices, you build a worldview, a peer group and a set of influences on you that makes sin very hard to choose. That’s the real Christian life.

Christians disagree with non-Christians

When Christians don’t study apologetics, then they often find themselves uncritically coming under the influence of the secular culture. To transform the secular culture, Christians should learn how to demonstrate the truth of Christianity with evidence.

I know that women tend to be motivated to avoid conflicts with others, and so they tend to avoid apologetics. But truth matters. Non-Christians need to know what’s true so they can make good decisions – including becoming a Christian.

I recommend everyone read this excellent post by Dr. Michael Brown, entitled “Love Warns“.

Stefan Molyneux: “why I was wrong about atheists”

A long journey through the night
A long, lonely journey through the night

This guy has one of the sharpest channels on YouTube, very un-PC. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he is outrageously popular.

Watch: (20 minutes) (H/T William)

This might be a very useful thing to show to pastors who favor socialist policies and big government redistribution. He actually says that the conservative policies that conservatives embrace attracted him to theism. I just think that is so hilarious… because all the pastors seem to want to embrace left-wing causes. Especially things like global warming, illegal immigration, redistribution of wealth, single payer health care, etc. Well, the kinds of atheists we like – the ones who believe in liberty, prosperity, security – don’t hold our small government politics against us.

No Christian presents their views through government – that’s why we are all crazy about apologetics. We love apologetics as much as secular leftists love big government. At least apologetics is non-coercive he says. But when atheists enforce their view through big government, backed by prisons and guns, that is coercive. His arguments about demographics, and being willing to marry, have kids for the good of society are terrific to illustrate the value of self-sacrifice within the Christian worldview. Far from being a liability, devotion to small government, low taxes and individual liberty is actually an asset when evangelizing. Just as pious pastors are all rushing to join the open borders, global warming, single-payer health care, radical feminism team, we find out that principled atheists are uncomfortable with many of those things. Maybe we should take note of that, instead of just blindly following the crowd.

Have a look at this video, and put THIS apologetic argument into your quiver. There is much, much more to evangelism and apologetics than what you read in books on apologetics. And this is why I work so hard to connect the Christian worldview to every other area of knowledge. You don’t always have to talk about old, boring William Lane Craig style apologetics with atheists. Sometimes, you can just talk to them about tax policy and free speech. Why not? Atheists are sometimes complicated people.

What does “Christian fellowship” mean?

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

Philippians is my favorite book of the Bible. When I study Philippians 1, I use D. A. Carson’s “Basics for Believers” commentary.

Here is the part I want to talk about today:

Philippians 1:1-11:

Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,

in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,

10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Now just read that and reflect on how passionate, and even unstable and emotional Paul sounds about this love he has for this church. Ask yourself this: what is the basis for these feelings? Read it again, and write your answer down. I’ll tell you mine in a minute.

Now here is D. A. Carson.

He writes:

As often in his letters, Paul begins with a warm expression of thanks to God for something in the lives of his readers. Here the grounds of his thanksgiving to God are three in number, though all three are tied to the same theme.

The first is their faithful memory of him. The NIV reads, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (1: 3). But others suggest “I thank my God every time you remember me,” or something similar. The original is ambiguous. For reasons I shall not go into, I think Paul is referring to their remembrance of him. Later on he will thank the Philippians for remembering him so warmly that they sent funds to support him in his ministry. But here the vision is broader: he perceives that their interest in him is a reflection of their continued commitment to the gospel, and that is why he thanks God for them.

The point becomes explicit in the second cause of his thanksgiving: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now . . .” (1: 4– 5). Their “partnership in the gospel” injects joy into Paul’s prayers of thanksgiving: “I always pray with joy,” he writes. The word rendered “partnership” is more commonly translated “fellowship” in the New Testament. What precisely does the word mean? In common use “fellowship” has become somewhat debased. If you invite a pagan neighbor to your home for a cup of tea, it is friendship; if you invite a Christian neighbor, it is fellowship. If you attend a meeting at church and leave as soon as it is over, you have participated in a service; if you stay for coffee afterward, you have enjoyed some fellowship. In modern use, then, fellowship has come to mean something like warm friendship with believers.

In the first century, however, the word commonly had commercial overtones. If John and Harry buy a boat and start a fishing business, they have entered into a fellowship, a partnership. Intriguingly, even in the New Testament the word is often tied to financial matters. Thus, when the Macedonian Christians send money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, they are entering into fellowship with them (Rom. 15: 26).

The heart of true fellowship is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision. Both John and Harry put their savings into the fishing boat. Now they share the vision that will put the fledgling company on its feet. Christian fellowship, then, is self-sacrificing conformity to the gospel. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment. So when Paul gives thanks, with joy, because of the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel” or “fellowship in the gospel,” he is thanking God that these brothers and sisters in Christ— from the moment of their conversion (“ from the first day until now,” Paul writes)— rolled up their sleeves and got involved in the advance of the gospel. They continued their witness in Philippi, they persevered in their prayers for Paul, they sent money to support him in his ministry— all testifying to their shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. That is more than enough reason for thanking God.

[..]Implicitly, such an apostolic stance asks us what gives us our greatest joy. Is it personal success? Some victory for our children? Acquisition of material things? “I have no greater joy,” John writes, “than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Paul reflects exactly the same attitude. Paul adds, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart . . .” (Phil. 1: 7). Probably this was written against the background of Stoic influence that was cautious about whole-life commitments, especially if they involved the “passions.” Be cool; do not be vulnerable; do not get hurt. But that was not Paul’s way. “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you,” Paul insists, regardless of what the contemporary culture says. “I have you in my heart”: my whole life and thought are bound up with you.

More:

So strongly does he want the Philippians to recognize his devotion to them that Paul puts himself under an oath: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1: 8). The significance of the oath is not that without it he might lie. Rather, he puts himself under an oath so that the Philippians might feel the passion of his truthfulness, in exactly the same way that God puts himself under an oath in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There the point is not that otherwise God might lie, but that God wants to be believed (Heb. 7: 20– 25). So Paul: God is my witness “how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

Here is no mere professionalism. Nor is this an act, a bit of showmanship to “turn them on” to the apostle. Rather, it is something that repeatedly bubbles through Paul’s arguments. It recurs, for example, in chapter 4: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (4: 1).

Both from Paul’s example and from that of the Philippians, then, we must learn this first point: the fellowship of the gospel, the partnership of the gospel, must be put at the center of our relationships with other believers. That is the burden of these opening verses. Paul does not commend them for the fine times they had shared watching games in the arena. He doesn’t mention their literature discussion groups or the excellent meals they had, although undoubtedly they had enjoyed some fine times together. What lies at the center of all his ties with them, doubtless including meals and discussion, is this passion for the gospel, this partnership in the gospel.

What ties us together? What do we talk about when we meet, even after a church service? Mere civilities? The weather? Sports? Our careers and our children? Our aches and pains? None of these topics should be excluded from the conversation of Christians, of course. In sharing all of life, these things will inevitably come up. But what must tie us together as Christians is this passion for the gospel, this fellowship in the gospel. On the face of it, nothing else is strong enough to hold together the extraordinary diversity of people who constitute many churches: men and women, young and old, blue collar and white, healthy and ill, fit and flabby, different races, different incomes, different levels of education, different personalities. What holds us together? It is the gospel, the good news that in Jesus, God himself has reconciled us to himself. This brings about a precious God-centeredness that we share with other believers.

Does what Carson writes make you think of the Lord of the Rings book 1? (“The Fellowship of the Ring”) It sounds like Christians are supposed to band together in common purpose in order to complete a quest. They are not supposed to just be hanging out to pass the time. There is planning. There is cooperation. There is danger. There is achievement. There is adventure. I think that he loves the church in Philippi because they have entered into this fellowship of the gospel with him.

More:

Already in verse 4 Paul has insisted that whenever he prays for the Philippians, he does so with joy and thanksgiving. Now he gives us the content of his prayers for them: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ— to the glory and praise of God” (1: 9– 11).

[…]Second, what Paul has in mind is not mere sentimentalism or the rush of pleasure spawned, for example, by a large conference. “I pray,” Paul writes, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” The kind of love that Paul has in mind is the love that becomes more knowledgeable. Of course, Paul is not thinking of just any kind of knowledge. He is not hoping they will learn more and more about nuclear physics or sea turtles. He has in mind the knowledge of God; he wants them to enjoy insight into God’s words and ways, and thus to know how to live in light of them.

So here is my main point: I think that we need to stop looking at other people on the surface level – age, skin color, wealth, clothes, etc. – and start to dig deeper underneath to find out where each person stands with respect to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our criteria should not be present ability. We should choose those with desire, intensity, and willingness to learn hard things. If a person can demonstrate their desire to do grow in knowledge and depth of insight, you should be spending your time, money and effort with that person first. Don’t pick the people who you like for surface reasons, pick the people who you can engage in fellowship with.