10/30/10

Reformation Day

More Than a Christian Alternative
By: Jonathan Harris

Normally, if I go for a jog I like to have some music playing through my earplugs to both make the exercise expedition seem shorter, and to motivate me. Today I did something a little different. I listened to a an audio recitation of Martin Luther's Here I Stand speech at the Diet of Worms. Eric Till's movie Luther, which recounts the events that lead up to the reformation including the Diet, does a great job in providing a pretty accurate visualization of Luther's speech, however, nothing does Luther justice like reading or hearing him in his own words. Although, the film does provide direct quotations from Luther's speech, it does not provide the full account of what transpired. In fact, the speech is somewhat chopped down to make it fit the film's time constraints (still I fully recommend picking up a copy of the movie; it's excellent!). However, Max McLean's recitation of Luther's words at the Diet contain every word of Luther's two speeches, the historical background surrounding the events that lead up to the Diet, and Luther's powerful and heart-felt prayer the day before his Here I Stand speech. There was no need for music. I had the motivation I needed, and the run seem to even go shorter. I truly do stand amazed, not only at the man's oratory skills, but also at his humility coupled with boldness. Here was a man who had little to go on but the Word of God, and go on it he did. Contrast his available resources with ours. I mean, really think about what his stand meant. He was forsaking the only acknowledged "Christian" church without the support of any academics. We with our commentaries, books, software, Christian radio, seminary-trained pastors, Christian television, Bible study tools, sermon podcasts, etc. are spoiled to the point of both taking it all for granted and not taking advantage of it at all. Luther had none of this save the Scripture.

In the year 1517, on October the 31st, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses against the Pope and Roman Catholic Church to the door of the Schlosskirche (castle church) in Wittenberg Germany. His reasoning? Pope Leo X, in order to raise money for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica started a rather outrageous campaign for selling indulgences (writs to guarantee the lessening of a sentence in purgatory for a chosen friend or relative upon the transfer of money). Luther realized the great excesses of the pope in not only this but many other related areas, and through the power of the Holy Spirit was made aware of the truth behind what Paul stated in the book of Romans that "the just shall live by faith." Suddenly, history changed. Christ's infused righteousness became an imputed righteousness. Salvation was no longer about works but about faith. The priesthood of all believers and Sola scriptura were were returned to their proper place of theological prominence. The Protestant reformation was born. All of us who today call ourselves "reformed," "evangelical," "fundamentalist," "protestant," or "Biblical" owe a debt of gratitude to Martin Luther. I encourage everyone to download his Here I Stand speech and listen to it this Reformation Day (Oct. 31). You can download it free for a limited time here.

In closing, I would like to address something which has perturbed me about Luther's detractors. Martin Luther today has been trashed, as have all the other reformers. There was a "missionary" who came to my church not to long ago talking about how to reach Jews for Christ (a noble endeavor). However, I was severely disappointed to find that in his Sunday School lesson he spent the majority of the time dismissing the crusaders, the early church fathers, and most notably Martin Luther for being "anti-Semitic." Perhaps another time I'll address the error in claiming that the crusades were anti-Jewish (they were the opposite if anything), but for now I want to focus solely on Luther. My church was told that Luther inspired Hitler. Really? That's funny because if you read Mein Kampf you'll find that Hitler didn't like the Protestants or the Catholics, but he liked the Protestants even less because they weren't "antisemitic" like the Catholics. In fact, the only semi-favorable mention Hitler gives Luther is to portray him as a hero of Germany- something every self-respecting German would readily admit (analogous to saying Washington is a hero of America). However, Hitler never goes into details or explains why Luther is a hero, just that he is one like all the other heroes of Germany including Bismark. Did Luther inspire Hitler? Absolutely not! Now for another question. Was Luther antisemitic. The answer again is no. As Peter Hammond writes, "The accusation that Martin Luther was an anti-Semite, responsible for massacres, reveals an ignorance of history. . . For decades he lovingly and patiently reached out to the Jewish people in his area with the Gospel." Hammond goes on to explain that Luther evangelized the Jews in his area for 15 years and denounced the Catholic mistreatment of them. It was after 15 years of evangelism that he wrote "On the Jews and Their Lies." To rip a statement out of this work and call it "antisemitic" is very misleading. Luther was a drastic man in the way he spoke, and he saved his worst words for heretics. The Jews were guilty of a great many blasphemies, and it was against these blasphemies that Luther wrote. In other words, it was a theological denouncement of the heretical Jewish religion, not a denouncement of their race or culture.

Peter Hammond concludes his article by asking:

Do those who so confidently condemn Martin Luther really believe, in the light of eternity, in the sight of God, that they have served God’s people and God’s cause and Kingdom with even 1% as much dedication and effectiveness as Martin Luther? If they do, it betrays an ignorance of history and a blindness to their own weaknesses.

So is it ok to celebrate Marin Luther? I think the answer is a resounding yes. We celebrate much more than him however. What we are really celebrating is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its preservation through a man just like you and me. Happy Reformation Day!


To order Luther the movie check out this link.

10/27/10

Halloween To the Glory of God

Can a Christian Participate in Paganism?
By Jonathan Harris

If you're looking for extensive information on the pagan origins of Halloween you're in the wrong place. I'm working off the correct assumption that the holiday itself is a pagan festival. Halloween literally means "All Hallows Evening" and represents the day in which the separation between the spirit and physical worlds is the thinnest. Each practice has spiritual significance. The costumes are for the purpose of confusing dead acquaintances who might want to enact vengeance on you for a wrong you did them while they were still alive. The "Trick or Treating" is meant to appease the evil spirits so they won't carry out wicked plans on your living quarters. Just about every aspect has some kind of pagan significance. Assuming this to be true, how should a Christian react? Should we participate? After all, the Christmas tree also has pagan origins, yet we use that all the time? Should we substitute our celebration of Halloween with the celebration of "Reformation Day?"

In America, it's hard to approach this question. In other countries I suspect it would incredibly easy simply because they take it seriously. In Mexico they actually think dead people are truly walking around, and they practice Halloween out of complete fear. However, here in America, we've learned to take every holiday and completely commercialize it. Halloween is no exception. In the 1960s when my parents were young, it was really just a day to have a costume party and eat candy. The spiritual significance was not understood or taken seriously by the general public. However, today the pagan aspects are starting to surface again. Is the holiday still about innocent costume parties and getting cavities, or is it about something deeper? I tend to think the costumes themselves are indicating a pagan shift in this direction. No longer do the little girls want to be the princesses. No longer do the little boys want to be the astronauts. The consumes are now typically demonic looking. People dress up as Freddy Krueger, Ghosts (not the white sheet versions), zombies, skeletons, warlocks, wizards, etc. And the costumes which aren't "scary" tend to be extremely provocative.

I'd like to take you with me to two completely different situations. Situation #1 is a "costume party" sponsored by a boy scout troop. Situation #2 is a "day of the dead" seance and game night at someones home. Both parties have bobbing for apples and candy (party #2 has alcohol as well), however the purpose of each is very different. Yes, both sets of attendees are looking for fun, however the second set are embracing the pagan version of Halloween, while the first set is simply using a couple of its elements to do something completely different. The motivations are different. Now if you as a Christian were invited to each, what would you do? Would it be a sin to attend the first one? How about the second?

Really the question which needs to be answered is, "Am I putting my stamp of approval on paganism?" If you are, then it's clear what you should do, because to do otherwise would be a violation of conscience as you would be committing idolatry. Romans 14 is really the passage to be looking at. A Christian is not supposed to participate in activities with which he or she is uncomfortable. It's obvious that getting drunk and participating in a seance at party #2 is completely wrong because you'd be directly violating two commands of Scripture, but what if you were just present while others were participating in those activities? Are you giving them approval and sacrificing your testimony? I believe this is the difference between going to a non-Christian religious institution and participating in the ceremonies as opposed to merely being an observer. We'll pick on the Mormons for a minute, because I attended a Mormon church once for educational purposes. I sat in the back, didn't sing the hymns, didn't participate in the prayers, but simply observed. But if I were to go up to the front and give my testimony, or partake of communion, etc. I would be directly participating with them and giving them my approval. The same I believe can be said of Halloween party #1. Can you go? Yes, I suppose. You could even go dressed as Moses with the Ten Commandments (talk about scary!) and not participate in the pagan-motivated practices. But you have to ask yourself, what would be the point? The purpose of the party is to have a seance and play the Ouija Board. If you aren't doing those things, why are you there? Scripture warns of the appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians instructs, "abstain from every form of evil." For the people present we must remember 2 Cor. 8:20-21 which states, "taking precaution that no one should discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." In other words, Paul was concerned what men would think of the Gospel, because he was a living testimony of it. He did nothing to "discredit" his witness.Would you be discrediting your witness by attending a Halloween party? These are questions you can only answer yourself. I tend to think it's very unlikely that with a clean conscience, and without discrediting your witness, you can attend, and have fun at a party in which the name of your God is pretty much being trashed in favor of the demonic. Let's consider party #1. There are practices that have a pagan history (like the Christmas tree), but they're being practiced in a very non-pagan way and with non-pagan motivations. Would it be alright for you to go to a costume party? I tend to think it would be fine, so long as your conscience is not violated by doing so (if it is, then no you shouldn't). What you're really doing is participating in a dress-up party which happens to use Halloween as the excuse for which to merit the occasion. Halloween itself however, is not really being celebrated.

I hope perhaps these questions will help some of the struggling Christians out there know better how to approach the question of Halloween. I grew up in a family in which we had "harvest parties" and sometimes "costume parties" at church youth organizations. One of my brothers went trick or treating once, but I confess I never have. Since I don't have much of a sweet tooth its not too tempting for me anyways. But I do realize, many of you have grown up doing trick or treating and all that comes with it. I don't think any of it's wrong (in fact, the major reason my family didn't participate was because of the sick people who put razor blades and poisons in candy), but I do have some pause about it. I'm very concerned about the appearance of evil. Just how far can you go? The Bible isn't crystal clear on this matter, and it's really up to our ourselves to rightly apply the Biblical principles. To recap: Here are the questions you need to ask yourself before participating in a Halloween event.
  • Will it force me to compromise my beliefs by participating in actual pagan practices for pagan reasons?
  • Will it cause another Christian to stumble and use your example to violate their own conscience?
  • Will it compromise the Gospel to non-Christians?
  • Would you invite Jesus to come with you?
  • Is it a profitable use of your time?
  • Will it violate your conscience?

10/23/10

The Real Mandela


What Invictus Forgot to Mention
By: David Harris

Who was (is) Nelson Mandela? Take a trip to your local university and ask the sociology and history professors. Most likely they will go for a trip down civil rights’ memory lane, recalling Du Bois, Dr. King, and then Mandela. Now take a trip over to South Africa. Go to a civil affairs building and ask a government employee what they think of Mandela. The comparison might be a Messianic one. So, what is the truth about Mandela? Is there another side to this “Messianic” figure? A great place to start relevantly is by taking a look at Clint Eastwood’s recent film Invictus

Ok. Let’s stop there for a moment. What is “Invictus”? Invictus is a poem by William Ernest Henley. Henley was a 19th century British poet/writer who also was a dedicated secular humanist, and possibly atheist. His poetic work Invictus demonstrates the epitome of his humanistic beliefs. The beginning of the poem speaks of thanking “whatever gods may be”, and the end is a pride filled, egotistical, God ignoring train of thought. Looking at this from a Christian worldview is as clear as day and night: Invictus (the poem) is a humanistic product of a devout humanist. 

So let’s put that back in the context of the film “Invictus”. Before knowing a thing about what the film deals with we can come to a resolution on its title. I’ll get into the part this humanist work plays in the film a little later on; first let’s deal with some other issues in the film. 

First, let’s get one thing clear: I’ve been extremely interested in the character in Nelson Mandela ever since I made my first trip to South Africa in 2009. I really didn’t hear a whole lot of negativity concerning his character when I was there; in fact, I was there during his birthday celebration which might as well be a national holiday in South Africa. I remembered hearing a long time ago some things about Mandela’s socialist tendencies, but didn’t think much about it at the time because I really only heard positive things from my South African companions. I should have given it more thought. 

One of the first scenes in the film is a short conversation between a Boer rugby coach and a player. The conversation goes as follows:

 A Car drives down street with several cars following in an orderly fashion; there are a group of black kids on one side of the road, and a group of white rugby players on the other side. The cars pass and the black children scream and yell in delight. On the other side of the street a rugby player asks his coach:

Player: Who’s that?

Coach: It’s that terrorist Mandela; remember this is the day that our country went to the terrorists.
   
Believe it or not, I think that may have been the most honest line in the whole film. Ok, ok, don’t get me wrong, I understand that Mandela’s actions bringing a “peaceful” end to apartheid are a much appreciated thing, and I don’t knock Mandela or those who uphold him for his peaceful intentions during that era. However, I find it somewhat chilling that the same people who embrace Mandela to such a high degree have totally forgotten some extremely important and crucial facts about the life of Nelson Mandela. First of all, I noticed toward the beginning of the film that we NEVER hear about why Nelson Mandela went to prison. The general assumption as to why Mandela spent 28 years in prison would probably be something along the lines of “well… he went to prison because he was against the apartheid system.” This assumption is not at all accurate. Let’s be plain simple here. Even if Nelson Mandela’s life is cleaner than a bar of soap now, he wasn’t always the saint he is made out to be now. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for convicted of acts of terrorism against the people of South Africa. If you don’t believe he could have had any part in terrorist activity, go look up the “Church Street Bombing”; an event Mandela claimed to have “signed off on”. He signed off on the lives of 19 people including women and children. We could leave it there assume that his worst was “signing off” on this deed, but that would be dishonest as well. His conviction was for over 130 acts of terrorism against the South African people. Am I saying that Mandela personally took the life of fellow South Africans? No. He was the president of the terrorist wing of the ANC (which ironically is the ruling party in South Africa now). So these acts of terrorism were “signed off” by Mandela. The favorite method of murder for these ANC terrorists was called “necklacing”. This is an incredibly brutal form of execution where the victim has a tire doused in gasoline put over him then set on fire. Yes. Mandela “singed off” on this behavior. 

Some may be shocked and disbelieving about these facts, but if one really looks at the big picture of Mandela’s life, there really shouldn’t be any shock. Mandela has really been pretty consistent with his worldview. We aren’t surprised at all at the acts of Che, Castro, Pol Pot, or Samora Machel. Mandela isn’t really a whole lot different from the previous in his beliefs; he wrote the book “How to Be a Good Communist”[i]. Communism is probably more than any other ideology of the 20th and 21st centuries, the most brutal: why be surprised over another loyalist carrying out what his worldview decrees?
       
I could go on about Mandela in true life, but my purpose was to examine Invictus, so we’ll continue from where we left off. Not once. Not once do we hear about why Mandela went to spend 28 years in prison for acts that would have given a death sentence in Britain or the United States. From there the film proceeds to build up Mandela to an almost Messianic figure. Now from what I’ve heard, Mandela is an extremely kind and gracious person, but I don’t see how simply being a kind and “grandfatherly” figure forgives one of the kinds of thing Mandela pleaded guilty to (more on that later). The film is primarily concerned with Mandela’s “uniting the country” by “becoming a fan” of the Springboks, South Africa’s premier rugby team. There’s no argument that this was a brilliant political move, but the film leaves us at that point- only giving us glimpses of what really what were two biggest issues at the time. They were crime and unemployment (and civil war towards beginning of Mandela’s presidency). When Mandela took office in 1994, the average murder rate in South Africa was 7,036 (from 1950-1993). However, during Mandela’s presidency, murder was an average 47,882[ii]. Talk about a spike in crime! Murder isn’t the only crime that shot up; rape, theft, and drug and alcohol abuse also shot up incredibly. Why? And why didn’t Invictus address these more directly (all we get is a newspaper shot)? I would argue that it’s embarrassing to Mandela’s legacy. Years after Mandela’s presidency crimes are still at shameful levels. Mandela’s presidency brought dramatic economic change as well- in the form of a dropping currency and a shameful unemployment.
          
However, economic changes alone can’t be blamed for the moral disaster in South Africa. This can be attributed to moral corruption. Before Mandela’s presidency abortion in South Africa was strictly illegal, but in December of 1996 Mandela signed one of the most liberal abortion bills in the world- giving any girl at any age the “right” to murder their child[iii]. He pushed through pornography legislation and even wrote into South Africa’s constitution “protection for sexual preferences”. The reason for South Africa’s tragic moral downfall is the shift from a much more capitalistic and Christian society, to a socialist and morally bankrupt society that was spearheaded by the ANC and their Communist leader Nelson Mandela. Now, I’m in no way making an argument for the apartheid government, but you choose: 18,000 killed on all sides during apartheid or an average of over 60,000[iv] murdered unborn children every year now (not counting current “living” murder rates).
       
Invictus is a very well made, interesting, and inspiring film- but it would be much more enjoyable if it was actually honest. Instead it appears Clint Eastwood was talked into making a multi-million dollar propaganda piece for the ANC. The film matches Mandela’s worldview to a tee, as well as the radical humanist poem that is also its name.


[i] http://www.archive.org/details/HowToBeAGoodCommunist
[ii] http://www.frontline.org.za/articles/gettingaway_withmurder.htm
[iii] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/mandela-signs-abortion-bill-1314157.html
[iv] http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/southafrica/ab-sap.html

Bill O'Reilly, Juan Williams, and Islam

The Grammar Bullies Ride Again
By: Jonathan Harris

Most of you have probably heard about both the Juan Williams debacle with NPR, and Bill O'Reilly's episode on The View. If not, I'll briefly summarize. Last week, Bill O'Reilly was a guest on The View. After making the comment, "Muslim's killed us on 9-11," both Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in protest. This week Juan Williams made the comment, on the O'Reilly Factor ironically, that he gets "nervous" when he sees people in Muslim garb on an airplane. Here's his full comment:

Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Unfortunately for Juan, this comment got him fired from National Public Radio because it was perceived as bigoted. There are a couple points I want everyone to consider when analyzing these stories.

  • "Radical" is not a Belief-System
If you watch the clip of O'Reilly on The View, you'll notice that Goldberg and Behar are insistent that Bill retract his statement and instead say "radical Muslims." Likewise, I don't think Juan Williams would have had much of a problem if he had simply said, "I get nervous if I see Muslims on a plane who I suspect are radical," as if "radicalism" is a worldview. The perception is that you can have Christian radicals, atheist radicals, Islamic radicals, Buddhist radicals, etc. So the "dangerous ones" aren't necessary Muslims, just the ones that happen to be "radical." Rosie O'Donnell made a comment on The View a couple years ago that Christian terrorists were just as dangerous as Islamic ones. This is honestly the thinking of the left-wing, and many libertarians. They view "radicalism" as an ideology in and of itself. It's a philosophy of life, a worldview, a religious concept, etc. However, if you're a good student of grammar you should know that "radical" is just an adjective. It describes a noun. So if someone is a "radical Christian" they simply happen to take Christianity quite literally. If someone is a radical Muslim, it's the same story. The world "fundamentalist" is used in the same way, but we have to remember, "fundamentalist" is a modifier of whatever word it's describing. A fundamentalist Christian believes in the fundamentals of the Bible, just as a fundamentalist Muslim believes in the central tenets of the Koran. I don't really have a problem with the use of these terms, however they have to be used correctly. Fundamentalism and radicalism are not ideologies, they are modifiers. To give one case in point. A radical pacifist isn't going to blow up buildings, but he still retains the description "radical" if he actually applies pacifism to every situation, just like the Muslim who blows up buildings is doing so because he applies the Koran to every situation.

  • Most "Muslims" and "Christians" are Humanists
What liberals want us to think is that the "true" Muslims are the ones who don't practice Jihad. However- you have to remember- Muslims who don't practice Jihad aren't following the Koran so "Can they really be called Muslims?" The answer is, "Well depends what you mean." The "Muslim" who picks and chooses what he wants to apply from the Koran is actually a humanist, because he views himself as the final authority when it comes to truth. The Christian who doesn't practice evangelism, prayer, Bible-reading, or attending church is in the same boat. He or she is a humanist, maintaining a cultural identity of a particular belief-system. So when liberals say, "Muslim" they mean "humanist", and when they say "Radical Muslim" they mean "Muslim." We have to understand this otherwise communication breaks down, and we get shouting matches and misunderstandings.

  • Terms Must Be Defined
The mistake O'Reilly made on The View was he quickly matched the liberals tit for tat by shouting, instead of asking them in an intelligent manner to define their terms. I'm confident conservatives can win every debate if they first set out to define terminology. O'Reilly should have asked, "What's your definition of a Muslim," after making his comment. This would force the liberals to either stumble around looking for a definition, or say, "Someone who follows the Koran and goes the mosque." Then Bill could have responded, "So under your definition, the terrorists were Muslims because they went to the mosque and read the Koran." Point is, we need to define our terms before arguing points. If we don't we are in danger of getting nabbed by the "Grammar Bullies" who redefine words, sometimes mid-argument, in order to win. We can't let them do that. Most conservatives do. Don't let it be said of you! Be a "Radical Grammarian," in a good way!

10/15/10

Debating the Christian Worldview

By: Jonathan Harris

Although we here are the Lion's Den love to recommend books and related materials, we also want to recommend their application. I'm referring to informal conversations and formal debates. Learning information can help you become convinced toward a position, but seeing that very same position under the tightest scrutiny can do far more. Not only can you learn how to argue for your worldview, but you will be strengthened knowing that it is in fact the correct one. One of the dangers of debates is the nature of the person debating. There are boring Christian speakers and charismatic atheists, and vice-versa. For this reason the debates and conversations below are fairly even. In other words, the antagonist and protagonist are relatively similar in interest. The advantage to the audio debates especially is that you can listen to them in your car during your commute to class or work. I sincerely pray that not only do these examples help you in your witness, but that they inspire you to use what you learn in conversations with others. (Simply click the titles to listen)

Formal Debates

Debates between professionals are great to watch because you can see the best compete with the best. Those who have risen the farthest in understanding how to communicate their positions are pitted against each other to see which idea truly holds water. Most of us will never participate in a debate like this, but they do serve as a good training ground.


Among presuppositional apologists, this is perhaps the most famous and admired debate of all time. Although the audio quality isn't that great, the content is priceless. The Youtube version is a little clearer (although the beginning is missing for some reason). A transcript is also available here. During the first round of cross-examination Bahnsen literally shut Stein down when he got Stein to concede that the laws of logic were conventional and not universal. I've listened to this debate twice, and will probably listen to it again at some point just to learn better the terms and tactics of Bahnsen. 


The Bahnsen/Smith debate took place on a radio program which is quite convenient since the entire episode is like one big cross-examination. The listener gets to hear how a Christian can defend his faith on his feet without a prepared speech. Towards the end Bahnsen presses an atheist caller to give him an example of where the laws of logic exist. The reaction is somewhat humorous, albeit sad at the same time. The atheist has no way to account for logic yet he uses it all the time. Let us never view the atheist as the enemy, but rather as the mission field.


What I really appreciate about this debate is the consistency of Doug Wilson. Most Christian apologists like to back-peddle when faced with morally challenging questions from the Old Testament especially. Why would God command the genocide of the Canaanites? Why did God command the death penalty for adultery? etc. Doug Wilson however uses these very arguments against God to show that God actually exists, and he's not ashamed to argue for the entire cannon of Scripture. As Ravi Zacharias postulates: If you believe in evil, you have to believe in good. If you believe in good, you have to believe in a moral law. If you believe in a moral law, you have to believe in a moral law-giver. 

This debate will no doubt be one of the most entertaining debates you've ever watched because it's a movie. Collision is a documentary of a tour Doug Wilson and Christopher Hitchens went on across the country. Some clips are in bars, some in colleges, some during lunch, some in car rides, etc. Again, Wilson does a great job remaining consistent in his defense of the Christian Worldview. The movie is humorous, witty, and educational. 


The topic for this particular debate was "Is God the source of morality?" Mcdowell does a great job breaking the topic down into simple terminology for the average Joe. I think by the middle of the debate it becomes clear who won. Corbett's strategy turns into "let's pretend to not understand what Mcdowell's talking about."

Man on the Street Debates

My favorite debates are the ones that happen all the time between non-professionals (i.e. those who don't write books or speak for a living). Living Waters has put out a couple videos in which the presuppositional apologetics is put to the test in the marketplace. These are examples of conversations YOU can have! 


In this clip Chad Williams of living waters goes head to head with an atheist regarding the laws of logic. Where do they come from?

Mark Spence- The Dean of the School of Biblical Evangelism- talks to an atheist about morality. How can someone believe it exists without the God of Scripture? What I love about both Chad and Mark is that they never loose focus of the Gospel. That's the real mission! Apologetics is just a tool we use to get there.

10/14/10

Christopher Columbus

Saint or Scoundrel?
By: Jonathan Harris

Public Hate Speech


Many years ago, as I was on an evangelism trip at a local mall with a group of friends and church leaders, I  noticed a t-shirt hanging in the window of a "New-Age" shop with this inscription: "Homeland Security: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492." Above the writing was pasted a picture of a mounted group of Plain's Indians from the late-1800s. In reaction to this display of historical and etymological stupidity, I muttered under my breath, "That's inaccurate." The next thing I knew one of the group leaders was chiding me for denying what he deemed to be historically irrefutable; and like a parrot he spewed the old slander against Americans of European descent: "The white man has done horrible things to the Indians. You ought to start reading some books!" When I asked him what research he had done he referenced movies (which often take artistic license) and "common knowledge" (faulty appeal to the majority). While there's nothing innately wrong with believing "common knowledge," it certainly shouldn't be because of the nature of it being "common," but rather because it's actually authenticated by something true. Columbus said the world was flat, his culture said it was round. The majority has been wrong before, and I think in this case we are half-wrong. Yes, Europeans have done bad things to Native Americans, but you'll find that for every finger a multiculturalist wants to point at "White Christians" they have three fingers pointing back. Europeans didn't introduce slavery to the New World. The natives already had it! Neither did Europeans introduce theft. The indigenous tribes were masters at subjugating enemy tribes and stealing their land. Does anyone seriously want to go back to the times of ripping out a fellow human's heart to appease a sun god? My point is not that all Europeans are superior in moral character. My point is that mankind is sinful. All cultures have blood on their heads, and it's extremely hypocritical to bash the exceptionally evil in one culture- even to the point of recreating their culture's heroes such as Columbus- while ignoring the evil in their own. Let's take a look at Christopher Columbus, and Western Culture in general, not to prove that it's "perfect" or "sinless," but to show why it is superior to the pagan cultures that dominated the American Continents before 1492.

First a small comment on the t-shirt for clarification. My main problems with the shirt are NOT that it implies that "white" people had done bad things to Native Americans, but rather that it proposes three blatantly INACCURATE statements or implications that paint the supposed evil of European people and innocence of Native Americans with a broad, hateful, and utterly fallacious brush. Here are the three inaccurate statements/implications:

1. Christopher Columbus was a terrorist (i.e. because the Native Americans have been fighting since "1492").
2. The idea of a European "terrorist" is used in synonymy with Islamic terrorists (i.e. "Homeland Security" being the organization which pursues Islamic terrorists. I saw the shirt a year or two after 9-11).
3. The equating of Plain's Native Americans from the late-19th century with Islanders from the late 15th century (i.e. the implication that Natives across North and South America regardless of time-frame, tribal identity, or European national influence have a "unified" front against all Europeans).

One does wonder, would similar statements made about Nat Turner or Crazy Horse be tolerated? Or would they be deemed "Hate Speech?"

Christopher Columbus

Was Christopher Columbus a terrorist? Absolutely not! There is far more evidence to equate Columbus with Homeland Security than there is to suggest that the Native Americans across the board were anti-terrorist groups. Even a slight reading into the life of Columbus will show that he came to the new world for three things:

1. Evangelism
2. Trade
3. Alliances

Columbus was deeply inspired by the adventures of Marco Polo. All Europeans knew trade with the Far East was treacherous. If a European wanted silk, he or she would have to finance a trip around either the horn of Africa, or a voyage through Islamic lands. Remember, the Crusades were still going on at this point and Catholic/Islamic relations were hostile. Columbus wanted to make wealth for the church by trading with the Far East, and thereby finance a final crusade to once and for all end Islamic terrorism. Sadly, we're still reaping the consequences of this shortcoming. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. points this out in a speech entitled Christopher Columbus the Catholic:

What is not commonly known is that the growing power of the followers of Mohammed had closed the normal pathway from Europe to the Orient. In God's providence, this is what occasioned the search for another way to the Indies. Most historians claim that this was the dominant motive for Columbus going west so that the wealth of the East might be found. The Book of Prophecies [Written by Columbus] shows the opposite. Commercial interests were certainly prominent in the minds of others. But Columbus had deeper spiritual interests at heart. It was surely part of God's mysterious design that Columbus should have planted the true faith in the New World at the same time that Islam was overrunning Africa, the Near East, and was being driven out of Southern Europe.

Columbus was also hoping to convert the Far East to Christianity through evangelism, and thereby gain allies by which to resist the Islamic jihad. In a letter to Pope Alexander VI he said, "I trust that by God’s help, I may spread the Holy Name and Gospel of Jesus Christ as widely as possible." (While I haven't studied enough to know whether Columbus was a true follower of Christ, I do know that evangelical historian David Barton has mentioned before that he believes Christopher Columbus was in fact equivalent to an evangelical.) When Columbus first set foot in the West Indies, he actually thought he had made it to the Far East as evidenced by the fact that some people still call Native Americans "Indians." The question is, why would Columbus steal from and subjugate people he wanted to trade and alliance with? The answer is, "he didn't!" Despite what Hollywood actors and actresses would have you believe, as evidenced by this year's "Reconsider Columbus Day Campaign," the ugly truth is, the great explorer never participated in the actions of the conquistadors. Tommy De Seno sheds some light on this in his article The Truth About Christopher Columbus. De Seno introduces us to the source of all the confusion named Francisco de Bobadilla who lied about Columbus in order to gain his job as governor of Hispaniola.

In 1500 the King and Queen sent him to North America to investigate claims that Columbus wasn’t being fair to the European settlers (which means Columbus was protecting the Indians). So de Bobedilla came here, and in just a few short days did his investigation (with no telephones or motorized vehicles to help him), and promptly arrested Columbus and his brothers for Indian mistreatment and sent them back to Spain, sans a trial. Oh and, he also appointed himself governor. Coup de coeur for power lead to coup d’ etat, as usual.

It was two years before Columbus was able to be reinstated as governor again. Regarding the allegations made against Columbus in reference to the slave trade De Seno writes:

One of his boats crashed in Haiti. He had no room for 39 men, so he started a colony there. . . Columbus came back a year later to find that the Taino Indians killed all of them and left them where they fell. Columbus went to war with the Tainos and took 500 of them as prisoners of war, not slaves. They were released after the war. 

If Columbus wasn't guilty of slavery or Indian mistreatment, surely he must have at least been a land grabber right? Aren't all Europeans. Once again, syndicated blogger Alexander Marriott asks the question:

What was there to steal? The land was not in use, evidenced by the pathetic level of any kind of progress, intellectual or material, on the part of nearly all Indian tribes despite thousands of years in lands of great plenty and separated from the other people of the world who could have potentially meddled with them.

Michael Berliner, writing for Capitalist magazine makes the statement, "Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped." I assume this would equally apply to the West Indies.

So what is the legacy of Christopher Columbus? In a letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella contained in the Book on Prophecies authored by the man himself in 1502, Columbus makes this assertion:


At this time I have seen and put in study to look into all the Scriptures ...which our Lord opened to my understanding – I could sense His hand upon me – so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies, and He gave me the will to execute the idea ...I have already said that for the execution of the enterprise of the Indies, neither reason nor mathematics, nor world maps were profitable to me: rather the prophecy of Isaiah was completely fulfilled. And this is what I wish to report here for the consideration of your Highnesses (Book of Prophecies, Folos 4, 4 rvs., 5 rvs).

Columbus was a man of virtue- a "hero" if you will. With noble goals and faith in God he sailed the uncharted ocean depths discovering what today we call "home," and opening the possibility for Western Civilization to make inroads in a new continent.

Western Culture

I'd like to shortly cut through the chase. We all know that all the The Enemies of Christopher Columbus as author Thomas A. Bowden calls them, don't really hate Columbus as much as they do Western Civilization. He just represents Western Culture to them. In their minds, multiculturalism is key. They believe that every civilization is equal. Bowden explains:

In our age of multiculturalism and politically correct attitudes, it is considered bad manners and even wrong to claim any superiority for Western civilization and its achievements. . . But if we take an objective look at the standards of men's lives, then Western civilization is superior in very visible ways. 

What ways you may ask? Science, technology, industry, capitalism, chivalry, etiquette, fine arts, law, high morals, etc. all came from the West, not because Europeans are racially superior in anyway, but because they were shaped by Biblical assumptions (after the Reformation especially). Compare this to the way the Aztec's lived.

The Aztec religion sprang from a compulsive instinct to attract those natural forces which were beneficial to man and repel those which were malign. . . The Aztecs felt under a compelling duty to offer human sacrifices to these gods. . . Tearing out the hearts of living victims by black-robed, long-haired, chanting priests was a relatively merciful death compared to being scourged or eaten alive. The killings were on a large scale and would reach thousands on a single day, as failure to influence the gods became a frenzy of slaughter. Among other historic sources, we have record of what happened at the inauguration, in 1487, of the temple of Huitzilopochtli (Wheatzilopochtly), the god of war and of the sun. At the ceremony, some 20,000 human beings were sacrificed on the temple altars at the command of the Aztec Emperor, Auitzotl, to appease the monstrous deity.

Even though most of us should know that most of the indigenous people were wiped out as a result of smallpox- which wasn't intentional (germs weren't even discovered yet)- there were still no doubt some horrible Europeans. The Conquistadors killed the Aztecs. But compared to the Aztecs what was their real crime? As Bowden says, at the very worst "the Europeans treated the Indians no differently that they treated one another." It is significant that such actions were done against the culture of Western Civilization, as opposed to the Aztecs whose crimes were consistent with their worldview. Bowden states:

What happened is that there were Europeans who abandoned civilized standards in dealing with the Indians. The problem wasn't that those Europeans had too much civilization. The problem was that they had too little.

Most of the atrocities against Native Americans in the U.S. have been at the hands of a tyrannical Federal government. President Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears all the way up to the Indian Wars of the late 1800s are the result of anti-Western tyranny. Don't forget that the same government, generals, and army that committed countless crimes against the South (At the time the very epitome of Western Culture) after the War for Southern Independence, is the same unconstitutional government that wiped out the Native Americans a few years later. It was the Natives who fought alongside the South that received the worst treatment (i.e. Oklahoma Territory).

Those who hate Columbus and Western Civilization are ironically following in the footsteps of the European Frenchman Jean Jacque Rousseau who postulated the "Noble Savage," which is the mythical idea that we must get back to the primitive basics. He envisioned a Utopian civilization stripped of all things "Western," in which mankind would live as the Native Americans in tranquility with nature. Unfortunately for the dreamers, this world does not, never has, and never will exist, because man is evil. All societies are not equal; The one that admits the fact of man's depravity is superior, and there's only one civilization that does so: Western Civilization. Happy Columbus Day!

10/13/10

God Does Exist!

God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contraryDefending the Faith Using Presuppositional Apologetics, Evidence, & the Impossibility of the Contrary: A Review
By: Jonathan Harris

Michael A. Robinson's book God Does Exist! stands out in the sea of books on apologetics namely due to its practical nature. Not only does Robinson teach apologetic methods, but he also give examples of how they are to be used. His motivation for doing so is compelling. Why should someone gain knowledge if they aren't going to use it? Michael makes this convicting remark in the introduction to his book.

I have observed numerous members of the Reformed wing of the church and I have been overwhelmed at the brightness of their wit, the depth of their theological sophistication, and their vivid, vigorous defense of the faith. But I am often grieved at the lack of passion for person evangelism in the lives of many who delight in the intellectual quality, brilliance, and penetration of the books authored by the most orthodox scholars. It breaks my heart to see the believers, who have the best understanding of scripture, leave the work of evangelism to the anti-intellectual churches as the bright and brainy remain holed-up in their compounds of abstract academia.

There are apologetic junkies out there who attend the conferences, read the books, write the reviews, and maybe even leave comments on facebook and youtube, but fail to meet the most basic requirement of a follower of Christ: to go make disciples. This isn't to say any of the aforementioned activities are negative. In fact, they are extremely helpful and useful for the task of evangelism. If they are separated from this task, they loose their purpose. This is the reason I like Robinson's book. It's evangelism focused. There are numerous "man-on-the-street" transcripts of actual encounters with unbelievers that serve as an example for what we should be doing. They not only help us grasp the apologetic concepts, but they force us to envision ourselves using them. I can't overemphasize enough the reason God Does Exist! was written. It's not to convince the skeptic, or teach the Christian some new apologetic- though it can do both. Rather it's meant to show how the Christian should apply his or her apologetic.

Let's take a look at just a couple apologetic arguments Robinson lays out for us to use. I should mention that Michael is well-versed in Van-Tillian apologetics, and that seems to be his main thrust. The transcendental argument for God's existence is his favorite- and mine as well- because it gives the unbeliever no room for rejection. It doesn't deal in probabilities, but absolutes. If the God of the Bible did not exist, nothing could be proven. The universal invariant laws of logic, morality, science, etc. all depend upon the Trinitarian God of Scripture. Robinson gives us the tools necessary to do an "internal critique" of the unbeliever's worldview with five pages of non-stop examples of "self-refuting" statements. One whole chapter is dedicated the Trinity and how it's actually an asset in proving God (since it makes unity in diversity possible) not a problem. One of the more amusing proofs the author uses against materialists is seen in this quote:

Rejecting the notion of man having a spirit has applications for our penal system as well. According to the atheist's worldview, the only thing that exists is the material world. If this is true, the state after seven years, should let all the murderers out of prison.

The reason for this you may ask?

. . . humans physically change every moment, hence under a physical-only worldview, I am not the same person I was a second ago. In seven years time, every atom in a person's body has been replaced by new ones. Thus the person is a new and completely different being, within the worldview of the materials atheist (faster if you visit the dentist frequently).

The fact is, if all you believe exists is physical material, you have no reason to love your child after one minute let alone seven years. He or she is now a different person. Yet, atheists function as if the spouse they married after seven years is still the same person. They cannot account for this because of their disbelief in the soul.

The book contains many such internal critiques of non-believing worldviews, and shows how you can approach someone who believes in such things. The Bible is coherent and contains no internal contradictions and can make sense of reality and the way in which we actually function. For anyone wanting to know how they can preach the Gospel with  more confidence, or wondering how they might go about applying apologetics to witnessing encounters, I suggest picking up a copy of this book.

Click here to order God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contrary.

10/9/10

The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Ultimate Proof of CreationResolving the Origins Debate: A Review
By: Jonathan Harris

Three weeks ago I had the privilege of attending Living Water's Deeper Conference in Covington Kentucky. Aside from being blessed and encouraged through meeting other like-minded Christians and participating in evangelism every night, I was also intellectually stimulated. Towards the beginning of the year I had stumbled upon a Greg Bahnsen apologetics conference on youtube. What I thought would be a five minute passing glance, turned into hours of amazement. I then watched the whole thing again, this time taking notes. Although I've always been a presuppositionalist, up to that point, I had never been introduced to a systematized approach to using that conviction during witnessing encounters.

At the conference, the rubber met the road. Dr. Jason Lisle it turns out has written a book on the subject of presuppositional apologetics entitled, The Ultimate Proof of Creation. While most of the concepts were likely learned from Dr. Greg Bahnsen, who in turned built on the ideas of Dr. Cornelius Van Till, they were communicated in a less overly-intellectual way. Not to say that they weren't intellectual, but the language itself was easier to understand as opposed to Dr. Greg Bahnsen's terminology. Dr. Lisle's speech at the conference was a synthesis of the ideas contained in his book. Being reminded of this presuppositional approach to sharing one's faith, I decided that that very night I would purpose to use this approach if challenged, and I have to say, "It worked!" This doesn't mean that everyone I talked to was converted, but no one had a rational answer by which to refute such arguments. Either the non-believer would switch the subject, retreat to irrationality, or simply leave the premises refusing to argue. Not one coherent response was used to counter the transcendental argument. It was then that it finally clicked in my mind. I needed to master this approach.

I just finished Dr. Jason Lisle's book  The Ultimate Proof of Creation earlier today, and have already started The Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. After having used the presuppositional approach six or seven times - in somewhat rudimentary form- I'm convinced this is the only way by which to approach the unbeliever. Every worldview has assumptions (presuppositions, axioms, etc.) that cannot be proved by science, but are nonetheless assumed to be true. In fact, science itself would not function if it were not for such assumptions being true. I'm referring to the preconditions for intelligibility. We all assume that the laws of nature are uniform, that the laws of logic exist, that there is such a thing as ethics, etc. Unfortunately for the unbeliever, such inanimate conceptions are used by him or her to function on a daily basis, but they cannot be accounted for. As Christians, we can easily account for preconditions of intelligibility because they are inherent in our understanding of God. Nature is uniform because God has made it that way. He has given our minds the ability to test, and our senses the reliability to be trusted. Morality is a reflection of His moral nature, and logic is a reflection of the way in which His mind reasons. We are created in His image and therefore are pre-programmed to function in a certain way. The non-believer (irrespective of worldview) cannot make sense of any of this. "Why is it wrong to rape children for fun?" "Why do you trust the laws of logic?" "How is it possible for you to have a free-will?" Such questions force unbeliever's to retreat to their ultimate authority- if they have one. To give a case and point: I asked a humanist why it was wrong to rape children two weeks ago. He said, "Because they're children." I further queried, "Why does the fact that they're children make it wrong?" He had no answer. This is typical of most people. They simply haven't thought deep enough to realize their whole worldview has no foundation. They have no rational basis by which to account for their own beliefs.

Dr. Jason Lisle supplies the basic tools necessary- such as the A.I.P. Method and the Don't Answer, Answer Strategy- to perform an internal critique of the unbeliever's worldview, proving it to be fallacious, while at the same time providing a positive transcendental argument for God's existence (The proof for the Christian God's existence is that without Him you couldn't prove anything). In addition, Dr. Lisle shows the proper place for evidence in light of conflicting interpretations. Two chapters alone are devoted to logical fallacies. Do you want to defend your faith better? Are you a skeptic looking for answers? Pick up your copy today! Click here to order your copy.
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