Category Archives: Apologetics

He Asked About the Killings… and God

This past Friday, after the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in imgresNewtown, Conn., I received the following inquiry from a friend. It has been abridged to respect his anonymity.

 

Good afternoon friend.

 

Like most people in America right now, I’m staring at the news right now and just shaking my head trying to figure out how/why something like that shooting could have happened.  Most likely no one will truly know, but that doesn’t make it easier to process. …

 

I have never actively disrespected Christianity, as some people i know have.  Whatever works for you is what works.  A little liberal i realize, but I respect religion for what it is, and what it is (to me) is a method of ways to process what happens in the world into some form of useable information that one can use to find a meaning and purpose in all things.

 

So, as I read the news today about the CT shooting, I just keep asking myself the question, why would I want to place my trust in something or someone that would be ok with this happening.  I know all the tropes, ie, God’s plan, or something good will come from this, always darkest before the dawn, you name it. 

 

it seems like an overwhelmingly selfish thing to ask, in that something like this happens and I can only think “HOW DOES THIS IMPACT ME” but, please, no this isn’t from a selfish place. 

 

I realize that if there is a God there are multiple miracles he could be responsible for. …

 

But for all of those, how does this fit in?  How is this ok? How is this part of a plan?  And if it IS part of an omnipotent being’s plan, how can I possibly trust in it/Him explicitly when he signs off on things like this happening.  Does he say ‘well lots of people got home safely yesterday, I suppose today is a good day for this one’? I’m not trying to be disrespectful, I just don’t understand it.  I hadn’t really asked myself these questions in about a decade, and I can’t shake it.  Perhaps there are no answers for these questions, and such is the strict definition of faith.  And it’s not that I set metrics for God and if He can’t hit them, then i’m out, no thank you, ask me again later.  I just can’t answer the fundamental question of why would I place my trust and faith in someone that allows this to happen.  Am I asking the wrong questions?  Are my inquiries too selfishly motivated to have proper answers?

 

Again, I ask you these things because …  I couldn’t ask my parents bc I’d get written out of the will, and I could ask my wife, but I don’t really want to sleep on the couch for a week. 

 

 

Here is my reply:

 

These are great questions which warrant more discussion than this space comfortably allows. However, I’ll be glad to continue beyond this, either here or over a beer.

So… let me, for now, offer four points for consideration:

1. You’re asking what I’m convinced is THE most difficult question for any religion – or any belief system – to deal with: the reality of evil.

If you, personally, are entertaining atheism, let me suggest the challenge will be greatest for you. How does someone determine that something is in fact evil and speak out against it when they’ve removed any transcendent standard of measure against which a conclusion must be reached?

2. Of all the possible belief systems, you won’t find any that take the problem of evil more seriously than Christianity. (Of course, I think the reason behind this is because it’s TRUE.)  The entire purpose behind God’s work in and through Christ is to confront, defeat and rectify evil and its consequences. I John 3:8 says, “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.”

3. Given that, I would not dismiss some of the explanations you listed that you’ve heard from Christian believers.

4. Finally, if I look solely at the tragedy in CT, I see no sign of God’s love and goodness. I have to go beyond such events – even beyond events that suggest there may be a loving and gracious God – and look at Jesus – His life, death and resurrection – to see most clearly the demonstration of a God who loves you and me.

Would love to keep in touch.

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Filed under Apologetics, Evil, Jesus, Johnny Price Mindfield, Religion

(podcast) with Dr. Timothy Keller: Christmas Message

Christmas Message (click here)

Since we are deep into the Christmas season, this is the third of four podcasts imgresI’m sharing (see November 28 and December 5 for the previous two), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christmas, Jesus, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion

Sloppy Thinking: Exhibit #5

leo-tolstoy

From time to time, I’m responding to various ideas that I think are prime examples of sloppy thinking. Such as:

All happy families resemble one another,                                        each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

-Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

This is one of the most memorable opening lines in all of world literature. It’s right up there with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and “Call me Ishmael.”

But, memorable as it may be, it’s just not true. In fact, the opposite is true.

All unhappy families resemble each other because the few components that go into making a family unhappy — impatience, selfishness, bitterness, resentment — are all self-centered. All self-serving people look pretty much alike. Under the same roo, these people can only take their family into places of misery and more misery. And misery — however you arrive — just looks miserable.

The components that produce a happy family, such as love for each other, the desire to support each other, efforts not to offend, the willingness to forgive when offended, hoping the best for each other… are all other-oriented.

And when these are active, the individual members are free to flourish into their own unique personalities. Mix and match those flourishing personalities together and you get a family that is like no other.

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Filed under Apologetics, Literature, Mental health

(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: The Meaning of Christmas

The Meaning of Christmas

Having entered the Christmas season, I’m sharing four podcasts (see Novemberimgres 28 for the previous one), one each week, from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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(podcast) with Dr. Tim Keller: Who is this Jesus?- Open Forum

Who is this Jesus- – Open Forum (click here)

Now that we’ve entered the Christmas season, I want to share four podcasts over the  (you guessed it), four weeks leading up to the Big Day from Dr Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

If you click on the audio above, it will not only take you to some fascinating content but some excellent resources as well.

Enjoy.

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

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20 Convictions Concerning Prayer

I’m struggling with my prayer life.

Of course, I’m convinced that anyone who cares about prayer struggles; I don’t believe anyone ever reaches a point where they are completely satisfied with how much, or when, or how they pray.

As I sense the Lord leading me into a more significant investment of myself in prayer, I’m also realizing more and more what a mystery it is.

Still, for what it’s worth, below are 20 convictions I’ve come to concerning prayer.

(By the way, although I’ve been praying since I was a small child, I still feel like a “prayer newbie”. So if you have any additional thoughts or observations, please share them.)

1. Praying is the most important, powerful, productive and beneficial thing you can ever do for someone.

2. Of all the ministries one might have, prayer is the one that is available to everyone despite any physical, emotional or intellectual disadvantages. I have had individuals with Downs’ Syndrome pray for me and have been as blessed by them as by anyone.

3. Prayer is not limited by geography. I can make a significant difference in Somalia, though I’ve never been there.

4. Prayer is not limited by time. I’m convinced that prayers I prayed years ago for my family are still as intact and as influential as they were the moment I prayed them.

5. Jesus prayed. It must matter.

“…the Son of God, who had spoken worlds into being and sustains all that exists, felt a compelling need to pray. He prayed as if it made a difference, as if the time he devoted to prayer mattered every bit as much as the time he devoted to caring for people.” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 79

“Although Jesus offered no metaphysical proofs of the effectiveness of prayer, the very fact that he did it establishes its worth.” Ibid. p 81

6. Jesus continues to pray. It must matter. The only description of Jesus’ current activity given to us in the Bible is his praying on behalf of his followers: Hebrews 7:25.

7. The Bible definitely, repeatedly calls us to prayer. It must matter.

“Turn to the Bible’s view of history… and you see a picture of God as a personal Being who alertly listens to prayers and then responds. Jesus filled in that portrait, and the disciples took up praying right where Jesus left off, making specific and personal requests for God to act.” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 132

8. Three reassurances things I’m looking for when I pray: that God loves me, that he understands me and that he allows my prayers to make a difference.

9. Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God.

10. Prayer is our strongest weapon against invisible forces.

“To clasp our hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” – Karl Barth, cited in Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, by Philip Yancey, p 118

11. In the midst of struggles, prayer is not preparation for some future battle. Prayer is the battle.

12. Prayer perhaps requires the greatest amount of faith. Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:7 that “We walk by faith, not by sight.” There is no greater arena than prayer in which that is true.

“For most of us, much of the time, prayer brings no certain confirmation we have been heard. We pray in faith that our words somehow cross a bridge between visible and invisible worlds, penetrating a reality of which we have no proof. We enter God’s milieu, the realm of spirit…” – Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  p 22, 23

13. It does not matter how long my prayer is. Just as extended time in prayer is important, prayer “snatches” or “arrows” (as I’ve heard them called) are every bit as powerful.

14. One of Jesus’ last prayer requests has yet to be granted. In the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed that his followers would be unified.

15. Soberingly, one of Jesus’ final prayer requests was denied. Also in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed that he would not have to go through the ordeal he was facing.

16.  Prayer does not require fancy language.

17. The intensity of my prayer doesn’t matter.

18. When I can’t find the strength or the words to pray, the Holy Spirit also (see #6) prays on my behalf.  Read Romans 8:26, 27

19.  Prayer is not an effort on our part to pry open the fingers of a God reluctant to bless us.

20. The purpose of prayer is not for us to change God’s mind, but to put ourselves in the position for him to change ours.

Given my conviction that praying is the best thing we can ever do for someone, and given the fact that I want to be involved in the best, I’ve established a second phone line in my home, strictly for people to use to request prayers. If you call and I’m home – and can answer – I’ll be happy to pray with you if you’d like. Otherwise, you’ll be able to leave a message. All calls will be held in strictest confidence. Every prayer request will be honored. The number is 864-400-9431. Please feel free to share it with your friends.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christian benevolence, Jesus, Religion

(podcast, with notes) Apologetics, Part 5: Homosexuality as an Ethical Test Case

Audio (click here)

Thanks one final time to Rev. Chris Daniels of the Richmond Center for Christian Study for allowing me to offer to you this five-part series on Christian apologetics: “Exploring the Nature of Reality: Seeing How a Biblical View of the World is Reasonable, Reliable and Fits Reality as Nothing Else Does”

This fifth and final session, Homosexuality as an Ethical Test Case, is presented by Rev. Daniel, who serves as the Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study.

This apologetics course is designed to give roots to the faith of Christians, assist seekers in their quest for truth, and gently and respectfully challenge those who hold to competing worldviews.

The lecture runs 1:11:00, with Q&A.

For more information on the Richmond Center for Christian Study, go to http://richmondstudycenter.org

***You can now access, download and/or subscribe to all of our podcasts through itunes. Just go to the itunes store. In the horizontal menu toward the top, click podcasts. Then type into the search box johnnypricemindfield. Click and there you are. Thanks, again, for checking it out.

AND TO HELP YOU EVEN FURTHER, HERE IS AN OUTLINE:

How do we determine what is ethical?
The approaches we too often adopt:
1) Succumb to the cultural pressure that promotes an ever-increasing growth in “rights” and “freedom”.
2) React against any effort to bring about social change that may threaten what we’re used to or comfortable with.

The only right approach: Ask, “What has God said about this?”

Given that it is God who made us, and given that He has spoken to us, this is the only way we could ever determine what is truly ethical.
How has God spoken to us?
NATURE (general revelation)
SCRIPTURE (special revelation)

General Revelation: What has God said through Nature?
Complementary Design – two systems or objects that show by their design that they are intended for each other.

Example: Nut & Bolt
We recognize that each was designed with the other in mind, not merely because one happens to fit in the other, but because the grooves of the one receive the threads of the other for the purpose of securing a tight fit.

The penis and vagina, and the male and female reproductive systems as a whole, show clear signs of complementary design.

Not only do the penis and anus fail to show signs of complementary design, but such sexual activity (much more common in homosexual encounters) actually does violence to the clear design and intention of the anus.

“[The anus was not] designed for the purpose of intercourse, which is readily evident from the physical injuries that often arise from such practices.”
~ Stanley Grenz, Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective, 237

 

“The rectum is lined with a single layer of columnar epithelial cells designed to absorb liquids. The vagina, by contrast, is lined with tough cells called stratified squamous epithelium. These cells have a layer of mucus that, along with other secretions and the thicker, more flexible vaginal wall, protects against abrasion and infection. The rectal wall has no surrounding muscular support, and it secretes a small amount of mucus that does not protect well against abrasion. But the key differences between the vagina and the rectum are the cell types and the thickness of the cell layers. The two orifices may feel very much alike to the intruding finger or penis. But one orifice is prone to repel, the other to admit, whatever microorganisms come along for the ride.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 117
“It is important to understand that physical trauma, or harm to bodily structures, is a common problem among homosexuals. Quite simply … the rectum is not made for the industrial use of insertive homosexual activity.  Anal intercourse stretches the opening to the size required for a large bowel movement. The problem, however, is not the size of the opening but  the direction and repetition of the movement. The anus is a one-way valve, stimulated to open only by pressure from inside, and stimulated to contract by pressure from outside. Sudden or inadequately lubricated penetration can tear the anus itself. But more commonly the cumulative effect of anal intercourse is to cause dysfunction of the anal sphincter muscle, and the result is chronic incontinence or urgency of defecation for about one in three men who regularly engage in the practice.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 117-8
“Nor is that all. Once past the anus, the danger of physical trauma worsens. Irritation of the sensitive rectal mucus layer causes a host of reactions, including diarrhea, cramps, hemorrhoids, prostate damage, and ulcers or fissures which in turn invite infection. The thin cell layer of the rectum is easily perforated, and its insensitivity to pain can lead to serious complications before a person is aware of any harm. Extensive surgical procedures are often required to repair damage caused by the insertion of the penis, the finger or other objects into the rectum.”
~ Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 118

 

Special Revelation: What has God said through Scripture?
Primary passages dealing with the question of homosexuality:

“Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’”
~ Genesis 19:4-8

“Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
~ Jude 7

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
~Leviticus 18:22 (also, Lev 20:13)

“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”
~ Romans 1:26-27

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

[Though these passages are sufficient to demonstrate that homosexual activity is unethical, some will attempt to explain how these passages fall short of condemning homosexual activity as we know it today. But Jesus’ approach (below) cuts through all this…]

Jesus’ approach to dealing with ethical issues of marriage and sexuality: Jesus reasons, “As it was at the Creation, so it ought to be now.”

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’” ~ Matthew 19:3-6

Jesus uses the Genesis language of “being united to your wife” and “becoming one flesh” to draw out the ethical implication that “man should not separate what God has joined together.”

Using Jesus’ own method of Biblical interpretation, we should observe that at the Creation God “made them male and female” (i.e., opposite genders) and that “a man will … be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” We should then conclude, using Jesus’ reasoning that “as it was at Creation, so it ought to be now,” that marriage / sexual union is designed and intended to be enjoyed between a man and a woman.

[Note: Even if it were true that the passages previously mentioned all fall short of condemning homosexual activity as we know it today, following Jesus’ own method of Biblical interpretation would lead to this ethical conclusion anyway.]

Aren’t some people “born gay”?
Two reasons not to accept the notion that some people are “born gay”:
1) It is not true
2) It is dangerous

The notion that some people are “born gay” is simply not true.

This notion implies that, if you have homosexual feelings, you should embrace those feelings since that’s how God made you. While it is true that we should embrace how God has made us, this notion assumes that homosexual feelings must be a result of how God made us and doesn’t even consider that they might be a result of how the fall has corrupted us.

The biblical view is that, due to the fall, we are all born sinful, and as a result have all sorts of corrupt inclinations to one degree or another.

The notion that some people are “born gay” is dangerous.

This notion suggests that, if you have homosexual inclinations, you should be honest with who you are and embrace your inclinations. While we should certainly be honest with who we are, we should also be discerning, embracing those things about us that are a result of how God made us, and rejecting those things about us that are a result of how the fall has corrupted us.

Embracing our fallen tendencies reveals us as those who do not know God and bars us from inheriting the kingdom of God:

“No one who lives in him [God] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin [i.e., embraces sin as a friend/way of life] has either seen him or known him.”
~ 1 John 3:6 (also 3:9, 5:18)

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this [i.e., embrace such things as a way of life] will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
~ Galatians 5:19-21

The biblical approach to dealing with our fallen tendencies is not to embrace them, but to put them to death.

“If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
~ Romans 8:13-14

Total Depravity: We are all guilty of every type of sin 

Myth – Only some people are tempted by this type of sin (i.e., not me).

Fact – We are all tempted by every type of sin to one degree or another.

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”
~ Hebrews 4:15

Implications:
1) Jesus understands every type of temptation.
2) We are all in the same boat (i.e., there is no type of sin where we can say “The fall has not hit me here”).

“What shall we do?!”
Repent from your sins:

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”
~ Acts 3:19

Believe in Jesus:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
~ John 3:16

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
~ Acts 16:31

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
~ Romans 10:9

Resource Recommendations
John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life
David Jones, Biblical Christian Ethics
Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics
Robert Gagnon & Dan Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views
Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and
Homosexuality
Thomas Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?: Compassion & Clarity in the
Homosexuality Debate

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Filed under Apologetics, Jesus, Podcast, Podcasts, Religion