Category : Apologetics

Tim Challies review of The Shack: ‘the book has a quietly subversive quality to it’

So where does all of this leave us? It is clear to me that The Shack is a mix of good and bad. Young teaches much that is of value and he teaches it in a slick and effective way. Sadly, though, there is much bad mixed in with the good. As we pursue his major theological thrusts we see that many of them wander away, by varying degrees, from what God tells us in Scripture.

Despite the great amount of poor theology, my greatest concern is probably this one: the book has a quietly subversive quality to it. Young seems set on undermining orthodox Christianity. For example, at one point Mack states that,despite years of seminary and years of being a Christian, most of the things taught to him at the shack have never occurred to him before. Later he says, “I understand what you’re saying. I did that for years after seminary. I had the right answers, sometimes, but I didn’t know you. This weekend, sharing life with youhas been far more illuminating than any of those answers.”

Throughout the book there is this kind of subversive strain teaching that new and fresh revelation is much more relevant and important than the kind of knowledge we gain in sermons or seminaries or Scripture.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Evangelicals, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

The C of E press release on the House of Bishops Report on marriage+same-sex reltnshps

The Church of England’s law and guidance on marriage should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without changing the Church’s doctrine of marriage itself, bishops are recommending.

A report from the House of Bishops to be discussed by the Church’s General Synod next month upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

But it also concludes that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples – which allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership – is not clear enough and should be revisited.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Apologetics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

Peter Moore–Did Jesus have to be born of a Virgin? Rethinking the Virgin Birth

Since God was in the business of re-starting creation in the sending of his Son, might we not expect him to create “out of nothing” the second time, just as he did the first? Karl Barth, the greatest theologian of the 20th Century, thought so. Just as the Spirit brooded over creation the first time, so again in the birth of Jesus the Spirit “brooded” over the virgin Mary. Also, just as creation was totally initiated by God the first time, so creation (the second time, in Jesus) gets to be totally initiated by God. The Virgin Birth tells us that Jesus was not born “of the will of man”, but wholly of the Father’s initiative. God chose to by-pass the normal male role in the work of redemption, in part, so the logic goes, to signal his own headship. “Man as a creating, controlling, self-assertive, self-glorifying being was set aside in favor of a woman who listened, received, and served.” (From, A Step Further, by the author)

We honor the Virgin Birth, of course, because Scripture teaches it. But we can also see the logic behind it. God’s sovereign action is a challenge to the human psychological need to contribute to our own salvation, to be co-creators with God. Mary is a witness against the drive, push, and self-assertion that men especially (though not exclusively) associate with a healthy self-image and by which men often mask their own impotence.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Albert Mohler: Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

Carl F. H. Henry, the dean of evangelical theologians, argues that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation.” Well said, and well believed.

Nicholas Kristof and his secularist friends may find belief in the Virgin Birth to be evidence of intellectual backwardness among American Christians. But this is the faith of the Church, established in God’s perfect Word, and cherished by the true Church throughout the ages. Kristof’s grandfather, we are told, believed that the Virgin Birth is a “pious legend.” The fact that he could hold such beliefs and serve as an elder in his church is evidence of that church’s doctrinal and spiritual laxity ”” or worse. Those who deny the Virgin Birth affirm other doctrines only by force of whim, for they have already surrendered the authority of Scripture. They have undermined Christ’s nature and nullified the incarnation.

This much we know: All those who find salvation will be saved by the atoning work of Jesus the Christ ”” the virgin-born Savior. Anything less than this is just not Christianity, whatever it may call itself. A true Christian will not deny the Virgin Birth.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Peter Kreeft on the Meaning of Christmas

Let’s apply the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Christmas is so familiar that we sometimes wonder whether anything fresh and true can be said about it.

But there is a way to explore its meaning that may seem new to us today, yet is in fact quite traditional, dating back to the Middle Ages and the ancient Fathers of the Church.
Modern interpreters often argue about whether a given Scripture passage should be interpreted literally or symbolically. Medieval writers would question the “either/or” approach. They thought a passage could have as many as four “right” interpretations, one literal and three symbolic.

These were: (1) the historical or literal, which is the primary sense on which the others all depend; (2) the prophetic sense when an Old Testament event foreshadows its New Testament fulfillment; (3) the moral or spiritual sense, when events and characters in a story correspond to elements in our own lives; and (4) the eschatological sense, when a scene on earth foreshadows something of heavenly glory.

This symbolism is legitimate because it doesn’t detract from the historical, literal sense, but builds on and expands it. It’s based on the theologically sound premise that history too symbolizes, or points beyond itself, for God wrote three books, not just one: nature and history as well as Scripture. The story of history is composed not only of “events,” but of words, signs and symbols. This is unfamiliar to us only because we have lost a sense of depth and exchanged it for a flat, one-dimensional, “bottom-line” mentality in which everything means only one thing.

Let’s try to recapture the riches of this lost worldview by applying the spiritual sense of the Christmas story to our lives. For that story happens not only once, in history, but also many times in each individual’s soul. Christ comes to the world ”” but He also comes to each of us. Advent happens over and over again.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

CS Lewis on Christmas: The Grand Miracle

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles–because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends–you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation. Now, if one asks whether that central grand miracle in Christianity is itself probable or improbable, of course, quite clearly you cannot be applying Hume’s kind of probability. You cannot mean a probability based on statistics according to which the more often a thing has happened, the more likely it is to happen again (the more often you get indigestion from eating a certain food, the more probable it is, if you eat it again, that you again have indigestion). Certainly the Incarnation cannot be probable in that sense. It is of its very nature to have happened only once. But then it is of the very nature of the history of this world to have happened only once; and if the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of that history. It is improbable in the same way in which the whole of nature is improbable, because it is only there once, and will happen only once.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Theology

Journalist+Skeptic Nicholas Kristof talks to prominent evangelical pastor+author Tim Keller

I wouldn’t characterize the New Testament descriptions of the risen Jesus as fuzzy. They are very concrete in their details. Yes, Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus at first, but then she does. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) also don’t recognize Jesus at first. Their experience was analogous to meeting someone you last saw as a child 20 years ago. Many historians have argued that this has the ring of eyewitness authenticity. If you were making up a story about the Resurrection, would you have imagined that Jesus was altered enough to not be identified immediately but not so much that he couldn’t be recognized after a few moments? As for Mark’s gospel, yes, it ends very abruptly without getting to the Resurrection, but most scholars believe that the last part of the book or scroll was lost to us.

Skeptics should consider another surprising aspect of these accounts. Mary Magdalene is named as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ, and other women are mentioned as the earliest eyewitnesses in the other gospels, too. This was a time in which the testimony of women was not admissible evidence in courts because of their low social status. The early pagan critics of Christianity latched on to this and dismissed the Resurrection as the word of “hysterical females.” If the gospel writers were inventing these narratives, they would never have put women in them. So they didn’t invent them.

The Christian Church is pretty much inexplicable if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection. N.T. Wright has argued in “The Resurrection of the Son of God” that it is difficult to come up with any historically plausible alternate explanation for the birth of the Christian movement.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Evangelicals, Media, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

John Stonestreet–No, we can’t ”˜agree to disagree’ on same-sex ”˜marriage’+ here’s why

Second, we often hear that the Church is evolving on this issue, especially every time a Christian celebrity changes their minds. But the vast majority of evangelicals still hold to the traditional view, and they’re not changing their minds anytime soon. As my “BreakPoint This Week” cohost, Ed Stetzer, points out in Christianity Today, “Evangelical organizations across the spectrum are making clear where they stand on marriage.” Groups like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christianity Today, and even more progressive social-justice-minded organizations like World Vision and Fuller Seminary, have all unambiguously committed to hold the line on this issue.

As have denominations. Virtually every evangelical communion has reaffirmed God’s design for sex and marriage. Even in the United Methodist Church, long considered a stronghold of liberal theology, and in the worldwide Anglican communion, the marriage debate has taken a conservative turn as traditional members in Africa and elsewhere exert their influence.

But, some will reply, “If Christians don’t all agree on what marriage is, you can’t say there’s such a thing as ”˜the Christian position.’” But Christian truth isn’t made of what people who call themselves Christians say. It’s revealed truth, made known through creation, through Scripture, ultimately through Christ””each of which are quite clear about what makes us male and female, what marriage is, and about sexual morality.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Apologetics, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tom Wright on C.S. Lewis for CS Lewis' Feast Day: Reflections on a Master Apologist After 60 Years

I once found myself working closely, in a cathedral fundraising campaign, with a local millionaire. He was a self-made man. When I met him he was in his 60s, at the top of his game as a businessman, and was chairing our Board of Trustees. To me, coming from the academic world, he was a nightmare to work with.

He never thought in (what seemed to me) straight lines; he would leap from one conversation to another; he would suddenly break into a discussion and ask what seemed a totally unrelated question. But after a while I learned to say to myself: Well, it must work, or he wouldn’t be where he is. And that was right. We raised the money. We probably wouldn’t have done it if I’d been running the Trust my own way.

I have something of the same feeling on re-reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart.

Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anglican Provinces, Apologetics, Books, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ministry of the Laity, Parish Ministry, Theology

CS Lewis on CS Lewis Day (VI)–On Hope

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ”˜thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.

–C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper, 2001), p. 134

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Apologetics, Church History, Eschatology, Theology

CS Lewis on CS Lewis Day (II)–His sole surviving BBC radio address

Check it out.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Apologetics, Church History, Theology

(CT) Jen Pollock Michel–Glennon Doyle Melton’s Gospel of Self-Fulfillment

…yet the “sky is not falling” because her story, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s before her, is hardly new. The gospel of self-fulfillment has been centuries in the making. As Charles Taylor explains in his dense, scholarly A Secular Age, the new invention of the modern age is a self-sufficing humanism that “accept[s] no final goals beyond human flourishing, nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing. Of no previous society was this true.” In other words, happiness is our only duty today, self-betrayal our only sin. It’s not simply that the lines of morality have blurred in modern times, making truth relative. It’s not even that religious belief has waned. Rather, the good life has been radically redefined according to the benefit of the individual while the former measures of flourishing””God’s glory, society’s health, the family’s well-being””have been displaced. We’re all on the throne now.

Melton is as modern as she boasts””even if her effusive references to “love” and “joy” are reassuringly offered to confirm that her choices are in everyone’s best interest. From the public announcements both of her divorce and her new dating relationship, she wants us to understand this: The greatest gift any of us gives to the world is our true self. Let’s not look to anyone else for permission or feel any obligation for explanation. Humans flourish as they obey their desires.

But the seismic nature of Melton’s recent revelation and the aftershocks felt by her adoring fans suggests that the sky might be falling in some new way. Because while the self-fulfillment narrative isn’t new, here’s what is: how easily and insidiously it gets baptized as a Christian story. Melton hasn’t simply said: I should be happy. She has emphatically said: God should be equally and unequivocally committed to my happiness as I am.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Tim Keller: "Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical"

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Books, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Theology

(9Marks) Os Guiness–The Shift from Authority to Preference””And Its Consequences for the Church

When such autonomous, free-choice consumerism washes over society from the shopping mall to the bedroom, the office and the ballot box, the result is predictable. What will be the price of obedience to authority, and what will be the respect accorded to principled dissent? Choice””unbounded autonomous, subjective sovereign individual choice””is the playboy king of consumerland, and with comfort and convenience as his closest courtiers and cronies, he now rules much of life. Authority and obedience are therefore banished together. They are the unwelcome spoilsports whose entry might ruin the fantasy game of infinite choices. The result is no surprise””a grave crisis of authority within the church, and a rash of positions and interpretations that in any clearer thinking generation would be frankly seen as the rejection of the authority of Jesus and the Scriptures that they are.

Evangelicals are especially vulnerable to this distortion of choice because of the exaggerated place they give to choice in the call to conversion. It may even be their Achilles’ heel. Whereas the Jews are the chosen people, so that their faith is their destiny, Evangelicals are a choosing people, and their faith is often merely their decision.

The step of faith is of course a choice, the most important and fully responsible choice a person ever makes. But when the overwhelming emphasis is put on choice as an act of decision, choosing becomes everything, but it can then suffer the fate of many modern choices and shrink to being lightweight, changeable, and nonbinding. Choice and change are close companions, and those who decide for a faith because they choose to believe it can as easily defect from the faith when they choose not to.

Contrast this modern casualness with the early church’s deep theology surrounding conversion.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Albert Mohler–For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied ”¦ Again

In the end, we simply have no place to go other than the Bible as God’s authoritative revelation. Christ, not the Bible, is the foundation of our faith ”” but our only authoritative and infallible source of knowledge about Christ is the Bible.

A true defense of the Christian faith has never been more needed than now, but an attempt to rescue Christianity from its dependence upon Scripture is doomed to disaster.

We are left in the same predicament as Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. If Scripture cannot be trusted, then we are doomed.

“Jesus loves me ”” this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” A mature Christian faith will say more than that, not less than that. “For the Bible tells me so” does not mean that we do not have reasoned answers to difficult questions, but it does mean that we admit our dependence upon Scripture ”” and that we confess that God intended for us to be dependent on Scripture.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Theology, Theology: Scripture