RSS feed for this section

Archive | Apologetics

Gospel Beauty Beyond Syllogisms

The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner. Read it again. The Christian life is the life of a forgiven sinner.

There is something refreshing about the simplicity of a statement such as this. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Should we not give him praise for this reality? The Lord Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

I wonder how often we lose focus on this glorious truth? In our discussions with unbelievers and those who would describe themselves as “seekers” (yes, I know Romans 3:11), we ought to help direct their thinking along these lines as they ask us questions about what it means to be a Christian.

Several weeks ago, I was invited to UCLA to speak at class filled with medievalists and early modern English historians. These post-graduate students were studying the religious writings of England during the Reformation and early Puritan era. I was invited to give a pastoral perspective on the theology of the era and […]

Countering the Happiness Project

The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is to create a new government ministry—the country’s first ministry of happiness. It will be dedicated to “putting a smile on every face”. It also aims to track their smiling citizens’ growth in happiness.

The state’s chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said, “The state will be made responsible for happiness and tolerance of its citizens and will rope in psychologists to counsel people on how to be always happy.”

The reason this caught my eye was that I was preparing to preach this Sabbath on “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”—so happiness had been uppermost in my contemplations this week. I had also been listening to a lecture Carl Trueman gave at our Shaftesbury Square congregation—and he unpacked a further level of significance to the quest for happiness.

Without being overdramatic I believe the pursuit of happiness (or The Great Happiness Project) lies at the root of many of society’s problems—both personal and social. Obviously I have no problem with happiness—I’m all for it—but the pursuit of it is the problem.

Trueman quotes American sociologist Philip Rieff who set out four stages of Western civilization:

‘Political Man’ of classical civilisation—man defined by the city and […]

A Brief Reflection on Apologetics and Epistemology

(This is a follow-up to my post which can be found here)

When confronted with evidence supporting the notion of intelligent design, as demonstrated through the finely-tuned nature of the universe, atheist, Peter Millican, appealed chiefly to two different lines of thinking in order to escape the force of the argument: The possibility of a multiverse and the discovery of a new theory or law of nature that would resolve the tension through a more naturalistic explanation.

Allow me to bullet some thoughts:

Answering Jihad

Every time another Islamic terrorist blows up something or someone, political and media leaders speculate as to the root causes of jihad. What possesses people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of killing others? Former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, whose 2014 autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity describes his journey from committed apologist for Islam to born again Christian, has written helpfully this week in USA Today about the root causes of the radicalization of young Muslims.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? A Brief Reflection

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

It seems to me that when the relationship between Islam and Christianity is engaged on this level, theologians of a more liberal bent are provided a delicious opportunity to flatten the antithesis between Christ and Allah.

The question so framed allows for subtleties in metaphysics to rise to the fore.  “Isn’t there only one, real God?” they ask, finger raised.  “And if there is only one, real God, then it follows that worship must be directed, even if somewhat confused, to this one, real God.  Thus, it should be plain, dear friend, that we are worshiping the same God.”

Well, it isn’t all that plain.  But that isn’t the point.  The problem here is the desire to build upon perceived ambiguities so as to construct a viewpoint that downplays key differences between Islam and Christianity.

Those of a more liberal mindset don’t want hard edges.  They want Muslims to go to heaven as Muslims.  This, it seems to me, is the impetus behind the question.

So let’s not start there.  Let’s ask other, more relevant questions; the kind of questions that readily dispel ambiguities:

Did Mohammad communicate to humanity revelations from God?  No.

Is Mohammad […]

For Beauty and Glory

Why do I love the way that Vermeer painted yellow? Can I describe the joy produced by concentric circles on an Art Deco water pitcher? What attracts people to spend thousands of dollars on an Eames designed Herman Miller chair? Why does the Chrysler Building’s crown make me smile? What accounts for the sensation produced by the visual elegance and dramatic displays in a Bierstadt painting of Yellowstone or a photograph of Yosemite by Ansel Adams? Why do lines on a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air produce happiness?

There are so many beautiful things in this world.

You may believe the answer to these experiences of joy and satisfaction are the product of an un-sanctified worldly-mindedness. You may call for the repentance of one who places value on such earthly things. But what if enjoyment of beautiful things is part of our sanctification as believers? What if the appreciation of beauty, design, and craftsmanship is a reflection of something heavenly, and in itself is a reflection of God’s character?

The Trans Quest

Used to be that the only “trannies” we heard of were transvestites, and then only occasionally. But no more. The trans prefix must be the most popular one on the market today, as new words are flying off the shelf at an increasing rate. It was not that long ago that Bruce Jenner aka Caitlyn Jenner made transsexual appear on every magazine cover in the checkout lane at the grocery store. But that seems so yesterday now. For that news was quickly followed by Rachel Dozelal, the black white woman, coming out as transracial. Now the latest trans-fad is transageism, as the news tells us of a 52 year-old man who believes his true identity is that of a six year-old girl. He has abandoned his wife and seven children, and has even been “adopted” by willing “parents” to make his life complete now.

If a decade ago a Bork said we were “slouching toward Gomorrah,” today let a York say we are speeding toward it.

For those who look at this world from a Biblical perspective, seeing the sin and folly of these people and their movements is not difficult. Yet perhaps understanding their motivation to do what seems so unnatural would be helpful […]

In Appreciation of C.S. Lewis

Yesterday was the fifty-second anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis. Though his death was eclipsed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy on the same day, his legacy has endured. While half a century has passed, in the minds of many he remains one of the most successful and influential Christian thinkers of the twentieth century. Personally, I am very thankful for the man and his writings. That may sound strange to some. After all, I have my differences. I’m Presbyterian and he was Anglican. I’m a Calvinist, he wasn’t. I think Christ’s atonement is central, in his impatience he was ambiguous. I believe in the full authority of the Bible, he did not. But despite these and other differences—which are significant—his writings have had a profound effect on me.

C.S. Lewis taught me that Christianity doesn’t have to be mindless. I grew up in the heart of broad-evangelicalism. It was the kind, you might say, that didn’t encourage serious reflection and thought. To put it candidly it was a fairly brainless Christianity. That changed when I first encountered the mind of Lewis in Mere Christianity. Though I’ve moved beyond that book in many ways, it was there I first […]

What Do You Need to Know about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam?

What do you need to know about Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam? Maybe more than you think. The swelling numbers of visiting students and immigrants from India, China, and the Middle East are compelling Westerners to learn more about these ancient religions. Understanding these worldviews enables Christians to more meaningfully engage and minister to people migrating amongst us in North America. If you have not interacted substantially with adherents to these religions, you probably soon will. If you are a Christian, Jesus calls you to be ready.

To get a reasonably brief overview of these three religions, listen to Dr. Timothy Tennent’s lectures – Essentials of Hinduism, Essentials of Buddhism, and Essentials of Islam – at biblicaltraining.org. Dr. Tennent is president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and has served as a Methodist missionary in India for many decades.

Each series is comprised of four to seven lectures. They are summaries of full-length seminary classes. Eastern religions present learning challenges to Westerners who must become acclimated to a whole new vocabulary, history, and culture. While there is a sense in which it would be best to study under tutors from the East, I find it helpful to have an instructor who understands the […]

Reaching a Boiling Point

What do the Planned Parenthood videos, two mothers on the campaign trail, and an obscure Old Testament law have in common?

The videos from the Center for Medical Progress have roused government officials, political candidates, and the media. They can no longer obfuscate their positions like they once did. Sure, they can try to do so, but the attempts now ring hollow. The difference between those who believe that harvesting unborn baby body parts from abortion is evil and those who do not is becoming quite clear.

Look at the two mothers running for president for instance.

Carly Fiorina has spoken clearly on this matter. Though technically a stepmother, Fiorina helped raise the two children from her second marriage as her own. During her run for California senator in 2009, which she eventually lost to Barbara Boxer, Fiorina had two personal crises. She battled breast cancer, suffering through a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. In the midst of this serious health matter, her eldest daughter tragically took her life. During this awful time, she testifies that she turned back to the Lord. Her rediscovered faith appears to help fuel her passion on the issue of abortion as seen in the second presidential debate:

Despite the media’s attempts to derail her, she […]