Misconceptions

October 10, 2011

A  few days ago a question was posed to students in a secular student alliance club  at a local high school in my area.   The question was “What will it take for you to believe in the existence of a god?”  Answers begin to come it and last I checked there was 230 comments on the question.  As I read through the answers and discussion that followed I noticed how misconceptions about God, the Bible, and Church can keep many people from having a theistic worldview and from trusting in the Christian worldview.  Here’s what  I mean.

One student answered, “To believe in the existence of an all-powerful god with the general well-being of humans in mind as most universalizing religions do, I would have to see evidence of a world with less… ‘bad’…”  I believe this student has a misunderstanding of why the world is bad.  Perhaps he thinks God is not great enough to create people who are perfect, or that perhaps God is to blame for the bad in the world.  This is clearly a misunderstanding of the free will that God gives us as humans and the sinful nature that we are born with.  God doesn’t create evil, he only makes it possible.  This is a misunderstanding of human nature.

I have already covered the misconception about faith, it you missed it you can click here to read about it.

Another student says “For me to worship that entity in addition to believing it exists, I’d also need evidence of the power of prayer, heaven, or hell”  Among other things, this student is looking at the power of prayer as a possible proof.  What do most people think about prayer?  Is it like a magic genie where God grants you whatever you want?  Do we as Christians push this thought by our words and actions?  We know God answers prayer, but we know that He doesn’t always answer them how we want.  We also know what the Bible says that we pray we must pray in Jesus name and that we must align our requests with the holy scriptures.

A student that I have been talking with recently made this comment, “The holy scriptures that people study today are translations of the originals (which we don’t have) and as we all know, things are always lost in translation.”  he went on to add “the original documents were written centuries after the stories that they depict took place. Doesn’t this make you wonder about the validity of the words that you’re studying?”  This student has received some faulty information that I have seen before.  Unfortunately there are people who want to misrepresent the truth, on both sides of the debate I might add.

There were some great questions and comments made by the students, some of them I could see are genuinely searching God and welcomed any thoughts by the Christians that interacted with them.

So what do you do to clean up the misconceptions?  Here are a few suggestions.  Know what the truth is for yourself.  Do the research, look at the evidence, and be able to communicate with others the evidence in a way that is easy and makes sense.  You should also know what others are saying against the truth and be prepared to respond to it.  Winston Churchill once said “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”   For those who know the truth and yet try to cover it up or repress it, do the most damage.

It is amazing to me how many people have already made up their mind about  the validity of the Bible, but have never read more than a few chapters of it for themselves.  I do understand why some may have difficulties with it.  Miracles for example may be one reason.  In the near weeks we will look at the miracles within the Bible.  Maybe they even read through it once completely, and think that they have a good grasp on it, that might be more dangerous.  I’ve been reading and studying it for about 25 years now and I have much to learn of it myself.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Building a Firm Case for Christianity

October 4, 2011

Once you know what people believe  you will know where to start building a firm case for a Christian worldview.   If you missed the Conversational apologetics post I suggest you read it.  It will help you discover what people believe, or what worldview they have.  As a disciple of Christ we all know that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus with those who ask us about our faith.   You may even have the desire to do so, and have been preparing for an opportunity to do so when the chance comes.  Where do you start?  Should you take a straight path to the cross?  Should you share Bible verses with them?  While it is never wrong to share the message of the cross with anyone, there may be a few other helpful points to consider as you began building your case for Christianity.

If you look at the illustration below, it shows you the progression that it takes to hold a Christian worldview.  You cannot hold a Christian worldview until you move from an atheist position.   Similarly, you cannot hold a Christian worldview, until  you know what type of theistic position you hold.  Do you believe in one God (monotheistic), more than one god (polytheistic), God is in everything (pantheistic), etc…  Likewise, you will have difficulty trying to convince someone that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if they don’t believe that a God or gods exist.  The same way someone will have difficulty with the claim that Jesus is God, if they don’t trust the Bible as a reliable source.

As you talk and ask questions to others about what they believe you will discover what they believe and where they are in the progression above.   Then you will know where to start with helping them along the way towards a Biblical worldview.  A friend of mine, Chris Sherrod, who teaches apologetics and has been published in several books uses an illustration of a set of pillars to show how the different evidence builds upon more evidence to provide a solid case for Christianity.

Building a Case for Christianity

Over the next weeks and months we will begin to break down the 4 pillars above and examine the evidence that God has given us.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


Why I believe

September 28, 2011

Why I BelieveStarting off from the gate I want to summarize why I believe, what I believe about the existence of God and my faith in the Christian God of the Bible, and His incarnate name given in the New Testament, Jesus.  This blog is meant to be a general one and I will spend the next months and years breaking it out piece by piece so that it can be swallowed and enjoyed bit by bit.

After studying many of the worldviews through books, articles, talking with people in person, I have concluded that my Christian world view is the most comprehensive, complete, and logical worldview of all the many different worldviews including atheism.  While it still holds some difficulties and challenges, it stands tall over all the other worldviews.  In no particular order, here is Why I Believe…

1. Faith.  Yes Faith, there is a dual definition of faith floating out in the sea of apologetics, in short a blind faith and a Biblical faith.  I will explain this in greater detail in a soon coming post, but in short I believe Christianity takes and uses both those types of faith. I am convinced that most people do not understand the true definition of Faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

2. Creation.  When I examine the world in which I live, I see evidence for a beginning of the universe, I see intelligence, and a mind behind the matter.  I have not found any answer in the material world that points to other trustworthy conclusions.

3. The Human Mind and Soul.  Why are we conscience? Why are we special?  Why do we have the ability to reason and think?  Why do we have  moral absolutes?  How do we judge what good and evil is?    In a world without God, these things are not possible.   The Bible describes the human condition perfectly.

4. The Bible.  The Bible makes the bold claim to be written  inspired word of God, but should we just except the Bible as God’s Word, because the Bible tells us so?  The Bible is a reliable book that is written in many different styles, by more than 40 authors, on 3 continents, over a period of about 1,500 years.  It is the most unique book ever written and for centuries it has stood the test of time and scrutiny by many.  When you compare the Bible to all other religious books, the Bible stands tall.

5. Historical Jesus.  Jesus was a real person, despite the constant attempts to blur the evidence.  But, Jesus made some bold claims about who He was and what His mission was about.  There are many sources, outside of the Bible that confirm the existence of Jesus and record some of the claims He made that are in the Bible.  Christians can even exclude even the evidence of the Bible and some of the other questionable secular documents and still make a case for Jesus existence, that is solid.

6. The Church. Yes, the church.  I realize that sometimes the church (people) can look pretty bad and can be rather disappointing, but the church (the people) has also made some great strides and impacts in the world in where we live.  Christians have been of the forefront leading the charge in several advancements for good in our world.  Slavery, Women’s rights, and even Science.

7. Religion.  Religion is mans attempt to come to God.  Religion shows how we have a yearning to get to God, just like we have a desire for food or procreation.  God gives us a desire that can be met by Him just like finding food and companionship.  Even though many people have wrongly been lead into believing in something that they haven’t researched, the desire for God is there.    I have always preferred the phrase, relationship over religion.

8.  The Empty Tomb.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for my belief.  The resurrection is key to Christianity.  Without it, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 , my faith is in dead.  When you examine the evidence for the resurrection you are not left with any other choices that make any sense at all.  Jesus made claims that would rise from the dead, something that  charlatan would not dare to do.

9. Personal Experience.   I realize that my own personal experience is not as strong a proof as some of the other items listed above.  For example, I could say that God answered a prayer request of mine, a Mormon could say the same thing.  Some personal experiences are subjective.  But, this doesn’t mean I should throw out the personal experience all together.

Let me stop you before you start to pick apart these individual items by saying that no single one of these proves anything.  No, I cannot in a denotative way point to God and say “see, there He is” like I might point out Bob who fixed my car or Larry who made me a sandwich.  (I will address why I think that this is perfectly how God designed it to be in a later post.)  Let me point out that each of these individual areas lead or point to a particular conclusion that God does exist, and that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is the sum of the conclusions that add up far better than any other worldview.  Biblical Christianity uses all the different methods of science, philosophy, reason, and reality to build a strong case for a Christian worldview.  No other worldview can claim that which Christianity does, they either fail in arguments in one or more areas by contradicting themselves or by not being able to produce the evidence that Christianity does.

If you are searching for answers, and want to start looking at different worldview, that is great, can I offer a suggestion?  Start with Christianity.  There is something about Jesus that most of the other major worldviews want to include him in their teaching.  To Muslims, Jesus was one of 28 prophets, In Hinduism Jesus is a good moral teacher, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons view Him as the Son of God, by which we can earn our salvation.  Jesus is the central feature in Christianity, not only because of his teachings but because of who He is, and claimed to be, God.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.  I am looking forward to the breakdown of these items that I have listed above.  In my next few posts I will give some basic information about apologetics and lay a foundation and order down for looking at the evidence piece by piece.


My Story

September 28, 2011
Amy and me

Amy and me

A few weeks ago our pastor challenged the church congregation to “Be Courageous and Share Your Story”.  A few days later it hit me that one way, not the only way, I could do that would be online through my blog or on Facebook.  So here it is, Here is my story and I welcome any questions, comments, or snide remarks.

I grew up in a great home, a happy home, and while  I felt very sheltered from a lot of crazy things in life, I knew that  I was blessed because of the environment I was raised in.  My parents were both involved in church and so consequently, so was I, but again I didn’t mind.  I loved church, I love the people in the church.  My friends in church were different from most of the other students at school.  I had a few good friends at school, but most of my close friends were in the church with me.  Because I had a long history of being in church I knew a lot about the Bible, facts about God, and felt like I had a grasp on why things were the way they were.  As an early teen I began to notice that my brother and some other friends were making a choice to trust Jesus as their savior and they were baptized later on.  After a few months, it hit me that I knew a bunch of facts about the Bible and God, but I had not yet taken those facts to heart.  I had not really placed my faith, my trust in Jesus in my own personal way.    One night, while at a youth ministry event I really felt convicted within me to stop putting off what I already knew I needed to do and go talk to someone about making my faith personal.   I still get reminders today, because of my job,  of how scary that can be for a teen, to walk out of a pew or crowd and go talk to someone.  I knew what I had to do, grab the closest person near me and make them go with me!  I grabbed a great friend named Susanne and stepped out to find someone to talk to.

That night, April 30, 1988 I sat down with a man who went over the gospel of Jesus with me quickly to make sure I understood what I believed and what my need was.  For the first time I placed my trust in Jesus, that His death on the cross was payment for my sins and even though I didn’t understand it all, I knew that I was far from perfect and that I needed Jesus not only for an eternal life, but for a great life now.  I said a short prayer and asked God to forgive me of my past sins, I placed my belief in Jesus, for who He said he was, and I turned my life over to God to be my Lord, or boss for a lack of a better term.  A few months later I was baptized by my grandfather, who also was a pastor, in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Since I have placed my faith in God I have had some interesting times, some great times, some challenging times, but they have all helped me grow in my relationship to God.  During my college years, I struggled with the idea that, perhaps I was a Christian only because I was raised in a Christian home.  I didn’t want the faith of my parents, I wanted to own my own faith.  I began to look at all the other worldviews and examine then for myself.  I knew after all, that not all the different worldviews could be correct.  I begin reading books on other religions and studying them to get a better understanding of them.  I admit at first I kept a close grip on my faith and didn’t want to be pulled from my own faith.  Some might say I was studying with a presupposition.   I was lucky enough to be taught though by my pastor and other teachers that I should do the research and examine things for myself and not just except the way things are because someone tells me so.  Trust is earned.  What I read was backed up by what I read for myself and what I found to be true in life.  My faith was becoming my own.

Right before finishing college, I began to question my career and what God really wanted me to do after I graduated.  I had always felt that God wanted me to be a teacher, but the last few months before graduation, I believe that God used a few different people to speak to me about being a pastor/minister.  After a few months of pushing the idea aside I finally quit telling God “no”, and I told God that if He wanted me to do something different with my life I would do it and trust Him for the things I didn’t know.  It was amazing what happened immediately after I had that conversation with God in my prayer time.  I felt this peace just fall over me like a heavy blanket.  I knew right then and there that I was not going to be an orchestra teacher anymore.

Right about this time, God opened a door for me to work in a church as an intern for the youth ministry.  Six months later the church came back and offered me the job permanently.   That was in 1997.  Fourteen years later I have had the joy of serving 3 churches as their student pastor  and have loved every minute of it.  I don’t feel like it is a job, but rather a calling.   Over the past 14 years I have grown in my passion for teaching the Bible and have also found a love for apologetics.  Apologetics is the study of “why you believe what you believe” or backing up your faith with reason and evidence.  Apologetics has allowed me to get a better grasp in what I believe and made my faith stronger.  Over the last few years I have opened up my reading and began to read books from both sides of the debate between atheists/agnostics and believers.  I try to read both sides to get an honest view-point from both sides of the aisle.  I have yet to find anything that worries me or that might cause my faith to stumble.  My passion today still lies with both the teens in this generation and teaching them apologetics that will prepare them for the vastly different world in which they live today.  It is a different world in which I lived in 20 years ago as a teen.

If you have any questions for me I would be glad to try to answer them for you.  I don’t know all the answers, not even close, but I would be glad to share what I have found to be solid ground to stand upon in my life.

God Bless,

John