Category: Theology


“…for this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” – Jesus, John 18:37cthe-truth-shall-make-you-free-1201069

“Follow truth, wherever it may lead.” – Thomas Jefferson (attrib.)

To establish the foundations of a reasonable trust in Christianity, we will start at the bottom of the study structure I outlined in my last post, and begin by talking about the nature and existence of truth. Although when in conversation with someone about the rationality of our beliefs it will not usually be required that you justify your understanding of truth, at times it will come up, and having thought through your foundational beliefs will serve you well in your defense. No Christian should fear fully investigating and seeking out truth, since, as Augustine puts it, “let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.” Establishing and understanding the existence and definition of truth is also needed for following arguments to build upon.

Correspondence Theory of Truth

So what is truth? According to the correspondence theory of truth, it is an accurate description of reality; a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to the way things actually are. This is really quite intuitive. “Jonathan Wood owns a cherry red Ferrari” is true if and only if I actually own a cherry red Ferrari (I don’t, more’s the pity). This theory seeks to explain the conditions under which a proposition would be true, not how or if we can know the truth value of that proposition. “There is a hot pink golf ball on the planet Pluto” has a truth value of true or false, even if it is impossible for anyone to know that truth value.[1]

This illustrates the meaning and difference between two important philosophical terms pertaining to truth and knowledge which we will come back to frequently. Ontology relates to existence or being, while epistemology relates to how we attain and justify knowledge. These are important to understand as different, as it is not uncommon to mistakenly think that because one may not know the truth value of a particular sentence, it therefore has no truth value.

Attacks on Truth – Tolerance and Pluralism

The modern usage of “tolerance” is nearly useless; it is used now to mean that one should not indicate that another person is wrong about their beliefs.  If a moral or philosophical rule cannot meet its own standards, there is a problem. This new definition of tolerance self-destructs if applied to itself: questioning if this is itself a correct belief, or if a person who rejects this kind of tolerance should be tolerated.  No, tolerance only applies when there is a disagreement: disagreement is required.  Without a disagreement, there is nothing to tolerate.  Therefore, a proper view of tolerance should be applied to people, not ideas.  People are tolerated when they disagree with others, but no idea is so sacrosanct that it should be immune from evaluation and critique.

Concerning “religious pluralism,” if in using this concept one refers to the right to choose one’s religion without coercion, this is a good thing.  However, in today’s culture, the term has come to mean much the same as “tolerance” in that one ought not make exclusive truth claims about religious beliefs.  It fails in the same way that the redefinition of “tolerance” fails: it decries exclusivism in religious beliefs, but is itself an exclusive belief about religion, namely that only inclusive religious beliefs are acceptable.

Moreover, it should be clear that even if one is to accept this view of religious tolerance and pluralism, it cannot survive more than the most superficial and patronizing treatment of religious beliefs.  One does not have to look far to see that almost all the most important core beliefs of the world religions are in conflict with most other religions’ views.  As examples, regarding the concept of God, is God personal, impersonal, monotheistic, polytheistic, dualistic?  Is mankind part of creation but different in kind, an evolved ape, an illusion along with the rest of “reality”?  What about afterlife, does man cease to exist on death, go to heaven or hell, merge with the impersonal spirit force, or reincarnate?[2]  All of these views could be wrong, but they cannot all be right.  We must investigate the truth of which, if any, of the world’s religious views (including atheism) is correct.

Next time, we’ll investigate the question, What is knowledge?

Comments, questions? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

[1] Cowan, Steven B., and James S. Spiegel.  The Love of Wisdom. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 36.

[2] Dean C. Halverson, ed., The Compact Guide to World Religions (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), 15.

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Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors,studying-2-1475294 has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.

Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.

Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]

Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.

Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Romans 14:5b…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

As I’ve heard it put before, “It’s cool to look for God, but really uncool to actually find him.” Why should we believe that Jesus is the only way? What did Jesus say about himself?

Recent polls show that a disturbing percentage of Christians fail to understand what the Bible tells us about Jesus. According to a Barna poll from 2000, about one out of four born-again Christians believes that it doesn’t matter what faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons. Fifty-six percent of non-Christians agree. Many today water down the radical claims of Jesus — to say that “Jesus works for me” instead of “Jesus is Lord.”

Read the rest by Douglas Groothuis – http://apologetics.com/blog/dgroothuis/why-believe-that-jesus-is-the-only-way/

2014-10-06 08.47.22Every Sunday morning, for 25 minutes, we stand and sing songs before the announcements, offering, and sermon. This 25 minute period is officially referred to as “worship” time, and informally as “the time during when people start showing up for church.” During this time, I am very aware of myself and my busy mind and emotions, the morning routine of getting myself and my kids ready and in place at church, the people trickling into the sanctuary, and the band and singers on the stage. Oh yeah, and sometimes I’ll mouth the lyrics of the song being sung, and more occasionally I’ll actually sing in from the heart and be caught up in the expression of the words and music of the song towards God. Ouch, this doesn’t seem right. Why is it so infrequent that I am lifted up in worship at the end of that first half hour on Sundays? I don’t think I’m the only one either.

Worship, or “worth-ship” – ascribing worth to God:  this is what we should be doing. About two years ago I began being troubled by the lyrics of the songs I heard frequently in church. I don’t mean they were heretical, but many did not seem to have much content. Most songs seem to be of the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend variety, which frankly, as a heterosexual male, make me feel slightly uncomfortable, or those which focus on the emotions of the singer rather than on the One to whom the song is supposed to be directed.

I want my worship to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and when I sing about emotions I am not feeling at the moment, it is not truth. Perhaps the intent is that in by singing about emotions that I [don’t] feel, my emotions will change and I will begin to feel them. But this seems to much like manipulation and dishonesty in worship, and neither of those sound like worshipping in spirit and in truth.

I would like to see our corporate worship be more of group worship, and less like a concert in which I inaudibly sing along with the featured band. Furthermore, I wish more of the songs we were being led to sing were describing God’s attributes, or at the least, a response from a group, rather than me as an individual. I realize that worship is personal, but it is also corporate. I believe it would be more honest and God-honoring to remove the personal pronouns, replacing most instances of “I” and “me” with “us” and “we,” and sing about God, rather than my feelings about God.

But, perhaps I am mistaken and am not seeing some bigger picture.  What do you think?

 

Articles related to this subject which I found useful:

http://adammclane.com/2013/02/18/are-pronouns-making-our-worship-lonely/

http://www.str.org/blog/the-art-of-leading-congregational-worship#.VClgQvldV8E

http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2012/05/mighty-to-save-and-other-worship-songs-that-annoy-me.html

In keeping with my theme this week talking about the person and deity of Jesus, I’d like to share with you another article, this one appearing on ThinkApologetics.com, called Why the Hypothesis that God Raised Jesus from the Dead is the Best Explanation.  The author introduces his case with these remarks:

Photo by Glen Van Etten, creative commons image

Photo by Glen Van Etten, creative commons image

When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Explanations try to show how something happened. That is, what is the cause for something that has happened. So let’s take a look at if the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an adequate explanation for the following data:

He then makes the case in the following five points:

  1. The resurrection of Jesus explains God’s actions in history
  2. The bodily resurrection of Jesus explains the post-mortem appearances to the disciples.
  3. The resurrection of Jesus explains the conviction of the disciples in their proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus.
  4. The bodily resurrection explains the birth of early Christianity/the Messianic movement pre-70 AD.
  5. The bodily resurrection of Jesus explains Paul’s Christology.

See the full case in the article here: http://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/why-the-hypothesis-that-god-raised-jesus-from-the-dead-is-the-best-explanation-3/

Earlier in the week, I posted a link to an article by Stephen J. Bedard called Ten Reasons Why There Really Was a Historical Jesus.  Today, I want to point you to a post by J. Warner Wallace called “Resources to Help You Defend the Deity of Jesus.”  On this page, Wallace links to several articles he has written that make the cumulative circumstantial case that Jesus was indeed God.

Wallace writes:

Skepticism related to Jesus of Nazareth generally takes one of two forms: those who don’t even believe He ever existed, and those who acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure but deny He is God. The case for the Deity of Christ is centered on the Resurrection, but there are many other cumulative circumstantial factors to consider. I’ve written quite a bit about the Deity of Jesus, and I’ve assembled these articles to help you make the collective case.

He then presents evidence in six areas:

  1. The Conception of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  2. The Behavior of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  3. The Statements of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  4. The Authority of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  5. The Resurrection of Jesus Demonstrated His Deity
  6. The History of Jesus Demonstrates His Deity

    Photo by @Doug88888, creative commons license

    Photo by @Doug88888, creative commons license

 

This question is offered to followers of Christ, sometimes as a challenge, sometimes simply asking for information. I don’t like the question because I think the question is ambiguous the way it’s asked.  Saying bibleyes doesn’t really give an accurate answer about the “literal” view of the Bible.  I don’t mean that the people who are asking it have bad motives.  I think this is the way they think of asking the question.  It’s not surprising then that followers of Christ who believe in the Bible and take it “literally” get themselves into a little bit of a bind when they answer directly because what they mean when they say yes is something different than what the questioner means when he asks the question.

– Greg Koukl; read more here: http://www.str.org/articles/do-you-take-the-bible-literally#.VBrgVvldV8E

Greg Koukl speaks on the claim that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship”:

I understand how there could be a perfunctory religious practice without any life in it that would cause one to hunger and yearn for something much more personal. And the offer of relationship touches that hunger.

But here’s the problem: “having a relationship with God” in this sense is not at all unique to Christianity. Virtually every religion, it seems to me, has as its goal something intensely personal.

More here: http://www.str.org/articles/relationship-vs.-religion#.VBH3XvldV8E

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Blogger Bill Pratt writes concerning those who throw out sound-byte questions and expect sound-byte answers:

Questions can be really short. Why is there so much evil in the world? Who is God? Why did Jesus have to die? Why do you think Christianity is true? What is the meaning of life? …[T]here is an asymmetry between questions and answers. Answers are often far more complex than the question they are answering.

– See the full article at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2014/08/18/will-you-wait-for-a-long-answer-to-your-short-question/#sthash.ycw7ycuF.dpuf

Also related is this article by Greg Koukl on the steamroller: http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/1-2%202009%20Solid%20Ground%20Steamroller-1.pdfsteamroller

Writer Stephen J. Bedard offers: jesus

Was there really a historical Jesus? Was there a religious teacher that started a new movement in the first century? I’m not even talking about whether he was the Christ or the Son of God. I’m just talking about his existence as a historical figure. Or was Jesus just a myth? Was he just something created by the early Christians? I would like to share ten reasons why I believe that Jesus really existed.

The ten reasons are listed here: http://www.stephenjbedard.com/?p=3585