Tag Archive: worldview


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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Natasha Crain is the author of the blog Christian Mom Thoughts, a terrific, practical journal by a Christian mother interested in teaching her children not only what to believe, but why, in order that they can have confidence based on knowledge and certainty, and not blind faith.  In the two-part blog series listed below, she discusses why and how to teach our children about atheism.choice

Atheism is not just one more possible challenge to our kids’ faith. It is THE most likely challenge today.

With this post, I’d like to raise awareness of why Christian parents should care so much about understanding atheist views and why we should proactively address these specific challenges to Christianity with our kids.

Read more here: 4 Reasons Christian Parents Need to Care More About Atheism

[W]e can no longer teach our kids about Christianity in a silo and expect them to automatically stand spiritually strong. The challenges today are too great. As I discussed in my last post, the atheist worldview in particular is a threat to the faith of young people.

In today’s post, I want to give you some very practical ideas for teaching your kids about atheism.

Read more here: 14 Ways for Christian Parents to Teach Kids about Atheism

Why should you care?

In my prior posts, I described my journey through doubt and depression from an uncritical acceptance of the religion in which I was raised to a careful examination and confident acceptance of the claims of Christianity.  Many people may read these posts and want to congratulate me on finding meaningful spirituality and bid me a pleasant life (so long as I keep my religious beliefs largely out of sight, anyway).  But quiet, private religious observance is not my aim.  In this post, I want to make a case for Christian case-making. credible hulk

There are, broadly speaking, two categories of folks who might be reading this blog: those who share my Christian beliefs and those who do not.  I want to address both groups.

For those who do not share my beliefs, your preferences may range from good wishes that I get fulfillment from my privately held beliefs (as mentioned above), to distrust and concern about the evils of religion and those who hold my views.  In either case, you probably wish I would keep it to myself and enjoy my religion quietly; “live and let live,” and stop trying to change your beliefs.  If that is your wish, then I believe there is a fundamental problem in your understanding of Christianity.  The problem here is that evangelism, or proselytizing, if you prefer, is of critical importance to Christ-followers, and not just because the-Bible-tells-me-so.  We believe that the teachings of the Bible are true, and that heaven and hell are real.  This makes proselytizing a matter of practical love shown to those around us.  Famous magician and atheist Penn Jillette says it well in this video (partial transcript follows):

I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me alone and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.

So, in this set of posts, I want you, my non-Christian friend, to understand why I am a Christian (because it is evidentially true), and why we are so compelled to try to persuade others of its truth (because we believe so much is at stake).

To my Christian friends, I want you to understand not just why and how I became a Christian, but why we all should be Christian case-makers, prepared, as it says in 1 Peter 3:15, to give a reason for the hope that is in us, doing so with gentleness and respect.

What is (and isn’t) Christian case-making?

Christian case-making, is, as its name implies, making the reasoned case for Christianity.  The term is one used by J. Warner Wallace as a more descriptive replacement for “apologetics,” which generally requires some explanation as to its meaning, and with some carries with it negative connotations.  A Christian case-maker is a believer who knows what they believe and why, and works to show it to others with knowledge, wisdom, and character, often using evidence from philosophy, history, archaeology, and science to make the positive case in for the Christian worldview.  A Christian case-maker also strives to provide a reasoned defense against arguments raised against Christianity.  After all, if the Christian worldview correctly reflects reality, then worldviews with contradictory views will have flaws which can be demonstrated to help win over the adherent.

Christian case-making is tied with discipleship and faith-building.  As we learn how the evidence supports the Christian worldview, we gain further trust in God to help us in the areas that we find mysterious and paradoxical.  In other words, we can have faith in what we can’t see because of what we do see.

Christian case-making is not a replacement for the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the unbelieving.  Case-making is a tool that the Holy Spirit uses through the believer to soften the ground and clear the weeds prior to scattering the seeds of the gospel.

Christian case-making is not a replacement for evangelism through sharing the good news of the Bible.  Case-making is very much tied together with evangelism, in that it helps prepare the minds and wills of the hearers to be able to hear and accept the truths of Christianity.  The word of God must still be taught, but as our American culture moves further and further away from its Christian foundations, we must be prepared to show why the Bible should still be considered a valid authority source before some will take it seriously.

Finally, Christian case-making is not a niche, ivory-tower endeavor for super-intellectuals to practice their sparring, like some sort of hybrid chess/boxing club.  All Christians are called to engage in the study and exercise of case-making.  Jesus, Paul, and Peter each used reasoning appropriate to the environment in which they were teaching, trying to persuade and demonstrate the truth of the message they taught, and commanded us to do likewise (1 Peter 3:15, Jude 3).  [Douglas Groothuis has written an excellent book and articles on Jesus as a philosopher and apologist.  One such article can be found here.]  To be effective in our practice of the Great Commission, we must be prepared to help those who are looking for the truth, but have questions about the ability of Christianity to compete with modern worldviews.

Taking it personally

As America secularizes, church attendance and self-identification of Christians is decreasing.  Those who leave the church, according to many metrics, are doing so largely right after high school.  Indeed, many of my peers raised in the same or similar environments as I was have since walked away from their parent’s faith.  This is not an isolated regional problem.  In 2001, the Southern Baptist Convention reported data from a study that showed that 70-88% of their youth stopped attending church after their freshman college year.

I believe that many of these are preventable.  I think my own background and story mirrors much of today’s youth in Christendom: they have been taught what to believe, but not why.  Then, faced with the sudden freedom of thought and action in the transition between high school and college or career, questions arise that they have not been given answers for previously, and the ones offering answers at that point are often peers (with the same questions and doubts), professors (who, if expressing a view on the subject are strongly opinionated against Christianity), popular media and culture (decidedly anti-Christian), or all three.  This is why I think we need to train our youth from as early as Junior High in logic and critical thinking in general, and specifically applied towards Christianity and other religious belief systems.  In training them ahead of time, they are not taken by surprise by questions and challenges when leaving the insulated bubble of Christianity that they had pressed around them growing up.  They have already begun thinking critically about the issues and forming reasoned opinions, and we, as parents and youth leaders, can help guide them through the process and inoculate them against error.

In doing so, we will be doing our part, working with the Holy Spirit, to draw and keep our youth and young adults in the knowledge of the truth.

Following the truth, wherever it leads

In my previous post, I described how I came to question the Christian beliefs in which I was brought up, and how my crisis of faith came to a peak with serious depression.  Following a year or so of counseling which helped to get to the root of the problem (that being repressed doubts and questions about Christianity), I began an investigation into the truth claims of Christianity as compared primarily to those made by atheism.scales

I wanted to perform an intellectually honest evaluation.  Recognizing that the majority of my religious information was of Christianity and that the bias of belief was in that direction, I made the effort to set that aside in my mind in order to try to objectively evaluate the evidences and arguments.  I began what has been a long (and still ongoing!) process of critically thinking about the best arguments in favor of Christianity, and those in favor of naturalism.  I began by reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, and then the various Case for… books by Lee Strobel, and I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Geisler and Turek.  In the post-9/11 world in which I began studying, there were also a number of atheist thinkers stepping up to aggressively challenge religious belief in general, and Christianity in particular.  I read God is Not Great by Hitchens, The God Delusion by Dawkins, and Letter to a Christian Nation by Harris.  Following these books, I watched many, many debates, some live and most recorded, between Dawkins and Lennox, Craig and Hitchens, Desouza and Hitchens, and many others.  I wanted to know how well the best arguments on either side fared when under attack.

Although I aimed for a purely intellectual evaluation without taint of emotion and bias, it should go without saying that we as humans are incapable of complete objectivity.  I recognized early the risks of what I was doing: if I deconverted from Christianity, many of my familial relationships would come under new and severe strain, not least of which being my marriage.  I realized the emotional pressure being applied to the evaluation process, but I was determined to keep my mind focused, even if it meant a radical change in my beliefs.  My depression had not disappeared, but it was abating, and I did not want to go back.  I realized that I could not close my eyes again and abandon the search for truth in favor of the safe and comfortable.

In time, as my studies progressed, I became more and more persuaded by the evidence for theism, and briefly considered a deistic worldview.  Today, however, I have become convinced by the arguments in favor of Christian theism in particular.  While it is not the point of this post to describe in any detail these arguments, the evidences that support the cumulative case and resist attacks best in my mind in favor of Christianity are:

  • the cosmological argument for the existence of God
  • the moral argument for the existence of God
  • the design argument for the existence of God, especially irreducible complexity
  • archaeological support for biblical names and places
  • extra-biblical source support concerning the life and death of Jesus
  • evidence for the reliable transmission through time of the text of the New Testament
  • the minimal facts argument for Jesus’ resurrection

Not having received any training in formal logic or critical thinking in my schooling, this was initially a daunting task, and I was concerned that I may be making mistakes.  However, as I began to study logic and formal reasoning, I realized that the basics of the art are not difficult, although application of them can at times be tricky.  I began to see as I was reading the works of the “New Atheists” that, while rhetorically powerful and entertaining, there were a lot of logical errors being made.  Ad hominems, straw men, and non sequiturs were rampant.  [I realize that this is a statement that many will likely want to debate, but again, this post is about reporting my journey thus far, and not about presenting robust and well-defended arguments concerning these points.]

I should also point out here some of the reasons that are not why I am a Christian [I identify with these categories suggested by J. Warner Wallace in his podcast here]:

I am not a Christian today just because I was raised in a Christian nation/family/school/church.  There was certainly influence due to those factors, but I was prepared to forsake those influences if they were shown to me to be misleading.

I am not a Christian today because my current social institutions make it convenient or socially beneficial to do so.  I still live in the Bible belt, and while even here we are seeing the culture secularize more and more, most of the social “clubs” I am involved with are Christian.  Again though, like the previous point, I was willing to abandon or change my relationship with these if the truth lay elsewhere.

I am not a Christian today because it “works.”  Christianity is not a philosophy of “getting along,” but one which makes objective truth claims.  In this postmodern, pluralist culture, that is certainly not a very pragmatic or utilitarian approach, but one which frequently puts me at odds with popular consent.  Certainly, if Christianity describes reality, adhering to its teachings will “work” in the long run, but in daily practice, this can cause all kinds of problems.

I am also not a Christian today because of fear of hell or promise of heaven.  I am convinced of the reality of these two things, but the carrot and the stick approach to evangelism seems to me manipulative and apt to produce short-lived conversions.

Finally, I am not a Christian today because of a dramatic religious experience.  I have had very few events in my life that I would point to as such.  Part of that, perhaps, is due to a blindness to it that I had (and still have, to a certain degree) due to a skepticism towards emotion in religion, fostered by what I consider abuses of that in my formative years in church.  [When I first started critically thinking about religious claims, I remember trying to establish a standard of proof and realizing quickly that I would likely explain away any religious or supernatural experience with a naturalistic explanation.]  Regardless, religious experience is not helpful as a primary validation of a religious system; every religion claims experiences in support of their claims.  Experiences are not invalid as evidence, but they are interpretive and not sufficient alone to show the truth of some religious belief; how does one know that the experience is from the spirit you (or it) claim?  Might it not be something else?

Today, I stand convinced of the truth of the Christian claims.  However, the case is never closed; I continue to try to understand and evaluate the best arguments on both sides as new formulations arise.  There will always be questions, but I have enough evidence at this point to remove all reasonable doubt and make a commitment.  My trust [faith] concerning the items I can’t yet see is based on that which I can now see.  Truth remains my pursuit; I can’t “unsee” the value discovering the nature of and living according to reality.  A clear-eyed appraisal of reality ought to be the goal of every person, as the nature of reality has vastly important ramifications of purpose, goals, and daily activity.

Next, Why I am a Christian Case-Maker.

What is the only good reason to hold a belief?  Because it is true; any other reason (pragmatism, comfort, tradition, experience) is secondary, at best.  I am a Christian because I believe that the truth claims of Christianity are evidentially supported.  This blog is primarily about showing those evidences and applying the discovered truth of Christianity to daily life.  As such, in this post, I won’t go into these evidences in detail.  Instead, I want to talk about how I came to believe that the Christian worldview reflects reality the way it truly is.

As a child, I was raised in a very Christian environment.  Born in the buckle of the Bible belt, I grew up in a Christian home with two Christian parents, studied at a Christian school from K5-12th grade, and regularly attended Sundays and Wednesday night services at a Christian church.  But, “God doesn’t have grand-children,” as my father once told me.  My Christian upbringing did not itself guarantee that I would place my trust in Christ, although it did ensure that the knowledge of the Bible was in my head.  The “fear of God” (and parents) kept me, no doubt, from getting into serious trouble as well, so don’t misunderstand me: I don’t disparage my Christian upbringing.  I (and every one of us) needed to take ownership of the things I claimed to believe for it to “stick.”

In hindsight, I believe the process of my taking ownership began around age eighteen, when I began college.  I never had classes with aggressive anti-Christian professors or belligerent atheist student groups.  What I had was a new freedom of schedule, action, and disposable income (as I was working off and on during that time) that I did not have in the more rigidly controlled high-school days.  This time of new choices was exhilarating and intoxicating.  However, at the same time, very slowly, a cloud of depression began to form around me, one that would continue to grow over the next decade.  I finished college, began a career, married a wonderful woman, began a family, and took on a mortgage.  There I was, living the American Dream, but I had days of terrible depression and desperation, and I did not know why.

tired

Selfie, around the time of my worst depression

I was for a short while under the care of a very attentive psychiatrist, who prescribed some anti-depressants.  These did not seem to have any effect, and after a while, I stopped taking the meds and seeing the psychiatrist.  My depression reached its peak shortly before my 30th birthday.  I wanted a change.  I had to have a change.  I considered options, some very desperate indeed.  I did not know what was wrong, though, so I could not decide the proper application of a solution.  A counselor at my church recommended a Christian psychologist, and I began to attend regular counseling sessions at her office, which has led to a long, and sometimes painful process of recovery.

Through a process of self-reflection and discovery, led by skillful questions and insights from my doctor, I began to recognize in myself a lot of emotional repression and unasked questions.  My understanding of the Christian life needed an overhaul as well.  For one thing, I had a deep mistrust of emotion and experience in the life of the Christian.  My perception was that a whole lot, if not all of it, was manufactured in the mind of the believer, or manipulated by the man behind the pulpit.  For another, my evaluation of my own poor spiritual state was because I was not praying enough or reading my Bible enough, but I had no particular desire to do either.  It began to be clear to me that I had not allowed myself to consider questions about the truth of the Bible and Christianity, silencing the doubts when they would begin to surface.  While I have no memory of anyone saying so explicitly, the impression I had grown up with was that doubt was sin and questioning the claims of Christianity showed a lack of faith, which was also sin.  These things which were repressed were not eliminated though, and were now coming back in strength, demanding to be dealt with.

I gave serious and lengthy consideration to both atheism and deism, the two alternative worldviews that seemed the most likely contenders with Christianity.  However, there were in my life a handful of Christian men, in particular, my father and a couple of pastors, whom I respected.  These were men who I knew to be intelligent and thoughtful, and I could not easily dismiss the fact that they held to a Christian worldview.  I felt I owed it to them and myself to find out if the Christian worldview could withstand scrutiny, or if it was inferior to other views.

Next up, Why I Am a Christian.

 

Photo by By imagerymajestic on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by By imagerymajestic on freedigitalphotos.net

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Longing, beyond” in which I expressed the feelings that were gnawing at me, and that I still come back to at times.  The insatiable desires within seem to point to something beyond ourselves, beyond the capability of this world to satisfy.

Not the least of these desires is justice, and mercy for my world and my family.  At my low points, I fight despair about the culture that my innocent kids are being raised into, seeming inevitable and irreversible downward moral slide of man.  Politics, economics, immorality.  I can’t very well barricade my family in to keep the bad world out.  Can I?  Should I?  I feel angry and impotent.  I am weary when I fall into bed, and I can stuff down the ache for a while, long enough to fall asleep.  In the morning, yes, I will feel better, but it is like a ratchet effect; “better” is only somewhat better.  It’s like a new low-tide level, higher than the last wave’s recession.

The original post ended with a lukewarm affirmation that I hold to Christianity, if for no other reason than, what other, better, path is there? John 6:67-68 “So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'”

In the intervening time since I wrote this, I have thought and fought with this despair.  I believe that the problem, then, is twofold: an emotional (and surely understandable) response to injustices for which my short view cries out against, and an insufficient trust in God, who does have the long view, whose justice and mercy are perfect and in whom the longings inside me are fulfilled.

Proverbs 12:25  Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Proverbs 13:12  Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 14:10  The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.

Proverbs 14:13  Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.

Proverbs 14:30  A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Proverbs 15:4  A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Proverbs 15:13  A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.

Proverbs 15:14  The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.

Proverbs 16:2  All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.

Proverbs 18:14  A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Proverbs 28:1  The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

“When the real want for I Heaven is present in us, we do not recognise it. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy.  I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers.  I am speaking of the best possible ones.  There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality…”

“The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. if I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed  under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’ ”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.  And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honor beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Photo by  Gualberto107 on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Gualberto107 on freedigitalphotos.net

 

Flag of the United States (upside down)

From the article at the end, all of these happened in 2013:

  1. Florida Ministry Told To Choose Between Jesus And Helping The Poor
  2. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association: Obama’s IRS Was “Targeting and Attempting to Intimidate Us:”
  3. California Christians Found “Not Guilty” of Reading Bible Near Government Offices
  4. Colorado Baker Faces Year In Jail For Refusing To Make Cake For Gay Wedding
  5. Airforce Veteran Faces A Court Martial For Opposing Gay Marriage
  6.  Government Forces Churches To Get Permits For Baptisms
  7.  Florida Professor Demands Student Stomp On Jesus

http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2013/09/17/7-examples-of-discrimination-against-christians-in-america-n1701966/page/full

Foundation for Economic Education

Foundation for Economic Education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is the audio from the great talk from this Wednesday’s meeting at Briarwood by Paul Cleveland on economic booms and busts and the causes.  Looks like he titled the talk “The Energy Crisis Yesterday and Today,” but I don’t really understand that title with this talk.  Maybe he got sidetracked.  In any case, he is a good speaker and I enjoy listening to his economics lectures.

http://briarwood.org/audio/the-energy-crisis-yesterday-and-today/

Libertarian Party Logo

Webster’s New International Dictionary defines a libertarian as “One who holds to the doctrine of free will; also, one who upholds the principles of liberty, esp. individual liberty of thought and action.”

In popular terminology, a libertarian is the opposite of an authoritarian. Strictly speaking, a libertarian is one who rejects the idea of using violence or the threat of violence—legal or illegal—to impose his will or viewpoint upon any peaceful person. Generally speaking, a libertarian is one who wants to be governed far less than he is today.

http://www.capitalisminstitute.org/who-is-a-libertarian/

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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.

And this is why this distinction actually weakens our message if we’re not careful. It’s a version of “try Him you’ll like Him.” People can easily say, “No thanks, I’m trying something else right now and I like that just fine.” In fact, that’s been the response I’ve frequently gotten when I’ve offered Christianity to a non-believer with the appeal that it’s not religion but a relationship. Their response: “I’ve already got a relationship with God, thank you.”

The core of the Gospel isn’t having a relationship with God, but being rightly related to God.

Greg Koukl, http://www.str.org/articles/relationship-vs.-religion