Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Extreme Apologetics

I found this here.

An Open Letter to a Local Church
James Patrick Holding


Dear Pastor ______________,

I checked my ministry's post office box yesterday and was delighted to receive from your fellowship a postcard offering the following:

__________ Church presents
Eride Skateboard Demonstration

A Collision of Extreme Skateboarding and Eternal Truth

Featuring the Untitled Skateboard Pro Team

Join us for an evening of extreme fun featuring our guest, the Untitled Skateboards Pro Demo Team

See Amazing Stunts and hear about the extreme love of God

Plenty of food and fun for all ages


Pastor, please let me explain the reason this moved me so much. You see, some months ago I offered my services, free of charge, to your fellowship as a teacher of apologetics. I did this being impressed that many Christians lack a serious foundation for what they believe, and that the continuing decline of church membership numbers might have some connection to this. (As you may have heard, every year tens of thousands of Christian college students leave Christianity and church, usually never to return.) However, I never heard from you at that time; not so much as a phone call or a polite postcard. For some time I despaired as to why this was so.

However, having received your advertisement, I now realize the error of my ways. Clearly I am missing out on the true vision for aiding our young people in keeping their faith. I understand now that I have been conducting my ministry wrongly. Therefore, in order to make amends, I am reconstructing my ministry profile and will henceforth be offering a course in Extreme Apologetics that I pray will honor Jesus and make disciples just as effectively as the Eride skateboard ministry can.

I will be titling my new presentation series, Extreme Apologetics: A Mashing Together of Physical Gymnastics and Extreme Defense of the Faith. Please consider my new course outline, and tell me what you think:

~Can We Trust the Bible? My lesson on the textual transmission of the New Testament. Instead of rebutting critics like Bart Ehrman, author of the best-seller Misquoting Jesus, I will be piling 5,000,000 New Testaments into a large heap and bodily catapulting into them, showing that the New Testament is indeed reliable.

~Postmodernism and the Christian. My rebuttal to this fast-growing ideological movement which has fostered rampant subjectivism. I will show that "true for you, but not for me" is wrong by first bungee jumping from a height of 1000 feet into a pool of hot coals. Youth will then be invited to do the same, and we will compare injuries and show that what was true for me was also true for them, proving that objective truth exists.

~Who Wrote the Gospels? A brick wall is erected and I invite the audience to paint graffiti all over it. We then use apologetics to demonstrate who wrote what on the wall. Then I rocket-skate into the wall.

~Proving the Resurrection. Your church members will be permitted to bury me in the parking lot and then try to act out all of the Skeptical theories about what happened to the body of Jesus: The theft theory, the wrong tomb (parking lot) theory, etc.

~Mormonism I will offer a report on the errors of Mormonism by trying to balance on one foot on a statue of Moroni set on your steeple, and repeatedly falling off. Afterwards we'll have an "extreme knockdown contest" in which your members can knock over a statue of Moroni with rubber balls and win cool prizes.

~The Q Hypothesis. We'll learn all about literary theory and how it is used by certain critics like Burton Mack to undermine faith. Specifically, I'll let myself be run over by a "Mack truck".

~The Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas. I'll show what is wrong with these gospels by riding a unicycle and juggling 500 flaming cans of gasoline.

~The Da Vinci Code. The first ever apologetics lesson to be taught by wing-walking an SR-71 "Blackbird". Please make sure there is ample space in your parking lot for takeoff and landing before I do this one.

~The Problem of Evil. Alvin Plantinga? Feh! We'll go wild with an all-out paintball competition followed by a discussion on how nature is tooth and claw.

~Miracles. Forget Earman and C.S. Lewis -- those are passe for our apologists today! Instead, I'll be skydiving over fields without parachutes attempting to land in various haystacks scattered around to show the possibility that unlikely events can occur.

~Can Randomness Produce Intelligence? No more looking at irreducible complexity! I'll go to a chem lab and just mix together anything I can find and do whatever I want to it. After all of the explosions are finished, I'll take your congregation on a tour of the debris and we'll see if any of the explosions produced intelligence.

~Objective Morality I'll show the ridiculousness of what society says about morality by hooking up computers in your sanctuary so that the congregation can stay up late at night playing Warcraftwith each other.
It's just the thing for the postmodern TV generation, don't you think?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

God bless,

J. P. Holding


In case you're wondering, yes -- this was a real advertisement I got from a nearby church, and I really did offer to teach there once and got no response.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hermeneutics 101

Because I've been talking about Hermeneutics so much lately, I thought I'd give an example of one of my favorite hermeneutical interpretations of the Bible.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." ~Revelation3:15-18

Applying the rules of Hermeneutics to this passage, we consider who this was written to and why. A few things that we should know about the Church at Laodicea:
~They were a rather successful bank center. (They were a a rich city)
~They were very big in the wool industry. (Known for their high quality garments)
~They were well known for the medicinal eye salve they produced
~They had Bad water. They had to pump in their water from Hieropolis, (who had HOT SPRINGS,) and from Collassae, (who had COLD SPRINGS.) Both of whom had VERY STRONG CHURCHES compared to Laodicea's very weak church. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was luke warm and tasted terrible.

Now let's read the verses again remembering who it was written to and why:
"I know your deeds, that you are neither COLD nor HOT. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are LUKEWARM—neither HOT nor COLD—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am RICH; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become RICH; and WHITE CLOTHES TO WEAR, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and SALVE TO PUT ON YOUR EYES, so you can see." ~Revelation3:15-18

The "New Timm Translation" might read like this:
"I know your deeds, that you are neither like Collosae nor like Hieropolis. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are like your own lukewarm water—not like Hieropolis' hot water nor like Colloassae's cold water—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'We have a great banking industry that has made us rich; We have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Your banking industry means nothing to me. Your wool clothing means nothing to me. Your eye salve is worthless to me. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." ~Revelation3:15-18

It's pretty cool how you can understand the Bible when you take the time to find out what the author is trying to tell you, rather than "what the verse means to me."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

John Piper on Forgiveness

"The cross is not the reason we ask for forgiveness daily. It's the reason we are confident that the answer is yes."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Secret Motive

Recently, my motivation has been called into question. This does not mark the first time when I have been accused of driving a wedge into the body of Christ. Well, I suppose there is one thing that my readers should know about me before becoming a regular visitor of this site.

~I believe that the Bible is perfect. It is Written by God and it is without error.
I've never understood the plight of those who proclaim themselves to be Christians, but refute the inerrency of scripture. I believe that "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

Those who do not believe in the innerency of scripture are caught without a leg to stand on. How do they decide which parts of the bible are profitable and true? How do you know which commandments to follow and which you shouldn't? How do you know God? Without the Perfect Word of God, our religion is no different than any other. It is made up. Without it Jesus was just a good man born to a teenage mother.

So I believe in the God of the Bible, rather than a god of my own making. I try to allow the Bible to define my theology. (I fail often, but I try.)

So here it is, my Secret Motive:
What I want is to defend the Word of the Lord. I have never intended to drive a wedge into the body of the church. My goal is to play my part, (as small as it may be,) unify the church under the banner of truth and with the Word of God as our backdrop. My motivation is the seemingly impossible dream that all might one day Worship the God of the Bible. I would like to see all who claim Jesus as their savior to allow the Spirit to poke and pry at their conscience through God's chosen mode of communication with His children.

I'm sorry to any who are offended by this message, but I will not back down from this stance. I fear to do so would be to allow many of God's children to travel down a path that does not lead where they think it does.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ever Get the Feeling Rob Bell is Not Going to Go Away

Disclaimer: This post is not intended as an attack on Rob Bell personally. It's intention is to refute some of Rob Bell's teachings. Please understand that before reading on.

The following is written by Pat Abendroth, the Senior Pastor of Omaha Bible Church.
This about sums it up for me:

Based upon what I read in Bell’s book, he is both funny and hip. I say this because he made me laugh and because he does cool things like play in a punk band and surf (even the infamous Trestles!).

Continuing on with the positives, Bell seems sincere and appropriately calls for Christians to love those in need (not just fellow Christians) as is called for in the second greatest commandment. This is a great point and something that needs to be said and re-said before being said once more.

Anger Management
So with a hip rock dude writing a book addressing the need for Christians to act more like Jesus, why the anger on my part? Here are some of the reasons:

Rob Bell makes me mad because he preaches an anti-gospel.
He craftily does this by portraying the essence of Christianity as following Jesus and treating people the way Jesus did. While this is important, living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2). Missing this is no small oversight by Bell. It is missing that which is of first importance! Over and over again he talks about living the way of Jesus and being like Jesus, but without the essence of the gospel, which is Jesus’ work! This is scandalous.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as non-essential (pp. 26-27).
You heard right, he writes off the virgin birth of Jesus as not essential! To state the obvious, this is entirely out of step with the Bible. Sure, one can redress and then mimic once-trendy quasi arguments by unbelievers about the word used for virgin in Isaiah 7:14 possibly meaning young woman. But the New Testament leaves no wiggle-room on the intent and therefore meaning of the word. We know this because the Isaiah text is quoted and essentially interpreted in the New Testament. In Matthew 1:23-25 the word virgin is used twice and shown by the context to mean virgin in the classic sense of the term. To ignore this is to show gross negligence which seems to depend upon an assumed biblical illiteracy by his readers. Far from being not essential, the biblical reality of Christ’s virgin birth is vital to His unique status as the sinless God-Man. As troubling as this unorthodox teaching by Bell is, he commits a more dangerous foul. Bell continues with arguments against the virgin birth of Jesus followed by an attempt to defuse would-be critics by slipping in a token affirmation. Bell professes to be a Christian. But given his disregard for Christian doctrine, the name “poser” comes to mind (borrowing an old title from the punk rock scene).

Rob Bell makes me mad because he downplays the vital role of conversion.
In a horrible overreaction against professing Christians wrongly not being compassionate, Bell says “the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people…” (p. 167). He then proceeds to establish a supporting argument that would surely set well with most anyone who is either ignorant of or ignoring what Jesus says in John 3 — unless someone is converted, they will not see the light of day in the kingdom! Bell’s tactic is entirely unacceptable and irresponsible, but dare I say, fits with his mimicking the likes of the quintessential theological liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969). Certainly Christians must love those in need if they are going to truly follow Christ. But such love is to augment the need to proclaim a gospel of repentance which calls for conversion according to Jesus.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he does violence to the clear words of Jesus.
On page 21 for example, when he talks about Jesus’ claims of exclusivity in John 14:6, he spins them to mean something other than what they clearly say and have been recognized as saying by Christians throughout the ages. At first I was surprised at how much Bell sounded like a radical theological liberal like Marcus Borg, but then I saw that the very first endnote in the book was an unqualified recommendation of a book by Borg! Bell’s recommended reading on his church’s web site promotes reading by John Dominic Crossan, the former co-director of the Jesus Seminar, so endorsing Borg is not a matter of isolation. Such men have a reputation for shamelessly doing violence to Jesus and His gospel.

Rob Bell makes me mad because he is the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church.
I am not suggesting that churches with “Bible Church” in the name are anything special per se, but historically they have not been places where things like the virgin birth is considered non-essential. In my estimation this is downright deceptive.

If J. Gresham Machen were alive today, I suspect he would do what he did with Bell’s theological predecessors. Machen would remind him that while he has the freedom to start a new religion, he really should call it something other than Christian given that his religion does not resemble what Christ actually established as recorded in the Christian book, the Bible.

In my opinion, the reason this book is resonating with so many is because we have seen the evangelical church abandon the Evangel Himself. Yes, much of evangelicalism is empty because the Evangel of our evangelicalism is gone or as David Wells so aptly put it: He has been dislodged from its center. Couple this with a general ignorance of the Bible and church history and you have a book like Velvet Elvis actually seen as publishable by a “Christian” publisher and selling as if it were something novel and good.

Because I love the Evangel of the Bible and therefore historic Christianity, I guess it is off to anger management class for me."
(read the whole article here.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Purpose of God's Law

With all the talk lately about the law of God, I thought I'd post my thoughts on it's purpose.

The Purpose of God’s Law:

1. It Points out sin

James 1:23-25 - It gives us freedom – we can know right from wrong.

Rom 3:20 - It gives us knowledge of sin.

1 John 3:4 - It defines sin.

2. The Law acts as an agent in conversion
Psalm 19:7 - The Law of the Lord is perfect for converting the soul

Galatians 3:24 - It points us to Christ

3. The Law provides true freedom
James 2:8 - Keeping God’s royal law is doing right

James 1:25 - God’s perfect law gives us freedom