Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

J. Warner Wallace: Leading people to Christ requires good leadership

The latest episode of the Cold Case Christianity podcast is a must-listen, especially from about 9:20 to 30:33. I listened to it twice, and shared it with a friend who I am mentoring. She liked it as well, and it caused both of us to think deeply.

You can grab the MP3 file here. (39 MB)

Here is is his summary:

In this podcast, J. Warner talks about the importance of leadership for those of us who hope to share the truth about Jesus. When most of us think about evangelism, we think of the importance of apologetics or understanding how to articulate the Gospel. We often overlook the role of good leadership. But if you hope to lead someone to Christ, you’ll need to become a good leader.

Topics:

  • Excellence at what you do is the minimum requirement for being a good leader, but it’s not enough
  • First thing: you need to have the respect of the people you are trying to lead (e.g. – good character, courage, concern for others, etc.)
  • Second thing: you need to gain the trust of the people you are trying to lead, and that means performing consistently over time
  • Third thing: you need to gain a hearing from the people you are trying to lead, but that means being willing to speak to them, too
  • An example of good leadership: Jim’s father leading everyone to a cabin in the woods

The key insight I pulled out of this is that in order to lead someone, you have to gain their respect, gain their trust, and gain their ear. The podcast features a very practical application of the principles he describes.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , ,

J.P. Moreland lectures on “Love Your God With All Your Mind”

Dr. J.P. Moreland

Dr. J.P. Moreland

If I had to pick a few lectures that really changed my life, then this lecture by J.P. Moreland would definitely be on that list.

The MP3 file.

Topics:

  • How J.P. Moreland become a Christian
  • How evangelism drove his efforts to answer skeptics
  • How can evangelicals be so numerous, and yet have so little influence?
  • When did the church stop being able to out-think her critics?
  • How studying and thinking can be a way of worshiping God
  • Romans 12:1-2 – what does this passage mean?
  • Are your beliefs under the control of your will?
  • Can you “try” to believe something by an act of will?
  • If not, then how can you change your beliefs?
  • Changing your mind is the only way to change your life
  • Matthew 22:37 – what is this passage saying?
  • How can you love God by using your intellect?
  • How can you defend God’s honor, when it is called into question?
  • In a debate, should you quote sources that your opponent doesn’t accept?
  • Should you only study the Bible, or should you study rival worldviews?
  • 1 Pet 3:15 – what does this passage mean?
  • If you knew you were going to be in a debate, what should you do?
  • How can you be bold in witnessing? Where does boldness come from?
  • What should the church do to make bold evangelists?
  • 2 Cor 10:5 – what is this passage talking about?
  • The passage talks about destroying fortresses – what are the fortresses?
  • List of some of the speculations that we are supposed to be destroying
  • What does the phrase “spiritual warfare” really mean?

And here is a longer version of the same lecture (MP3) presented to an audience of university students and faculty.

By the way, the title of his lecture comes from a book that he wrote, which is now in its second edition.

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Cold Case Christianity podcast talks about lack of authenticity in the church

On Saturday, I got a chance to listen to the latest episode of the Cold Case Christianity podcast, and the whole thing was solid. This is one you definitely do not want to miss. I wanted to summarize the first topic of three because it’s something that’s been coming up a lot lately, but topics 2 and 3 are worth listening to, as well.

You can grab the MP3 file here.

Topic #1: Why are young people leaving church?

  • problem: not convinced Christianity is true
  • problem: apparent conflict with science
  • problem: unanswered questions
  • problem: difficulties inside the church
  • problem: the church’s (correct) position on same-sex marriage

Jim’s claim: if people do not think that the Bible is accurate and divinely inspired, then they are going to be tempted to pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe

Jim reads a blog post from a young lady who attends church, and here are her top problems with the church:

  1. you can’t ask questions
  2. you can’t voice your doubts
  3. you can’t explain your struggles
  4. you can’t confess your sins
  5. you can’t confide your fears

And she wants the leadership to be real and open about these things as well.

Wallace says that there here are two main problems that teens run into at college:

  1. intellectual skepticism
  2. selfish desires, especially in sexual areas

It’s aggravated by the hostile university setting (skeptical professors), and a culture of drinking and sex.

The university culture is offering you a worldview that makes your selfish desires more permissible and normal. Unless people have a compelling reason not to reject that, they won’t reject it. It’s the path of least resistance to conform to the expectations of your peers and professors. Our aim should be to provide young people with evidence before they face the skepticism in college.

Another major problem facing young people is the Christian position on homosexuality and gay marriage. Christian teachings on sexuality in general are viewed with suspicion, and these things are not discussed or debated in the church. One way to respond to this is to defend the reliability of Scripture. (Note: I think another way to respond is to give secular reasons for what the Bible teaches, and to help young people link their decisions about sexuality with their larger life plan).

Topic 2 was about objective vs cultural moral standards, and topic 3 was about whether different denominations differ in essentials or in peripheral issues.

My thoughts on topic #1

This week I’ve been spending time with a younger Christian discussing apologetics with her and we have had some different life experiences and she sometimes asks me to explain what happened. So I’ve been telling about some of the problems I had trying to map what the Bible says onto real life. I’m not going to post them here, but there were definitely problems dealing with my parents, my peers in school, my co-workers and church people. I kept trying to do good things, like trying to talk about my faith at work, and sometimes, very unexpected things happened to me. So telling about these struggles does convey the sort of seriousness that I think is lacking in the church environment.

So my point here is this. If you are dealing with young people, it might be a good idea to not gloss over these problems and keep everything at the surface level. Talk to them about what a Christian life should look like and the struggles you had trying to live it out. Talk to them about their plans, and how different decisions are going to affect those plans. Talk to them about their grades. Talk to them about their future profession. Talk to them about apologetics. Talk to them about politics and economics, so they know how to vote for their futures. Basically, they should have the idea that you are interested in whether Christianity is true or not, and that you are interested in them make some sort of plan to serve God and making the decisions they need to get there. You should tell young people your plan and how you are funding it and working on it, in order to prod them to make their own plan.

So if the problem is perceived lack of authenticity, then the solution is to talk to young people like grown ups and give them insight. This is my plan to serve God. This is my plan for my marriage. This is why I think Christianity is true. This is what I want my kids to end up like. This is what I want my wife to do. This is how I intend to fund all this. These are the laws/public policies that help/hurt my plan. These are the problems and struggles I’ve had implementing my plan. Here is an area where my sinfulness is really messing up my plan. When I talk to other Christians, we talk about these issues relevant to my plan.

It’s this kind of frank talk about what you are trying to do (and what role self-control plays in your plans) that helps young people to get serious about their beliefs. Don’t reduce the whole religion to rituals and feelings – it’s a mistake.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , ,

Brian Auten interviews Dr. Angus Menuge on philosophy of mind

Click here for the interview. It’s up at Apologetics 315!

Details:

Today’s interview is with Dr. Angus Menuge, Professor of Philosophy  at Concordia University, and author of Agents Under Fire: Materialism and the Rationality of Science. He talks about his background and work, the philosophy of mind, what reason (or reasoning) is, what materialism is as a worldview, things excluded from a materialistic worldview, methodological naturalism and materialism, accounting for free will, materialistic accounts of reason, the epistemological argument from reason, the ontological argument from reason, finding the best explanation for reason, problems with methodological naturalism, implications of materialism, practical application of the argument from reason, advice for apologists, the International Academy of Apologetics, and more.

If what Dr. Menuge says in this interview is true, and I think it is, then a person who believes in materialism can neither ground free will nor rationality! So atheism wouldn’t really be freethought so much as it would be… un-free… non-thought.

In case people don’t want to listen to the podcast, then I’ve got some things for you to read below.

The ontological argument from reason

Dr. Menuge presented a paper at the real Evangelical Philosophical Society conference for students and professors of philosophy, and you can download the paper here in Word format. (here’s a PDF version I made)

Here is the introduction to the paper that Dr. Menuge read at the EPS conference:

The argument from reason is really a family of arguments to show that reasoning is incompatible with naturalism. Here, naturalism is understood as the idea that foundationally, there are only physical objects, properties and relations, and anything else reduces to, supervenes on, or emerges from that. For our purposes, one of the most important claims of naturalism is that all causation is passive, automatic, event causation (an earthquake automatically causes a tidal wave; the tidal wave responds passively): there are no agent causes, where something does not happen automatically but only because the agent exerts his active power by choosing to do it. The most famous version of the argument from reason is epistemological: if naturalism were true, we could not be justified in believing it. Today, I want to focus on the ontological argument from reason, which asserts that there cannot be reasoning in a naturalistic world, because reasoning requires libertarian free will, and this in turn requires a unified, enduring self with active power.

The two most promising ways out of this argument are: (1) Compatibilism—even in a deterministic, naturalistic world, humans are capable of free acts of reason if their minds are responsive to rational causes; (2) Libertarian Naturalism—a self with libertarian free will emerges from the brain. I argue that neither of these moves works, and so, unless someone has a better idea, the ontological argument from reason stands.

The paper is 11 pages long, and it is helpful for those of you looking for some good discussion of one of the issues in the area of philosophy of mind.

You may also be interested in Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological argument from reason, which is related to this argument. It shows that even to have the ability to think, you have to have a certain anthropology and you have to have mental faculties that are designed for reason, not survival.

Methodological naturalism

Dr. Menuge also wrote an article entitled “Is methodological materialism good for science?”.

Intro:

Should science by governed by methodological materialism? That is, should scientists assume that only undirected causes can figure in their theories and explanations? If the answer to these questions is yes, then there can be no such thing as teleological science or intelligent design. But is methodological materialism a defensible approach to science, or might it prevent scientists from discovering important truths about the natural world? In my contribution to The Waning of Materialism (Oxford University Press, 2010), edited by Robert Koons and George Bealer, I consider twelve of the most common arguments in favor of methodological materialism and show that none of them is convincing.

Of these arguments, perhaps the most prevalent is the “God of the gaps” charge, according to which invoking something other than a material cause is an argument from ignorance which, like a bad script writer, cites a deus ex machina to save our account from difficulty. Not only materialists, but also many Christian thinkers, like Francis Collins, worry that appeal to intelligent design commits the God of the gaps fallacy.

As I argue, however, not only is an inference to an intelligent cause not the same as an inference to the supernatural, it is a mistake to assume that all gap arguments are bad, or that only theists make them. If a gap argument is based solely on ignorance of what might explain some phenomenon, then indeed it is a bad argument. But there are many good gap arguments which are made both by scientific materialists and proponents of intelligent design.

So how do you make an argument like that?

As Stephen Meyer has argued in his Signature in the Cell, intelligent design argues in just the same way, claiming not merely that the material categories of chance and necessity (singly or in combination) are unable to explain the complex specified information in DNA, but also that in our experience, intelligent agents are the only known causes of such information. The argument is based on what we know about causal powers, not on what we do not know about them.

Since the inference is based on known causal powers, we learn that the cause is intelligent, but only further assumptions or data can tell us whether that intelligence is immanent in nature or supernatural. It is a serious mistake to confuse intelligent design with theistic science, and the argument that since some proponents of design believe that the designer is God, that is what they are claiming can be inferred from the data, is a sophomoric intensional fallacy.

If you think this is interesting, then do have a listen to the podcast. Dr. Menuge is not an ordinary academic – he is very direct. He calls materialism “a catastrophe” in the podcast!

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does the Bible teach the universe was created?

J. Warner Wallace has a new post up and he lists a ton of Bible verses that talk about the beginning of the universe.

I’m going to pick out some of the best ones – ones that will scare the stuffing out of you.

Be amazed:

Colossians 1:16-17
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Hebrews 11:3
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

John 1:3
All things came into being through Him [Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

1 Corinthians 2:7
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

Isaiah 45:12
“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host.”

All things were created? Time had a beginning? The universe is expanding? Wow, that’s all stuff that naturalists hate – they want their eternal, steady-state universe back. Too bad that’s been falsified by the hydrogen-helium abundance observations. Oh well, I guess they can still believe it if they want to. Now if you’re an atheist, you don’t like what the Bible has to say about the origin of the universe, especially since all the experimental science we have today agrees with the Bible. So atheists aren’t just angry at God, they’re angry at science, too.

The latest Please Convince Me podcast

By the way, J. Warner Wallace’s latest 64-minute podcast on the scientific evidence for the creation of the universe was a must-listen. He re-caps the experimental evidence that we have for a cosmic beginning, and highlights the names of the scientists, the dates of the discoveries, the experiments that were run, and the results that were obtained. He also evaluates naturalistic alternatives to the standard model, and explains what’s wrong with each one.

If you’re into science, then you will love this podcast.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , ,

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