Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Walt Russell explains how to read the Bible effectively

Dr. Walt Russell’s book on the subject of interpreting the Bible is called “Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul“. I like that book, but I found four articles that summarize the main points of the book so people can understand how to read the Bible at a high livel.

Here is part one which talks about how postmodern relativism is at odds with discovering the original intent of an author.

Excerpt:

Twenty-four year-old “Janet” (not her real name) was angry at my emphasis on seeking to discover authors’ intentions when we read their texts. She was an evangelical Christian and a second grade teacher in a public school. She prided herself in helping her 20 students learn to love literature. She would read them a story as they gathered around her, and then ask each child, “What does the story mean to you?” She prodded them to come up with their own unique meanings. With such strong encouragement, the class of 20 would eventually have 20 different meanings for the one story. Janet sensed that I was a naysayer about such “love of literature.” Pouring a little emotional gasoline on the fire, I said, “Janet, you’re certainly doing your part to insure that these 7 year-olds will never recover from a radically relativistic view of meaning!” Now I had her full attention.

Here is part two which talks about the importance of knowing the genre of a text before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” — the newspaper headline virtually screams out at you. The thought of something being slain is repulsive. You’re gripped by a mental image of southern India’s Bengal tiger. You imagine its beautiful face, its stripes and piercing eyes. Then your image is shattered by the sudden blast of a high-powered rifle. You see the exquisite creature writhe in pain, fall gracelessly in its tracks and die. Having read no further than the headline, you feel sick, as if you’ve witnessed something tragic.

But should you feel this way? The slaughter of an endangered species — especially one as magnificent as the Bengal tiger — is horrifying, no doubt. But suppose you failed to notice that the headline “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” appeared in the sports page of the morning paper. Clearly enough, it now refers to different Indians, different Tigers and a different manner of slaying than you originally thought. And is it really that tragic that the Cleveland Indians badly beat the Detroit Tigers in a major league baseball game last night? Not unless you’re a long-suffering Detroit Tigers’ baseball fan. But how do you now know that the headline is about baseball and not tiger-slaying in India? You look at the words “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS” and you know exactly what each word means. When you combine these words, how can they not mean exactly what you first thought they did — that Indians slay tigers? Answer: because their meanings are communicated (as the meanings of all words are) through genres!

Here is part three which talks about the importance of reading the context of a verse before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“Never Read a Bible Verse!” That’s the title of a little booklet my friend and Christian radio personality, Gregory Koukl, has written to help people read the Bible well. What great advice. “That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph — at least.” But the current is flowing the other way in our popular sound-bite culture. Not to be left out (or left behind!), the Church has its own version of sound-bite culture: verse-bite culture. In verse-bite culture we take a sentence or sentence-fragment from a biblical paragraph, memorize it out of context, write it on a little card, put it on a billboard, a plaque, a rock, etc. Somehow we think that just because this little chunk of Scripture has a verse number in front of it, it was meant to be a free-standing unit of thought. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Apart from the fact that chapter and verse divisions weren’t added to the New Testament text until 1560 — long after the New Testament’s inspired authorship — there is a more important reason for never reading just a Bible verse, and instead reading at least the paragraph that contains it.

Here is part four which talks about the importance of applying the words of the Bible to your life.

One verse that is often misinterpreted is missing from the articles, but present in the STR lecture. It’s Philippians 1:6 that says “6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Russell says in the lecture that this promise is specifically intended for the church in Philippi, to whom Paul is writing, not necessarily to all Christians. He is giving them a promise just after directly referring to their good work in supporting him in his ministry. Some verses are just not meant for us, and the context reveals it.

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Summary of the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate: Does God Exist?

I got word today that there was an agnostic philosophy student at Dr. Craig’s “Defenders” class today who read this summary of the Craig-Hitchens debate and said it was “perfectly on the money” according to my source. I have not re-posted this summary since 2009, when the debate happened, so I thought I would re-post it today.

Here is the video of the debate has been posted:

TOPIC: DOES GOD EXIST?

MY NOTES ON THE DEBATE: (WC = William Lane Craig, CH = Christopher Hitchens)

WC opening speech:

Introduction:

WC makes two contentions:
– there are no good arguments for atheism
– there are good arguments for theism

These topics are IRRELEVANT tonight:
– social impact of christianity
– morality of Old Testament passages
– biblical inerrancy
– the debate is whether god (a creator and designer of the universe) exists

1. cosmological argument
– an actually infinite number of past events is impossible
– number of past events must be finite
– therefore universe has a beginning
– the beginning of the universe is confirmed by science –  universe began to exist from nothing
– space, time, matter, energy began at the big bang
– the creation of the universe requires a cause
– the cause is uncaused, timeless, spaceless, powerful
– the cause must be beyond space and time, because it created space and time
– the cause is not physical, because it created all matter and energy
– but there are only two kinds of non-physical cause: abstract objects or minds
– abstract objects don’t cause effects
– therefore must be mind

2. teleological argument
– fine-tuned constants and ratios
– constants not determined by laws of nature
– also, there are arbitrary quantities
– constants and quantities are in narrow range of life-permitting values
– an example: if the weak force were different by 1 in 10 to the 100, then no life
– there are 3 explanations: physical law or chance or design
– not due to law: because constants and quantities are independent of the laws
– not due to chance: the odds are too high for chance
– therefore, due to design
– the atheist response is the world ensemble (multiverse)
– but world ensemble has unobservable universes, no evidence that they exist
– and world ensemble contradicts scientific observations we have today

3. moral argument
– objective moral values are values that exist regardless of what humans think
– objective values are not personal preferences
– objective values are not evolved standards that cultures have depending on time and place
– objective moral values and duties exist
– objective moral values and duties require a moral lawgiver

4. argument from resurrection miracle
– resurrection implies miracle
– miracle implies God
– 3 minimal facts pass the historical tests (early attestation, eyewitness testimony, multiple attestation, etc.)
– minimal fact 1: empty tomb
– minimal fact 2: appearances
– minimal fact 3: early belief in the resurrection
– jewish theology prohibits a dying messiah – messiah is not supposed to die
– jewish theology has a general resurrection of everybody, there is not supposed to be a resurrection of one person
– jewish theology certainly does not predict a single resurrection of the messiah after he dies
– therefore, the belief in the resurrection is unlikely to have been invented
– disciples were willing to die for that belief in the resurrection
– naturalistic explanations don’t work for the 3 minimal facts

5. properly basic belief in god
– religious experience is properly basic
– it’s just like the belief in the external world, grounded in experience
– in the absence of defeaters, those experiences are valid

Conclusion: What CH must do:
– destroy all 5 of WC’s arguments
– erect his own case in its place

CH opening speech:

1. evolution disproves biological design argument
– evolution disproves paley’s argument for a watchmaker

2. god wouldn’t have done it that way
– god wouldn’t have waited that long before the incarnation
– mass extinction and death before Jesus
– god wouldn’t have allowed humans to have almost gone extinct a while back in africa
– why insist that this wasteful and incompetent history of life is for us, that’s a bad design
– the universe is so vast, why would god need so much space, that’s a bad design
– there is too much destruction in the universe, like exploding stars – that’s a bad design
– the heat death of the universe is a bad design
– too many of the other planets don’t support life, that’s a bad design
– the sun is going to become a red giant and incinerate us, that’s a bad design

3. hitchens’ burden of proof
– there is no good reason that supports the existence of god
– all arguments for god can be explained without god
– atheists can’t prove there is no god
– but they can prove there is no good argument for god

4. craig’s scientific arguments don’t go far enough, they only prove deism, not theism
– the scientific arguments don’t prove prayer works
– the scientific arguments don’t prove specific moral teachings of christianity

5. if the laws of physics are so great then miracles shouldn’t be allowed
– good laws and miracles seem to be in contradiction

6. extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence
– none of craig’s evidence was extraordinary

7. science can change, so craig can’t use the progress of science
– it’s too early for craig to use the big bang and fine-tuning
– the big bang and fine-tuning evidences are too new
– they could be overturned by the progress of science

8. craig wrote in his book that the internal conviction of god’s existence should trump contradicting evidence
– but then he isn’t forming his view based on evidence
– he refuses to let evidence disprove his view
– but then how can atheists be to blame if they don’t believe
– so evidence is not really relevant to accepting theism

9. the progress of science has disproved religion
– christianity taught that earth was center of the universe
– but then cosmology disproved that

Response to the big bang and fine-tuning arguments:
– was there pre-existing material?
– who designed the designer?

WC first rebuttal:

Reiterates his 2 basic contentions

CH agrees that there is no good argument for atheism
– then all you’ve got is agnosticism
– because CH did not claim to know there is no God
– and he gave no arguments that there is no God

CH’s evolution argument
– irrelevant to christianity
– Genesis 1 allows for evolution to have occurred
– christianity is not committed to young earth creationism
– the origin of biological diversity is not central to christianity
– st. augustine in 300 AD said days can be long, special potencies unfold over time
– also there are scientific reasons to doubt evolution
– cites barrow and tipler, and they say:
– each of 10 steps in evolution is very improbable
– chances are so low, it would be a miracle if evolution occurred

CH’s argument that god is wasteful
– efficiency is only important to people with limited time or limited resources
– therefore god doesn’t need to be efficient

CH’s argument that god waits too long to send Jesus
– population was not that high before jesus
– jesus appears just before the exponential explosion of population
– conditions were stable – roman empire, peace, literacy, law, etc.

CH’s argument that Craig’s scientific arguments only prove deism, not theism
– deism a type of theism, so those scientific arguments work
– all that deism denies is miraculous intervention

CH’s argument that Craig has a burden of proof
– theism doesn’t need to be proven with certainty
– must only prove best explanation of the evidence

CH’s citation of Craig’s book saying that evidence should not overrule experience
– there is a difference between knowing and showing christianity is true
– knowing is by religious experience which is a properly basic belief
– showing is done through evidence, and there the evidence does matter

CH’s rebuttal to the big bang
– there was no pre-existent material
– space and time and matter came into being at the big bang
– the cause must be non-physical and eternal
– cause of universe outside of time means = cause of universe did not begin to exist
– this is the state of science today

CH’s rebuttal to the fine tuning
– CH says scientists are uncertain about the fine-tuning
– craig cites martin rees, an atheist, astronomer royal, to substantiate the fine tuning
– the fine-tuning is necessary for  minimal requirements for life of any kind
– the progress of science is not going to dethrone the fine-tuning

CH’s argument about heat death of the universe
– duration of design is irrelevant to whether something was designed
– cars are designed, yet they break down
– design need not be optimal to be designed
– ch is saying why create if we all eventually go extinct
– but life doesn’t end in the grave on christianity

CH’s rebuttal to the moral argument
– CH says no obj moral values
– but CH uses them to argue against god and christians
– but CH has no foundation for a standard that applies to God and Christians

CH’s rebuttal to the resurrection argument
– empty tomb and appearances are virtually certain
– these are minimal facts, well evidenced using standard historical criteria
– best explanation of these minimal facts is the resurrection

CH’s rebuttal to religious experience
– prop basic belief is rational in the absence of defeaters
– so long as craig has no psychological deficiency, experience is admissible

CH first rebuttal:

it’s not agnosticism
– if there are no good arguments for theism
– then there is no reason for belief in god
– that is atheism
– everything can be explained without god

god wouldn’t have done it that way
– homo sapiens is 100K years old
– for 98K years, they had no communication from God
– lots of people died in childbirth
– disease and volcanos are a mystery to them
– life expectancy is very low
– they die terrible deaths
– their teeth are badly designed
– their genitalia are badly designed
– why solve the problem of sin by allowing a man to be tortured to death
– that’s a stupid, cruel, bumbling plan

lots of people haven’t even heard of jesus
– many of them die without knowing about him
– they cannot be held responsible if they do not know about jesus

the early success of christianity doesn’t prove christianity is true
– because then it applies to mormonism and islam, they’re growing fast

objective morality
– belief in a supreme dictator doesn’t improve moral behavior
– i can do moral actions that you can do
– i can repeat moral positions that you can say

religious people are immoral
– genital mutilation
– suicide bombing

moral behavior doesn’t need god
– we need to act moral for social cohesion
– it evolved for our survival
– that’s why people act morally
– it’s degrading to humans, and servile, to require god for morality

free will
– i believe in free will
– i don’t know why, because i can’t ground free will on atheism
– a bossy god seems to reduce free will because then we are accountable to god

WC cross-examination of CH:

WC why call yourself an atheist when you have no reasons?

CH because absence of belief is atheism

WC but agnosticism, atheism, verificationism all don’t hold that belief, which are you?

CH i think god does not exist

WC ok give me an argument for the claim you just made to know god does not exist

CH i have no argument, but i don’t believe in god because it depresses me to think he might be real

WC would you agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?

CH no i don’t agree

WC moral argument: it’s not epistemology it’s the ontology – have you got a foundation for moral values and duties?

CH i do not, it’s just evolution, an evolved standard based on social cohesion

CH cross-examination of WC:

CH you said that the historical reports of jesus doing exorcisms are generally accepted – do you believe in devils?

WC i commit to nothing, what I am saying there historical concensus on the reports that jesus did exorcisms

CH what about the devils going into the pigs, do you believe that?

WC yes i do, but the main point i’m making is that the historical reports show that jesus acted with divine authority

CH do you believe in the virgin birth?

WC yes, but that’s not historically provable using the minimal facts methods, and i did not use the virgin birth in my arguments tonight, because it doesn’t pass the historical tests to be a minimal fact

CH do you believe that all the graves opened and dead people all came out?

WC not sure if the author intended that part as apocalyptic imagery or as literal, i have no opinion on it, have not studied it

CH do exorcisms prove son of god?

WC no, i am only saying that the historical reports show that jesus exercised authority and put himself in the place of god

CH  are any religions false? name one that’s false

WC islam

CH so some religions are wicked right?

WC yes

CH if a baby were born in saudi arabia would it be better if it were an atheist or a muslim?

WC i have no opinion on that

CH are any christian denominations wrong?

WC calvinism is wrong about some things, but they are still christians, i could be wrong about some things, i do the best i can studying theology so i’m not wrong

WC second rebuttal

Response to CH arguments:

no reasons for atheism
– no reasons to believe that god does not exist
– ch withholds belief in god

why wait so long before contacting humans with jesus
– population matters, not time – jesus waited until there was about to be a population explosion
– there is natural revelation (Romans 1) for those who lived before christ

what about those who never heard
– (Acts 17:22-31) god chooses the time and place of each person who is born to optimize their opportunity to know him based on how they will respond to evidence (this is called middle knowledge)
– those who haven’t heard will be judged based on general revelation

WC re-assess the state of his five arguments:

cosmological argument <signal loss>
– heat death of the universe won’t happen on christianity

moral argument
– if no objective moral standard, can’t judge other cultures as wrong
– no transcendent objective standard to be able to judge slavery as wrong

name an action argument
– e.g. – tithing
– the greatest command – love the lord your god your god with everything you’ve got
– atheists can’t do that, and that is the biggest commandment to follow

moral obligations
– there are no objective moral obligations for anyone on atheism
– on atheism, you feel obligated because of genetics and social pressure
– on atheism, we’re animals, and animals don’t have moral obligations

resurrection <signal loss>
– the belief in resurrection of 1 man, the messiah is totally unexpected on judaism
– they would not have made this up, it was unexpected

religious experience
– experience is valid in the absence of defeaters

CH second rebuttal:

faith and reason
– Tertullian says faith is better when it’s against reason

it’s easy to start a rumor with faith-based people
– mother teresa: to be canonized she needs to have done a miracle
– so there was a faked miracle report
– but everybody believes the fake miracle report!
– this proves that religious rumors are easy to start
– the resurrection could have started as a similar rumor by people wanting to believe it

name an action
– tithing is a religious action, i don’t have to do that

moral argument
– i can be as moral as you can without god
– i can say that other cultures are wrong, there i just said it
– without god, people would still be good, so god isn’t needed

religious people did bad things in history
– this church did a bad thing here
– that church did a bad thing there
– therfore god doesn’t exist

religion is the outcome of man’s struggle with natural phenomenon
– that is why there are so many religions

WC concluding speech

no arguments for atheism presented

What CH has said during the debate:
– god bad, mother teresa bad, religion bad

atheism is a worldview
– it claims to know the truth
– therefore it is exclusive of other views

what does theism explain
– theism explains a broad range of experiences
– origin of universe, CH has dropped the point
– fine-tuning, CH has dropped the point
– moral, CH says that humans are no different from animals – but an evolved standard is illusory, there are no actual moral values and standards, it’s just a genetic predisposition to act in a certain way – that’s not prescriptive morality
– resurrection, CH has dropped the point
– experience, craig tells his testimony and urges the audience to give it a shot

CH concluding speech

HITCHENS YIELDS HIS ENTIRE CONCLUDING SPEECH!

A question & answer Period followed end of the formal debate

Further study

Check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens, Lee Strobel and some other people. Biola University philosopher Doug Geivett’s review is here. He attended the debate.

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What motivates William Lane Craig and why is he so effective?

Nathan Schneider, who wrote a balanced profile of Dr. Craig for the Chronicle of Higher Education a few weeks back, has written an even more in-depth profile of Christianity’s ablest defender.

Here’s the introduction:

Nobody—or just about nobody, depending on whom you ask—beats William Lane Craig in a debate about the existence of God, or the resurrection of Jesus, or any topic of that sort. During their debate at Notre Dame in April of last year, New Atheist author Sam Harris referred to Craig as “the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists.”

Over the course of working on my book about how people search for proof of God’s existence, I had the chance to spend a generous amount of time with Craig, both in the Atlanta area where he lives and at Biola University, an evangelical school on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where he teaches a few weeks out of the year. For the book, I’ve gotten to write about ideas like his “kalam cosmological argument,” one of the most-cited ideas of its generation in philosophy of religion, which fuses medieval Muslims with modern cosmology. I also tell of his entrepreneurial savvy in turning the Evangelical Philosophical Society into an academic organization that moonlights as a slick-as-a-banana apologetics platform for changing hearts like yours and mine. But none of that quite captures the man’s role as a sage and exemplar, in which he renders something like the upbuilding service Oprah provides to home-bound American women, except that his acolytes are the precocious set among conservative, evangelical, young-adult males. He makes me almost wish I were that kind of conservative evangelical myself—which is, to him, the point.

Craig dresses impeccably and professorially, often with a buttoned shirt and a patterned blazer, sweater, or sweater-vest. His dimples hint at a basic innocence that can be startling when it pokes through the frontage of logic. I find in Craig the decency associated with an era I am too young to be nostalgic for, and which I’ve been taught to imagine was imperialistic, sexist, homophobic, narrow-minded, or otherwise regressive. His rationalizations of certain parts of the Hebrew Bible can sound like he’s okay with genocide. Yet none of these accusations quite sticks to him; none is even comprehensible in the cosmic snow-globe within which he expertly thinks his way through life, whose sole and constant storyline is bringing more and more souls to a saving knowledge of the one true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I live in a different snow-globe from Craig’s. Nevertheless, I’ve gained a lot from the lessons I learned with him, and from his carefully crafted advice, and from his answers to my questions. (“I may not answer, but you can ask!” he once warned.) They’ve improved my productivity, and my relationship with loved ones, and my physical fitness. It would be selfish if I did not pass some of these lessons on, in synthesized and practicable form, to you.

The article covers 7 points about Dr. Craig:

  1. Do Everything Like It’s a Ministry
  2. Make a Covenant with Your Wife
  3. Organize the Day
  4. Turn Weakness into Strength
  5. Be Prepared
  6. Remember That Time Is Everything—and Nothing
  7. Love God and Authority

And here’s one that I found fascinating, being single myself:

3. Organize the Day

There was a time, says Craig, when he began to worry he was losing his knack for philosophy. “Honey,” he remembers telling Jan, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I just can’t seem to concentrate anymore. I used to be able to study all day long, and there was no problem, and now I find I just can’t concentrate anymore. My mind wanders, and I’m tired.” He was tempted to despair.

“No, no, don’t be ridiculous!” she told him. “You just need to organize your day.”

As usual, she was right. She put him on a new schedule: starting the workday with the hardest philosophical work in the morning, then lighter material, like his writing for popular audiences, after lunch. He doesn’t look at his email until late afternoon, “when my brain is really fried.” (For fear of being bombarded with mail, he doesn’t even share his email address with his graduate students.) Soon after trying this regime, he regained his philosophical powers completely.

The couple’s life together, at home in the suburbs of Atlanta, is a picture of (a certain kind of) teamwork. Craig wakes up each morning at 5:30, and begins the day with devotional time, reading from the Church Fathers and the New Testament in Greek, and then he prays for the spread of the gospel in some benighted part of the world, with the help of the Operation World handbook. Soon, Jan is up. They have coffee together (which he dislikes, but recommends for the health and social benefits), after which he goes down to the weight room for an hour of exercise. By the time he reemerges, she has a hot breakfast ready and waiting—sometimes as elaborate, he says, as ham and eggs and pumpkin waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. (“She’s a fabulous cook.”) He’ll return downstairs for an intensive morning of scholarship, and reemerge for the hot lunch Jan has prepared. Then, he’s back downstairs for the lighter work of the afternoon, culminating in emails, which he responds to in longhand and she has often been the one to type out and send, since his rare neuromuscular disease—more on that in a moment—renders him unable to type. Between meals and typing sessions, Jan plays the stock market. Before long dinner is ready, and they eat, and spend the evening together, watching TV and drinking red wine (which he also dislikes, but also recommends for the health and social benefits).

“She’s not an intellectual herself,” Craig says of his wife, “but she appreciates the value of what I do, and that’s what matters.” One would hope that this is true, because she has typed out all of his papers, books, and both doctoral dissertations. Would that we all had such devoted help, though it may be untenable in the present economic climate for those scholars among us unable to garner five-figure speaking fees. We can at least hold off on our email for a few hours—which I have since done, to enormous benefit.

It’s very interesting to read this because it’s got lots of positive and negative points. On the one hand, he finds Dr. Craig’s conservative beliefs and exclusive positions difficult to accept. On the other hand, he has to admit that Dr. Craig really believes what he says he believes, and he’s very good at persuading others. He’s done his homework. I think the biggest problem that a person has with accepting Christianity is re-orienting the will. Another big problem is being willing to be disapproved of by non-Christians. Even if they can’t beat you, the pressure to compromise and please others makes many people shy away from Christianity.

This new profile of Dr. Craig is getting tons of likes and shares on Facebook, so give it a look. Be sure and share it on Facebook and tweet it, too.

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Walt Russell explains how to read the Bible effectively

Below I go over two posts written by Biola University New Testament professor Walt Russell. The material below is almost the same talk he gave for the Stand to Reason Masters Series in Christian Thought. His book on the subject of interpreting the Bible is called “Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul“. I highly recommend that you read the book, so you know how to read the Bible effectively. But these four articles will teach you most of what you need to know if you don’t want to buy the book.

Here is part one which talks about how postmodern relativism is at odds with discovering the original intent of an author.

Excerpt:

Twenty-four year-old “Janet” (not her real name) was angry at my emphasis on seeking to discover authors’ intentions when we read their texts. She was an evangelical Christian and a second grade teacher in a public school. She prided herself in helping her 20 students learn to love literature. She would read them a story as they gathered around her, and then ask each child, “What does the story mean to you?” She prodded them to come up with their own unique meanings. With such strong encouragement, the class of 20 would eventually have 20 different meanings for the one story. Janet sensed that I was a naysayer about such “love of literature.” Pouring a little emotional gasoline on the fire, I said, “Janet, you’re certainly doing your part to insure that these 7 year-olds will never recover from a radically relativistic view of meaning!” Now I had her full attention.

Here is part two which talks about the importance of knowing the genre of a text before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” — the newspaper headline virtually screams out at you. The thought of something being slain is repulsive. You’re gripped by a mental image of southern India’s Bengal tiger. You imagine its beautiful face, its stripes and piercing eyes. Then your image is shattered by the sudden blast of a high-powered rifle. You see the exquisite creature writhe in pain, fall gracelessly in its tracks and die. Having read no further than the headline, you feel sick, as if you’ve witnessed something tragic.

But should you feel this way? The slaughter of an endangered species — especially one as magnificent as the Bengal tiger — is horrifying, no doubt. But suppose you failed to notice that the headline “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS!” appeared in the sports page of the morning paper. Clearly enough, it now refers to different Indians, different Tigers and a different manner of slaying than you originally thought. And is it really that tragic that the Cleveland Indians badly beat the Detroit Tigers in a major league baseball game last night? Not unless you’re a long-suffering Detroit Tigers’ baseball fan. But how do you now know that the headline is about baseball and not tiger-slaying in India? You look at the words “INDIANS SLAY TIGERS” and you know exactly what each word means. When you combine these words, how can they not mean exactly what you first thought they did — that Indians slay tigers? Answer: because their meanings are communicated (as the meanings of all words are) through genres!

Here is part three which talks about the importance of reading the context of a verse before you try to interpret it.

Excerpt:

“Never Read a Bible Verse!” That’s the title of a little booklet my friend and Christian radio personality, Gregory Koukl, has written to help people read the Bible well. What great advice. “That’s right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read a paragraph — at least.” But the current is flowing the other way in our popular sound-bite culture. Not to be left out (or left behind!), the Church has its own version of sound-bite culture: verse-bite culture. In verse-bite culture we take a sentence or sentence-fragment from a biblical paragraph, memorize it out of context, write it on a little card, put it on a billboard, a plaque, a rock, etc. Somehow we think that just because this little chunk of Scripture has a verse number in front of it, it was meant to be a free-standing unit of thought. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Apart from the fact that chapter and verse divisions weren’t added to the New Testament text until 1560 — long after the New Testament’s inspired authorship — there is a more important reason for never reading just a Bible verse, and instead reading at least the paragraph that contains it.

Here is part four which talks about the importance of applying the words of the Bible to your life.

One verse that is often misinterpreted is missing from the articles, but present in the STR lecture. It’s Philippians 1:6 that says “6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. Russell says in the lecture that this promise is specifically intended for the church in Philippi, to whom Paul is writing, not necessarily to all Christians. He is giving them a promise just after directly referring to their good work in supporting him in his ministry. Some verses are just not meant for us, and the context reveals it.

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The Mysterious Drew lectures on Christianity and the culture war in Defenders

Drew’s blog is here. He taught Dr. William Lane Craig’s Defenders class for two weeks in a row while Dr. Craig was in Australia. He chose to focus on secularism.

Note: Drew has some problems with the microphone for the first 2.5 minutes of part 1. Be patient.

Part 1 deals with how Europe and America became secular in different ways. (You can read his essay for part 1 here)

Part 1 topics:

  • Secularism: the attempt to take values based on religion (e.g. – Judeo-Christian values) out of the public square
  • Television programs that are targeted to more thoughtful viewers favor secular or liberal worldviews
  • Consider the sexual revolution – a new set of beliefs about sex are being pushed into the culture
  • Sex revolution includes: same-sex marriage, pornography, hookup culture, no-fault divorce
  • The effect of the sexual revolution has been to introduce widespread fatherlessness, which is very bad for children
  • The sexual revolution is being pushed in the popular culture, but also in the school sexual education programs
  • You can see where secularism has led to by looking at Europe, which has largely rejected its Christian roots
  • For example, Germany and Sweden are very aggressive about stamping out homeschooling
  • They do this because they are trying to push a government-approved set of beliefs and meanings onto children
  • How bad could it get? You can look at how Orthodox Judaism was persecuted in Russia after the communist revolution
  • How did Europe become so secular?
  • Wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics caused people to think that theistic religion was bad
  • Secularists first attacked theism philosophically by trying to replace it with deism – the view that miracles do not occur
  • Secularists then pushed a radical empirism which attempted to reduce religious claims to meaningless irrationality
  • The Christian church responded by retreating from philosophical and theological claims and focusing on moral claims
  • That’s how Europe became secular, but how did America become secular?
  • America became secular because Christianity was transformed from a knowledge tradition to an emotional tradition
  • Pastors started to move away from presenting Christianity as true and instead presented it as emotionally fulfilling
  • Pastors emphasized personal experiences instead of philosophical theology and apologetics
  • European ideas arrived: deism, Darwinism, Bible criticism, etc.
  • Christianity responded to this by abandoning the centers of learning it had founded (universities) into pious isolation
  • As the universities became more secular, they turned out the next generation of influencers, including the media
  • This retreat from intellectual engagement was augmented by a fixation on end-times speculation (e.g. Left Behind)
  • (Drew talks to Jeremy, a philosophy student at Georgia State University, about whether Christianity is respected in his classes)
  • How politicians and the media used the Scopes Monkey Trial to marginalize Christianity as anti-science
  • The perception of Christians in the public square changed – they were viewed as ignorant, irrational and anti-science
  • Instead of causing Christians to work harder at science, they became even more fundamentalist, and less influential
  • Christians today are a tiny minority of influential groups, e.g. – scientists, media, etc.
  • In contrast, secular Jews, who tend to grow up in a culture that values learning, have a much greater influence
  • Even if Christians try to retreat to the country where they can homeschool, there is no hiding from the Internet
  • Which organizations are working against secularism today?
  • Example of what Christians can do: Plantinga’s refutation of the problem of evil
  • Example of what Christians can do: widespread use of ultrasound to move people to the pro-life view
  • Example of what Christians can do: Liberty University’s effort to produce Christians who can work in media
  • A story about William Lane Craig and a secular physicist who had lost her faith

People must have liked what they heard and saw in the first week, because he got a big turnout in the second week.

Part 2 deals with practical tips for engaging in the culture. (You can read his essay for part 2 here)

Topics in Part 2:

  • The real root cause of opposition to Christianity is from the sexual revolution
  • For example, moral relativism is so popular in the university, but it is almost entirely driven by sexual liberation
  • Evangelism and culture-shaping are not the same thing – each requires a different set of skills
  • Where do people get their information? Public school, news media, late night comedy shows, etc.
  • Two things for every Christian need to do: 1) Get informed, and 2) Get involved
  • First: you do not need to be smarter than average. Dr. Craig is a leading scholar because he studies 9 hours a day
  • Implying that people with influence are “smart” just provides us with an excuse not to try if we are not “smart”
  • Ordinary Christians need to be willing to give up fun more than they need to be naturally “smart”
  • Asks Cody: what about that Christian apologist who hung out mostly with internet atheists and then became one
  • Famous quantum chemist: you’re right, I am not much smarter than most people, I just work a lot harder at it
  • Drew: to get informed, you should follow good Christian blogs like Apologetics 315 and Wintery Knight
  • Drew knows Wintery Knight personally and WK is someone who knows apologetics but he also knows other things
  • WK connects the Christian worldview to lots different things, e.g. = marriage – he can find you the right people and books
  • (Drew holds up “What is Marriage?” book) This is the best book to argue the same-sex marriage issue
  • (Drew hold up “The Case for Life” book) This is the best book to argue the pro-life position
  • Slacktivism: don’t just send people links that you find on the Internet – read the articles and books and then talk about them
  • (Drew holds up the Lee Strobel “Case for” books) These are the best introductory books on basic Christian apologetics
  • Audio books are a great way for people to take in the information, and you can get them for free from the library
  • The Internet is not the best place for arguing about the things you learn – face to face conversations are much better
  • Biola’s apologetics certificate program is an excellent resource, and it’s all audio lectures so you just listen to them
  • You can get free apologetics audio from Apologetics 315 and Phil Fernandes
  • We also need to learn how to how to change the culture and how the other side changes the culture
  • To really make a difference, then a graduate degree might be for you – especially the M.A. in apologetics from Biola
  • The university is also very important – Christianity needs to be represented in the university
  • Influential people like Supreme Court justices come out of the university, which is why we need to be there
  • The Discovery Institute is doing the most to provide a credible rival to naturalistic science
  • They have a budget of $4 million dollars and they are punching way above their weight
  • If every evangelical sent them $20, they’d have a budget of $1.2 billion – what could they do with that?
  • (Drew puts a check for $20 for Discovery Institute in an envelope and seals it, to show how it’s done)
  • The Truth Project, which is put out by Focus on the Family – it’s another excellent training resource
  • When it comes to politics, focus on discussing policy issues, not on pushing particular candidates
  • If every evangelical Christian just pulled their own weight, it would make a big difference
  • It all starts by making the decision to take some leisure time to do things that really work

You can also find the list of recommended resources for both weeks here. This was the handout that he mentioned.

I could not agree with him more on his selections on the marriage debate and the abortion debate. I have bought at least a half-dozen of each of those for people. And I highly recommend getting the Strobel books on audio, especially the Case for a Creator. Love that book. Listen to it a bunch a times and you will start to talk like Lee Strobel.

I listened to all the Biola University lectures before they even had the certificate program, along with the Stand to Reason Masters Series in Christian Thought and about 60 Veritas Forum leture sets. Those things probably did the most for me in terms of turning me from engineer to apologetics-enabled engineer. It’s funny because what I do these days is listen to Apologetics 315 interviews and Phil Fernandes lectures. I was listening to the Fernandes lectures on Roman Catholicism that he mentioned on a recent long drive to visit my parents (Dina recommended them to me).

He mentions the Biola M.A. in apologetics, but I want to do the Biola M.A. in Science and Religion. That’s my “mid-life crisis” plan. A new roadster and the Biola M.A. in Science and Religion.

The point he made about giving money to the Discovery Institute is important. This week I am sending $300 to bring a scholar to a major university (total for this effort is $900) and another $300 for pro-life training and debates. Money matters. If you are going to college, study something that pays well and be generous. It’s one way to make a difference.

I think he’s right when he talks about everyone pulling their own weight. I spend about 2-3 hours a day reading and blogging. I donate a portion of my earnings to Christian scholars who study and/or speak at the university. I support Christian students who are doing degrees in philosophy, science and engineering. In church, I don’t do anything, because they don’t even know about me there, but I have a network of friends who are more sociable who do things in church, like organize lectures, debates and apologetics book studies.

I got started on this by putting in the time on some of the things he mentioned in part 2 of his talk. The basic things to do are reading introductory books on apologetics, especially the ones on philosophy of religion, historical Jesus and physical sciences. If you can’t read, then at least get hold of lectures from Biola University and listen to those, along with Lee Strobel audio books, Brian Auten interviews, Phil Fernandes lectures and William Lane Craig debates. Just put them in the car and listen, and soon you’ll be sounding just like them.

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