Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Seven things that Christians should know about Paul

This is a great post by Eric Chabot over at Think Apologetics.

His list:

  1. Paul was educated
  2. Paul as an active persecutor
  3. Paul’s Antagonism Towards the Early Messianic Movement
  4. Paul’s Encounter with the Risen Messiah
  5. Paul’s Letters: Primary and Secondary Sources
  6. Paul’s use of oral tradition terminology
  7. Why do Paul’s Letters Matter?

I think everyone is going to look at 4 and 6 and immediately think of the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. So I’m going to pick out #2, which mentioned in Galatians, since I was just reading that and making notes.

Here’s what Eric says:

 2. Paul as an active persecutor

The language Paul uses in his pre-revelatory encounter with the risen Lord shows how antagonistic he was towards the messianic movement. In Gal. 1:13-15, Paul uses terms such as “persecute” and “destroy” to describe his efforts to put and end to the spread of the early faith.  We see here:

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (Acts 8: 1-3).

Furthermore, Luke summarizes Paul’s persecution of the early Messianic community.

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.  And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:10-11).

This makes his conversion inexplicable – unless he really got the personal appearance from Jesus that he claimed to have received. His status as persecutor of the church and then leader of the church is not denied – even by skeptical historians. The practical application of this for us is to never count out someone on the other side. The person who is the most antagonistic can make the biggest contribution.

Paul is awesome. If you doubt me, just read Ephesians 5. God used this man mightily to tell us amazing things about himself. Don’t miss out!

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , ,

Nick Peters wants to see the church focus more on apologetics

This post by Nick Peters is a very passionate argument that the church needs to re-order its priorities.

Excerpt:

Readers of this blog probably know by now that I quite like the church that Allie and I have found. I get a sermon that is intellectually satisfying while touching the heart as well. I wish I could say that this was the norm when it came to churches, but alas, I cannot. Too many churches have the congregations just getting some pablum so they can go home and at the end of the day feel good about themselves.

Christians. Take a look at the culture around you. Does it look like we’re really making an impact? Does it look like the church is being salt and light in this world?

If not, then why should we go to church and feel good about ourselves? If we are not obeying the Great Commmission, then we should be looking at ourselves with shame.

I have in fact reached the point where I want to go up to pastors and say to them “Please tell me why I should believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” There are two answers that are unacceptable for this one. Now there could be variants on how these answers are said but the answers are still the same.

“The Holy Spirit tells me that Jesus rose from the dead.”

“The Inerrant Word of God says Jesus rose from the dead.”

What’s the problem with both of these? In the long run, they both beg the question. You say the Holy Spirit tells you this? Fine. The Holy Spirit also apparently tells Mormons that the Book of Mormon is from God and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet. Do you believe that? Why should I think what you’re experiencing is the Holy Spirit and not something else? You could say “Well if you experience it, you know who it is.” Don’t you think the Mormons would say the exact same thing?

What about the latter? Now I do hold to inerrancy, but I hold to inerrancy as a conclusion and not a presupposition. You want to claim your holy book is the final authority. Fine. Muslims do the exact same thing. Why is it that I should believe what you say about your holy book but I should not believe what the Muslims say about theirs?

If all you have is your own subjective viewpoint for defending the resurrection, you will not last when opposition comes your way. When I meet pastors like this now I have a simple wish to make of them. “Get out of the pulpit. We’re in a war and we don’t need people like you dragging us down. Give your office to someone who deserves it.”

[...]The problem is not that the church cannot win battles. The problem is that the church rarely shows up.

I have too often seen churches deny the need for apologetics training. I will go to churches regularly and offer them to come and work with them. It will be of no charge to them whatsoever! I would be delighted just to teach. 99% of the time the answer is that they don’t really need something like that. I always leave a church like that realizing the pastor is just deluding himself. As one of my mentors once told me “The pastor will call you back when his son comes home from college and announces he’s abandoned his faith.”

When we encounter those who abandon their faith, it is normally for foolish reasons. Also, it can be because too much emphasis was placed on a secondary doctrine instead of a primary, the resurrection of Jesus. The two biggest offenders in this category are young-earth creationism and inerrancy. In both cases, when someone finds a reason why these are called into question and they no longer believe them, everything else crumbles like a house of cards. If inerrancy or young-earth creationism are made the foundation for the Christian faith, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

I used to belong to a church that preached the gospel, but didn’t emphasize apologetics much. I thought that the preaching was good, but I got the impression that the sermons were not really geared towards helping Christians to make a case God’s existence or the resurrection of Jesus. They sort of assumed that the Bible was true and just quoted it in lieu of arguments and evidence. It was considered very pious to “argue” in this way – although strangely, they never argued from the Bible in any other area of knowledge. I think this “assume the Bible is inerrant” approach works great when evangelizing conservative Christians, but not so great on anyone else. You could attend that church your whole life and never know the first thing about how to defend Christianity to a non-believer. Even though this is exactly what the early Christians did, as Triablogue noted earlier this week. Anyone who is interested in knowing why the churches are like this should read Eric Chabot’s post on why churches don’t teach apologetics.

Filed under: Commentary, , , ,

Apologetics 315 interviews Dr. Phil Fernandes on apologetic preaching

On SermonAudio.com, I found some excellent lectures from Dr. Phil Fernandes. I find it it very easy to listen to this guy. And here’s Brian Auten to interview him on apologetic preaching – the inclusion of apologetics in regular Sunday preaching.

The MP3 file is here.

Description:

Today’s interview is with Phil Fernandes, president of the Institute of Biblical Defense, and the pastor of Trinity Bible Fellowship in Silverdale, Washington. He talks about apologetic preaching, how to incorporate apologetics training into the local church, evangelism, common objections to apologetics, encouragement and advice to pastors, audio/video resources, and more.

Phil’s books include:

This interview is awesome, especially in the second half. Here’s a sample: “It’s not my job as a pastor to meet people’s felt needs”. Awesomeness.

I like this Dr. Phil. He’s very very practical and his preaching is informed by encounters with people who disagree with him. Sometimes I get the idea that pastors aren’t really talking to people outside their church, but not this guy. He’s grounded.

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

Jerry Walls lectures on objections to Reformed theology (Calvinism)

WARNING: This lecture is a very sharp and pointed critique of Calvinist theology. Viewer discretion is advised. 

In Protestant Christianity, there is a division between people who accept Calvinist doctrines and those who don’t. Both groups think that the other group are genuine Christians, but the debate has more to do with the human free will, human responsibility and who God loves.

About Dr. Jerry Walls:

  • BA in Religion and Philosophy, Houghton College
  • MDiv, Princeton Seminary
  • STM, Yale Divinity School
  • PhD in Philosophy, Notre Dame

He is a professor at Houston Baptist University. You can find a more detailed profile here.

Dr. Walls is Protestant (like me). He is a substance dualist (like me). And he believes in a real eternal Hell (like me). And he is very, very assertive. Definitely no confidence problems here. And you’re not going to have a problem keeping your attention on this lecture!

Note that I do not agree with or endorse Dr. Walls on all of his views.

Here’s the lecture: (64 minutes)

The MP3 file is here.

Summary:

  • What are the main doctrines of Calvinism? (TULIP)
  • A look at the Westminster Confession
  • The nature of freedom and free will
  • Calvinist doctrine of freedom: compatibilism
  • The implications of compatibilism
  • Who determines what each person will desire on Calvinism?
  • Who does God love on Calvinism?
  • The law of non-contradiction
  • Does God make a genuine offer of salvation to all people on Calvinism?
  • Does God love “the elect” differently than the “non-elect” on Calvinism?

He quotes at least a half-dozen Calvinist theologians in this lecture, including John Piper, J.I. Packer and D.A. Carson. And he also mentions 3 videos at the end of the lecture where he goes over specific Bible verses that seem to support Calvinism (part 4, part 5, part 6 are the ones he mentioned).

This lecture is very strong stuff, and I think that he could have been nicer when presenting it, but he hit on every single objection that I have to Calvinism, and he worked through my reasoning too! So I really liked that he validated all of my concerns about Calvinism. I’m not as bothered about the problems with Calvinism as he is, though. I don’t think it’s a big divisive issue. I almost always read Calvinist theologians when I am reading theology. I just conjoin Calvinism with middle knowledge and resistible grace, and it’s fine. Calvinists are some of the best theologians, they are just wrong on the things he discusses in his lecture.

You may also be interested in these debates on salvation between a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

William Lane Craig’s Defenders class now live-streamed every Sunday at 11:30 AM Eastern

I saw this post up on Pastor Matt’s blog.

He writes:

William Lane Craig’s ministry has been grace upon grace to me.  He is one of the apologists whose work saved my faith from the relativistic emergent church fog in which I wandered for several years as a young Christian (you can more about that here).

However, it is not just Dr. Craig’s books and debates that have blessed my Christian life and ministry but his podcasts are also outstanding.  I subscribe to both his Reasonable Faith and Defenders podcast.  The former is conversational in style and often features Dr. Craig answering the questions of both believers and skeptics alike.  The latter is a regular Sunday school class Dr. Craig teaches on theology and apologetics.

Now the Defenders class is going to be live streamed from the church he attends every Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. EST.  You can watch here.  The time may be bad for many of you on the east coast (I’ll be preaching tomorrow at that time) but perfect for those in Europe and the west coast.  Also, you can watch or listen to archived classes at Reasonable Faith.

There was a recent episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast in which Kevin Harris and William Lane Craig talked about the live-streaming of the Defenders class.

Details:

Every church should have a class like this! Dr. Craig’s ‘Defenders’ class gets to the meat of the Christian life and worldview. Now, there’s breaking news concerning the class!

Here’s a snip from the transcript that explains what Defenders is all about:

Dr. Craig: We believe strongly that every Christian believer needs to be exercising his spiritual gifts in the context of the local church. There are no lone rangers in Christianity. We are part of a local body. God has gifted the church in ways that we serve and help one another. So, having a gift in the area of teaching, it would be natural for me to teach an adult Sunday School class. I thought, “Well, what might I teach on?” I didn’t want to teach a course on straight apologetics. I think that would be spiritually unhealthy, just week after week to be dealing with apologetic arguments.

Kevin Harris: Why?

Dr. Craig: Because they would not be getting any biblical input or knowledge.

Kevin Harris: You mean directly from the Scriptures?

Dr. Craig: Exactly. There would not be biblical input and teaching. So it seemed to me that it would be better for my students if I were to teach a survey of Christian doctrine. What I discovered during my doctoral studies in Germany is that when you do a survey of the body of Christian doctrine there simply naturally arises at various points along the way issues of apologetic significance that can then be addressed in passing. So, for example, if you are talking about the Doctrine of God, naturally the question will arise, “What reason is there to believe that God exists?” So you can do a sort of excursus on arguments for the existence of God. Or if you are doing Doctrine of Creation, the question will naturally arise, “How does the Christian doctrine of creation comport with what contemporary biology tells us about the evolution of biological complexity on earth?” So that will be an area, again, that you will want to address with a view toward producing what I call a synoptic Christian theology; that is to say, a theology which is integrated with the best knowledge that secular disciplines have to tell us about the world. An integrated worldview that gives a Christian perspective on science, on the arts, on literature, on history, and so forth.

So based upon my studies in Germany, I developed this survey of the whole body of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology, starting with the Doctrine of Revelation (that is to say, how does God reveal himself to us) going right up through the Doctrine of the Last Things (that is to say, the return of Christ and the final state of man into eternity), and then in between the rest of basic Christian doctrine.

Kevin Harris: You’ve done a series on the Doctrine of the Trinity, the Doctrine of Christ, fascinating things. Probably one of the more popular ones you did was a whole series (12 to 15 sessions) of Creation and Evolution.

Dr. Craig: Yes, that was an excursus under the Doctrine of Creation. Having given a theological understanding of creation, then how does that integrate with what we learn about the created biosphere from science?

Kevin Harris: Just a personal aside, the times that I’ve been in the class, it is really fun because these are the people who don’t realize that you are “The WLC,” they just know you as the carpenter’s son who lives among them. [laughter] You are just Bill! But some do come to the class and seek you out because of your work, but then you’ve got a bunch of other people who . . .

Dr. Craig: What has happened, Kevin, is initially I just started teaching this adult Sunday School class, and we just had a handful of folks who would come. People who were interested in learning about Christian doctrine. But as Reasonable Faith developed, we began to record these classes and then to put them on the website so that they could be available as podcasts. That has been a great joy to see how people from all around the world are accessing these podcasts and listening to them.

Kevin Harris: Your class asks questions. You pass the microphone around so the questions could be heard.

Dr. Craig: That’s right. One of the things that we do in the class is provide ample time for discussion. We don’t have any schedule to get through. Whether we cover a lot of material in a lesson, or just a little bit of material, doesn’t matter because we just continue the next Sunday wherever we happen to leave off. So the pace at which we move will be very much dictated by the people in the class and the questions that they have.

One of the things that we do in the Defenders class is to encourage open exploration and questioning. So when I cover a subject, I will typically give a range of views that are present in Christian theology, very often associated with particular Christian confessions. For example, I’ll say, “Here is what Catholics believe about this doctrine. Here is the Lutheran perspective. Here is what Reformed theologians say. Here is what Baptist or Methodist theologians believe.” And we look at a range of options, and then give some word of assessment about them. I think folks appreciate not being put into a cage, but presented with a range of options and then being allowed to decide for themselves which one best represents the most coherent and biblically faithful view of the subject that we are discussing.

Kevin Harris: These podcasts of the Defenders class appear at ReasonableFaith.org every Monday. So people look forward to that time when they go on, along with the new Reasonable Faith podcast. So you get Defenders and the Reasonable Faith podcasts.

You can click here to listen to it. (20 minutes)

I like his survey of opinions approach. The best sermon I ever heard was on ordinances and sacraments, and the pastor did a survey of the different views and what reasons they had to hold it. My ears perked up – you never hear anything like that in church, usually. But in the Defenders class, you hear it every week.

Now the lady I am mentoring most listens to this podcast – she is listening fro the beginning because they are all online now. She is getting better at apologetics every day, and I suspect that the Defenders class has a lot to do with that. She is listening to the 20 podcasts from Series 1 of the Defenders podcast. They are now on Series 2. If you like your theology done with philosophical and historical rigor, you’ll find it here – this is theology you can talk to a non-Christian about.

I’m sure that some people who read my blog think that church is boring, impractical and irrelevant to the real work of being a Christian.  I have sympathy with you, because I used to be you – until my friend Dina encouraged me to attend church more regularly, and made me a cross-stitch (it took her a LONG time to make!) that I couldn’t refuse. Now I try to attend church and I do believe that it adds value to what I do as a Christian operator and agent, although my church does not know who I am and they do not use any of my skills. I think some of you were just like I used to be, and have had nothing but bad experiences in the church. I am not minimizing the bad experiences that serious people have in unserious churches, but eventually I do want you to go to a good church and learn something and share what you know with others. But if you still cannot bring yourself to go to church YET, then consider that this Defenders class is the corrective to the bad experiences you have had in church. You are not going to find any anti-intellectualism, feminization, postmodernism, moral relativism, etc. in this class. You will actually learn something useful in this class. Every week you are going to take home something useful that makes you better at know who God is and how to act on that knowledge in practical ways. Take a look and see for yourself what goes on!

Finally, here is a list with links to all my favorite podcasts.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , ,

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