Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Six things you have to believe to be a Christian

Here is the article on the Stand to Reason web site, written by Greg Koukl.

Excerpt:

The six essential doctrines would be: the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, man’s fallenness and guilt, salvation by grace through faith by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah. And you have a seventh doctrine that strikes me as a functional necessity, that is the ultimate authority of Scripture without which none of the other truths can be affirmed or asserted with confidence.

By the way, it’s really important that people know these doctrines because many Christians are quite kind-hearted and they end up not being very careful about drawing distinctions between truth and falsity because they don’t want to disagree. I understand that. But if you were really kind-hearted then you would be honest and straight-forward with people about the demands of the gospel on their lives. The demand of the gospel is that you believe particular things to be true. It’s not just a matter of mere belief, as if these are just some incidental details of theology that you might happen to be mistaken about. And if you just happen to be mistaken, why should you go to hell because of that?

You don’t go to hell because you just happen to mistake a doctrine. You go to hell because you have broken God’s law. It is very critical to understand that. God only judges guilty people. People get judged by God not because they mess up on their theology but because they are guilty. People who are guilty get condemned. That’s it. There is a way to get around that but you’ve to know a couple of particular things that are true before you can take advantage of the forgiveness God offers. That’s where the essential doctrines come in.

He’s writing from a Calvinist perspective, which I don’t entirely agree with. But I don’t see anything wrong in that minimal list. Sometimes, it’s a good thing for us to focus on the essentials. There are lots of Christian denominations, and they disagree on many minor things, but on the major things, they are in agreement. And that’s a good thing, too.

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Book review of the book “Contending with Christianity’s Critics”

Apologetics 315 posted a review of the book “Contending with Christianity’s Critics“, which I discussed in posts earlier today. I wanted to excerpt a few chapter summaries for chapters that you may not find in any other apologetics book.

Here they are:

Part 3, The Coherence of Christian Doctrine, begins with chapter thirteen: “The Coherence of Theism” by Charles Taliaferro and Elsa J. Marty. Here the authors seek to defend the coherence of the concept of God. They address six attributes: “necessary existence, incorporeality, essential goodness, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternity.”(26) They point out: “The attributes of God are therefore not a patchwork of arbitrary characteristics. Each one is, rather, interconnected, and together they form a coherent whole. Appreciating this helps one avoid the more crude depiction of God one finds in Dawkins’s work.”(27)

Chapter fourteen: “Is the Trinity a Logical Blunder? God as Three and One” by Paul Copan covers the concept and difficulties of the Trinity. Copan discusses some common problems to avoid in our understanding of the trinity: overemphasizing threeness, overemphasizing oneness, rejecting equality.(28) He then lays out six considerations that will make the understanding the trinity clearer. Finally, Copan shows the philosophical and practical relevance of the Trinity.

Chapter fifteen: “Did God Become a Jew? A Defense of the Incarnation” by Paul Copan aims “to show that the incarnation, though a mystery, is a coherent one.” Copan’s task: “(1) briefly review the scriptural affirmations of Jesus’ humanity and divinity, (2) highlight three important distinctions to help us understand the incarnation, and (3) examine the question of Jesus’ temptation in light of His divinity.”(29)

Chapter sixteen is entitled: “Dostoyevsky, Woody Allen, and the Doctrine of Penal Substitution” by Steve L. Porter. The title refers to the two contrasting characters in the works of these men, as Porter explains:

The difference between these two stories [Crime and Punishment and Crimes and Misdemeanors] is extremely relevant when it comes to the doctrine of penal substitution, for it seems that most of the contemporary objections to the view that Christ suffered the punitive consequences of human sin on behalf of sinners are fueled by the fact that we in the West find ourselves more in the world of Dr. Rosenthal than Raskolnikov. The doctrine of penal substitution does not make sense to many of us because, unlike Raskolnikov, punishment in general no longer makes sense to us.(30)

Porter describes the goal of his essay “the first goal … is to clarify and defend the plausibility of the moral framework required to ground penal substitution.” … “the second goal … is to offer an argument that penal substitution is the best explanation of why Christ voluntarily went to His death.”(31) Porter sheds light on the misconceptions of our understanding of punishment, while pointing out the coherence of the doctrine as it relates to the Biblical narrative as a whole.

Chapter seventeen: “Hell: Getting What’s Good My Own Way” by Stewart Goetz was the most challenging for this reviewer. Not because of the difficulty of the concept so much as the angle the author takes in exploring it. Goetz discusses the doctrine of hell and the particular philosophical issues that it raises He asks questions about how hell relates to the good, free will, and choices. For Goetz, “heaven and hell must ultimately be understood in terms of how a person chooses to live his life in pursuit of what is good.”(32)The author raises and explores important questions – but his responses could have been presented with more clarity.

The book ends with chapter eighteen: “What Does God Know? The Problems of Open Theism” by David P. Hunt. While not addressed to atheists or non-Christians, this chapter does deal with the significant issue of the Open Theism view. This is the view that God does not have complete knowledge of the future. Hunt provides an overview of what Openists teach, followed by a critical response and survey of the scriptural data.

I think these chapters are a little off the beaten path of apologetics books, which is why you should get this book. Philosophical theology is an important part of your apologetics toolkit.

If you’re looking for an even more scholarly take on some of these doctrinal and theological issues, then look no further than the recently published Oxford University Press book “Debating Christian Theism“. The book features two scholarly points of view for about twenty or so issues related to Christianity. The topics range from science to philosophy to history to theology.

This is a great book to put on your desk at work for three reasons. First, it is published by Oxford University Press, and that right there has a prestige factor that will defuse the arrogant attitude that so many non-theists have from their vast experience of reading Dan Brown novels and watching the Discovery channel. Second, it features world-class scholars for each of the twenty or so topics under debate, so you can show that these issues are debated by people at the highest levels. Third, the book doesn’t mark you out as being a Christian, so you can just feign neutrality when the tolerance and diversity police come by to tell you that they have to fire you for having different views than they do. This is the book that you need to put on your desk to get the debate started (or not) depending on who happens to ask about it.

Now, if these books look to be a bit too complicated, then I recommend this easy-to-understand introduction to Christian apologetics entitled “Is God Just a Human Invention?“. That book is suitable for anyone who finished high school. It’s my favorite book to buy for beginners to apologetics. Even simpler than the Lee Strobel books, if you can believe that.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jerry Walls lectures on the main problem with Calvinist theology

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Greg Koukl: six things you have to believe to be a Christian

Here is the article on the Stand to Reason web site describing essential Christian beliefs.

Excerpt:

The six essential doctrines would be: the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, man’s fallenness and guilt, salvation by grace through faith by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah. And you have a seventh doctrine that strikes me as a functional necessity, that is the ultimate authority of Scripture without which none of the other truths can be affirmed or asserted with confidence.

By the way, it’s really important that people know these doctrines because many Christians are quite kind-hearted and they end up not being very careful about drawing distinctions between truth and falsity because they don’t want to disagree. I understand that. But if you were really kind-hearted then you would be honest and straight-forward with people about the demands of the gospel on their lives. The demand of the gospel is that you believe particular things to be true. It’s not just a matter of mere belief, as if these are just some incidental details of theology that you might happen to be mistaken about. And if you just happen to be mistaken, why should you go to hell because of that?

You don’t go to hell because you just happen to mistake a doctrine. You go to hell because you have broken God’s law. It is very critical to understand that. God only judges guilty people. People get judged by God not because they mess up on their theology but because they are guilty. People who are guilty get condemned. That’s it. There is a way to get around that but you’ve to know a couple of particular things that are true before you can take advantage of the forgiveness God offers. That’s where the essential doctrines come in.

I think it’s a good thing to go back and refresh ourselves on the basics of the gospel once in a while, and this article does a pretty good job of doing that in a basic, understandable way. I’m posting this for some of the non-Christians I know who ask me questions like this rather than apologetics questions. Sometimes people just want to ask what I believe, and not how I know what I believe. Well, this is what I believe.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jerry Walls lectures on objections to 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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