Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Do people go to Hell just because they don’t accept Jesus?

From J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me. (Link is now down, I can’t find it anywhere else)

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

Here’s a related answer from CARM. This one answers the question about degrees of punishment in Hell.

Excerpt:

Yes, there are different degrees of punishment in hell.

[...]But, not all people are equally bad.  Though all deserve damnation because all are sinners, different people have committed different degrees of sin.

  • Mt. 11:20-22, “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you…I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
  • Luke 12:47-48, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
  • John 19:11, “Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.’ ”
  • Heb. 10:29, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

So, if Jesus speaks of greater condemnation for Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11:21-22), one slave received more punishment than another (Luke 12:47-48), the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate has the greater sin (John 19:11), and a more severe punishment is reserved for those who trample underfoot the Son of God, then does not greater sin mean that greater punishment will also happen in hell?  Yes it does.

Not only are there degrees of punishment in Hell, but there are degrees of reward in Heaven, based on what you do on Earth and what strengths you start out with.

Philippians 4:10-18:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;

16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.

18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Everyone who believes in Jesus gets salvation, but your experience in Heaven will be different based on what you do while you are alive. And that’s also the answer to another common question – about deathbed conversions. Both deathbed converts and William Lane Craig will get the same experience of being in the presence of God, but there are completely different levels of reward. One person has an empty account, and the other person has huge massive amounts of virtuous action on deposit. But I think the real reason that Christians are trying to do good things here on Earth is that they like God, and they want to be his friend. They want to work on the relationship, even if it means a little self-denial, and a little sacrifice. We all have things that we would rather be doing for ourselves, but sometimes we have to things that work – things that are effective – for someone else. My values are not his values. Sometimes it is good to do something based on what He values. I don’t always have to get my way, because then it wouldn’t be a real relationship.

I enjoy thinking about Bible puzzles like this… so often in church we just make Christianity a checklist of things that we are supposed to believe somehow, by brute force willpower. I think reflecting on these problems, asking questions, and making sense of them on our own, is a much better approach.

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

Do people go to Hell just because they don’t accept Jesus?

From J. Warner Wallace at Please Convince Me.

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

Here’s a related answer from CARM. This one answers the question about degrees of punishment in Hell.

Excerpt:

Yes, there are different degrees of punishment in hell.

[...]But, not all people are equally bad.  Though all deserve damnation because all are sinners, different people have committed different degrees of sin.

  • Mt. 11:20-22, “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you…I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
  • Luke 12:47-48, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
  • John 19:11, “Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.’ ”
  • Heb. 10:29, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

So, if Jesus speaks of greater condemnation for Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11:21-22), one slave received more punishment than another (Luke 12:47-48), the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate has the greater sin (John 19:11), and a more severe punishment is reserved for those who trample underfoot the Son of God, then does not greater sin mean that greater punishment will also happen in hell?  Yes it does.

Not only are there degrees of punishment in Hell, but there are degrees of reward in Heaven, based on what you do on Earth and what strengths you start out with.

Philippians 4:10-18:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;

16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.

18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Everyone who believes in Jesus gets salvation, but your experience in Heaven will be different based on what you do while you are alive. And that’s also the answer to another common question – about deathbed conversions. Both deathbed converts and William Lane Craig will get the same experience of being in the presence of God, but there are completely different levels of reward. One person has an empty account, and the other person has huge massive amounts of virtuous action on deposit. But I think the real reason that Christians are trying to do good things here on Earth is that they like God, and they want to be his friend. They want to work on the relationship, even if it means a little self-denial, and a little sacrifice. We all have things that we would rather be doing for ourselves, but sometimes we have to things that work – things that are effective – for someone else. My values are not his values. Sometimes it is good to do something based on what He values. I don’t always have to get my way, because then it wouldn’t be a real relationship.

I enjoy thinking about Bible puzzles like this… so often in church we just make Christianity a checklist of things that we are supposed to believe somehow, by brute force willpower. I think reflecting on these problems, asking questions, and making sense of them on our own, is a much better approach.

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

Does a loving God send people Hell just because they don’t accept Jesus?

From Jim Wallace at Please Convince Me. (H/T The Poached Egg)

Excerpt:

A “just” God does justice, which means to punish or reward appropriately. In the Western tradition, we punish people for the actions they commit, but the extent of punishment is dependent also on the person’s mental state, and a person’s mental state is reflective of his or her beliefs. Premeditated murder is worse than manslaughter, and is punished more severely, and a hate crime is a sentencing enhancement that adds more punishment to the underlying crime. In both examples, a person’s beliefs are at play: the premeditated murderer has reflected on his choices and wants the victim dead; a hate crime reflects a belief that the rights of a member of the protected group are especially unworthy of respect. So, considering a person’s beliefs may well be relevant, especially if those beliefs have motivated the criminal behavior.

But the challenger’s mistake is even more fundamental. He is wrong to assert that people are condemned for not accepting the gospel. Christians believe that people are condemned for their sinful behavior – the “wages of sin is death” – not for what they fail to do. The quoted challenge is like saying that the sick man died of “not going to the doctor.” No, the person died of a specific condition – perhaps cancer or a heart attack – which a doctor might have been able to cure. So too with eternal punishment. No one is condemned for refusing to believe in Jesus. While Jesus can – and does – provide salvation for those who seek it, there is nothing unjust about not providing salvation to those who refuse to seek it. After all, we don’t normally feel obliged to help someone who has not asked for, and does not want, our assistance. So too the Creator has the right to withhold a gift – i.e. eternity spent in His presence – from those who would trample on the gift, and on the gift-giver.

The quoted assertion also demonstrates an unspoken belief that we can impress God with our “kind” or “generous” behavior. This fails to grasp what God is – a perfect being. We cannot impress Him. What we do right we should do. We don’t drag people into court and reward them for not committing crimes. This is expected of them. They can’t commit a murder and then claim that punishment is unfair, because they had been kind and generous in the past. When a person gets his mind around the idea of what perfection entails, trying to impress a perfect Creator with our “basic goodness” no longer seems like such a good option.

Here’s a related answer from CARM. This one answers the question about degrees of punishment in Hell.

Excerpt:

Yes, there are different degrees of punishment in hell.

[...]But, not all people are equally bad.  Though all deserve damnation because all are sinners, different people have committed different degrees of sin.

  • Mt. 11:20-22, “Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you…I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
  • Luke 12:47-48, “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
  • John 19:11, “Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.’ ”
  • Heb. 10:29, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

So, if Jesus speaks of greater condemnation for Chorazin and Bethsaida than Tyre and Sidon (Matt. 11:21-22), one slave received more punishment than another (Luke 12:47-48), the one who delivered Jesus to Pilate has the greater sin (John 19:11), and a more severe punishment is reserved for those who trample underfoot the Son of God, then does not greater sin mean that greater punishment will also happen in hell?  Yes it does.

Not only are there degrees of punishment in Hell, but there are degrees of reward in Heaven, based on what you do on Earth and what strengths you start out with.

Philippians 4:10-18:

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only;

16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.

17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.

18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Everyone who believes in Jesus gets salvation, but your experience in Heaven will be different based on what you do while you are alive. And that’s also the answer to another common question – about deathbed conversions. Both deathbed converts and William Lane Craig will get the same experience of being in the presence of God, but there are completely different levels of reward. One Christian has an empty account, and the other Christian has huge massive amounts of virtuous, self-sacrificial action on deposit. One has experienced following and imitating Jesus very little, and the other one a lot.

Having said that, I think the real reason that Christians are trying to do good things here on Earth is that they like God, and they want to be his friend. They want to work on the relationship, even if it means a little self-denial, and a little sacrifice. We all have things that we would rather be doing for ourselves, but sometimes we have to things that work – things that are effective – for someone else. My values are not his values. Sometimes it is good to do something based on what He values. I don’t always have to get my way, because then it wouldn’t be a real relationship.

I enjoy thinking about Bible puzzles like this… so often in church we just make Christianity a checklist of things that we are supposed to believe somehow, by brute force willpower. I think reflecting on these problems, asking questions, and making sense of them on our own, is a much better approach.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CNN debate: a liberal moderator and Democrat activists posing as undecided voters

Should you watch tonight’s debate, moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN?

Second presidential candidates’ debate between Obama, Romney

  • Topic: Foreign and domestic issues
  • Date: Tuesday, Oct. 16
  • Time: 9 – 10:30 p.m. EDT
  • Location: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
  • Moderator: Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent, CNN, and anchor, CNN’s “State of the Union”
  • Format: “The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.”

Here are three reasons why you should be cautious about it.

First, Candy Crowley is a leftist who has made comments critical of the Romney-Ryan ticket. Second, the format allows Candy Crowley to select all the questions for the two candidates. Third, the last time CNN did a townhall debate, they featured questions from well-known Democrat activists and lied to the audience saying that they were “undecided voters”. Let’s take a look at the evidence for each of these statements.

First, Candy Crowley. Is she a centrist?

Newsbusters explains:

As NewsBusters has been noting all Saturday morning, now that Paul Ryan has been chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate, the goal of the Obama-loving media is to rip him to shreds.

Doing her part Saturday was CNN’s Candy Crowley who claimed some Republicans (unnamed, of course) think this “looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish.”

[...]Transcript of Crowley’s remarks is below:

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: We’ve already had this debate. All they have to do at Obama Reelect is open up the files because this debate has already happened. They just bring it back, it goes, it is, you know, what they talk about. But I think the other thing that’s worth pointing out is not every Republican has signed on to this kind of, I mean, they will publicly. But there is some trepidation…

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: They’re afraid.

CROWLEY: …that this might be, looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish. That, oh, my gosh, do we really want to talk about these thing? Is this where we want to go when the economy is so bad? We could have stayed on that.

Second, what about the format of the debate. Who is choosing the questions?

Associated Press explains:

Town halls have lost some of their spontaneity. The 80 or so undecided voters chosen for Tuesday’s event must submit their questions in advance and moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will decide which people to call on. She can pose her own follow-up questions.

Third, there is the disturbing pattern of CNN stacking the town hall audience with well-known liberal activists and passing them off as “undecided voters”. That’s what CNN did in a previous debate they moderated, as Michelle Malkin explains.

Excerpt:

Flashback: CNN/YouTube/plant debacle.

Refresher:

  • Concerned Young Undecided Person “Journey” = John Edwards supporter “Journey”
  • Concerned Undecided Log Cabin Republican supporter David Cercone = Obama supporter David Cercone
  • Concerned Undecided Mom LeeAnn Anderson = Activist for the John Edwards-endorsing United Steelworkers union LeeAnn Anderson
  • Concerned Undecided Gay Military Retiree Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr = Hillary/Kerry supporter and anti-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” activist Keith H. Kerr

[...]If any more political plants turn up at CNN’s presidential debates, the cable-news network will have to merge with the Home and Garden channel.

At CNN’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas two weeks back, moderator Wolf Blitzer introduced several citizen questioners as “ordinary people, undecided voters.” But they later turned out to include a former Arkansas Democratic director of political affairs, the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada and a far left anti-war activist who’d been quoted in newspapers lambasting Harry Reid for his failure to pull out of Iraq.

Yet CNN failed to disclose those affiliations and activism during the broadcast.

Behold – the phony political foliage bloomed again at Wednesday night’s much hyped CNN/YouTube GOP debate.

Oh, CNN did make careful note that Grover Norquist (who asked about his anti-tax pledge) is a Republican activist with Americans for Tax Reform. But somehow the network’s layers and layers of fact-checkers missed several easily identified Democratic activists posing as ordinary, undecided citizens.

The tallest plant was a retired gay vet, one “Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr,” who questioned – or rather, lectured – the candidates on video and in person about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bans open gays from the military.

Funny. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was exactly the policy CNN adopted in not telling viewers that Kerr is a member of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual- Transgender Americans for Hillary.

Sen. Clinton’s campaign Web site features a press release announcing Kerr and other members of the committee in June. And a basic Web search turns up Kerr’s past support as a member of a veterans’ steering committee for the John Kerry for President campaign – and his prior appearance on CNN in December ’03.

CNN’s moderator, Anderson Cooper, singled out Kerr (who’d been flown in for the event) in the vast audience, giving him a chance for his own filibustering moment. Marvel at it: Not one CNN journalist uncovered the connection or thought it pertinent to disclose that Kerr’s heart belonged to Hillary.

When righty commentator Bill Bennett pointed out the facts to Cooper after the debate, a red-faced Cooper feebly blubbered: “That was something certainly unknown to us, and had we known that, would have been disclosed by us. It turns out we have just looked at it.”

Cluelessness doesn’t absolve CNN of journalistic malpractice. Neither does editing out Kerr’s question (as the network did on rebroadcast, to camouflage the potted plant).

The article is quite old, and it predates the revelation that Anderson Cooper is gay. Might that explain why so many gay activists were selected to ask questions at a townhall debate?

So should you watch the debate? I think not. But if you do, be aware that CNN is a leftist organization and they are not likely to do a good job of being impartial. They want Obama to win. The best debate so far was the first debate moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS.

By the way, in a recent Gallup/USA Today poll in swing (toss-up) states, Romney now leads Obama 51-46 among all voters, and is tied 48-48 among women voters. That’s what the madness of Joe Biden in his debate got Obama. Women hate a violent, disrespectful madman.

I’ll probably watch the debate, but I’ll watch it on Fox News Live, not CNN.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Rick Schenker, head of Ratio Christi, a pro-apologetics campus ministry

Rick Schenker president of Ratio Christi

Rick Schenker president of Ratio Christi

Here’s an interview with the founder of Ratio Christi, Rick Schenker.

About Rick:

Rick Schenker is president of Ratio Christi, a campus-based, Christian apologetics organization, which he joined in February, 2011. Rick has a visionary leadership style, and has experience in business, government, public and media relations, fundraising, and non-profit management. He has a bachelor’s degree in Bible from Central Bible College, and has done graduate work in public policy at Regent University, along with additional postgraduate work in leadership and public administration. Rick has extensive experience in grass-roots political organization and campaigns in the state of Pennsylvania. As the chief elected official of the County government in Erie, Pennsylvania, he oversaw 1,100 employees and a $300 million budget.

Excerpt:

TBS: Thank you for allowing us to interview you for TheBestSchools.org. Please give our readers an overview of Ratio Christi? What is it? How did it get started? What are its goals?

RSRatio Christi is a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. Ratio Christi (Latin for “The Reason of Christ”) is placing Christian apologetics clubs at universities both nationally and internationally. Bringing together faith and reason in order to establish the intellectual voice of Christ in the University, Ratio Christi is engaging in the battle for the mind of Christians and skeptics alike. We unashamedly defend the veracity of God, the Bible, and Christ’s resurrection. Ratio Christ started three and a half years ago as a ministry of Southern Evangelical Seminary and became an independent non-profit organization in early 2011. Since that time, Ratio Christi has developed strong partnerships with many other seminaries and organizations, focusing on Christian apologetics and worldview issues. By working together, we now have approximately 60 clubs in various stages of development in universities across the country and around the world.

TBS: Please give us a bit of background about yourself. What were some of the things you were doing before assuming the helm of Ratio Christi? How did the opportunity to head up Ratio Christi present itself?

RS: I am a grass-roots political organizer. I was an elected official, and decided to leave politics to pursue work within Christian ministry. Unfortunately, even though I had run a few nonprofits, and a government with a $300 million budget, I couldn’t find a job. Sometime in 2010, I was considering getting a master’s degree in apologetics, and ran into the Ratio Christi web site. It was a student-run ministry at Southern Evangelical Seminary. In politics, I had become used to spotting trends that could turn into mass movements. As soon as I saw Ratio Christi, I knew it was a mass movement waiting to happen. I called them up and asked them to let me run it. Based on our 500% growth in the last six months, it is apparent that this is something that was not only needed, but ready and waiting to happen in God’s timing.

Here’s more:

TBS: One of the striking claims you make on your web site is that “you are not building an organization, you are building a movement”? Could you please expand on what you see as the difference between the two? What would a Ratio Christi movement look like?

RS: First, Ratio Christi is not the movement. We are simply a grass-roots organization for a greater movement. A movement is usually something that grows beyond the efforts or abilities of the leaders involved in starting it. Ratio Christi is involved in a movement in which apologetics is sweeping through the culture. Because of the rapid growth of neo-atheism in the university, Christian students are under attack. When confronted with intellectual challenges to Christianity, many Christian college students will abandon their faith. You can’t blame them. If the faith of their parents is irrational, then it should be abandoned. In many cases, Christian students are ridiculed and openly humiliated by fellow students and sometimes faculty, for believing in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Then along comes some good apologetics training, and suddenly the students realize that their faith can stand up to intellectual scrutiny. They see that the scientific, historical, and philosophical evidence is on the side of Christianity. They get pumped up about that. The same is true for adults and high school students. Most people didn’t know there was so much evidence that supports the Christian worldview. Ratio Christi wants to help propogate the message that Christianity is not only good, it is true. We want to get the word out, organize cooperation with like-minded ministries, put people and resources in universities and communities, and generally help facilitate what we see as a broader work of God.

TBS: You also say on your web site that you are not in competition with other “full-service” campus ministries, because Ratio Christi is more narrowly focused on “the battle of ideas that permeates the university.” That seems like an admirable goal. But by placing so much emphasis on reasoned discourse, are you concerned at all that Ratio Christi may be raising the bar too high for a truly broad-based campus ministry? After all, you wouldn’t want it seem like undergraduates needed to be philosophy majors in order to participate effectively in their local Ratio Christi chapter, would you?

RS: We do exactly what we say. We go onto a campus to support other Christian ministries. A highly trained apologist is placed on a campus to meet weekly with a small group of students that want to go deeper into the study of the intellectual framework of the Christian faith. RC offers to do training for other student ministries and extends the offer to Christian faculty members. The bar is not too high; this is stuff high school students could and should be learning. Yes, it takes hard work, but loving God with all our mind is part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There is a full range of students involved, from those who have already studied these things deeply to those with no previous exposure. Atheists, agnostics, and those of other belief systems are encouraged to attend. This is a safe place where you can bring your questions. And we do encourage all students to get involved with other campus ministries that do more Bible studies, have worship services, and other fellowship opportunities. RC is simply there to help them deal with the tough questions. Does God exist? Doesn’t science disprove God? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? If God is good and all powerful, why is there evil and suffering? These are the hard questions, and that is what an apologist is trained to handle. Students love it. They love learning the critical-thinking skills necessary to analyze competing worldviews through logical discourse.

TBS: What has been your experience, so far, with the reception of your local Ratio Christi chapters on mainstream secular campuses? Has it been hard to get them recognized? Have there been any noteworthy cases of backlash against students on secular campuses for getting involved with their local Ratio Christi chapter?

RS: Actually it has been surprisingly easy. Since most universities are theoretically all about academic freedom, we approach it from this angle. They should welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues as long as it is done in a civil format. It helps that current case law supports the right of free association on campus. We have been blessed to have the expertise of the Alliance Defense Fund helping guide us in understanding the legal obligations that the universities are under. Since secular thought dominates most educational institutions, the backlash against Christianity is already there. We just try to even the playing field by giving a sound intellectual defense of the faith. Our arguments are appealing to those that are intellectually honest, so there is no need to back down in the face of opposition.

And more:

TBS: One of the most striking things you say on your web site is that you want to make your local Ratio Christi campus chapters welcoming to agnostics and atheists. We certainly see the point of trying to provide a structure for believers and nonbelievers to meet with each other and get to know each other as people, in a nonthreatening environment. But we wonder, given the tensions that exist on college campuses and in American culture generally today, how much success you’ve had so far in this endeavor. Have the chapters had much luck in really engaging with agnostic and atheist students in a constructive way? If not, do you have any thoughts about how you might achieve a better result with this distinctive and important dimension of your work?

RS: Actually, it is fairly normal for our chapters to engage with agnostic and atheist individuals, both in the meetings and around the campus. There has also been a lot of interaction with skeptic/atheist groups, such as co-sponsoring events or setting up discussion forums. Clubs representing other world religions have also been interested in engaging in discussion with our clubs. These interactions are very civil discussions, and our apologists teach Christian students to follow the advice of I Peter 3:15–16, to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” It is easier to do this with gentleness and respect when you are confident in your answers. We have found the reception to a reasoned approach to faith to be quite positive. On the other hand, there are many students among the neo-atheists that have picked up on the tactics of Dawkins and others by practicing a lot of ad hominem arguments against Christians. This is usually some kind of generalized attack like “All Christians are stupid because of X,” but the majority of the discourse on campus is usually quite civil.

Reading this interview was a real encouragement to me. I was very excited by what they are doing on these campuses.

I was in IVCF as an undergraduate and Campus Crusade as a graduate student, and we never did anything with apologetics. Not one thing in six years! They actually blocked every suggestion that the other students and I had to bring in speakers, show debate and lecture DVDs, and organize debates. I didn’t learn one useful thing in 6 years. Everything was always about people sharing their feelings, prayer walks and testimonies. And lots of singing. I know that other IVCF and Crusade groups are different, because I know that some of them do support apologetics, but the ones I attended were really dead set against apologetics.

If any of you are thinking about getting me a Christmas gift because you like the blog, just make a donation to Ratio Christi. Any amount would be great. They take PayPal! (At least – they took my donation through PayPal)

In case you are wondering what they do, here is a sample debate, featuring William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley:

That debate took place at the University of North Carolina.

You can watch another full debate they did (William Lane Craig vs Lawrence Krauss) with this Youtube playlist. That one occurred at North Carolina State University.

Here’s my snarky summary of that debate, in case you don’t want to watch it. The audio is not the best.

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