Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

When speaking to non-Christians, do you use any of these Christianese terms?

I found this article by J. Warner Wallace and thought it was appropriate because it’s Easter, and there are always questions.

First, the list of Christianese: (not his term)

  • #1. “God has put you (or something) on my heart. / God told me.”
  • #2. “Be ‘born again.’ / Have a spiritual rebirth.”
  • #3. “You need to come to repentance. / Experience a conversion.”
  • #4. “Deal with your sin.”
  • #5. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”
  • #6. “Make Jesus the Lord of your life.”
  • #7. “Have faith.”
  • #8. “Be saved.”
  • #9. “Be washed by the blood of the Lamb.”
  • #10. “Be Sanctified.”
  • Bonus Expression #11. “Enjoy fellowship.”

This article is pretty funny, but it ought to be because I think we really need to shame church Christians when they talk like this.

Here’s the one I liked best:

#5. “Invite Jesus into your heart.”
You mean like a boyfriend? What exactly does that mean to have “Jesus in my heart?” I’m not an emotional kind of guy, so please don’t ask me to sing songs or hold hands with Jesus, especially in public. Do I have to emasculate myself to become a Christian? If so, thanks for reminding me why I’m not a Christian.

Try this instead: “When we admit our imperfections, believe Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our mistakes, and accept His sacrifice, we can start a new relationship with God.”

Indeed. It’s a wonder that any rough and tough men become Christians after what they find in church.

I think that a lot of Christians struggle with explaining “sin” to non-Christians, but I have an approach that works for me. I just ask them how much effort they have put into looking for the evidence for and against God. How much effort into cosmology, especially. How much into the origin of life. How much into the fine-tuning. Usually, the answer is “I watched every episode of Star Trek” or “I watched a documentary on the Pyramids on the Discovery Channel”. I try to show them that God has left fingerprints in the natural world, and by avoiding that evidence they are, in fact, avoiding God. Keeping him at arm’s length by dancing away from the evidence and focusing instead on having good feelings. Collecting stuff. Having thrills and adventures. Making people like them. Etc. I call this refusal to try to seek God and adjust to him “sin”. It’s rebellion against the obligation to know God. And to know God is to love God. And to love God is to make decisions that reflect his character, even when it’s difficult.

Wallace concludes:

I understand the importance of our theologically rich Christian language, and as a Christian I often use similar words when talking with Christians. But when I’m talking with unbelievers, I try to think about how I used to hear and interpret these words before I became a Christian. How do I share what I believe? I take the time to translate important Christian concepts for those who might be willing to entertain the ideas if only I was willing to speak their language.

I think that there is a real need for churches to train Christians in how to bring up topics that are of interest to Christians in public. The approach I’ve always taken is to have a broad worldview, including areas like economics and policy, so that I wouldn’t just sit there silent while other people are talking. I can ease into discussing spiritual things much more easily because I can start the conversation from politics, economics and current events. You have to show that you have knowledge in real-world areas before anyone will listen to you about other things. That’s my approach anyway. You really have to establish your credentials before you start to speak about spiritual things.

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

Pastor hires two prostitutes and takes them to a hotel room – what happens next?

This post has some mature subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.

This story is from Christian Today.

Here’s the setup:

Last weekend I hired some prostitutes for the first time in my life – two young ladies for the whole night.

Because I’m a preacher and didn’t want people to know what I was doing, I asked a trusted friend, Cossette, to hire these women and bring them to a hotel where I would join them. I also didn’t want an absurdly inflated price because of being white, so she could hopefully negotiate ahead of time a more reasonable fee. Neither of us really knew how these things worked, and we were both a little nervous. What on earth is the going rate? Would anyone spot us?

If I were exposed, caught with them, then my whole credibility and reputation would be destroyed in this country where I’ve invested 16 years…

Cossette and I had our plan lined up. She met them in Bwiza, a few miles away, and brought them over by taxi to our part of town, Kinindo – as far as I know, prostitutes don’t operate in our more respectable suburb. She called me when they had arrived and checked in at the hotel nearby, and after reading bedtime stories and putting my kids to bed I went down to meet them.

I joined them at the table in the restaurant. They were fashionably dressed and wore lots of make-up. One was on the skinny side, the other more chunky, both pretty. They were definitely nervous but were trying hard to look relaxed. Divine and Arlette, 21 and 22 years old respectively.

Their mechanical smiles broke my heart. I sat down and introduced myself. I told them how I wanted them to have the night off. They could order whatever they wanted, enjoy a hot shower, and then have a night of deep rest. The only rule was not to solicit any of the hotel guests. I would be back in the morning to pay them, and after breakfast together, they could go.

I lay in bed that night next to my wife and couldn’t stop thinking about Divine and Arlette, and of the thousands of women within a few miles of us who right at that moment would be enduring some random customer having sex with them. I hate the sex trade with a passion, in no small part because I have a mother, a sister, a wife, a daughter, and each one of them would probably have ended up doing the same thing had they been dealt the same hand in life as Divine and Arlette, and countless others.

Morning came and we met over breakfast. I’d kept the previous night’s conversation short because they would obviously have found it totally weird and been full of distrust. But at least now their guards were somewhat down. I didn’t want to probe too much, and told them they didn’t have to answer any of my questions if they didn’t want to. I said I thought that as little girls they didn’t dream that one day they’d grow up to be prostitutes. Sometimes terrible things happen in life, and you’re forced into difficult choices. But maybe things could change – if they wanted to.

Read the whole thing, because my comments have spoilers!

This part deserves a comment:

I asked them what their dreams were. They said they wanted to run a small business, or maybe go into marketing. I told them we had prayed that God would lead Cossette to the right ladies to help. Of the thousands of prostitutes out there, she’d come across the two of them. Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe God was in it. I imagined out loud how, if they made good choices from now on, that in ten years – who knows – they could be running a healthy business at the market, happily married with a few kids. Divine’s eyes lit up at the thought. Dared she believe…?

I think it’s an excellent idea to listen to the stories of people who have made mistakes in their lives, to see if they are at the point where they are willing to listen to an alternative and talk about it. I actually worry that he could get into trouble, but I think he did this in a very careful way, with witnesses. Another part I liked is that he sat down and made a financial plan with them to figure out how they were going to move forward.

I think this BBC story is a useful foil. It talks about rape in India, where poor women are devalued.

It says:

One of the men I interviewed, Gaurav, had raped a five-year-old girl. I spent three hours filming his interview as he recounted in explicit detail how he had muffled her screams with his big hand.

He was sitting throughout the interview and had a half-smile playing on his lips throughout – his nervousness in the presence of a camera, perhaps. At one point I asked him to tell me how tall she was. He stood up, and with his eerie half-smile indicated a height around his knees.

When I asked him how he could cross the line from imagining what he wanted to do, to actually doing it – given her height, her eyes, her screams – he looked at me as though I was crazy for even asking the question and said: “She was beggar girl. Her life was of no value.”

No Christian could ever say those things or act like that. Christianity teaches that everyone was made to know God and has value because they are made in God’s image, and for that special purpose. No one is too unimportant to achieve that purpose – everyone has equal value with respect to that purpose. Christians take seriously the obligation not to act towards another person in any way that would dissuade them from that intended relationship with God.

Filed under: Commentary,

William Lane Craig discusses reason and faith with university students

This is an interview of Dr. William Lane Craig before college students at the University of Central Florida. (95 minutes)

You can get an MP3 of the lecture here. (33 MB)

Questions from the interviewer: (40 minutes)

  • What started you on his journey of studying faith and reason?
  • How would you define the word “faith”?
  • Are faith and reason compatible? How are they related?
  • How can reasonable faith help us to avoid the two extremes of superstition and nihilism?
  • Who makes the best arguments against the Christian faith?
  • Why are angry atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens more well known than better-informed academic atheists?
  • Does the Bible require Christians to give the unbeliever reasons for their faith?
  • How does faith spur Christians to think carefully about the big questions in life?
  • Should the American church prod churchgoers to develop their minds so they can engage the secular culture?
  • When talking about Christianity intellectually, is there a risk of neglecting the experience of being a Christian?
  • Which Christian apologist has shaped your thinking the most?
  • Which Christian philosopher has shaped your thinking the most?
  • Does the confidence that comes from apologetics undermine humility and reverence?
  • If you had to sketch out a 5 minute case for Christianity, what would you present?
  • Can non-Christians use their reason to arrive at truth?
  • Are there cases where atheists must affirm irrational things in order to remain atheists?
  • Can the universe have existed eternal, so that there is no need to explain who created it?
  • Even if you persuade someone that Christianity is true, does that mean they will live it out?

There is also a long period of questions, many of them hostile, from the audience of students (55 minutes).

  • Haven’t you said nasty things about some atheists? Aren’t you a meany?
  • What do you make of the presuppositional approach to apologetics?
  • Can a person stop being a Christian because of the chances that happen to them as they age?
  • Why did God wait so long after humans appeared to reveal himself to people through Jesus?
  • Can a person be saved by faith without have any intellectual assent to truth?
  • How do you find time for regular things like marriage when you have to study and speak so much?
  • How would you respond to Zeitgeist and parallels to Christianity in Greek/Roman mythology?
  • Do Christians have to assume that the Bible is inerrant and inspired in order to evangelize?
  • If the universe has a beginning, then why doesn’t God have a beginning?
  • Can you name some philosophical resources on abstract objects, Platonism and nominalism?
  • How can you know that Christianity more right than other religions?
  • Should we respond to the problem of evil by saying that our moral notions are different from God’s?
  • Define the A and B theories of time. Explain how they relate to the kalam cosmological argument.
  • How can Christians claim that their view is true in the face of so many world religions?
  • What is the role of emotions in Christian belief and thought?
  • Can evolution be reconciled with Christian beliefs and the Bible?
  • When witnessing person-to-person, should you balance apologetics with personal testimony?
  • Is there a good analogy for the trinity that can help people to understand it? [Note: HE HAS ONE!]
  • How can Christians reconcile God’s omniscience, God’s sovereignty and human free will?

This is a nice introductory lecture that is sure to get Christians to become interested in apologetics. As you watch or listen to it, imagine what the world would be like if every Christian could answer the questions of skeptical college students and professors like Dr. Craig. What would non-Christians think about Christianity if every Christian had studied these issues like Dr. Craig? Why aren’t we making an effort to study these things so that we can answer these questions?

It is really fun to see him fielding the questions from the skeptical university students. My favorite question was from the physics student who sounds really foreign, (at 1:19:00), then you realize that he is a Christian. I do think that Dr. Craig went a little far in accommodating evolution, but I put that down to the venue, and not wanting to get into a peripheral issue. I’m also surprised that no one asked him why God allows humans to suffer and commit acts of evil.

If you are looking for a good basic book on apologetics, then I would choose “Is God Just a Human Invention?” by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow.

Who is William Lane Craig?

About William Lane Craig:

William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California.

Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity… In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until assuming his position at Talbot in 1994.

He has authored or edited over thirty books, including The Kalam Cosmological ArgumentAssessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of JesusDivine Foreknowledge and Human FreedomTheism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology; and God, Time and Eternity, as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology, including The Journal of PhilosophyNew Testament StudiesJournal for the Study of the New TestamentAmerican Philosophical QuarterlyPhilosophical StudiesPhilosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Craig’s CV is here.

Craig’s list of publications is here.

William Lane Craig is, without a doubt, the top living defender of Christianity. He has debated all of the most famous atheists, including Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, etc. as well as academic atheists like Quentin Smith, Peter Millican, etc. if you search this blog, you’ll find many debates posted here, sometimes even with snarky summaries.

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

Christianity expanding rapidly in communist China

Jay Richards tweeted this story from Breitbart News.

Excerpt:

Though the Chinese Communist Party is the largest explicitly atheist organization in the world, with 85 million official members, it is now overshadowed by an estimated 100 millionChristians in China. It is no wonder Beijing is nervous and authorities are cracking down on Christian groups.

Christianity is growing so fast in China that some predict that it will be the most Christian nation in the world in only another 15 years. By far, the greatest growth is coming outside the official state-sanctioned churches, which are rightly considered subservient to the Communist Party. Numbers are increasing, rather, in unofficial Protestant “house churches” and in the underground Catholic church.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.

[…]According to the annual report of the human rights group China Aid, persecution of Christians worsened dramatically in 2013, in line with a constant trend of deteriorating religious freedom over the past eight years. Most recently, the oppression of Christians has especially targeted Protestant groups, leaving most Catholics alone, which many feel reflects Beijing’s strategic goal of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican. According to reports, hundreds of Protestant churches in the eastern province of Zhejiang have been targeted for demolition in the past year.

Unrecognized Christian groups have been subject to crackdowns for years, but observers say the atmosphere is getting worse as their numbers increase and the governing Communist Party takes a more nationalist tone under President Xi Jinping.

Particularly hard hit has been a Beijing Christian group called Shouwang. “Things have got worse this year because the police started to detain us. I was detained for a week,” said Zhao Sheng, 54, musical organizer for the group’s Christmas service.

“But Christmas is still a happy time. No matter what happens, God is with us,” he added with a smile.

I think this story is a nice reminder for us that it can be the case that God’s permitting of evil can be be justified if it helps more people to know him. Now, of course this seems unfair to narcissistic atheists who think that God, if he existed, ought to be their cosmic butler. But for people who take God as they find him, it’s not a surprise that God can permit evil things to happen in order accomplish purposes of leading more people into a free love relationship with him. After all, look what happened to Jesus! Christians aren’t surprised by evil and suffering – on the contrary, we expect it. We know that the purpose of life is not for God to make his human pets happy, but for God to draw us toward him and allow us to freely respond to his saving initiative.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

How pro-life apologetics helps strengthen your evangelism

From Scott Klusendorf’s Life Training Institute.

Excerpt:

Beyond the obvious obligation we have as thinking human beings to clarify the status, and defend the value, of innocent, unborn human life, engaging in the pro-life project is also a way to make the case for the truth of Christianity in general. It stands to reason that if the scientific, philosophical, and moral arguments we offer in defense of the humanity of the unborn also happen to align exactly with the biblical notion of what it means to be a human being made “in the image of God,” then the Bible might also have something to say about other things of importance.

This is a point Scott makes repeatedly but it was recently driven home in a very concrete way by, of all people, a hard core atheist in the most recent issue of Salvo magazine. A secular skeptic, law school professor, renowned blogger, and mocker of deluded “Godiots,” the “Raving Atheist” attended a blogger party where he serendipitously sat next to a Catholic blogger named Benjamin. As the “Raving Atheist” explains:

At one point the conversation turned to abortion, and I asked Benjamin’s opinion of the practice. I was stunned. Here was a kind, affable, and cogently reasonable human being who nonetheless believed that abortion was murder. To the limited extent I had previously considered the issue, I believed abortion to be completely acceptable, the mere disposal of a lump of cells, perhaps akin to clipping fingernails.

This unsettling exchange spurred me to further investigate the issue on Benjamin’s blog. I noticed that pro-choice Christians did not employ scientific or rational arguments but relied on a confused set of “spiritual” platitudes. More significantly, the pro-choice atheistic blogosphere also fell short in its analysis of abortion. The supposedly “reality-based” community either dismissed abortion as a “religious issue” or paradoxically claimed that pro-life principles were contrary to religious doctrine. Having formerly equated atheism with reason, I was slowly growing uncertain of the value of godlessness in the search for truth.

Though the “Raving Atheist” continued to rave, there was now a stone in his God-rejecting shoe, placed there by a reasoned defense of the pro-life view. He couldn’t disconnect himself from it and later admitted that the “selfless dedication [of pro-life advocates] to their cause moved [him] deeply.” Later, he met a woman named Ashli whose work in pregnancy care drew him to further consider the pro-life position. Soon thereafter, the “Raving Atheist” became, in part, a pro-life blogsite …

Click here to read the astonishing conclusion. Then come back here.

Back? Ok, so what did we learn from this? Well, the moral of this story is that it is very important for Christians to have a good understanding of moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage so that they can talk about these issues based on what they know. When someone can stake out a moral position on these kinds of issues, using science and history and other hard evidence – not just the Bible – then it helps non-Christians to take us seriously as thinkers.

Unless we demonstrate the ability to reason out there in the real world – outside the church – then we are not going to be viewed as authoritative on any subject – especially on spiritual subjects. We really need to study up on other issues, and show that we care about the unborn (abortion issue) and children (same-sex marriage issue). We have to show that there is more to us than just doing what feels good. We have to show that we are smart and that we are willing to be unpopular in order to do the right thing. That we didn’t just inherit these views from our parents, or from our culture. That we have actually thought things through more than just reading the Bible, and that it makes a difference in how we view the world, and in how we live. We don’t want people to continue in their perception that Christians are just people who play follow-the-leader – we want to show them how we have worked through these issues on our own.

Ignorance is never a good idea when you are trying to do good – and you can’t know what is really good just by your feelings and intuitions. If you want to do good, you need to be 1) convincing and 2) effective. And that takes study. Don’t choose policies based on what makes you feel good and what sounds good to others. Push for effective policies – what actually does good – and then have your arguments and evidence ready to convince people, using evidence from authorities that they accept as non-Christians. If you have the will to study a little, you can be passionate and convincing. Non-Christians respect passion and knowledge. They don’t respect fideism and mysticism.

Scott Klusendorf is the author of the best introductory book on pro-life apologetics, entitled “The Case for Life“.

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

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