Monday, December 7, 2015

The Debate on Human Origins Continues

A person with whom I was having a debate once asked me, “Please, tell us exactly what you think the theory of evolution says about the universe. Then, tell us why ANYBODY should care what you think science is or isn't.” 

A common tactic of evolutionists during a discussion is to ask his or her opponent what qualifies them to offer an opinion on the subject being discussed. As if a person is not allowed to voice an opinion if he or she does not possess the proper credentials.

Was no one allowed to voice an opinion until the time in history where degrees were conferred and PhDs earned? Was no one qualified to think until an institution of higher learning deemed him or her worthy? This, of course, is an absurd notion considering all the fantastic discoveries that were made, scientific and otherwise, by men who did not possess any sort of “official degree”. The ability to think is given to us by God, not man.

Many evolutionists seem to think that they have reached a place in their intellectual pursuits where their knowledge replaces, and/or satisfies, man’s need for God. They have made science their god and they think that they are the priests who must bridge the gap between the lofty truth of science and the scientifically unenlightened common person.

Christianity is in danger of allowing a group of scientists, who do not believe in the existence of God, to inform us as to whether or not we should believe the biblical record. Does that make any sense at all? Is it wise to allow those who reject God to guide us in our understanding of Him? Of course not. 

Christians are truth-seekers and have nothing to fear from, and actually much praise for, true science. True science reveals the wonders of God’s world. Truth will not lead away from God; if it does, it is not truth. Often evolutionists try to frame the Christian faith as something we do contrary to the evidence. However, John Mark Reynolds offers this helpful thought, “Biblical faith is (among other things) a reasonable belief in the truth of an uncertain proposition. Faith makes decisions based on the provisional acceptance of ideas that could be wrong but that the believer has good reasons to believe are true” (Apologetics for a New Generation, Sean McDowell ed., Harvest House, 2009. p. 73)

Evolutionist scientists attempt to convince their audience that only science has the capacity to discern truth. Therefore, only they have the authority to deem something true or false. However, if the Bible is what most Christians believe it to be, the Word of God, then it has precedence over any of man’s thoughts and ideas.

Jesus, speaking to God on behalf of His disciples, said, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17 ESV). Christians are to take God’s Word as truth. The trustworthiness of the Bible is one way the Christian knows God created the universe. Remember, both evolutionists and creationists are looking at the very same scientific evidence. Evolutionists, when speaking of origins, can only express their opinions and beliefs, they have no evidence that proves or disproves the existence of God. Yet, they continue to deny His existence. Therefore, it is not a matter of evidence keeping them from God, but a hardheartedness and unwillingness to repent:
"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5 ESV)

"They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18 ESV)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How To Stop Mass Shootings

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

The only way to stop mass shootings, or any other crime, is for humans to have a change of heart.  As long as there are people who persist in rebellion against our Creator, crimes (and criminal behavior) will continue.  Murder, rape, assault, theft, adultery, etc. will not only continue but will increase as society worsens and begins to look upon many of these sins as ‘normal’.

Secular culture believes that criminal behavior can be stopped through incarceration and/or psychological treatment.  They believe that people are inherently ‘good’ and that they simply need encouragement to act that way. And, if that doesn’t work, those who persist in their criminal ways can be locked up.

Jesus, when warning about false prophets, said this, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?  So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-18).

Jesus also tells us that even the words that come out of our mouths originate from our true self, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:34-35). If our words have their source in who we really are, how much more will our actions stem from the very same place?

Therefore; if we are to truly, and permanently, alter our speech and our actions, there is simply no other way to do it than to have our innermost self changed.

Bad Fruit
The Bible (given to us by the Creator/Lord of the universe) is clear on how an unchanged heart manifests itself on the outside of a person.  It tells us that the wicked speak wickedness (I Samuel 24:13) and Isaiah 32:6 tells us that, “…a fool speaks nonsense, And his heart inclines toward wickedness: To practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord, To keep the hungry person unsatisfied And to withhold drink from the thirsty” (Isaiah 32:6).

The New Testament contrasts ‘living by the flesh’ with ‘living by the Spirit’.  ‘Living by the flesh’ is living a life apart from God, in rebellion against His lordship and authority.   ‘Living by the Spirit’ is a life lived as forgiven sinners under the lordship of Jesus Christ.  We read these words in the book of Galatians, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).  It is clear that actions such as the mass shootings we have witnessed of late, are the ‘fruit’ of a life lived apart from, and in rebellion against, our Creator God.

Good Fruit
Jesus promises that those who are His followers will exhibit the good ‘fruit’ of the Spirit (John 15:2-16): “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Continuing the contrast between the deeds of the ‘flesh’ and the fruits of the ‘Spirit’, the New Testament tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).  A person who is living under the guidance and rule of Jesus Christ will not commit the heinous acts of violence we are hearing about more and more often in our day.

Christians are instructed to live according to the renewed heart they have been given, “...for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)...” (Ephesians 5:8-9).

Every day, by continuing in rebellion against a Holy God, our society chooses to support the cultural climate which fosters a mindset (heart condition) from which senseless, evil acts of violence emanate.  If we are truly concerned with putting a stop to these terrible tragedies, isn’t it time we considered the only course of action which will guarantee their cessation?

Isn’t it time we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and allow Him to change the hearts of the people from evil to loving?   That truly is our only hope.

*All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible

The Reason Mass Shootings Occur

It has happened again.  Heartless mass shootings and the terrible aftermath in their wake.  It seems like these types of things are happening with increasing frequency.  An article in the Washington Post say that, as of December 3, 2015, “There have been more mass shootings than calendar days  this year. News reports collected by a Reddit community show there have been 355 mass shootings in 2015” (1).

Another article in the Washington Post says that the reason mass shooting will continue is simple, “Americans own more guns per-capita than people in literally any other country on earth” (2).  However, is that true?  Is the reason some people choose to kill others simply because guns exist?

More often than not, someone will say that we need stricter gun laws to curb this kind of tragic behavior. However, stricter gun laws will only insure that law-abiding citizens will be unarmed and that criminals, who are law-breakers by definition, will still be armed…and dangerous. 

Only when the evil heart of humanity is changed by the love of God will these kinds of senseless and brutal acts cease.

Jesus addressed this very issue, in one of His discourses recorded in the Gospels, when He said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matthew 15:19, see also Mark 7:21).  A heart in rebellion against God is an evil heart, out of which come evil thoughts and oftentimes evil actions.  Humanity’s natural inclination is to selfishness and lust; without some sort of powerful restraint, our natural human condition will foster these types of tragic behavior.

In the New Testament book of Romans, the Apostle Paul speaks of this ‘heart condition’:
“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  (Romans 3:9-18; see Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3).  While this paints a bleak picture of the heart of humanity, we must remember that this is God declaring the truth about our condition.  We tend to think that we “aren’t so bad”, but God gives us an accurate account.

God has already judged the entire human race once; and what was the reason for this judgment? Genesis 6:5 tells us, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”.  Watching the evening news, one could get the idea that we aren’t all that far from being in the same condition today as those folks were in Genesis just before God’s judgment fell on them.

“Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). The reason people act so terribly is that they are in rebellion against the Holy God who created them.  When we refuse to live as God prescribes, the only result we can hope for is a dysfunctional, self-absorbed, lustful, violent culture…much like the one in which we currently live. As long as we deny that the human heart is wicked and in need of radical change, the kind of change only Jesus Christ can provide, these mass shootings and other terrible evils, will continue.

All Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christians Can Defend Their Faith Without Being Offensive

It is easy to get disheartened when sharing the good news of the Gospel with those who respond negatively. The Christian's prayer is that the hearer will come to a saving relationship with Christ. However, too many times the immediate result is not only to have the hearer reject the good news, but reject us along with it. I Peter 3:13-16 should be of some encouragement concerning this subject.

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…" (v. 13-14). This passage begins with a word of comfort. First, it reminds us to be cognizant of whom it is who is coming against us. Those with whom we debate are usually hostile to God and, if someone is hostile to God, there is a very good chance they will, at least initially, be hostile to those who come in His name. Remember, unbelievers do not have the presence of the Holy Spirit giving them the peace and patience that these types of discussions require. It is up to the believer to maintain a loving attitude no matter what insults or ridicule may be slung at him.

This brings us to another point, the way to be prepared for these kinds of debates, "…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…" (v. 15a). We should constantly cultivate our relationship with Jesus, so that in any situation we will respond as He would. Throughout our debates and discussions with unbelievers, as well as every moment of our lives, believers must follow Jesus as our guiding example. We are never justified in being crass, mocking, insulting, or hurtful in any way when attempting to share the truth of God with anyone. We must conduct ourselves as Jesus would if He were us.

Peter continues with a mandate for the defense of our beliefs, "…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…" (v. 15b). The Christian must be to explain why he believes what he believes. God gave us brains with which to think, He provided evidence of His existence in nature (Romans 1:18-23), and He supplies specific revelation of Himself through His prophets and apostles recorded in the Bible (II Peter 1:19-21). The believer should prepare to defend the Gospel (Jude 1:3). This is done through Bible study, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and making use of the many helpful apologetics schools, courses, and websites available to us.

We are to be bold in our defense of our faith, "…yet do it with gentleness and respect…" (v. 15c). Too many times Christians resort to the same crude, sarcastic, ridiculing attitude that the non-believer exhibits in debates or discussions. Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen reminds us that, "Ridicule, anger, sarcasm, and name-calling are inappropriate weapons of apologetical defense. A Spirit-filled apologist will evidence the fruits of the Spirit in his approach to others." (Always Ready, American Vision, 1996. p. 251) This means that we are to be so filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit that it is really He who is communicating His message through us.

Even when we do our best to convince unbelievers of the truth of the Gospel, they may still reject it. However, if we have conducted ourselves as Christ directed, we should feel no shame or guilt over the results of our attempt. Peter encourages us once more by reminding us that we should live our lives, "…having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame" (v. 16).

Therefore, we are to be faithful to share the Gospel with others, defending it when necessary. First Peter 3:13-16 tells us that we should be fearless in standing for the Truth, gentle in our methods, and confident that whatever the outcome of our debates or discussions may be, if we have conducted ourselves as Jesus leads, we need not be ashamed or defeated. In the end, the Truth will be victorious.

(All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible)

Why Christians Debate Non-believers.

Why is it important for Christians to engage non-believers in discussions about morality, science, and a host of other topics? The Christian believes in the message of the Bible and that we are commissioned to share the good news of God’s love with others.

The motivation fueling our never-ending discussions with non-believers is not simply to win an argument. We engage in discussion and debate in order to remove barriers to faith for those honestly seeking answers; and to help strengthen the faith of believers.

Sean McDowell, in Apologetics for a New Generation, writes, “The bottom line is this: Apologetics for a new generation must be more concerned about winning people than winning arguments” (Apologetics for a New Generation. Sean McDowell. Harvest House Publishers. 2009. p. 96). Christians must keep in mind that our main purpose in any debate or discussion is to help others see the truth of God’s love and His great offer of salvation from our sinful condition.

The following is a condensed version of basic Christian beliefs we try to share with others:

1. God’s original creation was perfect.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

2. Man rebelled in Genesis 3 and the perfect world began suffering the effects of sin. The natural world was cursed as well as man himself. Many today continue to reject and rebel against God.

“...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” (Romans 3:23 ESV)

“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

3. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross in order to pay for our sins.
“…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

“...Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures...” (I Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV)

4. This gift is not earned, but is received by faith [trust, belief, commitment] in Jesus Christ.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

We share the love of God with others because we are first loved by Him. Just like everyone else, we were once lost in sin and headed for an eternity of misery separated from God. However, God came out of heaven, dressed in the flesh of humanity, so He could take the punishment caused by the sin that stood between Him and us.

Truth be told, if losing EVERY debate would insure more people would trust Jesus with their lives and gain eternity, most Christians would gladly be labeled “losers”.

Speaking The Truth In Love.

Biblical Christian Counsel
How should the Christian respond when he or she knows that something must be said to someone that is not going to be welcomed. When the Christian feels that God is prompting them to engage, or confront, someone about a sensitive issue, how is the Christian to proceed?  What is the basic axiom that should guide the Christian as he or she attempts to counsel, witness, reprove, or otherwise engage in the biblical correction of another person?

The Truth in Love
The Bible tells us that we should, "Speak the truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15)

This is a two-sided action. First, what we say must be the truth. We must be sure that what we are about to say is what God wants us to say. We should be sure that it is God approved, as it were. Much prayer should have gone on before any words are uttered.

The other half of this action is that the encounter must be motivated by love and carried out in the spirit of love. It cannot be a heavy handed, holier-than-thou, confrontation that does more harm than good.

God's Help, Not Self Help
Turning a person's focus in on themselves instead of toward God is not helpful. It actually results in making oneself into an idol; relying more on self than on God. The power needed to change the heart is spiritual power which only comes through an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Apart from God we can do nothing to rescue ourselves.

Focusing on Symptoms
We also must not promote a cure that consists of fixing the symptoms to make a person feel better without addressing the real problem. A doctor would not be considered very good if he/she merely treated the symptoms of an illness while never addressing the actual illness itself. This would be deception of a most dangerous kind.

How much more dangerous to convince someone that they are innocent in God's eyes when in reality they are guilty (Romans 3:10) and deserving of His judgment?

A Balance
Whenever we seek to counsel, console, or reprove anyone, we need to maintain the balance between truth and love. We must not sacrifice the truth in the name of love, nor should we deliver the truth in a less than loving manner.

By "speaking the truth in love" we are able to encourage people in their walk with God and not push them away from Him by employing a mean, judgmental attitude.