Politics and Presuppositions

January 13, 2017

With one week left before the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th president there has been much talk over his cabinet and staff appointees, like there always is with each administration. The senate and house are allowed to “grill” as I saw one headline this past week, each of the  people that Trump has chosen and determine if they will approve some of the people to serve.

In the midst of all the leaks and “fake news” that has been talked about, the presidential appointees have been given more discussion this year than perhaps I remember. Each president has the right to put in place his/her own people and usually does. They want like minded people that will support and offer a hand in completing the agenda that they believe will work best over the next four years. This sharing of a similar philosophy allows them to work more efficiently together.  Examples of these political philosophies could be raising or lowering taxes, regulations, job competition, and so on. These are the political presuppositions that each of these people have found to be trustworthy and rules to live and govern by.  If you need a definition of presupposition you can check this previous post.

Would it be smart for a president to  have someone on his cabinet or as an advisor that would offer a dissenting view or opinion that would offer advice to them?  I say yes, making the best decision would include having all the information available to make an informed decision. Sadly many will not do this. We only like to hear compliments or praises from those who agree with us.  Keep in mind we do not have to follow or take their advice, but at least give them an ear and listen with an open mind.  Ever read a post you disagreed with but were not approved to post a different opinion? Ever notice how the talk show host will mute the person on the phone when things start to get messy or out of control.

I have found this to be the case when having conversations with people over spiritual discussions or when using apologetics with people of other worldviews.  Each person comes to the discussion with certain presuppositions that they are not willing to let go of.  These may include things like; a naturalistic or supernatural belief, a belief in miracles, or a Reformed theology vs. a Wesleyan.

One thing I have found helpful before spending large amounts of time with someone is to ask if they will be open-minded and willing to consider certain basic ideas in the discussion you want to have.  If you are willing to talk with those understandings it will be less frustrating for both of you and you can remind the person again that they agreed to hear your case with an open mind.  Maybe this will help them, or you, understand the topic more completely and you may win them over to your side politically or in your religious worldview.


Preachy, Judgmental and Intolerant

April 20, 2012

This past week I have stirred the waters with some comments and questions on Facebook.   I realize that I may be asking for it when I post up a comment or question, but that’s okay with me, I enjoy the discussions and debates.  I don’t even mind being called names some times, as long as they leave my family and my mom out of the comments.  After thinking through some of the comments this past week, a few thoughts crossed my mind about the three words in the title above.

Preachy – When you and I share our opinions it can be offensive, especially when it comes to our faith and beliefs.  The Bible  talks about this in Hebrews 4:12 when it says “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ”  The word “dividing” brings the idea of a forced separation, picking sides, or not staying in a neutral position.  While it may be comfortable in the middle and not rocking the boat sooner or later I believe we must put our oars and paddles in the water and choose a direction to go in.  The key to not being preachy is to give someone enough food for thought that they will take a step back and consider what you have said because it was carefully thought out and presented in a nice way.  1 Peter 3:15 commands us as Christians to “do this with gentleness and respect.”  Apologist Greg Koukl uses the phrase “to place a stone or pebble in someone’s shoe.”  If we are not kind or gentle, or respectful it’s as if we smash someone over the head with a boulder.  This will get you nowhere.

Some people don’t understand why Christians share their faith and see it as being pushy or preachy.  Christians don’t see it this way because of our beliefs that we are trying to help our fellow-man see the world through the lens of our worldview and that there is only one true worldview.  Let me use an illustration to help you understand.  As a parent, I teach my kids about the dangers in the world.  To not talk to strangers, to watch out for creepers and child predators because I love them and don’t want them to fall prey to those kinds of people.  In the same way, Christians believe that there is a literal Hell and that we want to do our best to help other people avoid that any way possible.  Mind you that we should respect others beliefs and not force anything on anyone, but it still is a responsibility to help others understand the Bible, the teachings of Christ, and what it takes to receive the gift of eternal life.

Judgmental – Judging is one of those “hot-button” words that brings up a lot of negative thoughts.  Many people including Christians have often quoted Matthew 7:1 that says “Do not judge” or the King James version reads “Judge not.”  If we continue to read after the first three words we see that the Bible is not saying that we cannot judge, it tells us that we will be judged with the same measure that we judge others by and in verse 5 “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ”  The judgment that takes place is to help someone else, not to kick them why they are down.  We must check our attitudes and motives when we speak of someone else.  Is it to build ourselves up or make ourselves look good?  One of the realities to being an associate pastor is that the scriptures preached/taught are not always popular or easy to swallow for everyone, including myself.  BUT, if I am to preach the whole Bible, I can’t take scissors and cut out the parts that I don’t like.  I must make judgments on things from time to time in relation to God’s word.  What things should I post and not post on Facebook/Twitter, How should I be responsible with my possessions, Who should I vote for, Why should I buy or not buy this CD?  Perhaps the key here is given advice when asked and not pushing it on someone who didn’t ask for it.

Intolerant – The last word, intolerant is another popular word used by people when their viewpoints are challenged.  It is a label that almost reaches the level of the word racism in our American culture.  Have you ever considered intolerant as a good word?  It can be.  Mother Teresa was intolerant of poverty and hunger.  The United States was intolerant of the Genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazis in WWII.  Some others are intolerant of the mistreatment of animals or child abuse.  Being intolerant just means that you can’t stand for something or that you will not accept it.  Jesus was most intolerant of the religious leaders of His day and held little contempt for them and their actions that led the people away from the truth of God’s word.  Being tolerant doesn’t mean that you have to agree with someone elses viewpoint or opinion.  It just means that you respectful recognize to their own right to a different belief or opinion.  It also  doesn’t mean that they are right, or that you both are right about something.

As Christians we must realize and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us in talking with others.  How should we approach them?  Should we build a relationship with them first to earn the right to speak into someones life?  How far should we “push” a topic?  We need to know when we need to stop and walk away for a bit.  Remember even Jesus was not accepted by all and in His own home town he instructed His followers to “wipe the dust off” their feet if they were not accepted.  (Luke 10:10-12)  This is something that is learned the more you interact with people and the better you know who you are talking with.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23 it says that “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” and ” but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”  We see  that some will not receive it well, some will look at the cross as foolish or a stumbling block.


God, Morals, and Atheism

November 6, 2011

Over the last few weeks I have entered into the discussion of morals with a few atheists.  The subject of morals is a hot topic of late with the new atheists that are contending for an evolutionary answer to morals.  What I want to do through a series of posts is break down the moral debate and examine it from the Christian worldview and a naturalistic position.  After looking at both views I hope you will see that one side is coherent and the other side lacks the internal strength to stand on its on.  I will do my best not to give a strawman’s argument from the side of naturalism, but I should point out that there is a disagreement among naturalists in some of the areas concerning morals.  I will get into the specifics of the disagreements in the next post.

First before I give you the Christian worldview on morals I wanted to make a few concessions based on my Biblical beliefs about humanity and some misunderstandings that some may have about what the Bible says about humanity:

1. It is possible for all people on earth to be moral people regardless of their belief in God or not.
2. It is possible for all people to know and recognize morals as good and bad, loving and hateful, etc…
3. Christians are not far and away any better than atheists when it comes to morals. Christians can make right/wrong moral choices just as any human can.

Morals from the Biblical worldview:
In short, I believe that because God exists and created us in His image. (Genesis 1:27) all people have a moral code written on our hearts (Romans 2:10-16) and a free will to choose (Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 25:15, James 4:17) to do whatever our sinful nature desires (Romans 3:23). (Philosophically it would not make sense for God to give is commands that we had no choice but to follow anyway.) I do not see anywhere in real life that contradicts from the Biblical worldview of mankind according to the Bible. Because our morals come from God, a higher transcendent being, I believe that morals are objective and different shades of morals in cultures come from an either purposeful (Romans 1:18-20, 1 Timothy4:2) or ignorant deviation from God’s highest moral law. When looking back at the history of cultures, actions described in the Bible, and their different moral behaviors/acts, I believe it is the people who have chosen to go against the moral law of God and it is not that God changed his moral laws. For example on issues of slavery, racism, and murder we know that God’s laws have stood before the actions of people and their immoral actions. I believe that too many human actions are blamed on God when in fact they are humans who commit these acts. Unfortunately, many people are in error and often claim to speak for God and commit immoral acts from time to time. Lastly I believe that as followers of Christ grow in their understanding of who God is and his word in the Bible it shapes and allows us to change(2 Corinthians 5:17) how we see God’s moral laws. This is why you have a variety of followers of Christ that carry different beliefs.(you will find this in any worldview system, even atheism, people hold different beliefs.) They are slowly transforming (Romans 12:2) into the likeness of Christ. When we as Christians differ it is because we are no longer looking at God’s moral laws, but our own. We must also be careful not to make our subjective opinions absolute moral laws because of personal experiences and how we were nurtured.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.


Conversations with High School Students

October 27, 2011

Yesterday I went to a local high school in the area to hangout with some students after school.  These students are your typical students in some aspects but not in all aspects.  These 60+ students are members of the Secular Student Alliance Club at Parkview High.  These students meet every other week to discuss topics ranging from the existence of God , to the possibility of morals without God to other issues like animal rights and other social issues.  If you are new to apologetics and are not familiar with the term “Secular” it just means activities and attitudes that do not have a religious or spiritual basis.  The students members hold a variety of different beliefs or positions.  Some are atheist,  some are agnostic,  many of them are might label themselves as skeptical or searching, and there was a Christian in the group also.

I meet them about a year ago through Michael, one of the students in my student ministry, at the church where I am student pastor.  Michael had been going to the Secular Student Alliance Club each week to talk and share his Christian beliefs with the students and to jump in to the debates and discussions they had each week.  I really admire Michael for doing this, I don’t think I would have done that at his age if our school had a SSA Club like they do.  (We had to fight to even have the right to a Christian Club when I went to South Gwinnett High School 20 years ago.)  The SSA club invited me to speak a few times last school year thanks to the invite from Michael.  After Michael has graduated and gone to college I have stay in contact with the students and we talk weekly through Facebook about different subjects.

Let me first break some common misconceptions about the students in the SSA club.  They are nice, polite, smart, and funny.   Just like the average teen.  Many of them are active in community doing things to take care of environment.  A few weeks ago they held a can drive to collect food items for a local food bank in the area.  There are certain feelings that are associated or arise when you mention the word “atheist” or “skeptic”, or even “Christian” for that matter.  I think these feelings come from a past where perception was different.  Any time I have gone to talk with them I have always felt at ease and comfortable with talking to them.

Part of the reason I wanted to write this blog was to help you break down those areas of misconception and also to get a feel of what is like to have conversations with students like these or anyone else for that matter.  Yesterday I went to the meeting not really knowing what I might talk about.  I usually have an outline and prepared talk, but yesterday I just felt like being very low-key and open to where the conversation may go.  I had been in some intense discussions recently online with some of them and I really felt it was important to just be a good listener this time.  I admit, I think I have become addicted to the feeling of being in the moment with apologetic discussions.  Not knowing what questions may come up and not having all the answers, I know the best thing I can do is offer up a quick prayer for help and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me give an answer that is Biblical and is easy to understand.

As the meeting started they allowed me to open with a small discussion about some things that I have noticed through the online conversations as misunderstandings about the Christian worldview.  I talked about Blind faith vs. a Biblical Faith.  Biblical faith is based on evidence just as scientists make thesis and hypothesis based on evidence in science.   From there the conversation morphed into the different types of knowledge that we can obtain.

After I finished talking I opened it up for anybody ask questions.  They asked some really good questions that I could tell that they really wanted to know the answer to.  Some were easy to answer, some questions I had to ask a question in return to get some clarification over, and some I had to pause and think a bit before responding.  We were discussing free will, and one student asked a good question, that caught me off guard, one I had never heard before.  A student asked me if God took part of Mary’s free will when He chose her to be the mother of Jesus and to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  After a brief pause, and another silent prayer for some help from God I thought and went back to the story.  We know from the text that Mary was already a follower of Jehovah God and like most Christians today, we want God’s will to be our own will.  I made a personal reference to my life to back up the thought.  The other Christian in the room, the student,  chimed in and said that Mary still had a choice of whether to keep the baby or to accept God’s desire for her life.   In the text it says that she had been chosen by God, but it didn’t say that she was already pregnant yet.   That was an insightful question.  We ended the meeting talking about Homosexuality a bit and then finished talking about worldviews and how that there can only be one right worldview.  They can’t all be right.

One of the students I have been talking with for the last several weeks was asking a lot of questions about the Bible and I asked him if he had a Bible.  He did not have one so I asked if  I could give him one.  He agreed and took it from me.   I am looking forward to going back soon, if not to talk, but perhaps only to listen and sit in on their discussions and learn what kinds of things that they deal with and question.  One thing that I can say about this group oh high school students is that they really want to know what they believe and why.  They are looking for truth and answers for life and I applaud their thirst for knowledge and truth.  I would wish that many Christians would also have the same type of fire that these high school students do.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


Indoctrination Unavoidable?

October 18, 2011

Several weeks ago in a post about worldviews, I mentioned a statement by atheist, Richard Dawkins about indoctrination.  I would like to address the statement Dawkins made and deal with the subject of indoctrination.  In the ninth chapter of Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, Dawkins makes the following statement:

“Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence almost everyone has the same religion as their
parents?  And it always just happens to be the right religion.  Religions run in families.
If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece we would all be worshiping Zeus and
Apollo.  If we had been born Vikings we would be worshiping Wotan and Thor.   How
does this come about? Through childhood indoctrination.”

First, let’s define indoctrination before we discuss the quote by Dawkins.

Indoctrination – The act of teaching a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view.

I would first like to concede that indoctrination does take place, in fact, I would like to add, that it occurs everywhere, through everyone, in varying levels.  Because of the way we can know something and not know something, we are limited in a semi-transcendent view of knowledge.  There is really no way to “get out of the box” as Ravi Zacharias puts it, in a transcendent way, and know everything about everything in life.  We can know things on a subjective level and we can compare them to a uniform experience that we have in our life and culture.  The varying levels of indoctrination that may take place can range from the highest and strictest of worldviews to the smallest and most trivial examples of allowing an opposing team’s uncle call the balls and strikes in a little league baseball game.

As a parent of three children, I want my children to own their own faith and not have the faith of their parents.  As they get older I will encourage them to do the work that I have done in my own searching, including all sides.   But that doesn’t mean that I am not going to teach them what I have found to be good, reliable trustworthy truth now.    I will help them, answer questions, give them resources to help them make their own decisions as they are ready.

Not everyone does their homework.   It has been apparent to me that not everyone that believes a particular worldview, including Christianity, knows what they believe and why they believe or at least can articulated it in a meaningful and understanding way.  On the surface level many worldviews can look and make sense, but in truth and reality, there can only be one worldview that is correct.  As you dig a little deeper you will no doubt encounter difficulties as you look for coherence in the worldviews that are incorrect.   For many people, the statement, ignorance is bliss, is true to life.  As I have stated before I will be digging deeper and looking at each of the major worldviews in the future posts.

Christianity stands out among other worldviews.   I would like to point out that many worldviews are very closed-minded to allowing opposing views to influence their captors.    Jehovah’s Witnesses will cut you off if you show any signs of doubt or begin to look outside the ideology they teach.  They have been even known to excommunicate their own family members if they reject the teachings.    This is nothing however to the Islamic world where if you leave your Islamic faith, could mean death if you are caught.  As I type this, there is a pastor in Iran who is in prison, in fear of his life because he left the Islamic faith for Christianity.  There is also the certainty of ridicule that will come from scientific atheism that if you renounce your atheism and still maintain your scientific beliefs.

Compare those to the words of Paul in the Bible as he challenged the Thessalonians “Test everything, hold onto the good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and then in Acts, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)   You will find no where in the Bible that it tells us to just believe and not examine the evidence.   One of my favorite verses, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)  Each of these scriptures shows the open, unafraid mindset of the Christian worldview.

So what are we to make of Dawkins’s comment that “almost everyone has the same religion as their parents… Religions run in families.”  Two things to consider.  First, for the worldview that is most coherent, and dare I say correct, people will examine it and stay with what they find to be true.  Secondly, I would challenge Dawkins’ assertion that almost everyone  has the same religion of their parents.  Consider what is taking place today in China and other countries like Russia and the former Soviet Union.   In 1966  through the leadership of the atheistic communist party in China, all books, Bibles, and any references to religion were burned and destroyed, its leaders declaring God is dead.   Today in China, Christianity is the fastest growing worldview than all others.  Nearly 100 million strong.  When there is a vacuum of truth, it is a most welcome breath of fresh air.

The last point I want to make with indoctrination is that there seems to be a conflict with the view of naturalistic determinism, of which Dawkins and many other of the new atheists claim to support.  If we can be indoctrinated by things outside ourselves like the Bible, religious parents, reruns of old TBN shows, etc., then we are  not locked into genetic determinism through our DNA.  If everything we believe and know is because of genetic determinism then we cannot be indoctrinated.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.  I will take a closer look at determinism and free will in my next post.


A Biblical Base for Apologetics

October 11, 2011

Years ago my brother who is also in ministry said something to me that stuck with me.  I didn’t really understand at that point what he was trying to tell me, but over the last few years I’ve seen just how important his advice is when it comes to engaging others with your worldview.  Tim, (my brother) said that when you talk and share with others and deal with questions about the universe and the existence of God, you always need to do it from a Biblical base.

Sharing from a Biblical base means that you align your illustrations, words, and actions with the Bible within the conversations you have with people.  The reason you do this is to show the coherence of the Biblical worldview to any situation or information we come across.  Let me clarify that I am not saying you should  bias your opinion of the evidence to reach a Biblical conclusion.  That would be a wrong approach and could also be faulty logic called Begging the question or Circular reasoning.

For example, lets say that  a conversation with your hairdresser or barber comes up because he makes the statement, “There is a lot of evil out there in the world.”  This will open up for you to share with them about what the Bible says about evil.  You can use questions like “Do you know what the Bible says about evil?” or statements like “the Bible says that there is a lot of  evil inside of us all too.”  These are great transitions into opportunities to share the real gospel of Jesus.

Even if you are dealing with the question of the existence of God, before even talking about evidence for Jesus or the Bible you can use the Bible to show how it lines up with the understood knowledge of the universe.   For example, scriptures that point to the earth being round (Isa 40:22) or that the earth is hung on nothing in space. (Job 26:7)

The reason you always need to talk and debate from a Biblical worldview is so that others see how the Bible is unique and is really  the best coherent “lens” in which we see our world.  You can use the Bible to compliment the evidence and reasons for your believe and worldview.  Areas like morals, ethics, truths of life, evil, and leadership are just a few of the subjects you can relate the Bible to.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.


The Light Bulb Comes On!

September 28, 2011

Last night after typing up My Story and posted it to my blog,  I went to bed I had some trouble falling asleep.  I usually don’t have any trouble, maybe it was the mountain dew I drank around 11pm, not sure.  My mind was full of different things from the day.  Things I am reading about, church and family things.  Then it hit me, I had been considering getting back to writing more on my blog and was wanting to find a way to organize some of my thoughts in a coherent way that  I could keep up with.  I believe I had found the way to go.  I have  kept a notebook of my studies and notes on books that I have read over the last year.  I had organized it into a way that I could find what I was looking for quickly.  I would just simply use the same type of format that I have in my notebook.  Now I really couldn’t sleep my mind was racing with ideas and how I would start out.   I have loved teaching apologetics, but I know  I couldn’t get away with that each week at church, so, I decided that I will use my blog to post articles, thoughts on what I believe, and bits and pieces of arguments and definitions within the apologetic studies.  I have found my angle, to educated anyone on how I came to believe and trust in God, specifically in my Christian faith.

I realize that this will be lots of work, but I have a passion for it, and I will enjoy doing it.  I know that there are going to be those might read my blog that disagree with me and my worldview, that’s OK.  I would just hope that they as well as anyone would keep an open mind to the ideas that are presented, as I try to do with the books, articles, and blogs that I read.  I will welcome any comments for and against my views expressed.  The only thing I will ask is that the discussions are kept clean of hate speech and name calling.  I will post anything in response as long as it is truthful and free of meanness.    I will follow the rules for myself as well.   I was frustrated a few weeks back when I started dialoging with a gentle man from San Francisco about the truthfulness of the Bible, and after reading his article I found a few things that I questioned and posted a response to.  I gave him a few facts and things to consider in a reply, but he never approved my comments to be seen by the public readers.  I was disappointed that he didn’t post my comments  for whatever reason it was.  I suspect that it might have made his article look bad, I guess I will never know, because after several attempts to contact him now, he has just ignored my messages.    That is also something that I will try not to do to anyone who leaves comments on my blog.  If it becomes time-consuming, I may have to change the time frame in which I respond, but I don’t think that will be a problem, I’m not anyone famous, and I don’t care to be, and hundreds of people will not be reading my blog daily.

So here goes, let the blogging begin, and I hope that it will help you in your journey, to discovering what I have found to true and trustworthy in my relationship to Christ.  As always, I will welcome any comments, questions, and discussions about anything I type.  In my next blog I will summarize what are the factors, evidence, and reasons for my belief in God and my Christian faith.