Archive for the ‘Apologetics and Evangelism’ Category

The Difference

Posted: May 8, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics and Evangelism, Christianity, Discipleship

“…how it is that the call of the gospel becomes effectual in certain people. … the call becomes effectual in men and women as the result of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. It becomes effectual because in these people there is now a principle which was not there before which enables them to respond to this spiritual truth, this divine truth, that comes to them.

And that is the difference between believers and unbelievers, those who are saved and those who are not. The latter have the ‘natural mind’, they are in the flesh, they are not spiritual, and that is why these things mean nothing to them. But they mean everything to the others and that is because they are now spiritual, and they are spiritual as the result of regeneration.”

 

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible

“People often argue that this doctrine of divine election and choice leaves no place for evangelism, for preaching the gospel, for urging people to repent and to believe, and for the use of arguments and persuasions in doing so. But there is no contradiction here any more than there is in saying that since it is God that gives us the crops of corn in the autumn, therefore the farmer need not plough and harrow and sow; the answer to which is that God has ordained both. God has chosen to call out His people by means of evangelism and the preaching of the Word.

He ordains the means as well as the end.”

– Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Ephesians – God’s Ultimate Purpose

Evangelize & Disciple

Posted: May 2, 2013 by doulos tou Theou in Apologetics and Evangelism, Christianity, Discipleship

Preaching the gospel to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time seems to be the goal, whether its a weekend retreat, or going door-to-door.

But this couldn’t be a more backwards strategy, when you consider the American worldview. America is independent, democratic, self-relient.
Independent: I believe what I believe, and it doesn’t matter what others think
Democratic: I have a say in what is true and who will be my authority.
Self-relient: I am concerned about the survival of self, rather than the group, so I will choose my spouse based upon how “happy and giving” he/she is, rather than what is best for the community.

Americans may consider themselves Christians, but in many cases their behavior is that of an animist. How do I prevent my son from getting sick?  Give him the best medicine possible. How do I find ultimate fulfillment? Through my job or marriage. This is because they live life based upon a “split-level Christianity.” I go to church and am going to heaven someday, but God isn’t useful for everyday life. Their worldview isn’t a Biblical one yet. It is American.

Read the whole post at link below

http://beyondthebullingtons.com/1/post/2013/01/january-29th-2013.html

A post by Scott Oliphint on a Reformed theology of persuasion in apologetics
the problem in the medieval view was that the effects of sin on our minds was not adequately taken into account. What, for example, does it mean that the mind set on the flesh cannot submit to the law of God (Rom. 8:7)? What does it mean that the natural man is not able to understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14f.)?  Does this only imply that those outside of Christ cannot understand or submit to the gospel? Surely it means that. But can those who are dead in trespasses and sins understand anything properly about a world that is created and sustained by God, and in which God is continually revealing himself through his own creation?
For this reason (among others), during the time of the Reformation, there was a radical shift in emphasis, from the medieval focus on the power of reason as a foundation of knowledge, to a central and foundational focus on the power and necessity of Scripture. This focus was the result, in part, of the biblical teaching of sin’s power. Depravity was not simply a problem of the will, such that we did not want to choose properly (though that is true); it was a problem of the intellect as well, such that we sinfully reject that which we know. Because of sin’s effect on the mind, there was no way that reason could provide a needed epistemological foundation for knowing and believing.
Thus, a central aspect to “re-forming” theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries included a renewed focus on Scripture as our only foundation for knowing, believing, and for reasoning properly. In a discussion of the difference in prolegomena (doctrine of revelation) between medieval theology and the Reformers, Richard Muller notes: “This view of the problem of knowledge [during the Reformation] is the single most important contribution of the early Reformed writers to the theological prolegomena of orthodox Protestantism. Indeed, it is the doctrinal issue that most forcibly presses the Protestant scholastics toward the modification of the medieval models for theological prolegomena.” The “modification” that was set forth by the Reformers, against the medieval view, included the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

read the whole piece here

Is it that important to believe in unconditional election – God’s sovereign pre-creation choice to save specific people, irrespective of anything they would do or be? Can’t we just agree with other Christians who say that election simply means that God foresaw which people would believe and therefore chose them?

In his chapter on Unconditional Election, in Whomever He Wills, Andrew Davis lists 13 damaging consequences that follow from understanding election as merely foreseen faith (pages 58-74).

 

read the list here 

I ran into an old friend from my college days at a conference several years ago.  When I asked him how his new campus ministry was going, this was his response.  “Iain, pray for us.  We’re dealing with a real enemy of the Gospel on our campus.”  Who was he talking about?  He was talking about Bart Ehrman, the distinguished professor of religion at UNC Chapel Hill.  At the time I thought, “is it really fair to call an academic honestly teaching what he believes to be true an enemy of the Gospel?”  However, after reading up on it a bit more over the years, I’m not so sure Ehrman is simply an academic honestly putting forth his views.  Rather, as I read Ehrman I experience someone with a very strongly held agenda who puts that agenda forth as if it were the only possible conclusion a rational human being could make.  Ehrman consistently concludes that orthodox Christianity is an invention of the later church.  However, in putting this view forth, Ehrman is habitually misleading in his depiction of the scholarly world.

In many of his books, Jesus Interrupted, Misquoting Jesus, etc, Ehrman makes many claims that undermine the historical understanding of Christianity.  He claims that the bible is fraught with contradictions that destroy its credibility for any type of orthodox Christian faith.  According to Ehrman, the doctrine of Jesus divinity was created by the later church, but is absent from Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s Gospel accounts.  He asserts that the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion are woefully irreconcilable, such that all we can really be certain of is that Jesus was crucified.  He holds forth the idea that New Testament authors were liars masquerading as apostolic writers.  Morover, Ehrman claims that there are dozens of other texts that never made it into the corpus of Scripture, because they didn’t pass one party’s view of early Christianity.  Rather, according to Bart, early Christianity held to an irreconcilable diversity in its claims about who Jesus was.  Of great certainty, according to Bart, is that neither Jesus nor his first followers claimed that he was divine, but rather this doctrine was invented by the church a generation after anyone had ever heard the voice of Jesus of Nazareth in person.  More than that, Ehrman makes the assertion that all real biblical scholars have known all of this for some time.

Ehrman’s views, of course, are fairly commonly held today by scholars and lay people alike.  Furthermore, many of the issues Ehrman takes up in the New Testament need to be dealt with, rather than being simply brushed away as many believers do.  However, Ehrman habitually talks about these issues as if his position is the only conclusion intellectually honest and rational people can come to.

For example, Ehrman calls the authors of the New Testament ‘liars.’  According to Ehrman, “Most scholars will tell you that whereas seven of the 13 letters that go under Paul’s name are his, the other six are not. Their authors merely claimed to be Paul.”  These writings are called pseudipigraphic, a term that Ehrman defines as “writing that is inscribed with a lie.”

At it’s best these claims are mere sensationalism.  As Ehrman well knows, the term pseudipigrapha refers to texts that are attributed to an author who didn’t actually write them.  For example, the most ancient documents of the book of Hebrews have no signature.  Older manuscripts attribute the work to Paul.  As Ehrman well knows, pseudipigraphic writing was common in the ancient world.  Authors often attributed their works to famous people to lend credence to their message.  Ehrman claims, however, that the motivation for these pseudipgiraphic writers was to deceive their audience.  (Ironically, this is indisputably the case for many of those works Ehrman claims were unfairly excluded from the New Testament Canon such as the Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Peter, etc.).

Moreover, Ehrman’s claim that “most scholars” reject six of Paul’s thirteen letters is misleading.  It would be more accurate to say that there are six Pauline letters whose authenticity is questioned in the scholarly community.  This does not mean that most scholars question each of those six.  For example, the scholarly community is fairly equally divided over whether 2 Thessalonians is genuine or not.  In every case, there are well-respected scholars who uphold the authenticity of each of the Pauline Epistles.  The picture that Ehrman paints of a unified scholarly consensus is overly simplistic to the point of being disingenuous.

You see, it is not necessarily Ehrman’s claim that is misleading, but how he articulates it.  From reading Ehrman, you get the picture that only the most knuckle dragging of Neanderthals could possibly disagree with him.  “But scholars everywhere,” he writes, “except for our friends among the fundamentalists — will tell you that there is no way on God’s green earth that Peter wrote the book.”[1]  Elsewhere, he says, “Apart from the most rabid fundamentalists among us, nearly everyone admits that the Bible might contain errors.”(emphasis added)  What Ehrman fails to acknowledge in these ad hominem attacks is the amount of credible scholarship there is that disagrees with his own radical views.  In fact, Ehrman is a distinct minority in his own academic field of textual criticism, the study that seeks to recreate original ancient documents based on the surviving documents.  The vast majority of textual critics do not uphold Ehrman’s conspiracy theories that the New Testament was fabricated by the early church, but rather tend to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence in favor of the New Testament’s veracity.(For example, see Ehrman’s own mentor, Bruce Metzger.)

Is Ehrman, then, “an enemy of the Gospel?”  I don’t know.  What does seem clear is that Ehrman has an agenda to undermine biblical faith that he feels passionate enough about not to present the full story for critical minds to examine.  This agenda pops its head up consistently in his popular writings, teaching, and speaking engagements.  Of course, orthodox believers who uphold the truth of the Scriptures aren’t completely innocent of the same faults.  We often present only those facts that uphold our side of the story.  In more extreme camps of fundamentalism, the valid issues Ehrman brings up are dismissed as fringe elements rather than being respectfully discussed and debated.  The irony is that in his efforts to combat fundamentalism, Ehrman uses the exact same tactics dismissing valid scholarship that questions his own position.

For further reading, Ben Witherington has provided a more scholarly review of one of Ehrman’s books here.


[1] Of course, the questions surrounding Petrine authorship of 2 Peter are much more universal than with the questioned Pauline letters.  However, what Ehrman doesn’t relate is that the first epistle bearing Peter’s name itself contains the signature of the scribe Silvanus, leading some scholars to conclude that Peter dictated the letter to an amanuensis.

A good read with helpful links to some other posts on the bible. Here is the ending:

In the end, the New Testament canon exists because of an early Christian belief that the apostles spoke for Christ.  That belief led Christians to value apostolic books.  And those apostolic books eventually formed the New Testament that we know today.

http://michaeljkruger.com/ten-basic-facts-about-the-nt-canon-that-every-christian-should-memorize-3-the-new-testament-books-are-unique-because-they-are-apostolic-books/