On Being Ready to Give an Answer

Being ready means being in ready relationship


The article I link here, How an Ex-Christian And Counter Apologist Came Back To Jesus – Q+ A With Theologia Apologia, has a lot in it to chew on. Erik Manning is one of my favorite “apologists” on the Internet because he keeps it real. He comes from the other camp (atheism), and I think that always provides fresh perspective.

I put apologists in parentheses because many people, including Christians, don’t really know the term. An apologist is a person who studies and presents evidence defending faith (simply put). The term comes from the Greek word, apologia, which is used in 1 Peter 3:15 when Peter encourages people to “always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks for the reason for the hope you possess.” (NIV)

I had not really focused on the part about “everyone who asks” before, but I think it’s relevant to the article and the message I hear in it. Maybe we spend too much time trying to convince people who aren’t asking us about our hope, people who don’t care, people who aren’t asking questions or seeking answers.

At the same time (speaking from my own experience), we miss opportunities when people actually ask us those questions! One of the problems with “apologists” is that we prepare for audiences that we choose to “walk into” with all of our memorized and canned responses, but we may not always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit speaking to us in midst of the audiences we encounter throughout our daily lives.

On a related matter, I see Christians posting things along the lines of not being ashamed to say they are Christians. (See also Christians on Social Media) Certainly, if the Holy is convicting a person about the fear of man and the need to “come out”, do it. But, that kind of statement is usually lost on the world, generally, and not very effective (it seems to me) in spreading the Gospel message.

As for the article, the interviewee was a new Christian when he went off to seminary, and he was ill-equipped to face the challenges he encountered. He wasn’t grounded in his own faith. He says, “It was hard for me to have intimacy with God when I was devoting a lot more time to reading and studying about the Bible for a class than I was to reading and studying the Bible devotionally, or when I wrote 10-page papers about a biblical theology of prayer while my personal prayer life was scarce.”

He came from a “seeker-sensitive” church that didn’t deal with the meaty subjects he encountered in seminary, and he “felt lied to”. Bitterness and disillusionment set it. He began to develop suspicion and skepticism about the surface level faith with which he was familiar when plunged into the deep end.

This is where the article speaks to me. This is here the lessons lie.

Continue reading “On Being Ready to Give an Answer”

For the Shame of the Gospel

We have gotten away from the pure and simple message of the cross, that Jesus came to die for sinners and give them salvation.


We live in interesting times. We have taken for granted for a long time in the United States that we are a Christian nation. Christians are fighting through political means and social media to convince this country of those origins and to hold on to them. This is a fight that began in my memory back in the 80’s, and maybe even before that.

In my opinion, we have moved past those Christian origins. Perhaps, the minute we had to start fighting to preserve that legacy we had already lost the fight. I am not sure we will ever go back, short of a revival orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.

Current attitudes in popular culture and among the intellectual elite in the US view the Christian heritage negatively, to the extent that people admit we have a Christian heritage. People view Christians as privileged, wielding power and oppressors. This is the cultural Marxist dialectic that has been playing out since at least the 70’s and maybe before that. We are losing the cultural war.

The positive connotation that went with the word, Christian, in our past has been replaced with a negative. This has largely happened in my lifetime.

Christians have not always deserved the positive connotation that unquestioningly followed the reference, Christian, in the past. Neither do Christians deserve the negative assumption that is evident today. While people may have previously distinguished the errors and failures as departures from the actual message of Christianity, that “nuance” (not that it is very nuanced) is largely lost today. Moderns increasingly equate Christians with those errors and failures. The exceptions have swallowed the rule.

We (Christians) need to be mindful in this realization that we can be guilty of the same failure to recognize the distinctions and nuances in “others” as well. Most Muslims, for instance, are not terrorists. Most feminists, gays, transgender people and others who do not see the world as we do are just trying to find meaning and purpose, healing from their pain and happiness in life. They aren’t the enemy. They are people Jesus died for.

But, I digress.

Christians are the most oppressed religious group in the world today, but you wouldn’t know it in the United States. It isn’t the kind of news that gets published (often) or that anyone wants to hear. It doesn’t fit the current narrative on Christianity that has developed in the west.

It may be that people don’t want to hear it because Christians have had it pretty easy. Christians in the US are viewed as the reigning social oligarchy. The consensus that has building for some time is that Christianity needs to be toppled from it privileged position.

Indeed, Christianity has enjoyed a long and enduring influence in the west, and especially in the US, unlike most other areas of the world, but Christians are now on the defensive as the “others” renounce allegiance and demand recompense. It seems to defy common understanding in the United States to consider Christians an oppressed group.

That privilege doesn’t exist in most other parts of the world where, ironically, Christianity is now growing fastest. While the Church in the US is losing ground rapidly to “the nones”, Christianity is growing fastest and gaining ground most in countries in which the environment is harshest and most hostile to the message of Jesus.

Maybe this is a reflection of the difference between the Gospel of Jesus and the institution of the Church – the difference between the simple message of the Gospel and the burdensome structure of religion. Just as “others” no longer understand the difference between the Gospel message and the errors and failures of the Church, equating and conflating the two, the Church in the US has largely lost its way, no longer shining like a bright light on the hill Jesus intended.

The vestiges of Christian power and influence are evident everywhere, but it is a blighted and obsolescent infrastructure that is crumbling and washing away. The cultural momentum that is gaining steam threatens to displace it altogether from its place of position in the social commonwealth. The current oligarchs in that marketplace of ideas threaten to oust the Christian voice and banish it from the public square.

As I survey the voices I hear, what I see that is being opposed is the voice of Christian power and influence. It isn’t so much the Gospel, but all the infrastructure that has been built up around it, that people are opposing. People don’t (very often) object to the simple message of the Gospel, They don’t even know or appreciate what it is! The message of the Gospel is effectively hidden behind the more public scaffolding of the Church.

Continue reading “For the Shame of the Gospel”

Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Erhman – Part 6 – Postscript


I have taken some time in previous blog articles to summarize my comments about an interview of Bart Ehrman by Sam Harris. Ehrman talks about his early induction into a fundamentalist Christian world and losing his faith. He talks about the issues with biblical interpretation that led him away from belief.  I provide some comment on issues that possibly factor into his loss of faith, and the most recent articles address a modern view of miracles that avoids wrestling with evidence of the resurrection, and an observation that I share with others: that atheists and fundamentalists interpret the Bible similarly (two sides to the same coin).

One way to summarize Bart Ehrman’s story is the rejection of a rigid, wooden Christianity that imposes (or tries to impose) a “literal” meaning to everything in the Bible.  For Erhman, this is an all or nothing proposition.  Either the Bible is all literally true, or it is all literally false.

This is a false dichotomy.  It fails to appreciate nuance, different genres in the Bible, the significance of symbolical, metaphorical and allegorical meanings, context, and many other things.  It is the position of someone insisting that the Bible be read in a certain way and read through a particular lens, rather than allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

When we approach the Bible, or any literature, with our own assumptions and presuppositions, we have already begun to dictate where we will end up. Ehrman originally approached the Bible with the assumption that it was all literally true (whatever “literally” meant to him and the people who influenced him). Ehrman now approaches the Bible with the assumption that it is all literally false, and that colors the way he reads it.

Harris’s reliance on Hume’s standard for determining the proof of a miracle comes back to mind.  If we set the bar “exceedingly” high, as Hume says we should, we rig the analysis, from the start, to discount every miraculous claim.  That the standard we have set is impossible to meet is the ultimate point. They don’t believe in miracles so they don’t take evidence of miracles seriously, whatever the evidence is.

This way of approaching a subject doesn’t seem very scientific or scholarly to me.  Yet, Harris is a scientist.  Erhman is a scholar.  While skepticism is a useful tool, it needs to be employed with a dose of humility, and the same skepticism should be applied to the “hermeneutics of skepticism” employed by the skeptic.

When the interview starts, Harris talks about people failing to use skeptical scientific tools.  Harris is, generally, referring to the scientific method. The scientific method is primarily a skeptical approach, demanding proof.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that approach.  The danger, however, is that we sneak all kinds of presuppositions into our scientific approach which, by their very nature, will dictate outcomes.  This really is not what the scientific method, in its purest form, is meant to be.

Continue reading “Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Erhman – Part 6 – Postscript”

Lost Boys with Guns

Depositphotos Image ID: 184293546 Copyright: belchonock

The gun debate rages on anew, with the flames refueled by the Florida school shooting. Other potential causes of our unique problem with gun violence, mass shootings and school shootings in particular are being identified, usually by the gun advocates. Mental health, removing God from schools and religion from public life, and other things. Do we have a gun problem? Do we have a mental health problem? Do we have a lack of purpose and meaning problem? I think the answer is probably, yes, to all of the above, but there is another problem that no one seems to be talking about. At least, I haven’t seen anyone talk about it until I read an Op-ed article in the NY Times today by Michael Ian Black, The Boys Are Not All Right.

In reading his piece, it dawns on my that, together with whatever other problems we have that contribute to make the United States the only country in the world in which school shootings occur on a regular basis, we have a boy problem. We have a problem with our boys. Our boys are not all right!

It shouldn’t be rocket science for us to realize that girls don’t do mass shootings. They just don’t. Most mass shootings are committed by adolescent boys or young, college-age men. The exceptions are older men. Girls don’t shoot people up like that.

This statistic should jump out at us!

Why are mass shootings, and school shootings in particular, committed by boys and by men? What is the difference between boys and girls, men and women, that explains this phenomenon?

Another fairly obvious statistic is that the incidents of mass shootings and school shootings, in particular, have risen exponentially in the last 30 years. In fact, just 40 years ago, mass shootings were quite rare. Now they have become routine, regular, common-place – whatever you want to call it. We aren’t even surprised any more. What has happened in the last 30 years to cause this spike in mass shootings and school shootings?

I think Michael Black has turned over the stone to a possible answer. My thoughts on the subject, inspired by his article, are linked here

via The Lost Boys with Guns.

 

In My Time of Dying

Photo courtesy of yours truly, Budapest Hungary

I have experienced an awful lot of dying in my world recently. People that I know, friends and family of people that I know, one after another, many people in my world are dying lately.

Frankly, from the moment we are born, we begin to die. This isn’t a pleasant thought, but this is where my head is going as I read my Facebook feed, offering condolences, prayers and thoughts, one after another.

Our cells begin to die off from the moment we are born. Sure, they regenerate. Our cells die off and regenerate throughout our lives. As our lives go on, however, the dying process speeds up, it picks up in intensity, the dying outpaces the regeneration and it results, eventually, in our natural deaths… if something doesn’t kill us sooner.

It could be depressing to think about. On the other hand, it is natural. This is the way it is.

Why do we even care?

Really, why does death bother us so much? Does my dog think about dying?

If death is simply a fact, a matter of life, a natural phenomenon, what’s gotten into our heads about it? How do we explain our preoccupation with death?

Continue reading “In My Time of Dying”