Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Praying for Obedience

I've recently been much more intentional about praying and taking opportunities to witness which are presented to me. Someone told me that I was doing well and asked if I had anything I could say to stir up zeal in others. This is a modification of my reply:

I will boast in the Lord. He has made me knowledgeable and zealous and easily conversational, and He is the one I will credit for finally compelling me to pray desperately for the desire, opportunity, and actual fact of witnessing. That was one half of a prayer to give me strength to be obedient. I've tried before, with regard to mortifying besetting sin, and certainly haven't neglected prayer, but one thing I can't deny -- my prayer has not been continual. 

My only thought this time -- while rejecting the idea that praying is just another way to "do x for God to get y from God" -- is that I have never succeeded at a HABIT of DAILY, regular, time devoted to prayer (I have always been mindful and ask for mercies as I exercise or drive but it's not exactly the same, certainly not the model seen in Daniel and Jesus' behaviors). My thought was, EVEN IF the efficacy is due to the psychological effect of being deterred from sinning due to the natural conflict and contradiction that would have with prayer ("not harboring sin in your heart?"), it will still be worth it to pursue regular prayer for aid and strength as the way to be daily protected from failure. And Biblically, we're promised we can do nothing without His strength, so it is a continuing plea for Him to provide the indispensable spiritual means by which I can be sustained in obedience. 

Further, by having prayed, I have confidence because won't He answer any prayer asked in accordance with His will? And I spend much of my time asking that my motives, desires, requests and acts be pure and Godly and that I don't deceive myself, such as by evaluating whether my prayer was good or efficacious based on the words.

That ties directly into the fact that we have a high priest and it's His prayers that are efficacious on our behalf and He "knows what we need before we ask" and always makes the right request of the Father because they are united in their will. So it's Him, start to finish, on whom I lean, and I'm desperate enough to have the relief from my failure that I have no intention of trying to grab anything "for myself" out of praying, and so I have focused so much more on seeking His imparting of spiritual disciplines than any other request, even practical ones like that I find work. I have lost the fantasy of adult life I had when I was young, and I am left, to my perception, able to honestly ask Him to glorify Himself in me however He wills, without condition... Yet being hopeful enough to ask that the MEANS He uses to glorify Himself in me would also be something that brings me joy, and 
does not make His servant a byword. I am encouraged to think that the result of having more free time on my hands is that I will now finally cement in place a habit of praying early in the morning, regularly, to "put my armor on before the battle and not at the end".

So i would hesitate, of course, to say I have "a trick", or even to say what "I" am "doing", but such is the challenge when talking about an infinite God who nevertheless gives us the ability to "really act" and yet empowers everything we do. It's hard to talk about God or to God when it gets down to the deeply personal. That's what makes my prayers go long. Not that I'm trying to impress Him. I just want to be duly reverent and not presume.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

How To Pray: Don't Get Hung Up on Your Performance

When you pray, what do you depend on to decide if you prayed a "good prayer?"

"When you sigh, "if only my prayer were a true prayer," you must be cautioned, because this thought can contain the notion that the quality of your prayer gives it merit. Humble petitioners know that their prayers have no merit. If you believed that your prayers were "good" prayers, then they would be prayers of self-merit. You would then be trusting on your prayer offerings instead of God's gracious reception--trusting in your works instead of God's mercy. If you are waiting to approach God until you can offer "good" or "true" prayers, you are waiting in vain. Humility evaporates when it recognizes itself. The humble person recognizes his pride. A humble person does not see his own prayer as humble. Praying humbly is asking, "God be merciful." ... Pray for humbling grace, so that you might pray as a needy, unworthy supplicant to the great and holy God of the universe. Every cry of broken heart to God is a true prayer. These are the prayers that God delights to hear."

~ Joel Beeke, Developing A Healthy Prayer Life

Consider that you have a high priest who intercedes for you, who always makes the right request of the Father because He is united with Him in His will. Ask your Mediator to make the request for what you need, on your behalf, and then that the Father would grant the request on the basis of the pure motives of the Son, and to glorify Himself.

Romans 8:34
Hebrews 7:24-25
22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

It's not because you prayed, or how long you prayed, or how you prayed, or what you prayed for, or with what motives you prayed, that persuade God to answer. God already knows what you need before you ask - Matthew 6:8. Therefore, do not trust in your own behavior, but trust in God's graciousness to grant anything you ask in His will, (John 14:13) not because you "asked it right" but so that the Father may be glorified in the Son, as that verse says.

This frees you from having to worry about praying the right way. Ask God to cover your weaknesses. Pray to Jesus to petition the Father for you, for the needs He knows you have, which you may not even be aware of. Then you won't doubt that God would answer your prayers based on how you prayed, because that is no longer the metric you evaluate your own prayers by.

Further reading: Donatism

- W

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Super Short: Implications of NOT Learning from Christian Women

Adult Christian men are not to be in submission to the spiritual authority of women.
Generally, teaching the Word to someone is an exercise of spiritual authority.

But does it follow that a man may not read or listen to the words of a female writer or speaker on the subject of God's Word and gain some benefit through doing so?


Here's how I thought about it today:

Is a woman unable to offer an insight into Scripture that a man doesn't already know? Can she not teach any better than her husband? What are the implications? If he is always going to be better at teaching than she, such that she has no unique insights to offer that he does not surpass with his own, isn't it reasonable to conclude that if the goal of raising the children is to give them the best instruction, that the husband should be the primary child-rearer of the two? In addition to working, phew, what a practical challenge! No, there is no assumption that women have nothing to offer to the benefit of men, nor that they cannot teach better than men, in some qualified way, implicit in the instruction that men are to be the spiritual authority in the spheres of the church and the home. The husband can benefit from spiritual advice and insight from his wife. And if that doesn't make him a bad leader, neither would it make him one if he solicited wisdom from other women.

Here is what Tim Challies wrote on the subject, in I'm Complementarian And I Read Books By Women.
"For his own purposes, God has determined that men will take the leadership role in the church, including the public teaching of the gathered congregation. There is no indication that he has made this determination on the basis of gifting, ability, or wisdom."
And he concludes,
I believe this a valid expression of the teaching gift whether those women write exclusively for women or whether they write for men and women. Why? Because this writing ministry does not usurp the authority of husbands or elders. Their books pose no threat to a husband’s or church’s leadership. They do not challenge a complementarian understanding of the Bible.....[I] encourage Christian men to gladly, humbly, confidently read books by women. I encourage pastors to gladly, humbly, confidently read books by women. Don’t read them with fear or suspicion, don’t read them to simply screen them for your wife or your congregation, but read them to learn, to grow, to know God better. Trust that God dispenses gifting, ability, and wisdom to men and women alike.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Piper's Inauguration Day Comments, also Grace To You's

"Note well: Trump has not, as far as I am aware, publicly renounced these behaviors as evil, but deflected the issue by talking only about the “language,” calling it “locker-room talk.” However, the main issue was not his talk. It was his immoral action asserted in the talk."
That's clarity of thought.
"Followers of Christ are not Americans first. Our first allegiance is to Jesus, and then to the God-inspired word of Scripture, the Bible. This is our charter, not the U.S. Constitution." 
Cameron Buettel
"We are never called to go to war with our mission field. Like Paul, our interactions with civic leaders and rulers should be fueled by our desire to further the gospel."
That page links to three sermons on the Christian's relationship to government.

This is the passage of Scripture that Franklin Graham chose to read after Trump had spoken his inaugural address:
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."
1 Timothy 2

~ W

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Intro to Transcendental Argumentation

Transcendental arguments have two major distinguishing aspects:

One, is that they are circular. All circular arguments have the following features:

  • They are logically valid, and they prove themselves. Circular logic is most often found in the form of the conclusion being a restatement of the premise. This is not invalid reasoning, but the reason it is usually avoided is that it is not helpful. Simply restating your premise in your conclusion doesn't give any new information. But an argument that does not simply restate the premises, but nevertheless proves the premise in the conclusion, would both a) be logically circular and b) useful.
  • The major distinction between vicious circular reasoning and a transcendental argument, then, can be boiled down to the following: useless circular logic is arbitrary. But transcendental reasoning is not arbitrary. Another way of putting that is that transcendental reasoning is necessary. Or at least that it may be, as one means of being non-arbitrary.

Two, is that they are constructed in such a way that any attempt to refute them will result in any opposing argument contradicting itself. That is to say, a transcendental argument is tautologically true and all rejections of it are tautologically false.

Example one, taken from Jason Lisle, PhD, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Master Books, 2009.

Major Premise; If there were no laws of logic, then we could not make an argument.
Minor Premise: There are laws of logic.
Conclusion: Therefore, we can make an argument.

"How do you know there are laws of logic?" This kind of response is common to most cases where a premise is asserted without reference to some other premise that has been established by consensus or previously concluded. But it does not apply, here. The minor premise is not arbitrary. It is not presented for no reason. This is shown when, if you attempt to deny the premise, you deny your own ability to argue against it. Any attempt to argue against this proof must implicitly rely on the existence of universal laws of logic that govern truth and falsehood.

If you deny the major premise, you claim that we can make an argument without laws of logic (nonsense) or that you cannot make an argument even though laws of logic exist (also nonsense). If you deny the minor premise, you are attempting to use logical argumentation to argue against your privilege to use logical argumentation. You contradict yourself, and are therefore wrong by the law of non-contradiction. Notice that this, too, is a law of logic -- but if you deny such laws, you are left incapable of arguing against the existence of such a law that is binding on your behavior. You are in a lose-lose position.

Something Dr. Lisle pointed out with emphasis in the book is that the entire proof is a logical argument, and utilizes the Modus Tollens method of denying the consequent (the second half of the first premise's if-then statement). It uses logical argumentation to prove that logical argumentation is necessary. This is circular. You haven't yet proven the conclusion when you begin to make the argument. But it is inevitable. And the thing that makes it recognizably transcendental is that any attempt to deny or refute any part of the argument results in self-refutation. Your opponent is forced to contradict himself.

As a matter of logical definition, there is no truth-value to the premises (true or false, that is, no matter which combination of calling them true or false) that results in a false conclusion; therefore, the conclusion is tautologially true. It isn't just true, it can't be anything but true, in any situation, ever. Thus, you can be completely confident that what you now know, will never change.

The Bible is transcendentally and tautologically true. With such a logical system at the core of our identity and beliefs about the world, Christians have complete, unwavering confidence that can never change, no matter what they encounter. This sort of faith in God is not blind, naive, or ignorant. It is so thoroughly based upon knowledge and logical reasoning that there is no possibility that anything else has ever been true or could ever be true, which contradicts the Bible. Not just because we hope so, but because it is materially impossible.

Here is an example of a transcendental argumentation form, using a common claim by atheists against God's existence:

Atheist: All positive claims have the burden of proof.
Christian: That is a positive claim. The burden of proof is on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims.

  If you (as 'the atheist') tried to say that the Burden of proof is not on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims, then you claim a) to have not made a positive claim, which is false or b) that the burden of proof is not on those who make positive claims. Your only logical conclusion is to accept that the burden of proof is on you to prove that the burden of proof is on those who make positive claims. And that is how you lose an argument in spectacular fashion. 

The point of this exercise is also partly to show that all claims are ultimately positive. There is no such thing as a negative claim, just like there are no negative numbers. "Negative" is just a direction from a reference frame. The position of skepticism toward a positive claim is the same as the positive claim that "positive claim x is not irrefutably true." And that is just what Christianity is--irrefutably true. Not just true, but necessarily true, and everything that disputes it is false, and cannot be otherwise, by definition.

This is a logical position of strong faith.

The Christian is not irrational by using the Bible to prove other religions wrong. He is not merely arbitrarily asserting one over the other. It is much deeper than the typical critic believes. The Bible refutes all other worldviews because all other worldviews contradict the Bible, AND that any attempts to defend those worldviews by arguing that the Bible is false will result in self-refuting states of affairs.

All circular logic is valid, and the conclusion proves the premise.
Non-arbitrary circular logic is necessary to form a foundation for knowledge.
Something is tautological if no matter what part of the argument (which of the premises) you pick apart to deny the truth or falsehood of, the conclusion will always be true.
Something irrefutable is something that can never be proven wrong by using logical reasoning.
A transcendental argument is recognized by the fact that it presents a seemingly arbitrary argument, which involves circular reasoning, and all attempts to refute it results in the creation of an internal contradiction within the opposing argument.

~ W

Further Reading: An excellent introductory chapter to AiG's newest book, available on site.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christian Identity and Racial Identity

A friend shared with me how their InterVarsity campus group had opened up their large group meeting by announcing that "IV is a multicultural, multiethnic campus christian group. Just look around you at all the different faces."

This came in the context of a discussion on Christian identity. I responded with the way I might have opened a campus group -- or introduction to a sermon on Christian identity and race -- which is reproduced below.

"Yeah sigh. If I had wanted to  draw attention to differences--first, it wouldn't be in the introduction because as I said, it's not fundamental to who we are, the Gospel is, and if I led a Bible study or church or small group or campus group, I would lead with the naked Gospel from the get-go-- I would say something along the lines of "He has made of one blood all nations, and appointed the boundaries of their dwellings," referencing Paul at the Areopagus, and probably quote the whole passage, 
22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”Acts 17:22-31
and say "God loves to tell a good story. And one of the things that continually amazes me is the ways in which He has accomplished to cause the same exact message to be faithfully transmitted to and believed by so many different--and unlikely--people. Scripture says that there is neither slave nor free/jew/greek/etc for all are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). More specifically, all who are in Christ Jesus are one. Apart from God, we might first identify as our gender, our social status, our "race", etc. But true followers of Christ are first and foremost Christians, and all else is secondary. We are not Christian women, or Asian Christians, we are Christians. Our race or sex does not influence our view of Christianity or the Bible, it is our Christianity and the Bible that influences how we look at our race or our sex. Not the other way around, and anybody that has this confused has not internalized the Romans passage I just quoted. Christ demands that you lay down everything else in order to have Him. Did He mean to make an exception for our political or social identities? If you see yourself as something else before you see yourself as a Christian, then you see something else as more important and more valuable than Christ. This is a very dangerous place to be, because anything that gets between us and God is an idol. In light of the tendency of people to identify as a race, it is truly fascinating when God causes people to set that aside and unite as Christians." "

~ W

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Beautiful No Matter What?

I am amazed by this snippet of Scripture:
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; (1 Corinthians 1:26)
The 'smart Christian' is a rarity, so that if you are one, you have more going against you than the average person does. People with demonstrably higher intelligence than others are prone to take pride in their intelligence. They foolishly deem themselves to be self-sufficient in their own wisdom, and become unwilling to listen to others tell them what to think. If I considered my journey of faith to be due to my own effort, I would - and initially was prone to - assume that I came to the right conclusions because I'm smart enough to understand what I'm reading. But on the contrary, intelligence doesn't guarantee that you'll believe (1 Corinthians 2:14). God was gracious, in that He chose me, even though not many like me are chosen. So I was saved without regard for my intellect; if brainpower does anything for me, it might merely be that it grants me a greater capacity for introspection, with which to consider the faith that I know have.

That puts me in a perpetual state of awe. As I go about living, whatever I'm doing, my mind is busy always thinking, analyzing everything I come across with Biblical lenses and seeking how to apply the Gospel to every situation.

Walking through a store recently, I overheard the famous pop song "Beautiful" (2002, Christina Aguilera) playing over the speakers. For purposes of this analysis, only one line is necessary:

"You are beautiful, no matter what they say"
I have come to the place of maturity in my Christian walk where attempts at encouragement like this make me cringe. It's a very simple concept:
Place your confidence, and the foundation for how you view yourself, on something that cannot change.
If what you place your confidence in is something that can change, then, when it changes, you will experience a crisis of confidence.
This is not the reason it is wrong. But it makes it very easy to see why it's undesirable. If you choose to set your hope on sand, then when the sand washes away in the storm, so does your hope.

I have a suggestion: the "positive messages" redundantly insisting on telling all women (and sometimes men) everywhere that they are beautiful (Martina McBride's "This One's For the Girls" is another that comes to mind) are, I will grant for the sake of argument, well-intended. They aren't intentionally trying to set people up for failure by giving them a shaky confidence in other people's compliments. They are trying to persuade them to not depend on the affirmation of others. The only problem is, they try to do this by offering their own affirmation. And worse, while the goal is to tell women that they have worth despite what others say,

They communicate this by directly connecting their worth with their beauty. This is an implicitly sexist trope, perpetuated almost exclusively by women, for women. The message that we're all beautiful, no matter what, is really saying that what gives a woman worth and value is beauty. The obvious falsehood of the statement is what sets people up for depression: when someone accepts that they aren't as good looking as they hoped, or when they realize that they are aging, then they either a) succumb to despair, believing themselves to be without worth or value, or b) become desperately defiant, insisting that they are beautiful to people who react with a mixture of amusement and pity, and waste their money on "age-defying" 'beauty'-products. It is a form of slavery, to be a victim of this system.

What's the Christian difference?

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
(1 Peter 3:3-4)
Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.
(Proverbs 11:22)
Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies. 

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,

But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

(Proverbs 31:10, 30)
The Bible is unmistakable. A woman's worth is not found in her outward appearance. What is she praised for? Fearing God. What gives her worth? Virtue. What is precious and beautiful about her? A quiet spirit. Don't overlook that this beauty is called incorruptible. 
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 
(1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 
(1 John 2:17)
and those who deal with the world [should live] as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
(1 Corinthians 7:31)
It's an obvious contrast. The outward beauty of your physical body is corruptible, passing away. It has no eternal value. What does have eternal value is the incorruptible beauty of a woman whose soul is saved; who fears the Lord and will therefore be raised incorruptible after the present external has passed away. She has worth and value, because God Himself calls her precious, and because He never changes (see my major premise in color above), you now have an unshakable confidence that will never come into question, throwing you into a personal crisis where you obsess about your appearance. You are free from that.

A woman who has never humbled herself in repentance over her sins against God and sought His forgiveness through His once-for-all, perfect substitutionary sacrifice of Himself, on her behalf, has no such promise.

You cannot live the abundant life (John 10:10) without first being given new life (Ephesians 2:4-5) (John 3:5-7). If you don't believe the Bible, what do its promises mean for you? How can your mind be changed by something you reject?

This is why the solution is not simple self-help, words of affirmation to insecure women. It is nothing less than salvation that is needed to free you from this slavery. And that is why you must be given the Gospel.

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
(Romans 6:16-18)
One minute of your time can make an eternity of difference.

It is why we believers must give hurting people the Gospel, to set them free. Nothing else comes close to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit renewing a person's mind (Romans 12:2) after He has converted them and sealed them for eternity (Ephesians 1:13). Why would we try to help with anything less than the best?

There is a postscript to this article that I'll hide below the break.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Internet Roundup 11-15-16

How then shall we pray? (Challies)
One of the things about becoming more mature in the faith and appreciating God's sovereignty is that it constrains how you pray. You realize that there are some things you just can't ask for. Such as for God's will to be thwarted. Such as for Him to do what you want, if it's not what's best. Such as for Him to be pleased to answer your appeal to your own desires, rather than to His glory. There are so many caveats you discover as you grow wiser, that it sometimes becomes difficult to think of how to pray, since you know God knows best and will do best, after all. That's why this article on Tim Challies' website is helpful. It collects Biblical references to how we ought to pray for those who are not saved. Use it to guide you as you pray.

Analyzing Exit Polls to Interpret How Many Self-Identified Evangelicals Really Voted for Trump, Enthusiastically. (The Gospel Coalition)
The conclusion by this writer is that about 18% of eligible voters self-identifying as 'evangelicals' voted for each candidate because they genuinely approved of the candidate. The point is to put in perspective how bad the cult phenomenon really is. Remember that just because someone voted for Trump, it does not mean they are in sin. I have strong convictions about the folly of casting a vote for the man, as explained by reference to dozens of articles I collected here. But that does not mean that everyone who voted for Trump was doing so out of a failure of spiritual conviction.

It's also worth noting that this TGC article doesn't even go into speculating on the authenticity of the professions of faith of those voting. It could very well be that all 36% of those who enthusiastically voted for each candidate constitute the unchurched. This would mean 1) that it doesn't reflect on the character of the average Christian, and 2) that they are the mission field, so that we should focus efforts to share the Gospel with people who we find out were very enthusiastic in their support for either major party candidate. Right? Because protecting our brand is not the motive here, it is to promote right thinking, so that the church can be effective in its mission.

Aimee Byrd Reviews Glennon Doyle Melton's Memoir and Comments on the Recent News of Melton's Rebound Relationship with Abby Wambach. (Housewife Theologian)
"I’m no longer torn. I’m sad that women who are lost are leading many with them....I’m sad that unbelievers see this bad witness of the church and think that Oprah’s book club has a better gospel to offer. I’m sad that many in the conservative church draw the orthodox line in critiquing speakers and authors on homosexuality, and not way before that, on first order doctrines."
"It all comes off gimmicky, performance as life. She speaks at Belong, but wouldn’t step foot in a church that upholds the inerrancy of Scripture. Those who believe what the Bible says about the one way to salvation do not belong. There is no listening to those who want to outreach with truth and love. She writes on and on about wholesome body image...[a]nd while she mentions bleaching her hair as one of her pathetic attempts to follow the “hidden rules” of society so that she can appear sexy, I notice in her latest Facebook update that she is now a blonde again. And I feel betrayed... She ostensibly fights for family and is horrified that other women have been brought into her marriage, threatening her children’s gift of a mommy and daddy who love one another. But this book was just released in September and she is already pronouncing her love for another woman."

Once Again: Proof of the Resurrection, in Image Form

This is from a web-comic by a man named Adam Ford, whose other invention you may have heard of: the Babylon Bee, which he started in ~March of this year. Here is how he explains the proof of the Resurrection. Same argument I gave in my starter posts, but you may enjoy, or "get" it, better, in image format.

I'll link here: http://adam4d.com/jesus-rose-from-dead/

And embed the rest below the break:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Immediate Thoughts on the Election Results

1. The actions and attitudes of Trump Cult throughout the primaries and the general election made me realize that the only way they would ever accept that they were wrong, and repent, is if Trump became president and then totally betrayed them in every way. If he lost to Hillary, he would always be "the perfect president who never was," a martyr for them, and they wouldn't learn their lesson. They would fight for an even worse candidate in the future (see the After the Republic article in the hub I posted justifying not voting for either Trump or Clinton). Because the outcome of such an presidency would be conceivably worse than either Trump or Clinton's (is that hard to imagine? Not if you have a big picture view of history), it would be preferable to suffer the failures of Trump in order to avoid the failures of an even worse successor.

2. This logic doesn't seem to work for Hillary, since anyone voting for her would not have learned their lesson from Obama's two terms. Therefore, for good or ill, Trump's election would be better in terms of the wake-up-call it would give to the most people.

3. Note: this is quite separate from saying that I could endorse or vote for either candidate. I can not support their character, their policies, or the damage they would do to the church through their hostility. But each one represents a different quality of divine judgment. Clinton would continue the slow rot, resulting in a worse catastrophe, but nevertheless delaying it farther down the road. Trump, I reasoned, would be more likely to cause a catastrophe very soon, which in that sense would be a mercy to us, interrupting the course of our national drift. I looked at the fact that God used various invaders to punish the Israelites and cause them to turn back to worshiping Him, over many centuries. This could be blown up to a full length article, but I'll stop here.

4. Note also: if Trump turns out to be a great president, then it would be my turn, and the others in my camp, spiritually and politically, to admit (but with relief) that we were wrong. So, because both groups - those incapable of ever endorsing Trump, and those unwilling to draw a line in the sand beyond which they would not endorse him - can stand to be proven wrong, and thus, repent and not make this mistake again, the election of Trump is the best possible outcome, speaking from an empirically scientific standpoint.

5. My primary concern is still the witness of the church, as aptly put by both Erickson (here) and Deace (here). The outcome of the election is a separate question from whether we should be seen by the world to be supporting this man and accepting him, least of all as a Christian brother. If the Gospel is a stumbling block to someone (1 Peter 2:7-8), then that is fine, because then they are offended for the right reasons: God, not your personality. But if they are offended and turned off from the Christian faith because of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and your personal decisions that have no direct connection to the Gospel, then it is to your shame. Further, God places the responsibility on you to avoid doing just that! 
"He said to His disciples, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!"(Luke 17:1)
"When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand." (Ezekiel 3:18)
I refuse to be responsible for putting a stumbling block to faith in front of any unbeliever who is watching to see what people who call themselves Christians will call good by how they vote. That is why I voted blank, rejecting all parties on the ballot. This matter of Gospel integrity is much more important to me than the outcome of the election. God is in control of what the next president will or will not do. To me, He has delegated the responsibility to be an ambassador for His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20), and warned me against doing anything whereby I myself make a stumbling block, that is, cause someone to be turned off to considering Christianity because of my conduct.

Steve Deace said it this way: 
"I am afraid of the message we will be sending this culture by compromising everything we claim to believe in, by supporting a man who embodies everything we supposedly oppose. And I’m afraid the cost for that message could transcend generations, as the culture declares we are the emperor who has no clothes. That when push comes to shove we offer them nothing not already of this world. The same fear-mongering and situational ethics they can get anywhere else. Just minus all that annoyingly sanctimonious moralizing. We will confirm for them they were right to tune us out."
This will continue to be a challenge for the church throughout the next several years, as we deal with the aftermath of the decisions made by people whom the world sees as representative of Christianity.

6. I anticipate that the Biblical analogy of what Trump's presidency may turn out to most resemble is that of Xerxes in the book of Esther. Opening to the very first chapter, we see Xerxes having a party and wanting to impress other powerful men for the sake of his ego. So he commands his wife to serve his ego, by letting these men objectify her and congratulate her husband for his manly prowess. She refuses, and his to-his-mind-perfectly-logical conclusion is to pass a law that warns all women in the entire kingdom against disobeying their husbands, and divorces the queen on the spot. Xerxes begins wife-shopping, and providentially decides to marry a young Jewess descended from a people living in exile and oppression in his kingdom. Later, Xerxes is casually unconcerned about the affairs of state to the point that he signs off on a request by his top official to murder all Jews because one of them insulted the official. Xerxes saves the day when Queen Esther asks him nicely to stop this from happening, and he insists that the law has to be upheld (law before morality) but consents to let the Jews defend themselves. Trump, like Xerxes, is shockingly unconcerned with the consequences of his personal whims, and more interested in his ego than he is in protecting innocents or honoring his wife's dignity. But he has one characteristic that prevents his rule from being a complete catastrophe: he does reward those he favors, like Mordecai and Esther. When someone close to him brings a matter to his attention and suggests a course of action, he usually goes along with it. This has both evil and good outcomes, depending on who has his ear. I would expect a Trump presidency to have the potential to be sheer chaos or surprisingly good-fortunate, depending on the unpredictability of whether or not his closest advisers and people he wishes to impress recommend wise or foolish decisions. From our perspective, we can only pray fervently that God will turn his ear to someone like Esther rather than someone like Haman, and that those who find themselves in positions of influence over his policies would give him sound counsel, not selfish requests.

- W

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Collection of All Articles Opposing Both Trump and Clinton from a Christian Perspective

I chose to cast a blank ballot. The rationale for how to vote may be explained in a later short-post. Here I have simply linked to every single article (every one of them superbly excellent) that I have read that shares my view and argues for it from a Christian perspective.

I do not know many of the authors writing, and so I cannot affirm that the beliefs held by every one of the writers are my beliefs. For example, Matt Walsh (Roman Catholic) and Ben Shapiro (Orthodox Jew) have a different faith, but much of their writing against Trump is agreeable. If I include them, it is not saying that we're coming from the same place spiritually, even though we may largely be saying the same thing on the surface.

In other words, these articles will be articles that I have read and believe Christians can agree on the letter with nigh upon every word, but do not take that as an endorsement of everything a writer may say. This is an endorsement of the messages at face value only, and offered for the consideration of every professing Christian.

What is included above the break are must-reads. Beyond the break, I have bolded what are the more important articles according to my perspective, and given short citations in italic where appropriate, to indicate an article's message. My own comments are un-italicized.

Direct Treatments:

The Big Idea

Trump is Not Christian. Christian News, Heather Clark.“I like to do the right thing where I don’t actually have to ask for forgiveness,” Trump replied. “Where you don’t [do] such bad things that you have to ask for forgiveness. I mean, I try and lead a life where I don’t have to ask God for forgiveness.”

Trump Really Is Not A Christian. RedState. Reports on the interview Trump gave in the Playboy issue featured in the picture he took with Mr. and Mrs. Falwell, Jr. Also excerpts a CNN interview where Trump said the following: “I am not sure I have,” Trump said when asked if he’d ever asked God for forgiveness. “I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so,” he said. “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

Letter to Christian Leaders Not to Endorse Trump. Steve Deace. "Tyrants cannot be loved on. They must be broken. You will only know if they have been broken if you see the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Do they practice altruism, as in the right thing expecting nothing in return? Is there a public repentance, or a repentance of convenience? Meaning they tell you what you want to hear now just so they can get from you what they want. Anything short of that and I can promise you, as God Almighty is my witness, you are being played. And once that is revealed it will not be the tyrant that is exposed for scorn and mockery, but you. Every. Single. Time."
Every. Single. Time.
- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/05/dear-christian-leaders-youre-playing-a-very-dangerous-game#sthash.RStnRyRb.dpuf

When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn't change. He changes you.

Anything short of that and I can promise you, as God Almighty is my witness, you are being played. And once that is revealed it will not be the tyrant that is exposed for scorn and mockery, but you.
Every. Single. Time.
- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/05/dear-christian-leaders-youre-playing-a-very-dangerous-game#sthash.RStnRyRb.dpuf"

"But I am not afraid of Hillary Clinton. Let me tell you what I am afraid of. .. I am afraid of the message we will be sending this culture by compromising everything we claim to believe in, by supporting a man who embodies everything we supposedly oppose. And I’m afraid the cost for that message could transcend generations, as the culture declares we are the emperor who has no clothes. That when push comes to shove we offer them nothing not already of this world. The same fear-mongering and situational ethics they can get anywhere else. Just minus all that annoyingly sanctimonious moralizing. We will confirm for them they were right to tune us out. That we are who they thought we were. We will write the God-haters’ material for them. That will have consequences for our fellow countrymen that will last long past the next four years."
That will have consequences for our fellow countrymen that will last long past the next four years.
- See more at: https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/05/dear-christian-leaders-youre-playing-a-very-dangerous-game#sthash.RStnRyRb.dpuf

Michael Farris. Christians Cannot Vote "Lesser of Two Evils." "We [the Moral Majority] recognized, then and now, that no candidate is perfect, but we believed that there were certain lines which could not be crossed if evangelical support was to be forthcoming. If we say now that Trump has not crossed those lines, then we’re saying those lines never truly existed."

Mick Wright, 2016 RNC Delegate. Why Donald Trump Gives Me Hope. Medium-length among all the articles I've posted here. Recommend you read it carefully start to finish to get the message, which is well delievered.

Samuel Whitefield (do not know who he is). 4 Things to Consider Before You Vote Trump. "Some may argue that we must promote Trump for the sake of the Supreme Court, but are a few Supreme Court judges worth our integrity?" ... "Abortion is serious but it does not mean that we promote wickedness in order to get a supposedly “pro-life” candidate who realistically will not change the status quo? Should we promote anyone regardless of their character if they promised they were not pro-choice anymore?" Both of these points directly challenge MacArthur's voting rationale (link at far bottom of the article). This article is very similar to Erickson's in that it makes a focused appeal to consider the church's witness. It is simply much longer and much more meticulously cited with footnotes.

Erick Erickson.
Reconsidering My Opposition to Trump. He points out Grudem's (see far bottom, after the break) hypocrisy in refusing to vote for Giuliani for the same things that he is now rationalizing away to vote for Trump. "That I see so many Christians justifying Donald Trump’s immorality, defining deviancy down, and turning to anger and despondency about the future tells me I cannot in good faith support Donald Trump because his victory would have lasting, damaging consequences for Christianity in America. We harm our witness and the testimony of the strength of our Lord by embracing the immoral, unrepentant strong man. We harm our American virtue by buying into the idea that one man can make America great again. Further, we risk losing Donald Trump’s soul for the sake of our selfishness."

There is much more content after the page break.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Basics: The Core Proof of the Faith, Part II

The previous entry makes the irrefutable argument that the Bible must be the Word of God, on the basis of the fact that Jesus 1) said it is, 2) claimed to be God, and 3) was resurrected after He died, something no God would do if He cared about not actively misleading people by endorsing a false prophet's claims by making his prophecy come true.

The argument is irrefutable (not to be confused with undeniable--people can refuse to accept truth at will, but to be irrefutable means that it cannot be proven false) because if you deny any one of the key points, you create a nonsensical situation: see this post.

Now, if the Bible is clearly God's Word on the authority of Jesus, the God-Man, then the only missing piece of this concisely stated proof is the piece that applies it to "real life," that is, the piece that makes the argument something more than a good philosophical idea, and an incontrovertible fact. And that piece is the evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

All evidence of this, to us modern people, is indirect, because none of us saw His death or resurrection with our own eyes, or had the opportunity to hear other eyewitnesses tell us. That does not make the evidence any less compelling.

One of the articles I came across when I was coming to faith which was most helpful in framing how I think about this subject was one from the website Tektonics, entitled "The Impossible Faith."

The argument is very intriguing, because it actually comes as an "oh yeah?" confrontation rather than a mea-culpa-toned defense, as if we are really on the defensive. Instead, it makes the strong argument that it is the person questioning Christianity that needs to explain how come the religion survived the first 100 years. This is not some weak argument from ignorance about how come Christianity is so popular. After all, it isn't. Most people claiming to be Christians are not, and the irony is that they do so because it's convenient--but in a time of harsh persecution, it will be less convenient, and fewer people will claim to be Christian. This is one of the points the article makes. It lists 17 different points of incredulity, boldly arguing that if Christianity is just another man-made religion, there is no way it should have had any followers once the first generation of believers had died out. Here's how they state it, verbatim:
"Rodney Stark has shown in The Rise of Christianity why the movement continued to grow once it got a foothold, but this does not address how it managed to get a foothold in the first place. So how did it happen?
I propose that there is only one, broad explanation for Christianity overcoming these intolerable disadvantages, and that is that it had the ultimate rebuttal -- a certain, trustworthy, and undeniable witness to the resurrection of Jesus, the only event which, in the eyes of the ancients, would have vindicated Jesus' honor and overcome the innumerable stigmae of his life and death...
Skeptics and critics must explain otherwise why, despite each and every one of these factors, Christianity survived, and thrived. A consistent witness, one that was strong enough to reach into the second century in spite of these factors, is the only reasonable candidate."
And from the beginning of the article,
"Below I offer a list of 17 factors to be considered -- places where Christianity "did the wrong thing" in order to be a successful religion. It is my contention that the only way Christianity did succeed is because it was a truly revealed faith -- and because it had the irrefutable witness of the Resurrection"
I recommend the article enthusiastically. Here is a short summary of each point.

  1. Crucifixion was so dishonorable that the idea that a God would die that way was unacceptable. See the article for proof that this was a really big deal, not just a minor point of fine taste.
  2. Jesus was a nobody from nowhere. Ironically, our society isn't prejudiced enough for me to find a contemporary analogy.
  3. A physical resurrection was not what anyone expected. The article demonstrates that 'spiritual' resurrection was the fashion, and the early Gnostic heresy demonstrates this sentiment quite well. They held that matter was base, even evil, and that spirit was pure. To be trapped in bodies of flesh was to them a form of punishment. And they were only continuing the common Platonic philosophy of the time.
  4. People accept what they're used to, what's already established. Novelty is frowned upon, it's just human nature. We are uncomfortable with change. That's why people in lopsided voting districts send the same person to Congress for 40 years in a row.
  5. Rules aren't popular. Christianity's biggest offense to our culture today is the idea that they are wrong in what they believe or what they do, and will be punished for it. Offends many today, certainly then.
  6. Not allowing retaliation not only stifles human nature, it goes against other world religions. If you read the Quran, you find it almost reads as a hate manifesto, repeatedly talking about how so-and-so offended Mohammed and he commands muslims to take up the offense and make sure to get back at the Jews by killing them, for laughing at him. Basically. Christianity is a tough sell when it says "do not repay evil with evil" Romans 12:17. 1 Peter 3:9
  7. God walking among humans isn't 'transcendent' enough, and Islam makes a big deal of that as well. If you want to understand how hard it was for Romans and Greeks to accept Christianity, just interview a muslim who's educated about their own faith, basically. Very similar ways of thinking in some respects.
  8. You'll be hurt and lose your possessions and family ties etc if you join. No perks! Sweet!
  9. How can a God be a man? Many people criticize it today; still a problem then. But even more viscerally -- God having bowel movements? Surely He's above that stuff, no? 
  10. You lose all your class privileges! Even fewer perks if you're coming from a position farther up the rung in society. If you're a man, you're reduced to equality with women, if you're old, you're reduced to equality with the young, if you're black, you're reduced to equality with whites (switched that up on you for some perspective), etc. If you're rich, you're not any more special than the poor. Money doesn't buy you favor.
  11. Relying on women as trustworthy witnesses. One of the more significant overlooked aspects of the Gospel in our modern society, and yet another example of where Islam can help us understand just how alien this is. In Shariah Law, the testimony of 4 women is equal to that of one man's. Women were forbidden from being witnesses. The fact that the Bible matter-of-factly reports their words as if they were true was another offense.
  12. Same deal with the women, when it comes to low-class provincial men, which all the apostles except Paul were. Even today, we are more likely to believe a report if the president says it, but if a random homeless guy on the street says something about the president that no one else corroborates, you know as well as I do that you'd ignore him without a second thought.
  13. People would check the facts. Making claims that can be proven false would cause gossip to spread like wildfire, killing your man-made cult off before it left the ground.
  14. A God who doesn't know things? At face value, it would seem to contradict the idea in Part I that I mentioned, that we assume certain things about God -- like omniscience, in this case. This is a perfect example of why it would have been such a challenge to get people to believe in Him -- so many problems to explain away! It begs the question of how come Christianity survived.
  15. Christ was put to shame -- this returns to an earlier point and emphasizes it. In our culture, it might be hard to understand, so it's important to realize just how serious these difficulties were for Christianity in an honor-and-shame culture.
  16. Breaking up families for the sake of faith, loss of social opportunity, people you don't like get included in the group, introducing the concept of social mobility as opposed to inherent status due to birth, discouraging revolution against unjust powers, etc. Sign me up!
  17. Encouraging fact checking. That's not what you do if you know you're making it up.

It's an excellent read and it effectively proves that if it were not for the fact that the Resurrection actually happened, there is no reason why Christianity should have existed beyond the year 100, and the fact that it did (because it's here today) is therefore proof that the Resurrection occurred. See, you just proved something that happened 2000 years ago without being a scholar and without seeing it for yourself. You just needed to consider some basic concepts that no reasonable person will argue against. In this way, the Resurrection -- and therefore, the Bible's 100% reliability and authority as God's Word -- is irrefutable.

Knowing is one thing, believing on it is another. I encourage you not to perform half-measures.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What if I reject some parts of your argument?

Here's the argument.
  1. If it is granted, that God exists,
  2. And it is granted that God is perfectly truthful,
  3. And it is granted that God cares that people should believe the truth about Him, 
  4. Then God has the motive and opportunity to prove the truth.
  5. THEN, if it is granted that only God has the power to raise people from the dead,
  6. THEN, considering that Jesus claimed to be God, 
  7. AND, considering that Jesus claimed to be able to raise Himself from the dead, 
  8. IF Jesus was raised from the dead,
  9. THEN this would be a supernatural proof of the claim of His deity.
  10. OTHERWISE, His resurrection would amount to God endorsing a false claim. 
  11. God being truthful and caring that people know the truth, would have no motive to do so.
  12. Granting that the resurrection occurred, 
  13. Jesus is then God, and perfectly knowledgeable and perfectly truthful.
  14. Granting that Jesus claimed that the entire Bible is 100% true, 
  15. THEN we can conclude that the Bible is 100% true.
And here's a treatment of why it's futile to argue against this argument:
  1. Deny that God exists -- irrelevant to the proof, because it begins as a hypothetical. It is in fact through the Resurrection that we prove God's existence. Because upon proving the Word, we find that the Word proves God's existence. Therefore, you cannot escape the conclusion by denying this point.
  2. Deny that God is truthful - to what end? Nobody genuinely believes, as shown by how they live their life, as if the universe is governed by an all powerful deceitful being. People may deny that there exists a truthful God, but they do not suppose that if a God exists, that He would be untruthful in His nature. Every single argument against the Bible based on the allegation of a contradiction is proof that everyone accepts the definition of God as a perfectly truthful being. There is no use attacking this point.
  3. Deny that God cares what people believe - congratulations, you've espoused deism and/or universalism, which are just inconsistent versions of fatalism. Nothing matters. But if you really do think that God doesn't care what you believe, why do you assume that whatever the truth is, it can't be Christianity? You're not exactly ambivalent if you're biased. And each of these two attacks against the premise suffer from a fatal unwarranted assumption. In addition to the fact that it's a rejection of the very definition of God as properly understood by almost everyone, both are actually confident assertions without any basis. On what authority is the claim that God is not truthful, or not concerned with what people believe, based? There is no known monotheistic religion that makes this claim in a holy scripture, so the assumption can only be based on human authority, which is self-refuting, because why would that which is created know the nature of an unrevealed deity better than the deity itself?
  4. Point 4 cannot be argued because it follows logically from 2 and 3.
  5. Denying that God can raise the dead is to deny that God is all powerful. It is thus to deny the basic definition of what God's nature is, without any basis, and thus is the same begging-the-question fallacy previously rebuffed.
  6. Did Jesus claim to be God? Yes. It is not necessary to previously affirm the spiritual authority of the Bible as God's Word at this point, to recognize that it is a historical document like any other, and thus by applying the same principles of study as we do to other documents, we can be confident that it was indeed written at the time it was written and that it is accurately historical. This can be known beyond a reasonable doubt by the historical analysis, enough to take this point seriously. Upon the conclusion of the argument, we can now know this irrefutably because the Word attests to this fact with God's own authority. And as to whether the Bible actually records Jesus claiming to be God, that can easily be addressed in a separate place for serious inquirers, but for now I direct you to GotQuestions.
  7. Did Jesus claim to be able to rise from the dead?
    "...lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:17-18
    19 Jesus answered them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." John 2:19-22
  8. This is the focal point of Part II of the proof. Introduced here as a hypothetical, this is not something that can be argued against. 
  9. This logically follows from points 4, and 5-7 (which are really one major concept), and 8. This cannot be refuted without resulting in the reductio ad absurdum in point 10.
  10. If you deny this, you're claiming that a God would intentionally raise to life a man who claimed to be God and have the power to resurrect Himself, which to any rational person would appear to be a validation of the person's claims, when in fact it is not, thus actively deceiving people into believing what's false. This violates the basic point noted in 2 and 3, by denying God's nature by supposing that He is both deceitful and doesn't care about whether people know the truth. In other words, you are denying the agreed-upon definition of God. Anyone who fights this point is incorrigibly refusing to follow the logic to the conclusion. You would be making the same argument that muslims make, that Jesus wasn't actually crucified but someone else was in his place. Their religion boils down to saying that their biggest competitor in terms of the number of professing adherents is not only due to a misunderstanding, but a direct act of God, which is deeply embarrassing. 
  11. Summary of previous points. Nothing that can be argued here.
  12. Restatement of point 8, and demonstrated in Part II of the proof.
  13. Logical conclusion of all prior points.
  14. Did Jesus claim the Bible was God's Word? There's this, To argue against it, you would have to assume that the Bible accurately records what Jesus actually said, and then you've denied yourself the privilege to pick on points 5, 6, and 7. 
  15. Logical conclusion of all prior points.