True Meaning of Christmas?

December 21, 2007

From gotquestions.org.

“Question: “What is the true meaning of Christmas?”

Answer: LOVE – that’s the true meaning of Christmas. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Philippians chapter 2, verses 6-11, as paraphrased in The Message, records, “Jesus had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”

The true meaning of Christmas is God’s becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Why did God do such a thing? Because He loves us! Why was Christmas necessary? Because we needed a Savior! Why does God love us so much? Because He is love (1 John 4:8)! Why do we celebrate Christmas each year? Out of gratitude for what God did for us, we remember His birth by giving each other gifts, worshipping Him, and being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate.

The true meaning of Christmas is LOVE. God loved us so much that He wanted to provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. He gave His only Son to take our punishment for our sins, He paid the price in full! We are free from condemnation when we accept that free gift of LOVE. “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).”

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Proving the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with Minimal Facts

December 1, 2007

From epologetics.org.

The minimal facts approach is a method of proving the resurrection of Christ using only the minimal historical facts. These minimal facts must meet two criteria:

  1. They are well evidenced
  2. Nearly every scholar accepts them (even the skeptical ones)

The idea is to build a case without having to argue from the inerrancy of Scripture. After all, it would be foolish to expect unbelievers to accept the Bible as inspired and inerrant. Though there is much more evidence available, the minimal facts approach uses only what is accepted by even the skeptical scholars, thus moving the argument away from the evidence itself and onto forming the conclusion that best fits the agreed upon data. These minimal, agreed upon data are:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
  2. Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them
  3. Paul the persecutor was suddenly changed
  4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed
  5. The tomb was empty1

It should be noted that the Bible is a collection of historical documents. Thus, it can be examined and scrutinized just as any other historical document, and its claims can be evaluated. Some sections of Scripture can be referred to on the grounds of the historical merit as accepted by nearly all scholars.

Jesus Died by Crucifixion

The crucifixion is recorded in all four gospels. Non-Christian sources report the fact, as well.

When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified….Josephus, Antiquities 18.64 (, 49)

Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.Tacitus, Annals 15.44 (, 49)

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Peregrine 11-13 (, 49)

Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?Mara Bar-Serapion, letter to son from prison (, 49)

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged.2Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a (, 49)

Even a highly critical scholar from the Jesus Seminar said:

That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, 145 (see also 154, 196, 201) (, 49)

1 The empty tomb does not meet the second criteria for being a “minimal fact” (that nearly all scholars accept it). However, Gary Habermas has discovered that about 75 percent of scholars do accept the empty tomb (Habermas and Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p70). For this reason, the empty tomb will be included in this discussion, though I will not argue with a skeptic who chooses to discard the evidence for the purpose of examining only the absolute minimal historical facts.

2 Crucifixion was referred to as being hung on a tree, as in Luke 23:39 and Galatians 3:13.

Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them

This fact is recorded outside the Gospels in other historical sources.

The disciples claimed that Jesus appeared to them

Paul records that, more than his own experiences (addressed later), the apostles agreed with his teaching that Christ rose, having appeared to them and to others.

Oral traditions tie the resurrection and appearances back to the early church. Written documents had to be made and copied by hand, which was tedious and could only reach a few people (since most people could not read), so oral traditions were passed down to teach others. When an oral tradition is recorded, it proves that the oral tradition existed before they were written down. Keep this in mind.

One type of oral tradition is a creed. Creeds were meant to pass along important information in a manner that would make the information easy to memorize. One of the earliest and most important Christian creeds is recorded in a letter Paul wrote around AD 55:

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.1 Corinthians 15:3-5

The phrase, “I passed on to you…what I also received” was a way of indicating oral tradition. Since the first Christians were Jews, we would expect to find creeds to appear in their primary spoken language of Aramaic. The four-fold use of the Greek word hoti (“that”) was common in Aramaic narration, and the name Cephas is Aramaic for “Peter”. The text uses parallelism. Lastly, the creed includes non-Pauline terms, indicating that it did indeed originate from someone else, as Paul claimed (Habermas and Licona, 259-260). Most scholars believe that Paul received the creed from the disciples Peter and James no more than 3 years after his conversion, putting the origin of this creed at no more than 5 years after the death of Christ.

Another type of oral tradition is sermon summaries. Most scholars believe that the sermons recorded in Acts are short summaries of the actual sermons given. They also believe that, at minimum, the sermons were preached during the time of the apostles, attributed to the apostles, and in agreement with the teachings of the apostles. That the apostles believed the resurrected Christ appeared to them is recorded in the Gospels and Acts (the sequel to Luke’s gospel). Even critical scholars agree that these works were completed by the end of the first century, dating the records at no more than 70 years after the death of Christ.

The testimony of the early church fathers agrees that the apostles claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ. In many cases, these early church fathers knew the apostles themselves, or knew someone close to the apostles. In Philippians 4:3, Paul refers to a Christian named Clement. This may be Clement, bishop of Rome. Around AD 95, Clement wrote a letter to the church in Corinth.

Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing, and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone, for there were many still remaining who had received instructions frmo the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among theb rothers at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians.Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.3 ~AD 185 (, 54)

For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter.Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heretics 32 (, 54)

Therefore, having received orders and complete certainty caused by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and believing in the Word of God, they went with the Holy Spirit’s certainty, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God is about to come.First Clement, 42:3 (, 54)

So Clement knew the apostles, especially Peter, and was in a great position to pass on their teachings. He tells us that the apostles did indeed believe in the resurrection.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering mrtyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles.Iranaeus, Against Heresies, 3.3.4 (, 54)

When I was still a boy I saw you in Lower Asia with Polycarp, when you had high status at the imperial court and wanted to gain his favor. I remember events from those days more clearly than those that happened recently…so that I can even picture the place where the blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, his comings and goings, his character, his personal appearance, his discourses to the crowds, and how he reported his discussions with John and others who had seen the Lord. He recalled their very words, what they reported about the Loard and his miracles and his teaching–things that Polycarp had heard directly from eyewitnesses of the Word of life and reported in full harmony with Scripture.Irenaeus, To Florinus (, 54-55)

So Polycarp, appointed by the apostle John (according to Tertullian), affirms the apostles’ belief in the resurrection as well.

The disciples believed so strongly that Christ had appeared to them alive that they were instantly changed from cowards who ran from death, and men who doubted Christ, to men completely sold out for Christ, willing to live, suffer, and die for the Gospel of the Christ who they believed appeared to them after His death.

Paul the persecutor was converted suddenly

Paul was a powerful and infamous persecutor of the very early church. Yet, he was suddenly converted to Christianity. In fact, within 3 years of his conversion, even those Paul had never met had heard of his amazing conversion:

22 But I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They were only hearing, “The one who once persecuted us is now proclaiming the good news of the faith he once tried to destroy.”Galatians 1:22-23

Paul was converted not as a neutral observer, but as an enemy of Christ. What’s more, his conversion was not the result of his friends trying their best to convince him of Christianity, but of what he believed to be a personal encounter with the risen Christ.

James, Jesus’ skeptical brother, was converted suddenly

Josephus mentions “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James” (Antiquities 20:200). Skeptics often argue that Josephus’ writings have been proven to be fraudulent. While some of his supposed writings (especially Testimonium Flavianum) have been shown to be altered texts, this particular writing is considered by nearly all scholars to be authentic, and thus is included in the list of minimal facts. Needless to say, there is much other evidence, both from secular and Christian sources, telling us about James the brother of Christ.

James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Savior to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the [public] bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies the Greek, “Bulwark of the people” and “Justice,” in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.Hegesippus (, 67-68)

James was a pious Jew, skeptical of Christ, along with Jesus’ other brothers. He is listed in the ancient creed in 1 Corinthians 15:2-7 as having witnessed the resurrected Christ, and it is after the resurrection event is supposed to have happened that James is found to be a leader at the church in Jerusalem. He was so convinced of his experience that he was willing to die as a martyr, a fact which is noted by even secular historians, recorded by Josephus, Clement, and Hegesippus (through Eusebius). Reginald Fuller noted in The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives that, even had we no historical records of James’ encounter with the risen Christ, “we should have to invent” one in order to explain both his conversion and his rise to such a position in the Jerusalem church.

The tomb was empty

As noted previously, this fact does not fall under the “minimal facts,” because not “nearly all” scholars agree with it. However, the majority of scholars do (roughly 75%) and it is well evidenced.

Enemy attestation

That the tomb was empty is admitted even by enemies of Christianity. Matthew records that the Jews paid some to say that the disciples had stolen the body (28:12-13). Justin Martyr and Tertullian record the same claim. If the tomb were not empty, this would be needless. However, in their attempts to disprove the resurrection, the enemies of Christianity actually argued for the empty tomb.

Location in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the place where Jesus was publicly executed on the Roman cross. It is there that He was buried, and there that His resurrection was first proclaimed. If the resurrection were false, surely there would be some evidence for this–the body being presented, perhaps, and records of this being done. The early church exploded to life in Jerusalem. If someone wanted to see if Christ were really resurrected, they could simply visit the tomb which was supposed to be empty. Yet there is no evidence that anyone found reason to doubt the resurrection of Jesus.

The fact that the Christian fellowship, founded on belief in Jesus’ resurrection, could come into existence and flourish in the very city where he was executed and buried seems to be compelling evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb.

It would have been impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty.William Lane Craig

Testimony of women

The first witnesses of the empty tomb were women, as recorded in all four Gospels (the men are only mentioned in two). Were the resurrection a hoax, it is unlikely the made-up testimony would have included women, and certainly not as the primary witnesses to the empty tomb, since women were looked down upon in the cultures of that time.

Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women.Talmud, Sotah 19a (, 72)

The world cannot exist without males and without females–happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females.Talmud, Kiddushin 82b (, 72)

Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman.Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8 (, 72)

But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probably that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.15 (, 72)

Even the disciples didn’t believe the women:

But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them.Luke 24:11

Notice that even the Christian writer Luke did not try to make the disciples look good, as he would be expected to do were the resurrection narrative a hoax. He faithfully recorded that even the disciples did not believe the resurrection at first. He also did not appeal to Joseph of Arimathea or any other more respected person to make the account more credible. There seems to be no reason to invent an account involving women as witnesses. Rather, the testimony of the women argues in favor of a true, historical account.

Summary

The minimal facts, as accepted by nearly all scholars, include the following facts and evidences:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
    • Josephus
    • Tacitus
    • Lucian
    • Mara Bar-Serapion
    • Talmud
  2. Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them
    • Paul’s accounts
    • Oral tradition (creeds and sermon summaries)
    • Written tradition (both Biblical and extra-Biblical)
    • Willingness to live, suffer, and die for their convictions regarding the risen Christ
  3. Paul the persecutor was converted suddenly
    • His conversion records
    • His suffering and martyrdom (recorded in both Christian and non-Christian sources)
  4. James, Jesus’ skeptical brother, was converted suddenly
    • His conversion (gospels, early creeds, Paul, and Acts)
    • His martyrdom (Josephus, Clement, and Hegesippus through Eusebius)
  5. The tomb was empty
    • Enemy attestation
    • The Jerusalem location
    • Testimony of women

Though nearly 2000 years have passed, not a single naturalistic explanation has been given that can account for the minimal facts.


Why Students Abandon Their Faith

October 29, 2007

From Summit Ministries.

“When all is said and done, Tiger, we’ll either hold fast to the truth, or we’ll face the consequences.” – Doc Noebel, President, Summit Ministries

“A Biblical worldview approach to life and learning has never been more needed than in today’s pluralistic/postmodern culture. Christian students face hostility to their faith from one side, and apathy to anything of importance from the other side. And, sadly, the casualties are high.

Decline in student spirituality

When it comes to the spiritual life of teenagers, the statistics are not very encouraging. According to a recent study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, after three years in college, the number of students who frequently attend religious services drops by 23 percent. [1] The research also confirms that 36 percent rated their spirituality lower after three years in college.

Another study, the “College Student Survey,” asked students to indicate their current religious commitment. Comparing the responses of freshmen who checked the “born again” category with the answers they gave four years later, we find that on some campuses as high as 59 percent no longer describe themselves as “born again.”[2] That’s a fallout rate of almost two-thirds!

And just last year The Barna Group reported on the spiritual involvement of twenty-somethings. The findings: only 20 percent of students who were highly churched as teens remained spiritually active by age 29.[3]

However you factor it, these are significant numbers! Why are so many students walking away from their faith? Our own research and personal experience of working with teens suggests several reasons for this defection. Here is our short list, in no particular order.

1. Increase in Liberal Professors

Frankly, many students fall prey to the anti-Christian rhetoric of their professors. That many professors disdain Christianity is not an alarmist myth. In fact, a study recently published by Gary Tobin of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research includes a sample of 1,200 college and university faculty. Tobin found that 53 percent held unfavorable feelings toward evangelical Christians while at the same time holding favorable opinions of most other religious groups. In addition, college and university faculty were far less likely to self-identify as Christian than the general public and are far more likely to refer to themselves as secular/liberal than as conservative/religious.[4]

Tobin’s findings echo the results of an earlier survey of college faculty summarized in the March 2005 issue of the Washington Post. The article revealed that 72 percent of professors and instructors in colleges across the U.S. are liberal.[5] That’s a marked increase from just 20 years earlier, when those who identified themselves as liberal was only 39 percent. This figure of 72 percent, also, is in sharp contrast to a Harris poll which found that only 19 percent of the general public describe themselves as liberal.[6] If parents believe they are sending their children off to college to learn more about the values they hold dear, they are in for a rude awaking!

The Post article goes on to report that 51 percent of college faculty rarely or never attend church or synagogue, 84 percent are in favor of abortion, 67 percent accept homosexuality, and 65 percent want the government to ensure full employment! Again, this is in sharp contrast with the public in general.

No wonder students are bolting from a commitment to Christian ideas; they simply believe what they are being taught in class.

2. Lack of Adequate Grounding

Let’s face it: many Christian students have no idea why they believe what they believe. This trend is revealed in an ongoing study conducted by the Nehemiah Institute. The instrument used is a “worldview” test and the results are discouraging, to say the least. When it comes to a wide range of topics, such as politics, education, economics, religion, and social issues, test results show that Christian students respond more like secular humanists than followers of Christ. And what is more alarming is that the trend over the last ten years is moving toward a greater degree of secularization.

This is a particularly devastating fact in an age where students are bombarded on a daily basis with so many competing views about life. Every song, movie, billboard, blog, textbook, and speech are full of ideas—ideas about truth, God, morality, beauty, identity, religions, and more. But, not all ideas are true. Some are wrong; some are deceptive; some are destructive.

In the Information Age it is essential that students be equipped to discern between competing ideas and respond with the truth.

3. A Wrong View of Christianity

Students react strongly against Christianity for a number of reasons: past hurts, moral failures, or rebellion. Unfortunately, some students simply just don’t get Christianity. In other words, they really have no idea what Christianity actually is.

The disconnect between true Christianity and what teens believe is dramatically revealed in a recent book, titled, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, written primarily by Christian Smith, a University of North Carolina sociologist. Smith and his colleagues conducted the largest survey to date of teen’s religious beliefs. Based on these extensive interviews, Smith writes that many students who claim to be Christians believe a host of ideas that are not anything close to orthodox Christianity. What they actually believe is something Smith identifies as “moralistic therapeutic deism.”[7] The majority of Bible-believing students think and live as if the only point of faith is to be good, to feel good, and to have a God to always call on for help without expecting anything in return. This is a far cry from a biblically informed commitment to Christian discipleship.

Reversing the trend

As parents, educators, and church leaders, what can we do to keep our young people from being neutralized in their faith, dropping out of church, or converting to the “no longer born again” category?

First, we must understand that the battle is for the hearts and minds of students. For too long many churches have been content to focus on the emotions, shying away from a serious discipleship of the mind. Yet, Jesus said that loving God involves both heart and head (Matthew 12:29-30). And Paul, in Romans 12:1-2, insisted that serving God involves renewing the mind.

Second, our instruction should revolve around the fact that Christianity is a robust faith. This means that when it comes to life’s most challenging issues, we have answers that are superior to all other philosophies. As the Apostle Paul put it, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”[8]

Third, we must teach students that Christianity is a comprehensive world and life view. A biblical worldview seeks to explain the reality of God’s truth in every area: from philosophy and science, ethics and economics, to psychology, sociology, law and, yes, even politics. In this way, no matter what course of study a student takes, he or she will be able to discern when the professor is presenting an anti-biblical bias.

Finally, parents and teachers must commit to developing a Christian worldview themselves. Pollster George Barna found that only 9 percent of “born again” adults have a biblical worldview. This calls for intensive teaching in worldview analysis for adults. And as students see a Christian worldview being lived out through their parents and teachers, they are much more likely to embrace that view for themselves and to stand strong when their worldview is under attack.

With biblically-based convictions firmly etched in their minds, Christian students will be prepared not only to withstand the attacks on their faith, but also they will be in a better position to help their friends understand God’s truth. And more than that, even make a positive contribution to shaping society for God’s glory. With this kind of preparation, the downward spiral of spirituality can be reversed. And, hopefully, when future surveys are taken, more students will respond on the positive side of the spiritual ledger.

Summit’s Worldview Training

Summit Ministries has years of experience helping students and adults know and care about why they believe what they believe. Our summer leadership conferences train students 16 years old and up. We offer these conferences at sites across the U.S. and several international locations. Adult conferences are a great time for adults and those in the field of education to sharpen their skills in worldview analysis and for teaching others the same.

Summit also has experienced speakers who travel to your city to conduct worldview workshops in churches, homeschool conferences, and Christian schools. Summit’s engaging speakers offer engaging topics for involving students at a deep level while giving them time for debate and discussion. Sessions typically include how to answer tough questions about God, being in the world but not of it when it comes to entertainment and media, and how to understand and respond “worldviewishly” to pressing social issues.

Regardless of the venue, Summit’s captivating speakers will keep their audience engaged and excited about what they are learning. Be warned: your teens may want to buy more books and have deeper conversations around the dinner table after attending one of our events!”

Additionally, we offer worldview and biblical apologetics curriculum for training all ages and contexts: Christian schools, homeschooling, church Bible studies, and Sunday school.

As one mom reflected after her family attended a worldview seminar:

What can I say? It was one of the most eye-opening and informative things we have ever done. My husband and I learned so much, and, equally important, my children learned about worldviews and how they impact every area of a person’s life and decisions. The children talked about the seminar in the van on the way home, and still refer to it today whenever the subject of a correct view of the world and life is discussed.

—Heather M. (FL)

About the Authors:

Chuck Edwards speaks nationally and internationally to high school, college and adult groups and is one of the favorite speakers during Summit’s Spring and Summer Student Conferences. He holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and co-authored with Dr. Noebel the Summit’s two Homeschool/Sunday School curricula, Thinking Like a Christian and Countering Culture. During the summer, he and his wife Pat serve as directors of the Student Leadership conferences in Colorado.

John Stonestreet is Executive Director of Summit Ministries and oversees the Student Leadership conferences in Tennessee, Ohio and Virginia. A popular speaker at camps, conventions, and conferences, he works annually with parents, teachers, and students on developing a Biblical worldview, understanding comparative worldviews, defending the Christian faith, applying a Biblical worldview to education, and engaging important cultural issues. John holds an M.A. in Christian Thought from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is on the Biblical Studies faculty at Bryan College (TN).

Notes

  1. Quoted in the report, Preliminary Findings on Spiritual Development and the College Experience: A Longitudinal Analysis (2000-2003). Online article: http://www.spirituality.ucla.edu/results/Longitudinal_00-03.pdf
  2. Taken from the “College Student Survey.” Cooperative Institutional Research Program, U.C.L.A. Online article: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/heri/css_po.html.
  3. George Barna, “Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years.” (www.barna.org)
  4. Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K. Weinberg, Profiles of the American University, Vol. 2: Religious Beliefs and Behaviors of College Faculty. Institute for Jewish and Community Research, 2007.
  5. “College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds,” by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page C01.
  6. THE HARRIS POLL® #8, February 13, 2002, Party Identification: Democrats Still Lead, But Their Lead (5 Points) Is As Low As It Has Ever Been. Online article: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=285
  7. Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, 2005).
  8. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV).

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The Compassion of Truth: Homosexuality in Biblical Perspective

October 6, 2007

From Al Mohler and almohler.com.

“Homosexuality is perhaps the most controversial issue of debate in American culture. Once described as “the love that dares not speak its name,” homosexuality is now discussed and debated throughout American society.

Behind this discussion is an agenda, pushed and promoted by activists, who seek legitimization and social sanction for homosexual acts, relationships, and lifestyles. The push is on for homosexual “marriage,” the removal of all structures and laws considered oppressive to homosexuals, and the recognition of homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, and others as “erotic minorities,” deserving of special legal protection.

The larger culture is now bombarded with messages and images designed to portray homosexuality as a normal lifestyle. Homoerotic images are so common in the mainstream media that many citizens have virtually lost the capacity to be shocked.

Those who oppose homosexuality are depicted as narrow-minded bigots and described as “homophobic.” Anyone who suggests that heterosexual marriage is the only acceptable and legitimate arena of sexual activity is lambasted as out-dated, oppressive, and outrageously out of step with modern culture.

The church has not been an outsider to these debates. As the issue of homosexual legitimization has gained public prominence and moved forward, some churches and denominations have joined the movement–even becoming advocates of homosexuality–while others stand steadfastly opposed to compromise on the issue. In the middle are churches and denominations unable or unwilling to declare a clear conviction on homosexuality. Issues of homosexual ordination and marriage are regularly discussed in the assemblies of several denominations–and many congregations.

This debate is itself nothing less than a revolutionary development. Any fair-minded observer of American culture and the American churches must note the incredible speed with which this issue has been driven into the cultural mainstream. The challenge for the believing church now comes down to this: Do we have a distinctive message in the midst of this moral confusion?

Our answer must be Yes. The Christian church must have a distinctive message to speak to the issue of homosexuality, because faithfulness to Holy Scripture demands that we do so.

The affirmation of biblical authority is thus central to the church’s consideration of this issue–or any issue. The Bible is the Word of God in written form, inerrant and infallible, inspired by the Holy Spirit and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” [2 Timothy 3:16]. This is the critical watershed: Those churches which reject the authority of Scripture will eventually succumb to cultural pressure and accommodate their understanding of homosexuality to the spirit of the age. Those churches that affirm, confess, and acknowledge the full authority of the Bible have no choice in this matter–we must speak a word of compassionate truth. And that compassionate truth is this: Homosexual acts are expressly and unconditionally forbidden by God through His Word, and such acts are an abomination to the Lord by His own declaration.”

To read more click here.


Six Worldviews You’re Competing Against

September 24, 2007

From Rick Warren and Christianpost.com.

“Worldview matters. Clarifying worldviews is not an academic exercise, intellectual theory, or a philosophical concept. A worldview is an integral part of the lives of those you minister to on a weekly basis. It determines their relationships. It determines their successes and failure. It determines their goals and motivations. If you want to see someone change their lives, they’ll have to change how they look at the world first.

Every week as you stand before your people to share God’s Word, they’re bringing different worldviews into the room. What are some of these worldviews?

1. The one with the most toys wins.
This is the worldview of materialism – and it can be summed up with one world, more. Materialism says that the only thing that really matters in life is acquiring things. Those who subscribe to this worldview live mostly to collect things.

The Bible’s answer: Jesus said this in Luke 12, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (NIV). He tells us not to judge our lives by how much we’ve got. The greatest things in life aren’t things.

2. I’ve got to think of me first.
We live in a “me first,” serve-yourself world that says it’s all about you. Commercial slogans cater to this viewpoint. Slogans like, “have it your way,” “we do it all for you,” “obey your thirst,” “you’ve got to think of what’s best for yourself,” and “You deserve it.”

For the last 40 years, the Baby Boomer generation has been called the “Me Generation.” This “me first” idea has infected entire communities. It has torn up marriages (“I don’t care how divorce impacts my spouse or children; it’s all about me”), destroyed workplaces (“I don’t care how my laziness impacts my co-workers; it’s all about me”) and even ruined churches (“Serve my needs first, forget about the lost”).

It’s a self-centered, individualistic way of life that says we should ignore the community and other people.

The Bible’s answer: Jesus says, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matt. 16:25 NLT). Jesus says you only begin to live when you give your life away. Significance in life does not come from serving yourself; it comes from serving God and others.

3. Do what feels good.
This is hedonism – the belief that the most important thing in life is how we feel. The number one goal of a hedonist is to feel good, be comfortable, and have fun.

It’s the worldview that Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine on. He willingly acknowledges he is a hedonist.

It’s not just playboys who are hedonists, though. In fact, someone who lives for the goal of retirement is a hedonist. If the whole goal of a person’s life is to simply do nothing, live a self centered life, and make no contribution to the world, that’s hedonism.

The Bible’s answer: “Are you addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied” (Prov 21:17 Msg). Mick Jagger’s been singing: “I can’t get no satisfaction” for 40 years. Why? The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.

4. Whatever works for you.
This worldview says it doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if it hurts anybody or not. If it works for you, fine. As that great theologian Sly Stone says, “Different strokes for different folks.”

In our multi-cultural, pluralistic world, this is a very popular worldview. Nobody wants to tell someone else that what they are doing is wrong. In fact that’s the only way you can be wrong in our society today – if you tell someone else they’re wrong.

The Bible’s answer: The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12 NIV). Our ideas may seem right, but in the end our ideas lead to death. “Whatever works for you” leads to death. You don’t break God’s universal laws; they break you.

5. God doesn’t exist.
This worldview is naturalism or atheism. Naturalists believe that everything in life is a result of random chance. We’re all accidents of nature. There is no grand creator or grand design. God either doesn’t exist or he doesn’t matter.

If there is no God, there’s no plan or purpose for life. If there is no purpose, than your life doesn’t really matter. Your only value comes from the fact that God loves you, created you, and thought you up. For naturalists, life has no value, meaning, or purpose.

It takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe in God. When you look at creation and how the world is set on an axis, it proves the existence of God to me. If it were one degree one way, we’d freeze up. If it were one degree the other way, we’d burn up.

The Bible’s answer: Paul says in Romans 1:25 (NIV), “From the beginning of creation, God has shown what he is like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuse. They know about God, but they don’t honor him or even thank him…They claim to be wise, but they are fools.” In other words, we can look at nature and see a lot about God. We know God is creative, powerful, organized, and likes diversity. There are lots of things we know about God just by looking at nature.

6. You are your own God.
This worldview, otherwise known as humanism, is very popular in the Western world. It says we are the mastermind of our own fate, the determiner of our destiny. You’ll hear this in the new age movement as well: “You’re divine. You’re a god.”

It’s ironic. God wired us to worship something. And if we don’t worship God, we end up worshipping ourselves. The self-made man usually worships his maker.

The Bible’s answer: Paul says in Rom. 1:25 (NIV): “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped created things rather than the Creator.” You can go all around the world and find people worshipping little idols that they made – stone idols, rock idols, crystals, and wooden idols. They’re worshipping something that they created themselves or somebody else created. In America we have our own idols – they’re called cars, homes, and status symbols. The Bible is clear that God is God, and we’re not.

All of these worldviews have consequences. Every day we’re affected and influenced by them. We’re often not even aware of it. These worldviews affect the happiness and success of the people to whom you minister. They matter greatly.

There’s only one worldview that is consistent with the Bible. The biblical worldview says God made us for his purposes. It says that we exist for his pleasure. It’s 180 degrees different from the other worldviews above.”

To read more click here.


Separating Secular Humanism and the State

August 29, 2007

From Chuck Edwards and summit.org.

“Secular Humanism is a well-articulated worldview. This is evident from the three Humanist Manifestos written in 1933 and revised in 1973 and again in 2000. According to their own pronouncements, Secular Humanists are atheists who believe that the scientific method is the primary way we can know about life and living, from understanding who we are as humans to questions of ethics, social issues, and politics.

However, apart from the specifics of what Secular Humanists believe, the pressing issue is this: is Secular Humanism a religion? This is important in light of current discussions surrounding the idea of “separation of church and state.” That’s because this phrase has been used by the courts and secular organizations (such as American’s United against Church and State) in an attempt to eradicate all mention of God from the public square, including public debates over social issues, discussions in politics, and especially regarding what is taught in public/government schools.

To verify that a number of major tenets of Secular Humanism are taught in public schools, one only needs to compare Secular Humanist beliefs with what is actually being presented through public school textbooks.[1] For example, any text on psychology includes what are considered the primary voices in that field: Abraham Maslow, Eric Fromm, Carl Rogers, and B. F. Skinner, to name a few. Yet, each of these men are atheists who have been selected as “Humanist of the Year” by a major Secular Humanist organization.[2] So why are almost all the psychologists studied in school Secular Humanists?[3] Why are no Christian psychologists included in the curriculum? Is this balanced treatment of the subject matter being taught?

Or when it comes to law, why are the Ten Commandments, historically known to be the foundation for English Common Law and American jurisprudence, judged to be inappropriate material to be hung on the school wall, in a courtroom, or as part of a public display on government property? The answer, of course, is an appeal to the “separation” principle. We have shown in other Truth & Consequences commentaries that this concept of separation is actually misconstrued law coming from revisionist history and a biased judiciary.[4]

But if this is how the courts are going to interpret the separation principle, we must insist that this ruling be applied equally to all religious faiths, not favoring some others. Therefore, for the sake of fairness under the law, if Secular Humanism is a religious faith, too, then teaching the tenets of this religious faith must also be eliminated from public school textbooks and classroom discussions.

What follows is an excerpt from the “Introduction” of Clergy in the Classroom: The Religion of Secular Humanism, by David A. Noebel, J. F. Baldwin, and Kevin James Bywater. This short essay provides the needed rationale for why Secular Humanism is, in fact, a religion on par with what are considered traditional religious faiths.[5]

To read more click here.


Clergy forum to discuss ‘Can you be gay and Christian?’

August 28, 2007

From Jim Brown and One News Now.

“Can practicing Christians practice homosexuality? A North Carolina pastor is inviting homosexual clergy in the greater Charlotte area to a debate on that very subject.

Dr. Michael Brown of FIRE Church in Concord will be hosting a “public dialogue” September 20 on the Bible and homosexuality. Brown said he decided to hold the event after he learned that many homosexuals who attend an annual “gay pride” event in Charlotte claim to be Christians.

“Last year, they gave out thousands of what they called ‘baggies of truth’ with literature explaining why you can be Christian and a practicing homosexual,” says Brown. “This year, they plan to have their ‘Truth Booth’ again, and I read an article in a gay newspaper explaining what their plan was — and I felt we have to have a response.”

Brown says that he “sought the Lord” as to what his response should be, and felt “the best thing to do was put the issues on the table and say, ‘Listen, Jesus said whoever has the truth comes into the light.'”

The North Carolina pastor says he wants to “break a wall down” because many people in the church are afraid to even reach out to homosexuals.”

To read more click here.