Why We Really Don’t Know How to Stop the Bleeding of the American Church

Source: Why We Really Don’t Know How to Stop the Bleeding of the American Church

By: Brian G. Chilton | December 4, 2019

 

Study after study emphasizes the astonishing problem the American church faces. People are leaving the church in massive numbers. The Millennial generation has caught the eye of many studies. However, Generation Z is even more non-religious than Millennials. It is estimated that nearly a third of the members of Generation Z identify as “nones” (unaffiliated with any religious worldview) (https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/red-alert-politics/christianity-isnt-catching-on-with-generation-z). Generation Z consists of those born between 2000 and 2015 and has been identified as the first genuine post-Christian generation (https://www.barna.com/research/atheism-doubles-among-generation-z/). How do we turn the trend? How do we solve the problem?

Is the answer found in Church Resolutions? Christians do not help their case when they constantly bicker and fight over things that will not matter a couple of decades from now. For many, it is thought that if we can keep Christians from fighting, then maybe the church will change. However, many believers who have acted nasty towards others have left an indelible mark on those who question their faith. Even if a person comes to stronger faith, that does not necessarily mean that they will come back to a church where they have been hurt.

Is the answer found in Church Strategies? Many have afforded numerous strategies to grow a church. Like Francis Chan, I often wonder whether we are trying to run the church like a business or like a church. Business strategies often lead to an entertainment-based program where a person’s ears are tickled, and their fancies are met. Church then becomes an “all about me” entity rather than a God-focused body. These strategies do not build a church. They build a community club.

Is the answer found in Church Revitalizations? I think church revitalization programs are extremely important, and I am not dismissing them in the least. But church revitalization programs only help one church change the direction of its course. It neither impacts nor influences the overall trend of people leaving the church. An individual church can become healthier while still not making an impact.

Is the answer found in bad Church Leadership? Granted, while it may seem hypocritical for me to say this being a pastor myself, I don’t think the problem is found in bad leadership. I have met many pastors who have a heart for God and who want to serve God in any way they can. Many pastors are doing everything in their power to make an impact in their church and in their society.

What is the solution? The answer is quite simple. The American church must return to her first love. We must focus on what we believe and why we believe it. We do not have the human resolutions, strategies, revitalization programs, outreach, or human leadership to bring about the change necessary to stop the bleeding of the American church. We like to think that we have the power to make such a change, but we don’t. We cannot save one soul, but God can. We do not have the answers to the problem, but God does. Perhaps God is allowing the American church to go through a time of hardship to reveal who the true remnant is from those playing church? It is possible that God is allowing many churches to die because they lost their spiritual vitality long ago.

I truly believe that a remnant of the church will remain until the return of Jesus. The Church will remain forever. But churches that have lost their focus, lost their passion and lost the love of Christ that made them into a church in the first place will soon perish. Churches that have become community clubs will serve their purpose by providing kinship with no expectations. However, when hardships come, community clubs will falter, and genuine churches will remain steadfast.

I have a passion for the church and for God’s people. I would like to say that the American church will see better days ahead. But all the statistics that I have read seem to suggest that the church of America is in dire straits, becoming grimmer as time progresses. In stark contrast, the global church is growing in many areas where one would not expect to see it flourish. The Middle East, Asia, Africa, and South America have experienced explosions of growth. In these areas, Christians must depend on one another as they face uncertain days.

While I wish I could leave a more positive note of encouragement, the cold hard truth is that the American church is bleeding profusely with no end in sight. Strategies, outreach programs, and the like have come from some of the brightest minds in American Christianity but often to little or to no avail. To make matters worse, I have been told that some pastors have chosen to attend business schools to earn an MBA over seminary to earn an MDiv because they feel that business tactics are more important than theology. That is, business savvy will boost the church, whereas doctrinal training will not. No wonder we are in the shape we’re in with biblical literacy at an all-time low! While strategies have helped some churches, it has not produced the massive change that is necessary to reverse the trend. By the way, Jesus indicates that the church should not be run in the same manner that the world runs businesses (see Matt. 20:25; 1 Pet. 5:3)

In conclusion, I don’t think that we have the answers to fix the church of America because we are looking in the wrong direction. We are looking at human strategies to fix what only God can do. We must trust in God’s plan and know that he will make all things good in the end. Until then, Christians must continuously strive to make an impact in their small section of the world. Furthermore, believers must keep focused on what they believe and know why they believe it so that they may provide a defense for the hope they hold (1 Pet. 3:15). One day, Christ will return, and the church will no longer bleed but flourish in ways that it has never experienced. Christ has the answers because Christ is the answer.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

(Podcast 12.2.19) Four Steps to Proper Biblical Interpretation

Source: (Podcast 12.2.19) Four Steps to Proper Biblical Interpretation

Avoiding a Mob Mentality: Are the Monsters Due on Our Street?

Source: Avoiding a Mob Mentality: Are the Monsters Due on Our Street?

By: Brian G. Chilton | November 26, 2019

Being from Mount Airy, North Carolina (the home of Andy Griffith), it is a given that one of my all-time favorite shows on television is the Andy Griffith Show. That’s like an unwritten law in this area. But another one of my all-time favorite television shows is from the same era, but it did not originate from the same area or even the same genre. I am speaking of the show known as the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling was one of the writers and the affable host of the show, always carrying a lit cigarette, an ever so casual smirk while introducing episodes which were often loaded with heavy philosophical and sociological themes. The aspect that made The Twilight Zone so fascinating was the ironic twist afforded at the end. The story made one think in one direction while the reality was presented in another.

An episode of great interest is the show entitled The Monsters are Due on Maple Street. The story tells of one small midwestern community that seemingly lives in harmony until strange phenomena occur on an ordinary summer evening. Automobiles turn on and off at will. Lights flash in homes. Finally, the community loses its power which causes great anxiety. Concerned that they were being invaded, they began to accuse one another of being an extraterrestrial due to their eccentricities. One resident named Charlie Farnsworth holds that his neighbor Les Goodman must be an alien because of all the time he spends standing outside at night looking at the stars. Les defends himself by noting that he suffers from insomnia and enjoys looking at the night sky. Les’s case does not become any better when he successfully starts his car. He’s the only person on the street who could. Charlie increasingly accuses Les of being an outsider afterward, even though Les had been a resident in the community for over five years.

Steve Brand tries to defuse Charlie’s accusations against Les. He warns the people that they are falling into paranoia and will eventually create a mob scene if they weren’t careful. At this time, Don Martin accuses Charlie of being an extraterrestrial invader because Charlie built a ham radio which no one had been allowed to see.

After the community lost power, Peter Van Horn, a resident of Maple Street, decides to walk over to Floral Street to see if the residents there were experiencing the same oddities that they were. As he returns to the street, all the residents of Maple Street can see is a shadowy figure approaching them. Panic-stricken, Charlie grabs his shotgun and blasts the shadowy figure who was Peter Van Horn. Charlie is distraught that he had just murdered his neighbor. The residents hold that Peter must have found evidence that Charlie was an alien.

By this time, the residents’ fear is at a fevered pitch. They begin to cast blame on each other before physically attacking one another. The lights flashing in the house only stirs them to greater violence towards one another. The people were caught up in their paranoia that they had forgotten that they were people, neighbors, and friends.

The scene cuts to a nearby hillside where real extraterrestrials were watching from afar. They noted that by creating a little bit of fear, they could invade every town on planet Earth. The aliens would need to do nothing more than to perform a few parlor tricks. Then, the people would destroy themselves without any physical action on their part. The episode ends with one alien saying to the other, “The world is full of Maple Streets. And we shall go to them and let them destroy themselves, one to other, one to the other, one to the other.”

Serling ends the episode with these words, “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy and for a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.

Modern American Christianity greatly resembles Maple Street. Christians seem to fear that their rights are being taken away. Modern American Christianity has become so involved with politics on both sides of the aisle that people, good people, find themselves attacking other people out of suspicion and fear. The entire debacle with Chick-fil-A is an example of the mentality. A restaurant that had once been proclaimed to serve “heaven’s chicken” was now propagated as a heretical tool of the devil.

It doesn’t end there. People, good people, launch attacks against their own. Karen Swallow Prior recently left my alma mater, Liberty University, for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I have been ashamed of some of the things that people have said. While I have never met Prior personally, she doesn’t strike me as the “flaming liberal” that some have accused her of being. Dr. Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said much the same. Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, said nothing but complimentary things of Prior even though they held a few differing political views.

This is not unique. In the world of apologetics, modern theologians and apologists often berate one another instead of presenting their differences with professional, intellectual decorum. Granted, we are not burning one another at the stake, at least. Nevertheless, we have major problems, my friends. Major problems! In the words of Les Goodman of the Twilight Zone episode, “You are letting something happen here … that is a nightmare!” We are in the mindset of the Israelites in the wilderness, devouring our leaders and friends (Numbers 20).

What is the solution? It’s simple. Go back to 1 Corinthians 13. Yes, some will call me a sentimental old fool. But I am foolish enough to believe that the words of God are just as applicable today as they were when they were written. Paul says that love is “patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4–6, CSB). Jesus loved all people no matter their affiliation or mindset. Yes, he stood uncompromisingly for truth. But he was a man of great love! We can have all the intelligence and all of the insight in the world. But if we do not have love, it amounts to nothing.

 About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

https://www.amazon.com/Laymans-Manual-Christian-Apologetics-Essentials/dp/1532697104

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

Made into Christ’s Image or Do You Make Christ into Your Image?

Source: Made into Christ’s Image or Do You Make Christ into Your Image?

By: Brian G. Chilton | November 11, 2019

 

In a Patristic Exegesis class at Liberty University, Dr. Ken Cleaver was discussing the average-sized heights of individuals in first-century Israel. For the most part, the average height of most individuals was around 5’ 2”. It is quite likely that Jesus would have been much shorter than what most Americans would have expected. Even if Jesus were taller among the people of his day, he would have been around 5’ 8” or 5’ 10”. But he wouldn’t have been what most modern people would consider tall.

One of my classmates mentioned that the first painting of Jesus to date was found in a church in Syria. The portrait depicts Jesus healing a paralytic who was brought to him. Jesus is physically portrayed as a beardless, dark-skinned, short-haired man, who is also short in stature. The painting dates to around 235 and is among the earliest paintings of Jesus to date. The Shroud of Turin, if authentic, portrays Jesus as a long-haired, bearded man. Which depiction is accurate? Furthermore, does it really matter?

This exercise has forced me to consider how much we seek to make Jesus into our own image. For a southern, Caucasian, American; one would feel comfortable seeing Jesus as a camouflage wearing, gun-toting, bandana adorning, Patriotic citizen. For a northern, black, American; one would feel comfortable with seeing Jesus as a civilized, pacifist, progressive defender of human rights. But the question is, do we make Jesus into our image or are we willing to be made into the image of Christ? Would we still love Jesus if he holds different perspectives than we do? Would we still love Jesus if he looked very different than us? As people, we like things that are like us.

The very nature of Jesus is far and away different from all of us. Remember, Jesus was perfect. We are not. No matter how he looked physically, he was the incarnate God and we are not. Paul notes that those whom God “foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29, CSB). Our goal is to be made into the image of Christ and not to make Christ into our image. No matter whether Jesus was over six feet tall and light-skinned or five feet tall and dark-skinned, he is the Logos incarnate—God who came in flesh. Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 296–373), a man who was named the “black dwarf,” noted that the Logos of God

“accommodated himself to our nature and showed himself empty of all [his divine qualities] in the face of the anxiety of the threatening onslaught of his trials … [Christ] became Man that we might be made God: and He manifested Himself through the body that we might take cognizance of the invisible Father: and He underwent insult at the hands of men that we might inherit immortality” (Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation of the Word of God 54).

 

Isaiah reminds us that the Messiah did not come with an impressive form. The Messiah did not possess any “majesty that we should look at him, no appearance that we should desire him” (Isa. 53:2, CSB). In other words, Jesus did not come as a fashion model or bodybuilder that you would be impressed with his physical form. What made Jesus special was that he was the incarnate God who came to save us from our plight of sin.

It makes no difference whether Jesus was light-skinned or dark-skinned, tall or short, bearded or beardless, short-haired or long-haired. What matters is that Jesus was thoroughly perfect in his morality, impeccable in his character, and powerful in his theology. He was God who came in flesh. Thus, we should seek to be made into Christ’s image rather than seeking to make Jesus into our own image. No one has a handle on Jesus. No one ever could. As such, Jesus is far more impressive and far more challenging than you ever thought him to be.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

God Created Extroverts and Introverts for a Reason

Source: God Created Extroverts and Introverts for a Reason

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 29, 2019

 

I will come right out and confess it. I am a professional extrovert. That means that I converse with people in large gatherings as part of my job. However, I am an introvert by nature. For every large event I attend, I must have ample time to recover mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In my case, I become physically ill if I stay on the go too much. According to Myers-Briggs (and I have taken this at least twice, both with the same results), I am an INTJ (introvert-intuitive-thinker-judger). This means that I am more introverted than extroverted—introverts need more alone time than extroverts; I am more intuitive than sensing—intuitives are better at processing abstract ideas than concrete ones; I am a thinker rather than a feeler—thinkers desire objective truth and logical principles rather than emotional issues; and I am more a judger than a perceiver—judgers are more structured and desire a plan, whereas perceivers are more spontaneous.

But what does it mean to be an introvert? Do introverts dislike people? Well, no. The difference between extroverts and introverts is in how the person recharges. Extroverts (sometimes spelled “extraverts”) enjoy being around lots of people for extended periods of time. They tire more quickly and become quickly bored when they are in small groups, or when they are alone. Extroverts hate being alone! I know because my son is extremely extroverted. In contrast, introverts enjoy being in small groups and having time to themselves. If you want to tell whether a person is introverted or not, tell them that they must go to a function where large groups of people will attend. Extroverts will jump for joy and are excited about the event, whereas introverts will try to hide their displeasure with a forced smile. Think about the difference between Tigger and Piglet or Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh series. Tigger is a rambunctious extrovert. Piglet and Eeyore are introverts.

Is introversion something that can be fixed? In an episode of the Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife claims that if Opie studies too much then he will become an introvert (Andy Griffith Show, “Opie Flunks Arithmetic,” Apr. 19, 1965). But is this true? No. People are created differently and for good reason. God has a plan and a purpose for both extroverts and introverts.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12–31, Paul notes that God created a variety of people with different gifts and abilities who are unified as part of the same church, created by the same Father, saved by the same Savior, and filled with the same Spirit. But why did God make some extroverts and some introverts? I offer a few reasons why I think he did.

 

Evangelism and Discipleship Relationships. Extroverts make great evangelists, whereas introverts make great disciple-makers. Extroverts are good with large groups of people. They can quickly stir interest with numerous people. However, extroverts aren’t so good with one-on-one conversations and small groups. Enter the introvert. Introverts excel at interpersonal relationships in one-on-one scenarios. Extroverts have high motors which can stir up interest in Christ. However, introverts can fine-tune a person’s life to personally help them be a better Christian. Some of the most stellar preachers I have ever heard have been extroverts. However, some of the greatest pastors I have encountered were introverted.

 

Teaching. Extroverts and introverts can both be good teachers. Extroverts will razzle and dazzle you with stellar presentations that leave you wanting more. While introverts may not have the whipped cream on their presentation, their content is incredible. For instance, I heard the late Norman Geisler speak in Charlotte at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics. He was not energetic. In fact, he spoke mostly in a monotone voice reading his talk from a manuscript. Yet, the content he presented was deep. He spoke of the attributes of God and who God is. Even now as I type these words, I remember the awe that I had with the content of his lecture. In my opinion, I think that extroverts make the best speakers and introverts make the best scholars.

 

Ministry. Extroverts make the best program developers. They can handle large amounts of work in a short amount of time. Due to their high-energy motors, they thrive on staying busy. Extroverts can make a huge impact when their energies are directed in the right path. Introverts make for the best counselors. They take time that extroverts won’t to listen to the problems that a person has and help the person with their troubles.

 

As people, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Extroversion and introversion are no different. As one examines the pages of Scripture, extroverts and introverts are readily seen. Peter and Paul were strong extroverts, whereas John and Barnabas were introverts. Yet, Peter and Paul could not have possessed the ministries that they did if it were not for John and Barnabas. Peter wrote a couple of letters but focused his attention on evangelism. But where would the church be if it were not for the theologically rich documents written by John? If it were not for the introverted Barnabas, the extroverted Paul’s ministry would never have taken flight. Where would the extroverted Martin Luther have been if it were not for the introverted Philip Melanchthon to keep him grounded? By the way, some believe that Melanchthon’s theology was deeper than Luther’s. This is not to say that extroverts or introverts are better than the other. It is to say that God created us differently so that we could work together to do great things for Christ. So, stop trying to change introverts into extroverts, and vice versa. Accept each other as we are, creations from God. Use your gifts and strengths for the glory of God while challenging one another to strengthen our weaknesses.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

You Might Be a Deist

Source: You Might Be a Deist

By: Brian G. Chilton | October 21st, 2019

 

Atlanta native Jeff Foxworthy made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian doing a routine called “You might be a redneck.” Some of these classic one-liners include, “If you have a set of salad bowls and they all say Cool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck … If you have ever been accused of lying through your tooth, you might be a redneck … If you ever use your ironing board as a buffet table, you might be a redneck.” Foxworthy is a masterful comedian.

A theological system known as deism is no laughing matter. Deists hold that God is transcendent but is impersonal and has no dealings with the world. Therefore, deists deny such things as special revelation (that God can communicate with human beings) and miracles. Problematically, it seems as if many professing Christian theists are practicing deists. The following are three ways in which modern Christianity seems to be drifting towards a form of deism.

  1. You might be a deist if you reject divine communication. Undoubtedly, many people abuse and misuse the phrase “The Lord told me.” Some have claimed that the Lord told them that they needed to raise so many millions of dollars for a new jet or for a new building. While many of those claims are greatly suspect, the reaction to the extreme charismatic movement tends to move too far in the other direction. For instance, John MacArthur notes that “The truth is, there is no fresher or more intimate revelation than Scripture. God does not need to give private revelation to help us in our walk with Him” (quoted in Buettel, “The Lord Told Me,” GTY.org, https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B160122/the-lord-told-me). The problem with MacArthur’s response is that he is gravitating towards an implicit deism. John Morrison warns that modern theology has greatly been influenced by a cosmological dualism which tends to shut God out of the world from all “spatio-historical action and objective self-declaration” (Morrison, Has God Said, 2). Is it not then possible, at least, that God could communicate with individuals on a personal level? I think so. Furthermore, I think God communicates with us often although not in an audible voice necessarily. Yet, I would caution that we do need to check everything by Scripture as God does not lie and, thereby, would not contradict what he has said in his word (Titus 1:2).
  2. You might be a deist if you reject divine miracles. While it would be difficult to imagine that any Christian would dismiss God’s ability to perform miracles, the anticipation that God could work a miracle has seemingly declined in a modern rationalistic belief-system. This, too, comes from a philosophical ideology that holds that God cannot interact with space and time. However, is God not the one who created and developed the laws of nature that governs the universal system? If God is the one who created all things, including the laws that bind things together, then one could certainly hold that God continues to perform miracles as God sees fit. The rejection of God’s ability to perform miracles in the current age shows a bent towards deism rather than classical Christian theism.
  3. You might be a deist if you reject divine relationships. Finally, it seems that some writers and scholars (and I use general language intentionally) have popularized a notion that divine relationships are not biblical. That is, a person should simply accept a theological truth and not pursue an intimate relationship with a holy God. However, that again leans towards a deistic understanding of God. Jesus says, “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20, CSB) before saying, “Remain in me, and I in you” (John 15:4, CSB). Paul writes, “The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—if we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16–17, CSB). A covenantal relationship with God is deeply personal. Thus, we should not think that our journey is one that is walked alone. Rather, the believer has the promise that God will be with them until the very end (Matt. 28:20).

This article is not to badmouth any theologian or writer. Certainly, the individuals who wrote against certain practices did so with a concern that certain people were abusing the name of God. Nothing could be worse than that. Yet, the history of humanity reveals that individuals typically have the uncanny ability to take issues to its extreme end. My concern is that by guarding individuals from New Age philosophies and radical forms of Christianity—some which have become quite cult-like—many are leading individuals into a form of deistic theology. Throughout the pages of Scripture, individuals have encountered God personally and radically. Their walk with God was quite personal and relational. While God is mighty and awesome, he is also tender, compassionate, and near to all of us. May we never forget that.

 

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

Brief Break from Podcasting

Source: Brief Break from Podcasting

To Bellator Christi supporters,

The Bellator Christi Podcast hasn’t gone anywhere. I haven’t been able to record many podcasts lately. I am inundated with projects and activities over the past couple of months due to the release of the “Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics,” my work for my PhD, and now working to build a house. Throughout the month of October, it is highly doubtful that many, if any, podcasts will be recorded. After the second week of November, things should calm down and the podcasting schedule should resume.

Keep me and the Bellator Christi ministries in your prayers as the truth of Christ is my focus and glorifying God is my goal.

What is Truth? A Description of the Nature of Truth in the Gospel of John

Source: What is Truth? A Description of the Nature of Truth in the Gospel of John

By: Brian G. Chilton | September 30, 2019

 

“What is truth?’ said Pilate” (John 18:38). This classic question was asked by Pilate to Jesus during Jesus’s trial. This question does not resonate with Pilate only. In fact, people throughout generations have asked the same. What is truth? What is the nature of truth? Can truth be known?

While Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question during his trial, the nature of truth was already taught in John’s Gospel in three ways. First, one must define what is meant by truth. Aletheia is the Greek term which is translated as truth. It describes something as it exists in reality. So, when Jesus or John describes truth, they are noting the reality of their point of reference. Thus, the term aletheia holds that truth exists and is knowable.

Second, Jesus describes the nature of truth throughout John’s Gospel. Jesus noted that anyone who lived by the truth, desiring to know what was real, would come into the light of God’s glory and his revelation so that his or her works would be shown to be accomplished by God (John 3:21). That is, a person living for the truth acknowledges God’s existence and desires to live for God. Jesus teaches that God desires people to worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Jesus not only noted that truth exists and can be known, he also taught that the truth brings freedom (John 8:32). Jesus contrasts the truthfulness of God from the lies of the devil (John 8:44). By doing so, Jesus acknowledges the laws of logic by pointing out that truth exists, that the opposite of truth is a lie, and that something cannot both be true and false. Jesus denotes that he is the exclusive way to God the Father because of him being the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Jesus also teaches about the truthful nature of God’s Holy Spirit (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:7, 13). Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify, or set apart, his children by their devotion to God’s truth (John 17:17). Before Pilate’s epic philosophical question, Jesus had already noted that he came to “testify to the truth” (John 18:37, CSB) and that “Everyone who is of the truth listens to [his] voice” (John 18:37, CSB).

Third, John also acknowledges the existence of truth in his opening epilogue. When discussing the Logos (i.e., the “Word”), John notes how the Logos became flesh. That is, the Wisdom of God became a human being. As a disciple, John states that he was one of those who observed the glory of the incarnate Logos. He also stated that the Logos was sent from the Father and was full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14, CSB). John acknowledges that Jesus spoke the truth in all that he said and done. Furthermore, while Moses gave the law, grace and truth came from Jesus (John 1:17). In the Gospel’s postscript, either John or an editor of the Gospel noted that John was a witness to the events of Christ’s life and that his testimony is verified to be true.

So, what can we know about truth from John’s Gospel? First, we find that truth does exist. Truth is not personal, but it is objective. Truth is what exists in reality. It is the way things really are and the way things operate. Truth is opposite from a lie, and something cannot both be true and false. Finally, the Gospel of John notes that true leads to the reality of certain theological truths: 1) God’s existence, 2) a salvific relationship with God through Christ, and 3) redeeming and freeing aspects which bring about transformational living.

To answer Pilate’s question, truth is found in a transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent reality known as God. This God is the basis for all truth and all reality. For without God, nothing would exist that exists (John 1:3; Col. 1:16–18; Heb. 2:10).

 About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.

HOW CAN ONE DISCERN THE WILL OF GOD?

Reflections from dr. dan...

For the child of God, discerning the will of God for one’s life is of the utmost importance. The desire of a surrendered Christian is to be in the center of God’s will. But discovering the will of God is not always easy. Some liken it to a fish flopping on the pond bank trying to make it back into the water. Is it possible to grasp the will of God or is it simply guess work? The will of God is not a nebulous concept that is ambiguous in its understanding. The will of God is not some mystical experience that is reserved only for those on a higher spiritual plain than us “common” folk. The Lord has a plan for the life of every Christian and discovering the will of God is not an elusive game of trivial pursuit.

How can one discern God’s will for their…

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Is God Unjust in Punishing the Wicked?

Source: Is God Unjust in Punishing the Wicked?

By: Brian G. Chilton | September 3, 2019

Skeptics often accuse God of being evil for not punishing the wicked. Why would a good God allow murders, disease, and the like? Yet ironically, skeptics also accuse God of being evil for punishing the wicked. For instance, questions involving the punishment of individuals in hell and judgment brought against the unjust are often the basis for the skeptic’s accusations against God’s good moral nature.

Both questions can be answered in the pages of Scripture. When Scripture is read in its entirety, certain theological themes emerge. In this case, the books of Ezekiel, Habakkuk, the Gospels, 2 Peter, and Revelation denote certain attributes of God goodness, his judgment, and his desire to transform humanity into something much better.

1. God’s Desire. God often calls certain men (i.e., Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Amos) and women (i.e., Deborah, Huldah, and Isaiah’s wife) to be God’s mouthpieces. In the Old Testament days, these individuals were called prophets. The prophets delivered God’s message often to rebellious people. In the case of Ezekiel, God delivered a message concerning a person’s responsibility to the Lord. In Ezekiel 18, God notes that a righteous person is not responsible for the actions of a godless nation (Ezek. 18:5–9); a parent is not responsible for the wicked actions of his or her child when the child reaches adulthood (Ezek. 18:10–13); and a child is not responsible for the ungodly behaviors his or her parents (Ezek. 18:14–17). Each person is responsible for one’s own behavior and one’s own relationship to God and others.

            God notes that if a person repents and turns away from one’s sins, then God will forgive and transform the person (Ezek. 18:21–22). God also states that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23) and would much rather have a wicked person repent and find new life in God (Ezek. 18:23, 31).

When a person thinks about hell, the skeptic questions why God would send the wicked there. However, one must remember that hell was never intended for people. People were intended to have a loving relationship with God and with each other. Jesus notes that hell was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41) and not for people. God does not desire to send people to hell. It is a person’s volitional choice to rebel against the Creator of the universe and the rejection of God’s free offer of forgiveness that brings condemnation. While it is true that God sends people to hell, the bottom line is that the person condemns oneself to hell.

 2. God’s Decree. Why is it that the wicked seem to prosper and get away with crimes? When we look at the world, we see an increase in shootings, a condition that seems to be worsening as time progresses. Wealth often comes from wicked means. Why is it that the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer? This is a question that people have asked for centuries.

The prophet Habakkuk asked the same question about his nation. Why was God allowing the wicked to prosper (Hab. 1:2–4)? God spoke to the prophet and told him that judgment was coming to the nation, and it would come by the hand of the Chaldeans/Babylonians (Hab. 1:5–11). Habakkuk stepped back and said, “Wait, Lord! We’re bad. But they’re worse” (Hab. 1:12–17)! God answered the prophet by saying that Babylon and the entire world would eventually be judged (Hab. 2:2–20). The child of God needs to trust that God will right all wrongs in the end. God reminds the prophet that the “righteous one will live by his faith” (Hab. 2:4, CSB). While God has not righted all wrongs just yet, he eventually will. Everyone should consider that the “eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). Nothing takes God by surprise.

 3. God’s Draw. Does God condemn people without the possibility to repent? I earnestly don’t think that God does. I think God somehow reaches people in ways we do not always understand. We can see two examples of God reaching out to the lost even in their last moments.

First, one sees the example of God’s extension of forgiveness to Judas. Jesus placed Judas beside him during their last supper together. Jesus and Judas shared a bowl which was Jesus’s way of showing kindness to Judas. Jesus predicted that Judas would betray him. In a manner of speaking, Jesus was reaching out to Judas to tell him that he didn’t have to betray him. I am of the persuasion that if Judas had not betrayed him, Jesus would have still been condemned by the Sanhedrin by another means. The Sanhedrin had already intended to kill Jesus. It was just a matter of time. Jesus also gave Judas a piece of bread as if he were trying to call Judas to repentance. However, Judas refused, Satan entered Judas (John 13:27), and the rest is history. It is intriguing how Jesus reached out to Judas even in the last moments before his betrayal.

Second, the book of Revelation denotes that God calls people to repentance even as the last series of judgments are to transpire. For instance, when the fifth bowl of wrath is poured out, John the Revelator denotes that “People gnawed their tongues because of their pain and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they did not repent of their works” (Rev. 16:10b–11, CSB). If they were not able to repent, then it makes no sense for John to say that they didn’t repent. It is quite possible that God grants people a chance to repent up until the final judgment is delivered. Even then, a person volitionally chooses God’s judgment over God’s graciousness.

 4. God’s Destruction. When the final judgment comes, islands are blown away (Rev. 16:20), mountains collapse (Rev. 16:20), and the molecular structure of the universe melts before the overwhelming power of the Almighty (2 Pet. 3:10). As it was mentioned earlier, a person volitionally chooses to face God’s judgment. But when people stand before God, all a person’s works will be exposed both good and bad (Luke 8:17; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Pet. 3:10). God cannot be manipulated. God won’t be bribed. Everyone will agree that God is justified in his judgments when Judgment Day arrives.

In conclusion, the skeptical inquiry concerning God’s goodness in lieu of earthly wickedness is answered within the pages of Scripture. God does not desire to punish anyone. God had rather that all people join him in the heaven that he created for them. However, because of human rebellion, people stand condemned. God is justified in punishing the wicked because he has given each person an alternative if the person would have taken it. This could be viewed as a wink towards Molinism. Nevertheless, rebellious people face judgment, a judgment that God does not desire to bring. Therefore, God will punish the wicked. But God does not punish the wicked out of hate-driven motivation. The reason he may not have punished the wicked yet may be due to God granting the rebellious soul a chance to repent before judgment comes. God’s goodness wins in the end.

 About the Author

Brian G. Chilton is the founder of BellatorChristi.com, the host of The Bellator Christi Podcast, and the author of the soon to be released book The Layman’s Manual on Christian Apologetics. He received his Master of Divinity in Theology from Liberty University (with high distinction); his Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Gardner-Webb University (with honors); and received certification in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Brian is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Theology and Apologetics at Liberty University and is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Brian has been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and serves as the Senior Pastor of Westfield Baptist Church in northwestern North Carolina.

 

© 2019. BellatorChristi.com.