Review of Peter Kreeft’s “Socratic Logic”

Kreeft, Peter. Socratic Logic: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles. 3.1 Edition. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014. $40.00. 399 pages.

Socratic Logic

Peter Kreeft provides an introductory textbook on the argumentative logic of Socrates in his book Socratic Logic. The 16 chapters of Kreeft’s book could be divided into three main sections: the First Act of the Mind–Understanding; the Second Act of the Mind–Judgment; and the Third Act of the Mind–Reasoning. These three sections are based upon the three main functions of any argument. First, one must define the terms to see whether they are clear or ambiguous. Then, one must evaluate the premises to determine whether they are true or false. Finally, one must test the argument to see whether the argument is valid or invalid.

The first section of Kreeft’s book helps the logician define the terms being presented in an argument. In other words, the terms are defined within the argument. A helpful section on material fallacies is given in chapter 3. Chapter 3 should be given great focus. The reader will find the listing of 40 material fallacies quite helpful. Personally, I found it quite fascinating how often these fallacies are used in popular media and politics.

The second section of Kreeft’s book demonstrates how premises are tested for their accuracy. The essence of truth and contradiction is given in this section of Kreeft’s book. For a person who is interested in logic–which it is assumed that the reader of this book would–great concentration will need to be given to the universal propositions (A, E) and particular propositions (I, O) given on page 146.

The third section of Socratic Logic focuses on the third test for logical accuracy which involves testing the argument for validity. By far, the third section is the longest and most difficult of all. Kreeft provides an array of various arguments from the more basic syllogism to the more difficult enthymemes and epicheiremas. Chapter 9 is especially good as Kreeft provides four ways to test the validity of any argument: Euler’s Circles, Aristotle’s Six Rules, “Barbara Celarent,” and Venn Diagrams. Because I am a visual person, I really enjoyed Euler’s Circles. However, I think Aristotle’s Six Rules are perhaps the best test as Kreeft argues on page 263.

Kreeft gives some helpful information in the latter chapters as it pertains to reading books in a logical fashion. Chapter 15 gives excellent information on how to write logically. Chapter 16 is perhaps the capstone of the book. Kreeft shows how logic applies to every part of a person’s life from theology to modern ethics.

Socratic Logic finds strength in its layout. Kreeft emphasizes the importance in knowing the three fundamentals of an argument: clarity of the terms, truthfulness of the premises, and the validity of the argument. The book is laid out according to these three fundamentals. This provides excellent structure and imprints the fundamentals upon the reader’s mind.

Another strength is the applicability of Kreeft’s book. While mathematical logic is extremely important, Socratic logic is applicable in everyday life. It seems as if there is an instantbologna detector found in this form of logic. As this reader read through Kreeft’s book, common examples of modern fallacies entered this reader’s mind. One will even find oneself evaluating posts on social media according to the principles learned in this book…something for which I had to apologize to one friend.

The greatest weakness of Kreeft’s book is its readability. If a person is looking for an easy read, this book is not for you.Socratic Logic is a book that must be slowly digested rather than quickly consumed. If one does not care about how much they learn, then it is supposed that a person could read through the book much quicker. But if one did not care to learn the information, then why read it in the first place?

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who desires to know the truth and how to test truth claims. Relativists will not like this book because Kreeft presents truth as it truly is: objectively known. This reader agrees with Kreeft’s definition, but relativists may not. Essentially, truth is calling something what it is. Truth, and the knowledge thereof, should be of utmost importance to all people.

I give this book 5 glowing stars!!!

Copyright, May 15, 2016. Brian Chilton.

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5 Parameters of Genuine Christianity Found in 1 John

Parameters are limits that constitute the nature or definition of someone or something. If one were to describe the parameters of an unused composition notebook, then one would set the following parameters: a book with lined pages so as to allow the owner to write in it, holding no writing on those pages. If any one of the previous parameters were changed, a person would not possess an unused composition notebook. If there is a printed text from a publisher, then one would have a book (perhaps Moby Dick or Huckleberry Finn) but it would not be a composition notebook. If someone wrote on the pages of the notebook, it would still be a notebook but not an unused notebook.

Parameters are set for everything in life. Christianity is no different. What constitutes the core parameters of one who claims to be a Christian? C. S. Lewis wrote about Mere Christianity, that is, Christianity at its most basic form. But what about the mere Christian? What are the core fundamentals that constitute the life of a Christian? The apostle John answers that question in his first letter. Within the text of 1 John, the reader will find five parameters of Christianity: holiness, love, truth, perseverance, and testimony.

Parameter of Christian Holiness (1 John 3:9; 5:18).

The first parameter that John sets is that of holiness. John writes, “No one of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).[1] Some have misinterpreted this text to claim that the Christian will never sin. Popular antitheists seek out a mistake in a person calling oneself a Christian. When the antagonist finds a fault, which they are sure to do, they will claim, “See! You did wrong! You are a sinner, not a saint!” However, John does not claim that a Christian will never fall or make a mistake.

John teaches that the Christian will seek to live a righteous life and will not be seek a life of rebellion. Daniel Akin notes that “The perfect participle (gegennēmenos) implies not only a single past act of spiritual new birth but also the ongoing effects of being born of God” (Akin 2001, 147-148). This falls in line with John’s use of the term seed. “The seed refers to one of three options: (1) the Word of God, (2) the Holy Spirit, or (3) the regenerate spirit when one is born again” (Walls and Anders 1999, 195).

Therefore, a true Christian will not live a life of rebellion against God. Rather, the genuine Christian will embrace God’s standards and God’s ways. For such a one realizes that God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than their own (Isaiah 55:9).

Parameter of Christian Love (1 John 4:7).

John provides another parameter of the genuine Christian, that of love. John writes that “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). What is the basis of such love? John notes that “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). The Christian has experienced the love of God. Therefore, it is expected that the Christian demonstrate that same kind of love to others. A person’s vertical relationship with God should affect the person’s horizontal relationship that they hold with others. Kruse states that “When the author says that ‘God is love’, he is not making an ontological statement describing what God is in his essence; rather, he is, as the following verses (4:9–10) reveal, speaking about the loving nature of God revealed in saving action on behalf of humankind” (Kruse 2000, 157). I disagree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s benevolent ontological nature of God. For the basis of a believer’s love is based on the nature of God’s love and the demonstration of God’s love to the believer. Nevertheless, I do agree with Kruse’s assessment of John’s emphasis on God’s saving action on behalf of humanity. Thus, the genuine believer must possess a love for others. Obviously that love may be tested and there will be those who are difficult to love. This love is a choice, a choice based on one’s obedience unto God.

Parameter of Christian Truth (1 John 5:1).

Third, John provides the parameter of truth. John notes that “Everyone believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1). As has been noted ample times by this author, theology matters. What a person believes shapes the way the person lives. John boldly proclaims that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:1-2). Going back to Peter’s confession, Peter noted of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Thus, the core fundamentals of Christianity must be accepted by the Christian to still be considered a Christian. Those core fundamentals are found in the Apostle’s Creed:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church (meaning universal church, not the denomination), the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen” (Apostles Creed).

This constitutes mere Christianity. If these core fundamentals are not held, then one is found outside the theological boundaries of the Christian faith.

Parameter of Christian Perseverance (1 John 5:4).

John also notes that the Christian will be found within the parameter of perseverance. John writes, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). In his Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes the true Christian as one who has heard the gospel, accepted the gospel, and one in which the gospel has taken root. The true believer will persevere. A person who remains wishy-washy in the faith is one whose legitimacy could be questioned. A person who says one day, “I wish to follow Jesus” and the next “I wish to live only for myself” is not one who will persevere and is rather one who is indecisive in their discipleship. The believer will come to accept Christ and follow him with steadfast perseverance. This is not to say that one cannot backslide, as I myself have done. But, rather one’s overall life will be a story of an overarching faithfulness from the point that the person met Christ until the day of that person’s death.

Parameter of Christian Testimony (1 John 5:9-10).

Finally, Jesus notes that the Christian will have evidence of a Christian testimony. John writes, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:9-10). What is the “testimony of God?” Different scholars hold differing perspectives. Kruse writes that “it to be identified with the testimony of the eyewitnesses, God speaking through them. This last alternative is preferable because the content of God’s testimony described in 1 John 5:11 is that God has given us eternal life in his Son, which is the central feature of the testimony of the eyewitnesses alluded to in 1 John 1:1–4” (Kruse 2000, 181). Daniel Akin thinks that “The most likely answer is that John is referring back to the threefold testimony in v. 8. This interpretation fits with the perfect tense of the verb (memarturēken, “he has testified”). God has testified concerning his Son in the past through the Spirit, water, and blood, and this testimony is still valid today” (Akin 2001, 200). I agree with Akin, however I would emphasize that the “testimony of God” refers more to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Going back to the testimony of Simon Peter, Jesus said after Peter’s proclamation that “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Seeing that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and compels people to faith (John 16:8ff), then I would say that the “testimony of God” refers to this inner witness of God through the Holy Spirit. Thus, a believer should have the testimony of God in one’s life.

Conclusion

Christianity holds particular parameters. A lot of people can claim a lot of things about themselves. However, there are certain truths that must exist in a person’s life to legitimately be considered a child of God. A person must strive to live a life of holiness before God. It is impossible for one to do so on their own merit, but only through the empowerment of God. Secondly, a person must be filled with compassion and love. Third, a person must stand upon the truth of God’s word. Fourth, a person must not hold a flimsy, whimsical sort of faith. Rather, one’s faith must be a decisive, steadfast kind of faith. Lastly, one must have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. While we all fall and falter every day, it must be remembered that these attributes are those that are examined over the course of a person’s life. John’s parameters serve as a good test for all of us to gauge how close we are to the person that God has called us to be.

Bibliography

Akin, Daniel L. 1, 2, 3 John. Volume 38. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001.

Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos, 2000.

Walls, David, and Max Anders. I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude. Volume 11. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this article comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Opinions or Truth: Which Shapes You?

Jesus was being interrogated by Pilate when the Prefect inquired, “’You are a king, then!’ asked Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’ ‘What is truth?’ retorted Pilate” (John 18:37-38).[1] Both Jesus and Pilate make tremendous points. Jesus directly pinpoints the lover of truth to himself while Pilate inquires about the very nature of truth.

Models of Truth

Recent matters have brought to the forefront the matter of truth as it is opposed to opinions. Do opinions shape truth or does truth shape opinions? When exploring the issue of truth, philosophers have determined three models that correspond to one’s relationship with truth. The coherence theory of truth considers “any coherent system of belief counts as a ‘true’ system of belief” (Ashford and Whitfield 2014, 56) However, the problem with this view is that a person can have a systematized belief based upon wrong premises. Such coherence does little to discover the reality of a particular thing or person.

Another model is the pragmatist theory of truth. Advocates of this theory propagate that “whichever beliefs prove to be invaluable instruments of action can be counted as truth” (Ashford and Whitfield 2014, 56). The trouble with this theory is that many evil things have been performed based upon a false belief system (e.g. Hitler’s Nazism, Colonial slavery, etc.).

The third model is one that this writer holds—and should be the one that anyone seeking the truth should hold—the correspondence theory of truth. This model claims that “truth is what corresponds with reality. Truth is independent of the human mind. Even if the human mind cannot recognize a particular truth, the truth of the matter still stands” (Ashford and Whitfield 2014, 56). Thus, truth exists whether the human does or not. The question has been asked, “If a tree falls and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” The tree falls, sound waves are made; therefore sound is produced whether or not someone is around to hear it. Truth stands upon itself and not upon the one advocating it.

Yet, it would appear that many hold that truth is shaped by the individual’s opinions. When one engages social media, one will discover that a lot of emphasis is placed upon one’s opinions. Person A will say, “I want to say something that I want you to hear, but it is my opinion.” Person B say, “I want you to hear something different than what Person A was saying, but this is my opinion.” It would appear that three models shape a person’s opinion, and contrary to popular belief, not all opinions are created equal.

Opinions Driving Truth Claims (Personal Defense)

The first category of opinions is found to be those who use their opinion to drive truth. In this case, a person is not about discovering truth. Rather, such a person seeks to prove his or her opinion as truthful. Therefore, truth claims are shaped and remolded to fit the paradigm of belief. Such a one may or may not fit within the coherent theory of truth because most of the time such opinions are not well thought out, but are compiled to prove a particular point. Often this category of opinions is used to defend one’s actions, even when such actions are immoral. If a person watches daytime television and evaluates a person who has been caught in a bad act, one will quickly note how some outlandish things are said in order to defend a person’s action. Such a one will often never learn from his or her bad behaviors while holding on to this model.

Opinions Blending with Truth Claims (Political Defense)

The second category is far more deceptive. Many use elements of truth in order to prove a particular opinion. Such a person will do research and will evaluate truth claims, but will not allow the truth claims to come to their conclusion. While the first category blatantly uses logical fallacies, the logical fallacies in this category are much more subtle. For instance, a person could claim that Americans dislike soda Cheerwine. Such a person would interview people in urban areas where Cheerwine was not available asking them if they like Cheerwine. Suppose the survey was worded so that only the options “Yes “ or “No” were available to the question “Do you like Cheerwine”. Since most people in those areas never heard of Cheerwine, their answer would be “no.” However, the study was not fair since it did not engage individuals who had actually tried the drink. Often, the fallacies are not always easily evaluated. For instance, advocates of this position will use history to their advantage. Attempts at what is called historical revisionism, or rewriting past history to prove a present-day point, are often employed to prove opinions. For this reason, politicians will often fit within this category as truth claims are molded with one’s opinion to drive a particular end—exemplified by the pragmatist theory.

Opinions Conforming to Truth Claims (Philosophical Defense)

Lastly, the third category of opinions is found in those who allow their opinions to be shaped by truth. This category fits well with the correspondence theory. It should not be surprising that this is the most difficult of the three as one would require a great deal of research into a particular avenue in order to allow one’s opinion to be shaped by truth. Norman Geisler describes one who adheres to this philosophy as one who acknowledges that Truth is what corresponds to its referent. Truth about reality is what corresponds to the way things really are. Truth is “telling it like it is.” (Geisler 1999, 742). Such a person evaluates the truth, acknowledges the truth, accepts the truth, and allows the truth to mold their beliefs and opinions. Christian philosophers fit the model for this view. They have researched, evaluated, and allowed the truth to shape their opinion. It may not be that Christian philosophers agree with one another on every detail—far from it. However, they will agree on the fundamentals of truth. Truth has shaped them rather than them shaping truth.

Conclusion:

In the movie A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) interrogates Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson). Kaffee states, “I want the truth!” Jessup retorts, “You can’t handle the truth!” Can a person handle the truth? This is the question that everyone must ask themselves. Pilate, who inquired of the nature of truth, was met face-to-face with the greatest reality found in the universe—Jesus Christ! Yet, due to his political and personal opinions missed the opportunity to know the greatest Truth that one could ever find. So, you (the reader) must ask yourself—are your opinions shaping truth or is the Truth shaping your opinions? Furthermore, are you ready to handle the Truth?

Sources Cited:

Ashford, Bruce Riley, and Keith Whitfield. “Theological Method: An Introduction to the Task of Theology.” In A Theology for the Church. Revised Edition. Edited by Daniel L. Akin. Nashville: B&H, 2014.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

© July 6, 2015. Brian Chilton

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture used in this article comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

Can a Person be a God-Pleaser and a People-Pleaser? Lessons from the Prophet Amos

I must make a confession. I am naturally a people pleaser. I do not like controversy. I do not like when people are in conflict. I am by nature a peaceful person. Having this tendency makes it difficult at times. When working in a supervisory role at a manufacturing facility, this aspect of my personality was confronted. By nature of the role, supervisors are not going to please everyone. When employees slack off and do not perform their duties, it is the supervisor’s role to confront them and encourage them to perform better. A woman who worked at the facility in that role for many years had several wise quips and quotes pertaining to the supervisor’s role with problematic employees. She would say, “If they get offended at you for doing your job, they’ll get over it or die with it one,” meaning that a person would eventually be able to let go of their anger or it would make them bitter. But, she also said something that truly resonated with me. She said, “If no one ever gets angry with you, then you are not doing your job.”

In a similar fashion, the same holds true with the Christian, and especially the pastor. While Christians should “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18);[1] it must be noted that if a Christian holds any integrity, any character, and any convictions, then that Christian will NOT please everyone. Why? It is because that when someone stands for truth, those who are guilty of unrepented sin will be convicted and will be upset, if not angered. Such was true for the prophet Amos. Amos was met by a fellow prophet named Amaziah. Amaziah was a prophet who delivered a popular message that said something like “You are okay. The king is okay. The government is okay. I am okay. We are all okay the way we are!” Amos came preaching a message saying, “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,’ declares the LORD. Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:11-12). Amaziah, from the Northern Kingdom, told Amos, who came from the Southern Kingdom, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom” (Amos 7:12-13). Did you catch that??? The temple is of the people and not of God. What did Amos say? Amos said, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15). Amos had the call of God. Amos pleased God but did not please people. Amaziah sought to please people but did not please God.

Jesus warns the Christian of the same. Jesus said, “Do not think that I come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:34, 38-39). In other words, you cannot please people and please God.

This seems to even affect churches. Some churches desire emotionalism and entertainment rather than solid foundational teaching. When a church has reached a point that it is more concerned with appeasing people than pleasing God, that church has ceased to be a church and has rather become a community club with a cross on top. A preacher must ask oneself, “Am I preaching to receive a pat-on-the-back? Or, am I preaching to hear God say, ‘Well done’?”

So what about you? You may be like me. You may not want to cause trouble. You may not like controversy. But if you stand for Christ, eventually trouble may find you. Will you keep standing? As Jesus said, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:27-28). As for me, I am more concerned about God’s opinion of me than the opinions of others. While I do not like controversy, I understand that God through Christ will ultimately bring complete peace. Who do you desire to please: God or people?

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

Copyright April 2015. Brian Chilton

9 Signs that the End is Drawing Near

Normally when one seeks to find information concerning the end-times, one will gravitate towards the book of Revelation. However, Jesus presented some fascinating information concerning the end-times in a message that He delivered on the Mount of Olives. The message is popularly titled The Olivet Discourse. In the opening points given in the message, Jesus provides nine signs that the end is drawing near. These are not the only signs that exist. Nonetheless, the signs provide a fascinating glimpse at the conditions one can expect as the end draws near.

Sign One: Increase in False Religions

Jesus began the message in saying, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4-5, ESV). The first sign is that one can expect false Messiahs to increase in the end. Notice that Jesus emphasizes “many.” In a world bombarded by information, many ideas and philosophies invade the intellectual arena. Some would claim that they were the Christ. Others would claim that there is only one Christ—Jesus of Nazareth. Some would claim that another person was the Christ. Some would claim that everyone is the Christ. While yet others would claim that the “Christ” is a false idea. Only one can be correct. In fact, there is only one who can meet the standard of the Christ, which is Jesus of Nazareth. That the world is blitzed with much more exposure to multiple religions and philosophies points to the fact that the end may be nearer than one might think.

Sign Two: Increase in Violence

Jesus continues his discourse in saying “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (6-7). Violence has been part of human history since the very beginning. The first murder is recorded in the Bible when Cain slayed Abel in Genesis 4. However, as the end draws increasingly near, one can expect a monumental rise in violence globally. In fact, Jesus states later in the message that “as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (24:37). The days of Noah were known for illicit violence and great depravity. As violence increases worldwide, one can anticipate the looming of the end.

Sign Three: Increase in Famines

Jesus additionally denotes that “there will be famines” (7). Here, Jesus notes that famines will increase during the end-times. Certain studies indicate a concern for the possibility of a coming crisis as it pertains to global food supplies, particularly corn and grain. However, more research will be necessary as it pertains to this issue.

Sign Four: Increase in Natural Disasters

Jesus continues by saying “and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (7-8). As the end approaches, one can expect an increase in natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and perhaps solar bursts and meteor strikes will all increase as the end approaches. While disasters have occurred since the dawning of mankind, such occurrences shall increase in number and will be more destructive in nature.

Sign Five: Increase in Persecution

Jesus continues by warning that “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (9).

Philip Jenkins writes,

  Matters changed swiftly during World War I. Massacres and expulsions all but removed the once very large Armenian and Greek communities in Anatolia (now Turkey). Counting Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks together, murder and starvation killed more than two million Christians between 1915 and 1922.

Emerging Arab nations also targeted Christians. Iraq’s slaughter of Assyrians in 1933 gave lawyer Raphael Lemkin a basis upon which he defined the concept of genocide. The partition of Palestine and subsequent crises in the region massively shrunk other ancient Christian groups. The modern story of the Christian Middle East is one of contraction and collapse. By the end of the past century, Christianity in the Middle East had two great centers: Coptic Egypt, and the closely interrelated lands of Syria and Lebanon. They are now home to many refugee churches” (Jenkins, 36).

 Persecution has undoubtedly increased in the twenty-first century. Whether it is physical persecution, social persecution (e.g. peer pressure), or other means of persecution, one can expect such to increase as the end approaches.

Sign Six: Apostasy

The sixth sign given by Jesus is described in the following statement: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (10). Here, Jesus is referring to the faithful. Among the faithful in the end times, one should expect many to fall out of the church. Some may not have realized that the Christian walk was as tough as it was. Others may feel that being a follower of Christ is passé. One must wonder whether such a person ever truly knew Christ in the first place. Nevertheless, the true Christian will remain as such a one “endures to the end” (13).

 Sign Seven: Departure from Truth within the Assembly

The seventh sign that the end is near is that in the end “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (11). Stuart Weber writes of verse 11 in that

 “Verse 11 sounds similar to verse 5 above, describing false prophets instead of false Christs. A prophet was a spokesman for God; therefore, a false prophet was one who falsely claimed to be God’s spokesman. This was a more subtle form of deception, since there was only one Christ. However, there can be many prophets from God, and it was easier to pass oneself off as a prophet. Jesus said there would be many such deceivers and that they would deceive many people(Blomberg, 398).

 The fact that Jesus uses the term “prophetes” (prophet) demonstrates that these false leaders exist within the assembly of believers as opposed to the false messiahs who exist outside the assembly. Thus, the church can anticipate that as the end approaches more and more false teachers, preachers, and pastors will arise. There will be many more “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).

Sign Eight: Departure from Known Morality

The eighth sign that the end is drawing near is that because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (12-13). The things that are right will become scoffed and the things that are wrong will be celebrated. Morality will decline as the end approaches. The end will resemble that days of Noah (24:37), a time known for the abandonment of faith and moral recklessness.

 Sign Nine: Global Evangelism

The previous eight signs were negative in scope. However the ninth sign is positive in nature. The final sign listed in this section of the Olivet Discourse in that the end is drawing near is that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (14). The advent of the internet allows for the gospel to be shared all across the globe. In fact, at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com, over 172 nations are being reached with the gospel message of Christ. Countless other ministries are spreading the good news of Christ all across the globe. Now, more than ever before, it can be said that most every nation has a chance to hear the gospel message. This, although a positive sign, is a sign that the end is drawing imminently near.

Conclusion

Some would approach the previous verses from a preterist interpretation. Craig Blomberg writes,

 “It is crucial to observe the fulfillment of all these preliminary events prior to a.d. 70. This fulfillment will explain how 24:34 can be true. It demonstrates that everything necessary for Christ’s return was accomplished within the first generation of Christianity, so that every subsequent generation has been able to believe that Jesus could come back in their times. It should lead us to reject all views that claim to know for sure that Christ is returning in a given year, decade, or century on the basis of some unique event that has never previously occurred in Christian history (as, e.g., with the reestablishment of the state of Israel or with some future, hypothetical rebuilding of the temple). Moreover, by including the extensive preaching of the gospel (item 9) with the eight negative signs, Jesus offers something of a balance in his presentation of events that must occur before the end. Neither the unrelenting pessimism of traditional dispensationalism nor the unbridled optimism of certain forms of postmillennialism is justified. Instead, the period of time prior to Christ’s return will be characterized by a growing polarization between good and evil. God’s people will increase in power, witness, and impact in the world, even as persecution and hostility intensify and global conditions deteriorate. Revelation 11:3–13 graphically depicts this polarization, and church history, beginning already in Acts 8:1–4, has frequently demonstrated the truth of Tertullian’s slogan that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Blomberg, 357).

 Even if it were true that these events were fulfilled before the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD, an approach to which this writer is skeptical, prophecy tends to hold a two-edged sword as it is often forth-telling and foretelling, forth-telling in describing something that was to occur near the time projected, and foretelling of some distant event. Even if these nine signs were primarily intended to describe the imminent destruction of the Temple, one could rightfully postulate that these signs point to a time near the end when Christ would return. Seeing that Christ did not return in 70 AD during the destruction of the Temple, a preterist view is suspect in this writer’s opinion. As Weber denotes,

 “The second question Jesus answered has to do with the purpose of preaching this gospel of the kingdom throughout the world. A testimony (marturion) was a legal term, referring to the sharing of information on a particular topic. In this case, it had to do with Jesus and his kingdom. The testimony served two purposes simultaneously: (1) it could win the listener over, and (2) it could condemn the guilty. Implied here is Jesus’ distinction between those who listened and those who did not (11:15; 13:9, 43) End here means the end of the age” (Weber 399-400).

Jesus was answering two questions: one concerning the destruction of the Temple and the other concerning the end. These nine signs speak clearly to the characteristics of a society nearing the end of time. Are we near the end? Check the signs and judge for yourself.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

 

Bibliography

 Blomberg, Craig. Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Jenkins, Philip. “Is This the End for Mideast Christianity.” Christianity Today  58.9 (November 4, 2014): 36. Retrieved November 30, 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

Weber, Stuart K. Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Comforts Found in the Moral Attributes of God

God not only possesses non-moral attributes, which describe God’s essence of being; but God also possesses what are termed moral attributes. These attributes demonstrate the moral qualities of God. The moral attributes describe how God relates to individuals. Whereas the non-moral attributes depict the awesome power of God, the moral attributes demonstrate the personal qualities of God. This post will examine each of the nine moral attributes as given in John S. Feinberg’s book No One Like Him, and will provide comforts that the modern Christian can find in each of these divine moral qualities.

holiness

Holiness

Feinberg notes that “Scripture offers a two-fold picture of divine holiness. On the one hand, God is holy in that he is distinct or separate from everything else…other passages that speak of his holiness may be seen as referring to his majesty.”[1] Isaiah writes “For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed'” (Isaiah 57:15). The believer can take comfort in knowing that God is higher than the problems of life. While individuals may become victims of the evil treachery of the wicked, God will eventually judge the wicked. Those who are wicked may be able to act in horrific ways now, but there is coming a day when every person will give an account of his or her life. God will not be bribed (2 Chronicles 19:7) and God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Righteousness

Feinberg defines God’s righteousness as His “moral purity…he has established a moral order for the universe, and he treats all creatures fairly.”[2] In fact, the book of Deuteronomy states that God is “the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17). It is also said that God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Therefore, the Christian can take comfort in knowing that God’s moral character will not change. Often some individuals will act in fashions that are contrary to their character. For instance, good people will at times act in an unfavorable way. Bad people will sometimes act friendly. However, God is God; and God will never change. That fact can provide great stability to a life found in chaos.

Love-of-God1

Love

John famously wrote that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). God has a love all people. While it is noted that this love may be in greater or lesser degrees, as with Jacob and Esau (Romans 9:13), Feinberg notes that “The NT teaches that God’s love extends to all people, not just to those who trust him.”[3] John indicates as much when he wrote that “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Some would claim that God’s wrath discredit’s God’s love in some fashion. However, this need not be the case. Tony Lane indicates that wrath may be a natural function of love as “there is not true love without wrath…Failure to hate evil implies a deficiency in love.”[4] Lane brings forth a compelling point. No one would ever think that a parent could be termed loving who willingly allows his or her child to suffer abuse without repercussions to the offender. Such actions would not constitute love, but something far worse. Thus, God’s judgment towards those who remain rebellious is found perfectly in the heart of love.

Grace

Feinberg states that grace is “best understood as unmerited favor.”[5] The great grace of God was involved in one’s salvation, for “you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” (Ephesians 2:8). Some individuals live under the impression that they are owed something: someone owes them a living, or a corporation owes them particular benefits. However, when an individual understands that they do not deserve salvation or heaven, one can appreciate the great grace that God has bestowed upon such a one. Jesus said that “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Salvation is not deserved. Salvation is a gift given by God to individuals.

Mercy

Related to the concept of grace is that of mercy. Feinberg compares mercy to grace in that “Both involve unmerited favor, but the difference is that whereas grace may be given to those who are miserable and desperately in need of help, it may also be given to those who have no particular need. On the other hand, mercy is given specifically to those whose condition is miserable and one of great need.”[6] It is not a popular thing in polite society to proclaim that people deserve to go to hell, but that is exactly what the Scriptures indicate as “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). When a Christian understands what it is that he or she really deserves, such a one will earnestly appreciate the great loving mercy demonstrated by God in saving them. The word saved begins to take on a new meaning.

longsuffering1

Longsuffering

Longsuffering is best understood as God’s “patience toward us.”[7] One of the fruit of the Spirit is indicated as patience in Galatians 5:22. Paul indicates that God “endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction” (Romans 9:22) and Peter writes that “the Lord does not delay His promise as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Comfort can be found in that while evil is present and often goes unpunished; God will rectify all things in the end. God is patient desiring all that would be given the opportunity to come to Him. However, at some point in the future, God will bring justice to those who do evil. Just because God has not judged yet, does not indicate that He never will.

Goodness

Feinberg indicates that the major point concerning God’s goodness in the Scriptures is that “God is concerned about the well-being of his creatures and does things to promote it.”[8] Paul Moser writes that God’s goodness would include “uncoerced human volitional…cooperation with God…To that end, God would want people to be related to God on perfectly loving terms that exclude selfishness and pride and advance unselfish love toward all agents.”[9] While theologians may argue the uncoerced aspect of Moser’s assessment, almost all would agree that God advances unselfish love towards His children. Each Christian can find comfort in knowing that God is indeed good.

Lovingkindness

Due to the other attributes listed, one can obtain a good picture of what God’s lovingkindness would be. The believer could easily pray along with David, “God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 36:7). While the world becomes increasingly hostile, the Christian can take comfort in knowing that God will always be loving and kind towards His children. Even when God must discipline, His actions are performed with kind motives.

Proclaiming Truth Square

Truth

Truth speaks of things as they really exist. In this note, Feinberg describes God as a “God of truth. He knows the truth and only speaks the truth.”[10]  God is a reality. God is the source of all things. Thus, God knows things as they really exist. God is the ultimate source for reality. Since God is transcendent, God knows all things that was, are, what will be, and even what could be. God’s truth extends from God’s omniscience and omnisapience. In addition, it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, when Jesus said that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), then it can be trusted that God will lead us in the right paths and inform of certain realities. The great comfort found for the Christian is in the fact that God can be trusted. Those things that God promises will come to be. The Christian does not have to worry about whether the truths of God can fail or falter. They can rest in the great comfort that the promises of God are certain realities from the Certain Reality.

 

Conclusion

While the non-moral attributes of God demonstrate God’s awesome power and complex being, the moral attributes of God provide comfort like no other. The non-moral attributes stretch the powers of the mind, whereas the moral attributes of God stretch the depths of the heart. The theologian and Christian leader owes it to individuals to teach them about God’s moral attributes. It may be that one has suffered from infidelity and needs to know that God is always faithful. Another may have suffered from great wickedness and desperately needs to know that God still loves them and will bring justice to their assailants. People need the comfort that can only be provided in knowing the moral attributes of God.

 Note: This work represents the academic work of Pastor Brian Chilton. The contents of this article have been submitted to the author’s university. Any attempt to improperly use the information found within this article for academic papers without proper citation may result in charges of plagiarism.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman     Bible Publishers, 2009.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Lane, Tony. “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God.” In Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God. Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001.

Moser, Paul K. “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God.” In God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible. Edited by William Lane Craig and Chad Meister. Downers Grove: IVP, 2009.

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014

 ________________________________________________________________________________________

Footnotes

[1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 341.

[2] Ibid, 345.

[3] Ibid, 351.

[4] Tony Lane, “The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God,” in Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God (Grand Rapids, Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001), 159-160.

[5] Feinberg, 354.

[6] Ibid, 359.

[7] Ibid, 362.

[8] Ibid, 366.

[9] Paul K. Moser, “Evidence of a Morally Perfect God,” in God is Great, God is Good: Why Believing in God is Reasonable and Responsible, William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, ed (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), 59.

[10] Feinberg, 370.

Being Skeptical of Hyper-Skepticism

A healthy dose of skepticism is a good trait to possess. This helps us to discern fact from fiction and keeps us from being someone’s pawn. The Bible shows that discernment is necessary. John writes that one should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, ESV). Therefore, one should not trust everything that comes along life’s way. However, when one becomes overly skeptical, it is easy for one to become just as easily duped. In fact, it may be said that extreme skepticism (henceforth termed “hyper-skepticism”) can lead one to a point that nothing can be accepted.

Hyper-skepticism is a growing problem. In fact, I recently conversed with an individual on the issue of hyper-skepticism. Throughout our conversation, I discovered three enormous problems with hyper skepticism.

 skepticism_question everything

Problem 1.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in experience.

The first problem that comes from hyper-skepticism is a lack of trust in experience. In fact, the conversation I held with the individual began in this realm. The antagonist did not believe that one could believe in religious experiences. However, I provided data that corresponds not just with one person’s experience, but the experience of countless others. For example, one cannot deny the incredible testimonies of Muslims who have had experiences with Christ which have led them to convert to Christianity despite the threat of execution. This was not good enough for the skeptic. This led me to ask how one could trust their experience in anything. Surprisingly, the antagonist agreed. This leads to further problems which will be dealt with in a moment.

When skepticism gets to the point that one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how can one learn anything about life and reality? The experiences of life mold one to become a better person. I would argue that one of God’s greatest teachers in life is that of experience. Solomon wisely writes that “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1, NASB). Life provides such reproof, or correction. Solomon rightly states “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly” (Proverbs 26:11, NIV). This is the problem with hyper-skepticism. If one’s experiences cannot be trusted, then how does one ever learn? Furthermore, it would seem that the lack of trust in religious experiences stems more from an anti-theological bias rather than intellectualism. How intellectual would it for the skeptic to resist God’s extension of grace towards the skeptic? In such a case, hyper-skepticism has little to do with intellectualism and more to do with a heart of rebellion.

 skepticism-sm

Problem 2.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of trust in empirical data.

The second problem of hyper-skepticism emerges from the first. If experiences cannot be trusted, then how can empirical data be trusted? Wait Pastor Brian!!! Empirical data is outside of one’s senses, isn’t it? Then how does this relate to one’s sensual experiences? Consider this: one must use their senses to evaluate empirical data. As you are reading this article, you are evoking at least one of your senses: sight. Therefore, you are reading the empirical data (the words) by your sensual experience (sight). The same is true for the scientific method. When a scientist evaluates a claim, she may write down particular formulae. This uses sight and touch. She will then test her theory. The testing may include a wide variety of senses (sight, touch, hearing, smell, and perhaps tasting). Therefore, if one cannot trust one’s experiences (sensual data), then empirical data is out of reach. The scientific method collapses from hyper-skepticism.

The apostle Thomas has been dubbed with the title “Doubting Thomas.” This is due to Thomas’ claim that he would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection unless he saw the risen Christ for himself. Jesus appeared to Thomas and said to him, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it into my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27, ESV). Thomas responded by proclaiming “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)! Thomas believed the data that was in front of him. In fact, Thomas was no longer a skeptic. Thomas was a believer. Thomas’ belief in the risen Jesus led him to eventually suffer martyrdom in Madras, India as identified by ancient testimony (see the article “Embarrassing Details Concerning the First Easter” here at pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com for more information concerning Thomas’ martyrdom at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/top-5-embarrassing-details-concerning-the-first-easter/). What if Thomas had not believed his experience? Thomas certainly would not have suffered martyrdom. Thomas would have said to have been foolish in such a case.

The skeptic I debated conceded the point that nothing could be known with hyper-skepticism and made the claim that certain experiences can be trusted. But this opens up the gate to all experiences. If someone is sick, would they deny their symptoms and pretend like they were not sick? How foolish! The sick person would seek medical treatment due to the experiences they were having. Should one pick and choose what experiences in their daily life is valid and which ones are not? No one lives life like this unless one is on some form of hallucinogenic drug. But religious experiences are not based on hallucinogens as argued by the debater. Why deny religious experiences if there are good reasons for believing their authenticity? It is true that some who have claimed to have religious experiences had other motives behind their claim. Some skepticism is healthy; however, for the skeptic to devalue all religious experiences when those experiences are held by those who certainly do not meet the standard of schizophrenia, or subject to hallucinations, due to an anti-theological bias is absurd. It leads towards the hyper-skepticism that has been evaluated in this article.

 conviction

Problem 3.      Hyper-skepticism leads to a lack of knowledge in existence.

Finally, if one cannot trust one’s experiences or empirical data, then nothing is knowable. Even Rene Descartes “cognito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) collapses with hyper-skepticism. How then can one even trust one’s existence? If nothing can be trusted, then not even one’s own existence is safe. Perhaps the person is just a delusion. Perhaps all existence is a delusion. Again, this leads to absurdity. Descartes’ point is that one can know one’s existence and that person’s existence lends itself to the ultimate existence of a Creator. However, with hyper-skepticism, such cannot be said. In fact, hyper-skepticism lends itself to nothingness. Yet, the conscious, thinking, observer clearly knows that “nothing” is “no-thing.” We do not live in a world of “no-things,” we live in a world of existent realities. Therefore, hyper-skepticism should be devalued and rejected wholeheartedly by any truth-seeker.

Certainty-in-Marketing

Conclusion

Luckily, things are knowable. Some certainties do exist. Norman Geisler in his book The Big Book of Christian Apologetics lists five certainties:

“Logical Certainty. Logical certainty is found largely in mathematics and pure logic…

Metaphysical Certainty. …For example, I know for certain that I exist. This is undeniably so, since I cannot deny my existence without existing to make the denial…

Moral Certainty. Moral certainty exists where the evidence is so great that the mind lacks any reason to veto the will to believe it is so…In legal terms, this is what is meant by ‘beyond all reasonable doubt.’…

Practical Certainty (High Probability). Practical certainty is not as strong as moral certainty. Persons claim to be ‘certain’ about things they believe have a high probability of truth…

Spiritual (Supernatural) Certainty. If we grant a theistic God’s existence, he could give supernatural assurance that something is true. Likewise, if God speaks directly to a person…, then that person could have a spiritual certainty that transcends other kinds of certainty, because it comes directly from God…” (Geisler 2012, 74).

There are indeed things that can be known with a great deal of certainty. Religious experiences allow for a certainty that God not only exists, but is actively involved in creation and in the lives of human beings. Unfortunately, the hyper-skeptic may never be able to experience such a certainty, or any certainty for that matter, while they hold to their unjustified hyper-skepticism.

 

Bibliography

All Scripture marked (ESV) comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

All Scripture marked (NASB) comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

All Scripture marked (NIV) comes from the New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011.

Geisler, Norman. The Big Book of Christian Apologetics: An A to Z Guide. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.

 

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

Does Paul Condemn Philosophy?

apostle paul in blue

Philosophy is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the study of ideas about knowledge, truth, the nature and meaning of life… a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology” (Merriam-Webster). Some have taken a negative outlook on philosophy. It has been noted that even some secular universities are dumping their classic philosophy programs (see the show “Why are Secular Universities Closing Philosophical Programs?” on Redeeming Truth Radio found at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pastorbrianchilton/2014/05/12/why-are-secular-universities-closing-philosophical-programs-w-j-andrew-payne). However, one’s claim that “philosophy is meaningless” is in itself a philosophical claim. But what about Christians? Some Christians have criticized the use of philosophy due to Paul’s statement against philosophy in Colossians 2:8. Yet, Christianity teaches is knowledgeable, is based on truth, defines the nature and meaning of life, holds great logic, teaches aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Paul himself gives lessons in most of the previously mentioned systems. So, does Paul refute himself? Or is there a problem with the way many interpret Colossians 2:8? So, the question must be asked: does Paul really criticize the use of philosophy? In this article, Paul’s statement in Colossians 2:8 will be exegetically examined and in its proper context and the article will answer whether Paul really condemns philosophy after all.

 

The Statement

Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Already from the text, philosophy in and of itself is not the problem. To understand the teaching, one must examine the entire context. Paul was dealing with some problems in the church of Colossae.

 

Problem: Lack of Focus on Truth

Back in Colossians 1:28-29, Paul writes that his goal in the letter was to “tell others about Christ, warning everyone with all the wisdom God has given us” (Colossians 1:28). Paul was himself presenting a philosophy to the people of Colossae. Paul was proclaiming the truth of Christ and the truth (or philosophy) that comes pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is why, Paul writes, that he “work(s) and struggle(s) so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me” (Colossians 1:29). Therefore, Paul points the Colossians back to the historical Jesus of history and reminds them of His reality and the truth that is based upon Christ.

 

Problem: False Teachers

Paul’s main issue was to strengthen believers so that they would know the truth and, therefore, would not be taken by falsehood. Paul was using apologetics to show them the truth. Paul reminded them of what they knew to be true and warned them against individuals who would try to “deceive” them by using “well-crafted arguments” (Colossians 2:4). Here is the point: Paul was warning the Christians of Colossae not to be fooled and taken away by clever arguments and falsehoods. But in order to do so, they must “continue to follow him” (Colossians 2:6) and must “Let your roots grow down into him, and let you lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7). Again, they must be grounded in what is real. They must be grounded in reality. Therefore, they must be grounded in truth.

 

Putting it All Together

When one understands the problem of false teachers and that many Christians were being led away by falsehood, one can clearly find that Paul does NOT condemn philosophy. Paul condemns bad philosophy. There are several principles that can be extracted from this passage of Scripture, but we’ll focus on just three.

First, it is necessary for the Christian to be grounded in the truth of God. This is why this writer is such an advocate for apologetics. Paul was using historical apologetics to a degree to demonstrate why the Colossian Christians had become Christians…followers of Christ…from the beginning. If Christ cannot be defended and shown to be worthy of praise and if His resurrection cannot be shown to be based upon a real, historical event; then, as Paul said, “all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:14). But if Christ has been risen, then “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20). That means that there really is a heaven, there really is a hell, there really is a resurrection, and there really is a time when Christ will return.

Second, it is necessary for the Christian to demonstrate the falsehoods of untruthful claims. Again, Paul uses a form of philosophical apologetics to demonstrate that empty arguments and bad philosophy does not represent the truth. If one places his or her faith in any system that leads one away from the truth, that person will slowly erode into a system of erroneous trust and hedonistic living. That is not to say that one may not have elements of truth, but holding elements of truth does not necessitate that one holds full truth. A little bit of error can lead down a pathway of huge problems.

Lastly, it is necessary to build a theological/philosophical construct on the Bible more than particular theologian/philosopher. For instance, some hold to hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinists do not represent true Calvinism. In fact, they are more Calvinistic than John Calvin himself. Hyper-Calvinists believe that God is responsible for every human action and therefore they do not take credit for their good or bad behavior. Hyper-Calvinism leads one to a life of irresponsibility. Why? Because, the person believes that God is responsible for every action and therefore is responsible for their bad decision-making. The person will not hold responsibility for his/her actions and will become much like Adam who blamed God for Adam’s own sin. Likewise, there are hyper-Arminians. Hyper-Arminians may be more in line with Pelagians than necessarily Arminius. Nonetheless, hyper-Arminians hold that a person is completely responsible for his/her choice to find God and trust God. The problem is; God is out of the picture in such a paradigm. When one holds to hyper-Arminianism, the person lessens God’s involvement and completely trusts in human decision-making. This may lead one down a path of complete human trust in his/her own decision-making and will not involve God in their plans. Likewise, such a one will not be likely to find their place in God’s sovereign plan and may not seek to depend upon the sovereign will of God. Obviously, these two examples do not represent the normal Calvinism or the normal Arminian, but you can see the point.

In the end, Paul’s teaching can be summed up in this statement: Philosophy is not bad, only bad philosophy is bad.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

Why Does the Church Resist Apologetics?

paul-mars-hill

Christian apologetics is defined by William Lane Craig as “that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith” (Craig 2008, 15).Because of the nature of apologetics defending and promoting the Christian faith, it is understandable that the practice would come under scrutiny. However, one of the greatest adversaries of Christian apologetics stems from an unlikely foe. For the secularist is not the greatest adversary to the apologetic movement and neither is the skeptic. The greatest adversary to the Christian apologetic movement is often the Christian church itself! The very church that apologists defend is the one that seems to, at least in many locations, provide the greatest resistance. But why? There are four excuses that are often given by the apologetic antagonist. In this article, we will examine these reasons and offer some suggestions as to how the budding apologist could enlighten the antagonist as to the need for apologetics IN the modern church. These responses greatly resemble Tim LaHaye’s spiritual temperaments. It could be that these responses stem from those with the temperaments listed by LaHaye.

sparky sanguine

Fear of Offense: “But, you might hurt someone’s feelings!” (Sanguine Temperamental Answer)

Tim LaHaye writes that the extroverted sanguine temperament is “warm, buoyant, lively, and fun-loving…He is receptive by nature, and external impressions easily find their way to his heart, where they readily cause an outburst of response. Feelings rather than reflective thoughts predominate to form his decisions” (LaHaye 1992, 13). When a church member holds a sanguine temperament and knows little about apologetics, her resistance may stem from fear that others will be hurt by the apologetic endeavor. Sanguines do not want to hurt anyone.

The problem is: truth supersedes feelings. When a person is sick, it matters not whether one wants to be sick or not. It matters that the sickness is diagnosed and treated. The apologist will want to approach such a critic in two ways: show the nature of truth and the importance that people know the truth. First, sanguine church members need to know that truth is not based upon feelings. Norm Geisler writes, “Truth is found in correspondence. Truth is what corresponds to its object (referent), whether this object is abstract or concrete. As applied to the world, truth is the way things really are. Truth is ‘telling it like it is'” (Geisler 2011, 84). This description would fit the definition of the biblical term “aletheia” which means “that which is accordance with reality.” “Aletheia” is translated as “truth.” Secondly, sanguine members need to know that if Jesus really is the Son of God and the pathway to heaven (John 14:6), then the most saddening thing that could happen to anyone is that the person is held from the truth…especially seeing that the truth sets one free (John 8:32). Being set free by the truth will cause greater happiness than anything on earth. Truth is far better than patronage.

Rocky Choleric

Fear of Control: “We’ve never done that before. My grandfather didn’t. Why should we?” (Choleric Temperamental Answer)

Another extroverted temperament is the choleric temperament. LaHaye describes those who hold the choleric temperament as “hot, quick, active, practical, and strong-willed…often self-sufficient and very independent…decisive and opinionated, finding it easy to make decisions for himself as well as for others” (LaHaye 1992, 16). Because of the choleric’s active tendencies, you will “rarely…find a predominant Choleric as a surgeon, dentist, philosopher, inventor, or watchmaker…they usually enjoy construction work…” (LaHaye 1992, 19). When it comes to the church, the choleric temperamental person may not see the practicality of defending the faith. He might say, “This church has been in operation for the past 100 years.” Yep, here it comes…”We’ve never done that before. Why should we now?” (Many of you in church work have probably heard that line many times before with different issues.)

When it comes to the choleric temperament, the apologist may have a more difficult time reaching him since he is so independent. A note of caution must be given concerning one with a choleric temperament. It may be that if a choleric is in leadership (which is likely since the choleric is a natural born leader), the apologist will want to ensure the choleric leader that the apologetics in no way threatens his leadership.

Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the changes in culture. Approaches that worked in the 1950s no longer apply in the 21st century. As Paul wrote, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). By demonstrating the need, the choleric will most likely hop on board with the program. The really cagey apologist will want to make the choleric think that adding apologetics was his own idea. In such a case, the ministry would be sure to succeed.

Another note needs to be added: some entire congregations hold a choleric temperament. These churches have often become so entrenched with a particular culture that it may be impossible to infiltrate. This is true of those in ultra-fundamentalist and ultra-liberal circles. In such cases, a particular culture is promoted over the Bible. I have heard stories where church members were shown that certain church practices were unbiblical. The members responded, “We don’t care what the Bible says. This is the way we’re going to do things around here.” In such cases, the apologist would be wise to leave such a place to begin an apologetic ministry elsewhere. Unfortunately, such churches will not be able to survive outside their culture.

Martin Melancholy

Fear of Scholarship: “Reason is not necessary. Only faith is required.” (Melancholy Temperamental Answer)

The introverted melancholy temperament is one who is the “richest of all temperaments, for he is analytical, self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionist type, with a very sensitive emotional nature” (LaHaye 1992, 22). To make matters more difficult with a melancholy apologetic antagonist is that “most of the world’s greatest composers, artists, musicians, inventors, philosophers, theoreticians, theologians, scientists, and dedicated educators have been predominantly Melancholies” (LaHaye 1992, 24). For this reason, I would dare say that most Christian melancholies would be on board with apologetics. In fact, I would not be surprised if most of those engaged in apologetics would fit the melancholic temperament. However, since melancholies tend to be perfectionists with a high-end for research, it may be that the melancholy that is antagonistic to apologetics may hold a distrust for science, philosophy, and reason itself.

The apologist would need to set forth a program showing that reason and faith are partners and not enemies. Millard Erickson provides three models concerning the relationship of faith and reason:

1. Christology from above is basically fideistic…it draws heavily upon the thought of Soren Kirkegaard. According to this position, our knowledge of Jesus’ deity is not grounded in any historically provable facts about his earthly life. It is a faith based upon the faith of the apostles as enunciated in the kerygma.

2. Conversely, Christology from below is primarily Thomistic. It attempts to demonstrate the supernatural character of Christ from historical evidences. Hence, the deity of Christ is not a presupposition but a conclusion of the process…

3. There is another possible model, namely, the Augustinian. In this model, faith precedes but does not remain permanently independent of reason. Faith provides the perspective or starting point from which reason may function, enabling one to understand what otherwise could not be understood (Erickson 1998, 690).

 

While I do not know that I agree that Thomism is a reason alone system (maybe more Aristotelian), Erickson shows that faith and reason in the Augustinian model can be partners in one’s exploration of truth. The apologist will want to share the compatability of reason and faith. In addition, the apologist will need to enlighten the melancholic antagonist to the wealth of evidence that exists for the Christian faith.

Phil Phlegmatic 

Fear of Unknown: “We already know all we need to know. No use upsetting the apple-cart.” (Phlegmatic Temperamental Answer)

Finally, there is the other introverted temperament known as the phlegmatic. The phlegmatic is one that is “calm, cool, slow, easy-going, well-balanced” (LaHaye 1992, 26). The phlegmatic is “annoyed by—and often confront—the aimless, restless enthusiasm of the Sanguine…ridicule—the gloomy moods of the Melancholy…delight in throwing ice water on the bubbling plans and ambitions of the Choleric…” (LaHaye 1992, 27). The phlegmatic antagonist is likely to say, “We already know what God wants us to know.” Or, “If people don’t want to be a Christian, you’re not going to make them one.” In other words, the phlegmatic antagonist doesn’t want to be bothered. At the root of these excuses may be a sincere problem of insecurity. Perhaps the antagonist fears that she does not possess the necessary qualifications to learn apologetics. Let’s be honest. Apologist: not everyone can go as deep in apologetics as you might be able to travel. For a person who only holds a high-school education…or one who may have even quit high-school…reading books by individuals who hold multiple doctorates like William Lane Craig and Oxford professor John Lennox would be intimidating to say the least.

The apologist would need to assure the phlegmatic that the apologist will be with them every step of the way. The apologist will be there to help them understand the difficulties that come. It may not be that everyone will be an elite apologetic Special Forces soldier. However, assure them that they at least need to be in the Christian apologetic army.

Conclusion

This article has offered four excuses that are often given by church members who are antagonistic to Christian apologetics. More excuses may be offered than just the four given. The apologist needs to understand that people in the church come from various backgrounds. Some may have faced some things that have rocked their faith. It could be that their faith is holding only by a thread. Others may have such a distrust of society that it may be difficult for them to open up to any form of scholarship. It is important for the Christian apologist to maintain patience with such individuals. Whether they know it or not…they need you. In fact…the modern church desperately needs you. That is why God called you to be a Christian apologist.

tl_why you act the way you do

Temperament pictures belong to Tim LaHaye from his book Why You Act the Way You Do. All rights reserved.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the New American Standard Bible. La Habra: Lockman, 1995.

Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Edition. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology: In One Volume. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

LaHaye, Tim. Spirit-Controlled Temperament. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1992.

The Faith of Scientists: Rebuttal to Jerry A. Coyne’s Article in Slate Magazine

bible-faith     There is great confusion these days on particular terms especially when it comes into the realm of theology, philosophy, and science. The term faith is thrown around with a variety of different meanings. For some, faith means a blind acceptance of something not proven. For others, faith represents something accepted as true from experience. The definitions are often crossed especially for those who are antagonistic to the Christian faith. Such is the apparent case with Jerry A. Coyne, a contributor to the liberal online magazine Slate. Coyne writes the following concerning faith:

A common tactic of those who claim that science and religion are compatible is to argue that science, like religion, rests on faith: faith in the accuracy of what we observe, in the laws of nature, or in the value of reason. Daniel Sarewitz, director of a science policy center at Arizona State University and an occasional Slate contributor, wrote this about the Higgs boson in the pages of Nature, one of the world’s most prestigious science journals: “For those who cannot follow the mathematics, belief in the Higgs is an act of faith, not of rationality.” Such statements imply that science and religion are not that different because both seek the truth and use faith to find it. Indeed, science is often described as a kind of religion. But that’s wrong, for the “faith” we have in science is completely different from the faith believers have in God and the dogmas of their creed. To see this, consider the following four statements:

“I have faith that, because I accept Jesus as my personal savior, I will join my friends and family in Heaven.”

“My faith tells me that the Messiah has not yet come, but will someday.”

“I have strep throat, but I have faith that this penicillin will clear it up.”

“I have faith that when I martyr myself for Allah, I will receive 72 virgins in Paradise”…

To state it bluntly, such faith involves pretending to know things you don’t. Behind it is wish-thinking, as clearly expressed in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”…The conflation of faith as “unevidenced belief” with faith as “justified confidence” is simply a word trick used to buttress religion. In fact, you’ll never hear a scientist saying, “I have faith in evolution” or “I have faith in electrons.” Not only is such language alien to us, but we know full well how those words can be misused in the name of religion…Finally, isn’t science at least based on the faith that it’s good to know the truth? Hardly. The notion that knowledge is better than ignorance is not a quasi-religious faith, but a preference: We prefer to know what’s right because what’s wrong usually doesn’t work. We don’t describe plumbing or auto mechanics as resting on the faith that it’s better to have your pipes and cars in working order, yet people in these professions also depend on finding truth…So the next time you hear someone described as a “person of faith,” remember that although it’s meant as praise, it’s really an insult. (Coyne 2013).

I added a good portion of the article so that I am not accused of misrepresenting Coyne (note: there is a link to access the article in its entirety in the bibliography). Coyne holds four major problems in his article. These problems are wrapped up in four great misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding of Biblical Definition of Faith

Coyne, like many antagonists to faith, misunderstands the biblical definition of Faith. The Greek term for faith is pisteuo. The term represents more than a belief in something that one cannot see. Rather, it represented a dependency upon someone or something. It is an assurance of something. For the early apostles, their faith in Jesus came by the miracles performed before their very eyes. Many Christians were transformed into believers after witnessing the resurrected Jesus. This evidence led Thomas to proclaim, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28-29). Some would claim that Jesus did not call for evidence in His proclamation to Thomas. But this is an erroneous belief at the outset as Jesus had just given Thomas tremendous evidence. Jesus was scolding Thomas for the extremes in which Thomas was calling for before Thomas would believe.

What of those today? Could the risen Jesus appear before people today? Of course He could. However, God has left an amazing trail of proofs that believers can follow to have a dependent faith upon God and Christ. This is something that Coyle does not address. Many believers have faith because of experience and evidence. The fact that there is an orderly universe and because scientists can do science points to the necessity of God’s existence. Coyne greatly fails in this area.

Misunderstanding of Apologist’s Explanation of Scientific Faith

Coyne and Daniel Sarewitz misunderstand the point being made by Christian apologists about the faith of scientists. Apologists not only confront what is known, but how something is known. Norman Geisler writes of faith’s relationship to reason, “Faith and reason are parallel. One does not cause the other because ‘faith’ involves will (freedom) and reason doesn’t coerce the will (On Truth, 14. A1.6). A person is free to dissent, even though there may be convincing reasons to believe” (Geisler 2012, “Faith and Reason,” 159). This is exactly the same thing that occurs in science. The scientist places faith in the scientific method to produce the results that he/she seeks. The scientific method cannot be proven as an accurate means by the scientific method. It is accepted by faith, or rather trust, in that it can produce the results desired. Reason is employed in the use of experiments to bring forth a result which can be accepted or trusted.

Coyne’s argument is very one-sided. Coyne uses an argument about penicillin. Could there not be occasions where the penicillin would not work? Perhaps a person is allergic to penicillin. Then the medicine could not be used. Sometimes medicines do not produce the results desired. Does the scientist’s faith waiver in the medication? No, because more likely than not the medicine will work, but it may not always. In such a case, the scientist IS applying a trust, or faith, in the probability that the medicine is more likely to work than not. When you go to the doctor, more likely than not you will sign a paper that will state that the medicinal practice is NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE. The probabilities are that the medicine you take will work, but it is not a guarantee that it will work. It seems that there is a trust in science that Coyne abhors.

faith     Misunderstanding of Hebrews 11:1

Coyne quotes Hebrews 11:1 in his article Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3). The point that Coyne focuses on is “what we do not see.” However, the verse does not relate the “wish-thinking” that Coyle purports.

The Definition of “Assurance”

The term assurance is disastrous for Coyne. The writer of Hebrews uses the term “elenchos” which means “‘reproof’” once, and ‘evidence’ once. 1 a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested. 2 conviction” (Strong 2001). So, it seems that the author is claiming that the faith that the individuals have is based upon the evidence of past experience. Although they cannot see God, they know that God will live up to His promises by their past experiences.

The Evidences of Times Past

A closer reading of the Hebrews 11 text shows that the evidence of past events is exactly what gives the believer this faith…or trust. As Greg Koukl says, “Never read a Bible verse” meaning that the text should be read in paragraphs and sections. This is a great case in point. If one reads chapter 10, the reader will find that the writer of Hebrews gives past evidences in history of how God had delivered the people. Ultimately, as most of the readers had experienced first-hand, their faith was proven in the person of Jesus Christ. So, this is not an untested, or “unevidenced belief.” It was a belief that was tested and proven.

Misunderstanding of the Self-Defeating Claim

Finally, as often occurs with antagonists of the faith, Coyne is guilty of a self-defeating claim. Coyne writes, “The notion that knowledge is better than ignorance is not a quasi-religious faith, but a preference: We prefer to know what’s right because what’s wrong usually doesn’t work. We don’t describe plumbing or auto mechanics as resting on the faith that it’s better to have your pipes and cars in working order, yet people in these professions also depend on finding truth” (Coyne 2013). Coyne’s preference is based upon one’s dependence on what one believes to be true. Coyne places his trust in the scientific method. So, this basically places Coyne back in the same realm as religion. A multiplicity of Christians base their faith upon what the wealth of evidence shows…God’s existence and the divinity of Christ (see other articles on this website which deal with these issues).

Some will claim that one cannot find God in the universe. John Lennox gives a great illustration of this point,

“Take a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone from a remote part of the world, who was seeing one for the first time and who knew nothing about modern engineering, might imagine that there is a god (Mr Ford) inside the engine, making it go. He might further imagine that when the engine ran sweetly it was because Mr Ford inside the engine liked him, and when it refused to go it was because Mr Ford did not like him. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take the engine to pieces, he would discover that there is no Mr Ford inside it. Neither would it take much intelligence for him to see that he did not need to introduce Mr Ford as an explanation for its working. His grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be altogether enough to explain how the engine works. So far, so good. But if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine works made it possible to believe in the existence of a Mr Ford who designed the engine in the first place, this would be patently false-in a philosophical terminology he would be committing a category mistake. Had there never been a Mr Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand” (Lennox 2009, 45).

The fact that there are laws of physics, mathematical stability, logic, reason, the existence of the universe and its properties, processes, information, and consciousness all point to the necessity of God’s existence. This does not even include the possibility of revelation, the miraculous, experiences with the divine, near-death experiences, and the historical confirmation of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. The acknowledgment, or faith, in God’s existence is not based on “unevidenced belief,” but rather a conglomeration of evidences all pointing towards a powerful, eternal, conscious, intelligent, being…ie. God.

Conclusion

Coyne is adrift on the same boat that many religious antagonists sail. Coyne’s article represents a great misunderstanding of the evidences pointing to God and the definition of faith. Unfortunately, Coyne’s beliefs are purported by many believers who give such a view of unproven faith. In our day and time, it is important for the believer to know what he or she believes. The believer should know why he/she believes what they believe. Most importantly, the believer should have had an experience with the divine which counts as an apologetic…or as we call it in the south…having a testimony.

Bibliography

All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Coyne, Jerry A. “No Faith in Science.” Slate.com. (November 14, 2013). http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/11/faith_in_science_and_religion_truth_authority_and_the_orderliness_of_nature.html. Accessed November 17th, 2013. 

Lennox, John. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Oxford: Lion, 2009.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.