Friday, January 29, 2021

10 ideas your friends have

Currently I'm reading the philosophy issue of "50 ideas you really need to know".

This is a book that is at root an advertisement for naturalism. It isn't meant to be...or maybe it is as this is the zeitgeist of the clever class today.

I wanted to see what it said about the relation of the world to the person, and the relation of the person to the divine. It makes its case tendentiously, of course.

So, why don't clever Christians write books like this? That is book for a general market but driven by and explicating a Christian shape of reality?

I'm starting a new series of such books: 10 ideas you never knew you had.

10 ideas about God you never knew. By a Christian philosopher, of course; but not a Calvinist. Their ideas are tinged with too much Stoicism (as was Calvin himself)

For younger people: "10 ideas your friends have without knowing".

This would cover naturalism, relativism, self-ism, scientism, etc, and expose them all to the blowtorch of a Christian world, without necessarily ever using Christian terms.

If the Christian world shape is right. And it is, then it will reflect in the real life-world of the pagan. Paul tells us so in Romans 1:19.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

I can't believe the Bible, its full of miracles.

Stand to Reason answers this challenge in a podcast.

I think more can be said.

One approach I might take is to start with calling out the protagonist's philosophical position: she is clearly a naturalist and has an apriori commitment to not only the doctrines of naturalism, but its prejudices too.

So I could start her on defending her naturalism on naturalist grounds (JP Moreland has some good videos on this, and another) then run to a critique of Hume's view of miracles, by asking 'what do you think a miracle is?' I might bring in Arthur Clarke's 'third law', below.

Alternatively, I could say, 'so I guess you'd not read Caesar's Gallic Wars either. They contain things that we know are wrong, and not just what we prejudicially opine so'.

Not only does the Gallic Wars contain the passage below, but often refers to pagan practices such as checking the auspices before planning a battle. On her grounds we wouldn't read it.

But then I could add that there's a big difference between the unusual events in the NT and pagan stories: in the NT they have a point, they are mentioned without the fanfare of the pagans, and are stated in observer terms, and so convinced those present that they sacrificed their lives to talk about them.

From Caesar’s Gallic Wars, Book 6, paragraph 27, written about 53BC
There are also creatures called elks. These resemble goats in their shape and dappled skins, but are slightly larger and have only stumpy horns. Their legs have no joints or knuckles, and they do not lie down to rest; if they fall down by accident, they cannot get up or even raise themselves. When they want to sleep they use trees; they support themselves against these, and in this way, by leaning over just a little, they get some rest. When hunters have noticed their tracks and so discovered their usual retreats, they undermine the roots of all the trees in that area, or cut the trunks nearly through so that they only look as if they were still standing firm. When the creatures lean against them as usual, their weight is too much for the weakened trunks; the trees fall down and the elks with them.

In 1962, in his book “Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible”, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated his famous Three Laws, of which the third law is the best-known and most widely cited: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

Thus, I could relate this to my friend and suggest that because she cannot understand an event's causal process, doesn't mean that it could not happen. Clarke seems to think that any sufficiently advanced technology looks just like 'magic' in his words, but 'miracle' in mine. So the basis of your criticism seems to be perhaps a personal limitation rather than an inherent problem in the facts.
If the input space included a will that was not constrained by the matter that it had initially created, there is no problem.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

A church to be proud of!

We have stopped referring to ministry leaders (like youth group, etc, being a 'ministry', and rightly so). They are now 'ministry coordinators'. I'd slip another category under that: 'ministry organisers'. You can also relevantly have convenors (e.g. of small groups) as well.

We also 'give' Bible studies, we don't 'lead' them. That's the Holy Spirit's work. The person who gives a Bible study might be a moderator. I'd reserve 'teacher' for the paid staff, of course.

The band gives us music or sings for us. They do not 'lead' us in song. Precentor is the old name for this function.

By the way, we sing, we don't 'worship' as though praising our Lord and teaching each other in song exhausts the idea of worship, when Paul reminds us that it does not.

These terms are congregational/body life affirming. 'Leader' is body life denying, disempowering and denying the multiplicity of ministries we are all gifted for. A coordinator, organiser or server is one of us, they are beside us and with us. A 'leader' is separate, different, more important, better. It has too many worldly overtones to be of any use in the church (congregation). 

Note that many words in the Bible translated 'leader' import something from contemporary culture that is not implicit in the original languages.

The apologetic touchpoints for everyday

 Mike Winger on apologetics for youth. See his website 'BibleThinker'.


FOCL on five essential questions to be able to answer (skip the Turin shroud bit...)


 Greg Laurie Answering Difficult Questions that Unbelievers Ask


To go the full distance, a course on apologetics from the C.S. Lewis Institute.

The intrigue of Mark's gospel

 Jesus' miracles always have a point, a deeply theological point.

And, just to note, pagan miracles do not. They are purported sideshows.

Mike Winger on Jesus walking on water, and the transfiguration. You might have known all this; but I didn't! So much for 50 years of listening to sermons.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The full skinny on Romans 9

Mostly one hears Calvinst views of Romans 9. I'm not a Calvinist, I'm Christian (see 1 Corinthians 1:12)!

For a brief biblical summary of not the Calvinist view here's Craig on the topic, and a far more loquacious Mike Winger.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Who do you work for?

This is the ever present question in most social contexts in Australia, maybe the entire Western world.

I seek to use my answer to this question to frustrate the estimation of pecking order, which is at least its unspoken purpose. Sometimes its asked because the questioner has run out of conversational maneuvers after they've made their greeting.

Now I'm working for a church, what do I say to keep my tactical conversational options open?

I'm going to suggest that all church employees be employed by 'ABC Enterprises, P/L' (ABC is the initials of my church).

So I can say 'I work for ABC Enterprises', and to 'what do they do?' I can say: 'We provide educational and community support services to ethnic communities (Anglo-Celtic being one of them). Then I might talk about my role, in similar terms, and so on, until I've got to know the person, found out about them, then I can lead to a conversation about Christian faith, world views, or 'helping people sort out their life questions'.

See, its not about hiding my work or my faith, its about staying in control of the conversation to be able to make a relevently meaningful conversation that will at least identify me as Christian, or 'leave a stone' in their shoe about their own world-concept, or maybe invite them to 'a public meeting we are having about "Navigating a Fast Paced Life", come along, I can get you a free ticket. All tickets are free, by the way. 

OTOH, if I don't want to talk to the person, I'll just say, 'I work for a church.'

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What God cannot do!

There are things that God cannot do!

He cannot make married bachelors, for instance, or square circles. It's not a matter of power, its a matter of the logical law of the excluded middle: a proposition cannot be both true and false in the same relation at the same time.

Thus, analytically, the proposition about married bachelors has no meaning, so there is nothing proposed for God to do.

The classic statement of the so-called 'problem of evil' falls foul of this law.

The classic formulation is:

This formulation is tendentiously enthymematic on which premise 2 rests.

It hides from glare the premise that 'evil' has an ontology. That is, that there is this thing called 'evil' that exists. This then sets up for premise 2 and so on.

Evil certainly occurs, but it is the negation of good, broadly speaking.

Good is that which is consistent with and reflective of God's nature (summarised in 1 John 4:8 -  God is love).

Now, can God make a world where creatures in his image cannot chose to exercise the capacities of that image? The married bachelor problem again.


The point is, God could have made creatures without the capacity to make relationally significant choices, but those creatures would not have been able to enjoy God for ever (this is reflected in our worship of God). The creatures would be no more than pet dogs. Dogs 'enjoy', but they don't know that they enjoy.

Evil is a state of being that results from the repudiation of relationship wth God. Genesis 3:8 is its result.

But, what the questioner needs to tease out is why they can detect this state of affairs called 'evil'. It's not just that they are saying that Christian faith is flawed, it's that they can 'see' a flaw, and this flaw is more than something of the 'I don't like mustard icecream' variety. It is, they would assert, a real flaw.

(Acknowledgement to my son who pointed this out to me.)

On the Trinity

Mike Winger on the topic starting at his explanations.

He's a little more loquacious than I would prefer, but good content.

Friday, January 15, 2021

More for talking to JWs

What JWs know and Christians don't from an ex-JW, now many years Christian.

And from the helpful Tim Barnett lecture 1 and lecture 2.

Naturalism? You've just undercut yourself, pal.

 In a remarkable talk, Alvin Plantinga in 1996 showed that naturalism contains its own 'undercutting' defeater: that is on its own premises it destroys the warrant for its own belief system.

Bill Craig enlarged on it somewhat in answer to a question on it.

The argument develops  C. S. Lewis' observation that Grand Theory Evolution (GTE) only provides warrant for belief that we are adapted for maximum survival value in the circumstances (or minimal survival disadvantage). There is no warrant to extend this belief to a hold that we have the cognitive equipment to come to true beliefs about anything, including the very survival that we seem to be limited to asserting.

All we can say is that GTE goes to survival, but not to true understanding of anything that is not survival.

QED, your position on naturalism, oh naturalist, undercuts your position on evolution (the mechanics of naturalism).

Thursday, January 14, 2021

How can bad be good?

In another podcast, Stand to Reason discusses the challenge of a specific horrendous evil being morally justified by it producing a greater good.

K presents a wonderful move in regard to this inductive 'problem of evil' in putting the burden of proof back on the Critic. Turek does similarly, but not as elegantly, or to my mind, effectively, when the question is raised in a lecture. 

As K says, it's the protagonist's job to show that no good can come from particular evil. But they start by denying God, eternal life and the depth of human all of us.

I think there's also an additional angle to this.

I don't know that we need to give, propose or even suggest a one to one 'good comes from evil', as though evil is an opportunity for God to 'out-good' it. While long term benefits might come, I don't think that's the point either.

While for the faithful God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28), that also is a long term outcome (eternal life and our journey towards it as disciples), for those not in the kingdom, and all of us in this life, we live in a world that is in a state of rejection-of-God, repudiation of his gifts and will and determined assertion of our own alienation from him.

As my sergeant in my army training said 'officer candidates are always in the s**t, it's only the depth that varies.' And so life in rejection of God. Adam's sin had cosmic consequences and we unredeemedly participate in these willingly day in and day out. Evil is a signal to us of something very wrong with  ourselves and the world which doing more of the same will not fix...the only fix is repentance.

Most calls for God to fix evil are for him to fix the bits we don't like, but to leave us to live without him thinking we enjoy the bits we do like, and to continue participating in our own evil. But this won't work. We can't just partly reject God, to have him solve the bits of life that are inconvenient...or even parlous. We have to turn from evil starting with ourselves. Then a new path of reborn life opens up. This won't change evil, but it will change us. God has told us he will deal with evil. Revelation is the manifesto of this plan.

The fact that all this is unpalatable to us is further evidence of the dreadful consequences of the state of rejecting God that we are in by virtue of the total cosmic/spiritual consequences of rejection-of-God and its pervasive domination of all human activity and institutions. We live in 'non-God' but instead of seeking God, we want him to remain detached but to solve the problem of rejection that this brings about.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The structure of a church

A church is not an 'organization, like a business. It is more like an anarchic band of partisans. Moreover it is a spiritual family, a congregation of the people of God.

This is how I diagram that.

The main thing is the congregation. Members of the congregation form into groups for particular purposes and engage in functions from time to time.

The congregation is nurtured, supported, organized and overseen by its own formal assembly (where it meets to deliberate),  by the elected board (diaconate), taught and served by the pastorate (I'm thinking the paid formally trained staff) who are all part of the congregation. The congregation, to meet its needs and serve its interests, has organizers and facilitators of groups and functions, who themselves meet for training and encouragement in various forums.

From this base the church delivers its mission of making disciples.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Now what to do? Another holidays disaster.

Once again, a holiday disaster for our young people: houseparties and ministry opportunities dashed by yet another corona scare.

Instead, as one church did last holidays, time for a few 'days in'.

You could do three over the next three week, a full day together on the church premises learning, discussing, and recreating together, with intensives on, say, apologetics, society and its discontents, the gospel and its aberations (I think of Mormons and JWs).


How do we think about 'church'?

I mean 'church' as the body of Christ, the people of God, not church as the building down the road, or the organisation that administers church gatherings.

Here's one view. from an ex-Jehovah's Witness.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Church, but not as you know it.

With the Covid-19 scare prevailing, we have church differently from normal...the normal of two millennia of history!

No singing. The band is a performance unit, rather than a ministry unit. One Bible-reading, one prayer, one sermon.

So, how could we do it to keep the congregation (the church) involved?

Return to responsive readings. A responsive psalm, and the ol' evensong responses brought up to date.

We could speak the words to songs, rather than 'sing', I understand singing is not allowed. I wonder at the epidemiology behind this, but there you are. Church organisers buckled like a wax doll in a spotlight.

We could chant. Chanting is not singing, surely? Or we could hum the songs, maybe sing sotto voce.

And what about a formal choir? It could comprise whoever was 'on' on the day: signified by whoever turned up. Spaced groups of about 5 at five mutually distant points around the auditorium and 25 people singing. Then change choirs for the next song or hymn (and please, no more Bethel or Hillsong efforts). Just remember, singing is instructed by the Apostles. It is not a 'nice to have'; it is an inherent part of our Christian life.

A few people could do prayers: an intro, the main one, and a dismissal prayer or benediction. Or we could do the litany to involve everyone. This might introduce some dignity into the end of the service rather than the trite 'that's all folks' we too often get...for the meeting of the people of God with his Spirit present? Yeek!

And the band. Always good, but 'leaders'?

We were told the band would 'lead us in song'.

No! Bands, choirs, precentors, not 'lead us'. They minister or serve we the congregation, or any 'doing' words other than 'lead' would work. May be 'let's now sing' or 'let's listen to the band sing for us', etc. But please, they are not a 'leader' or an entertainment troupe, for that matter; although high quality is to be striven for.

Let's get the idea of 'service' back into church life and expunge the worldly idea of 'leadership' with its overtones of superiority, prestige and power, fetching unfortunate images of generals in the military, CEOs in business and party leaders in politics, all with reference to power and influence and preening in the spotlight (the same spotlight that melt's wax dolls, presumably).

Saturday, January 9, 2021

What about Leviticus, then, you 'phobe?

One of the best pieces I've encountered on dealing with an advocate of homosexual practice who accuses one of being some sort of mental defective: yep, by Greg Koukl. It's at the 28 minute mark (and, mind you, I disagree with his Calvinistic aspects, just for the record).

I'd tackle it a little differently at the start:

The questioner challenges you about Leviticus 20:13 as the basis of Christian 'homophobia'.

I respond: 'are you an ancient Jew?'...answer is 'no', I continue 'you've nothing to worry about then, so what's the problem?'

Some response...then 'I'd be more concerned about Paul the Christian messenger's letter to his friends in Rome (Romans 1:18-32)'

Then pick up Koukl's response.

Now, remember, this is only if the issue comes up in this context. Our job is not to judge individuals, it's to make disciples. I Cor 5:9-13 applies.

The rebuttal of the use of Leviticus is strategically there to open a discussion of what the Bible is (the collection of God's interactions with his people through history to prepare the way for Messiah) and is not (a collection of ahistorical and disconnected aphorisic instructions about behaviour...which the Koran is).

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The logic of it.

We Christians often feel the need to defend our convictions against weak and baseless attacks by non-believers. This is usually unnecessary.

If an unbeliever sets a position, or rejects ours, it's up to them to defend their position.

A couple of podcasts from Greg Koukl set the scene.

Clear thinking 1 and clear thinking 2.


Oh, and a post from Alan Shlemon: Atheism's empty soul.