Archive | June, 2011

Inerrancy? What Do the Differences in the Gospels Really Prove?

Two nights ago I got pulled over. When I saw the police lights turn on behind me, I knew exactly why he was pulling me over. I was with my twelve-year-old daughter, Katelynn, and had just left the Credo House after teaching a session on the development of orthodoxy. Feelings of embarrassment were released from whatever part of the brain they come from. I don’t like my daughter to see me get pulled over. But hold on…it gets worse.

When the police officer approached my window, I had my driver’s license in hand in hopes that he would not ask me for my insurance card. Yes, I have insurance, but I did not know where the card was. What I did know was that I was getting pulled over for my tag, which had expired in August of last year.

“Do you know why I am pulling you over?” the police officer asked.

“Yeah, my tag has been expired for a while,” I responded in a whining voice that tried to convey a strong hint of self-abasement. “As a matter of fact,” I continued, “I just got pulled over and got a warning a few days ago for this same thing and was going to get a tag when I get paid next.”

“Do you have that warning?” he asked.

Both my daughter and I looked and looked for the warning, but could not find it. Now, here is what you must know: I had just lied and was attempting to manipulate the officer just a slight bit. While it was true I got a warning for my expired tag, it was not just “a few days ago,” but about three weeks ago. Basically, I wanted the officer to say, “Oh, you just got a warning? Okay, well make sure you get this taken care of.”

After a few minutes of sitting in his car and doing whatever officers do between the period of window confrontation ending with “I’ll be right back” and the revelation of whether or not you are going to get a ticket, he returned. Yep, I got a ticket. And to my shame he said, “All I could find as far as a warning was one three weeks ago.” Busted. Implied in his statement was, “You had plenty of time between now and then to get your tag renewed.”

After this, I drove home and confessed to my daughter the wrong things I had done, both the lie and the reason for the ticket itself.

That is my version of the story. It has certain intentions and a certain angle. Many things I could have included that I left out and many “summaries” of conversations and events were preferred. However, if my daughter told the story it may be a bit different.  For example, she may put it this way: Continue Reading →

The Problem of Evil in a Nutshell

The problem of evil is certainly one of the greatest apologetic issues that Christians face today. In a postmodern world, people’s questions, objections, and problems with the Christian worldview are usually connected to the reality of evil in the world, and their attempts to harmonize this reality with the seemingly contradictory notion of an all-powerful, all-good God. So valid is this issue that Ronald Nash, the late evangelical philosopher, said a few years ago (and I quote him loosely), “It is absurd to reject Christianity for any reason other than the problem of evil.”

We must be careful not to relegate this problem exclusively to the intellectual realm. I think J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig have it right when they say we must distinguish between the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 536). The intellectual problem of evil asks, “Is it possible for a good, all-powerful God to exist in a world where evil is present?” The emotional problem of evil asks, “Why would God allow such a thing as _______?” See the difference? One question is concerned with the objective coherence of God and evil, the other is concerned with the subjective coherence of God and evil.

While I think the primary issue today is more with the emotional problem of evil, I do believe that the intellectual problem is one that must be faced before the subjective problem can be addressed with integrity. Therefore, I believe that while the two can be distinguished, they should not be separated.

The foundation for both comes from this syllogism:

1. If God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and
2. If God is all-good (omnibenevolent)
3. Then His goodness would motivate Him to use His power to eradicate evil.

The intellectual problem of evil is easier to answer since evil’s existence does not, in reality, present the logical contradiction the syllogism suggests. In other words, the conclusion is not a necessary conclusion, only a possible one. While God could use His power to eradicate evil, His goodness does not necessitate such an act. The following will attempt to explain.

There are three possible defenses to the problem of evil:

1. The free-will defense: Many would say that God cannot create a world where there is true freedom, yet determine all that happens. In other words, being all-powerful does not mean that God can do anything. There are many things that God cannot do. For example, God cannot make a square circle, He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot pick it up, He cannot sin, He cannot commit suicide, and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). In short, God cannot do anything that is inconsistent with His character, and He cannot harmonize logical contradictions (since, by definition, they are beyond reconciliation). According to the free-will defense, it would be a logical contradiction to say that God can create a world where true freedom exists, yet evil is guaranteed not to exist. Continue Reading →

New Resource on the Text of the New Testament

There are very few people in my life that have influenced my thinking and confidence (in a positive way!) as much as Daniel Wallace. We have done much to expose you to him here at Parchment and Pen, as he blogs from time to time (ummm….Dan, we need a new post!), but I am very excited about the new resource his organization, The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, is offering. These are short clips on the discipline and study of textual criticism (TC) of the New Testament. He covers everything from the basics of TC to the biggest problem passages in the New Testament.

The only problem I have with Dan is that these videos are particular to Apple (iTunes) and that is right in line with his Apple cult mentality. But these are too good for me to let that get in the way (dine with the devil to get a steak).

Tire-Kicker Christianity

“Someday, maybe.” Such was the perpetual attitude of a doctor that I was doing my best to win to Christ. I was a young, enthusiastic Christian and thought I had all the answers. He was a seeker seeking answers. What a great combo when we were introduced! Our first evening together was spent discussing many questions about the reliability of the Bible. By the time our conversation was complete, I thought I might have him. But he wanted to think it over. The next time we met, he had questions about the problem of evil. After giving it my all, I thought we had for sure turned a corner. However, over the next year, the questions, issues, and objections found no end. We talked about the existence of God, the resurrection of Christ, Jonah and the whale, and everything else you could think of. Every time I pleaded with him to believe, he just came at me with more questions. Once we went full circle back to the questions we began with, I realized I had done all I could. His questions had been sufficiently answered. Yes, he could continue with the “What about this…” or “what about that…” possibilities, but none of them were probabilities. It was time for him to make a decision and he was not going to do it. His faith in Christ was always just one answered question away.

For some of us, this is where we are. “Maybe someday” is the response. We are always one question away from making the decision to trust him. This is what I call tire-kicker Christianity. We are always examining, but never buying. You need to figure out if this is where you are. Apologetics (defending the faith) can only go so far. I am not saying there are not legitimate questions that need to be answered. What I am saying is that at some point, our indecisiveness becomes our definite decision. Our lack of faith in Christ becomes our new blind faith.

Here is the key: our conviction does not need to be perfect before we rest in Christ. It just needs to be true and sufficient.

2 Cor 6:2

For he says, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.”  Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

The Future of the Credo House

Every day we move closer to our dreams of planting Credo Houses everywhere.

Hmmm . . . Where is the next one, you ask? First, let me let you in on the vision for the Credo House.

What is a Credo House?

Let me refresh your memory of what the Credo House is and what I dream at night after the kids are asleep (because before they are asleep, I just dream about them going to sleep!).

The Credo House is a theological coffee shop, book store, and belief-strengthening events hub. In it, you will find the walls literally dripping with theological meaning. We hope to provide a safe and neutral (i.e. not directly connected to any church or denomination) environment where people can learn, fellowship, study, and just hang out under the banner of truth and grace in Christ.

Here in Edmond, OK, the Credo House serves as a hub and a model for future Credo Houses. For the last two years, we have been “testing” this out. For 701 days (give or take) we have been adjusting things ever so slightly to make it more effective in our purpose of uniquely impacting our community with the Gospel of Jesus, helping people believe more today than they did yesterday.

Two Defining Characteristics

Let me give you some insider information about how Credo House(s) wants to be seen and used:

1. Credo House Fellows: This is the “scholar” of the Credo House. We want to be seen as a central Evangelical hub of intellectual viability, creating the evangelistic background music for our faith. Therefore, the Credo House “Fellow” serves as a “pastor of belief,” being trained in theology, biblical studies, and/or apologetics. They are responsible for facilitating all Credo House events having to do with growing people’s faith. They are the “go-to” scholars of the city for pastors and lay-people alike.

Responsibilities of the Credo House Fellow:

  • Be available for “Belief Counseling” for those whose faith needs to increase.
  • Regularly facilitate and/or teach programs such as The Theology Program, Bible Boot Camps, and the like.
  • Organize, schedule, and facilitate “Coffee with Scholars,” where an Evangelical Scholar will visit the Credo House, speak, sign books, and hang out with local guests.
  • Provide continuing education for local pastors. This will involve networking with local churches and providing their staff with education and discussions on the latest issues in theology.
  • Write and develop, contributing to their area of expertise.
  • And, yes, work behind the coffee bar every once in a while!!

The key characteristics of the Credo House Fellow will be grace, kindness, patience, love for the city, and scholarship. The later without the former will not do. So this is a very particular type of person we are talking about.

2. Best Coffee Shop in the Area: This is the primary bridge from the outside in. The average person will come into the Credo House knowing of our reputation for serving the best coffee and having the best environment for hanging out, meetings, and study. All coffee will be done the old-fashioned way. Baristas will be internally trained. They will excitedly hand people a Nicean Mocha, fully able to tell of its namesake’s significance.

All the Credo Houses will have a similar look and feel, but also have elements that are unique to their city. For example, all Credo Houses will have a “Wall of Theologians,” though the theologians represented may differ slightly. All Credo Houses will have a heretics corner, a Cappidocian Bar, a modest book store and extensive theological library, serve Luther Lattes and the C.S. Lewis (Irish Cream), and have a robust A/V system for live events. However, each Credo House will have one area that is particular to it. The one here in Edmond has the “Wall of Reformation,” showing the castle doors of Wittenberg with the 95 Theses hanging on them. However, another Credo House might have an area devoted to the History of the Bible, the Martyrs, the Scholastics, or to modern theologians. We might even have walls devoted to the life of one person like Jonathan Edwards or C. S. Lewis. The point is that while all Credo Houses will have the same general look and feel, each will have its own unique characteristics too. Therefore, you can (and should!) collect t-shirts from each Credo House you visit.

Types of Credo Houses

There will be two types of Credo Houses that are unique in various ways while sticking to the same basic vision.

1. College Town Credo House:

These are Credo Houses the will be placed in college towns, facilitating students’ fellowship and faith stabilization. It can be a central hub for Evangelical campus organizations such as Campus Crusade, Young Life, Baptist Student Union, etc. As well, it will be a great place for students to come hang out and find stability for their faith during what can often be a trying time intellectually. The “Fellow” at this type of Credo House will normally have more of an apologetics (defending the faith) background and expertise.

2. Urban Credo House:

These will be placed in urban areas, especially downtowns. The focus of these Credo Houses will be a mission to unite local churches in strategic planning on reaching the city for Christ, with an emphasis on local church networking and events.

Well, there is a nutshell version of what the dreams are for the Credo House. We have a wonderful staff and an extraordinary board of seven committed men who are as excited as I am about how God can use this ministry in a unique way. Some of you in seminary right now are prime candidates for becoming a Credo House Fellow!

(Lord willing), coming to a city near you…

Two other articles about our vision:

When/Where is the next Credo House being planted?

What is a Credo House “Fellow”?

What Does it Mean to be Called to Ministry?

(Lisa Robinson)

One of the essays in my application to DTS, was responding to how I knew I was called into ministry.  While I understood that question to be more related to affirming events that led me to apply to seminary, I find that the idea of being called into ministry has not only been a popular catch phrase but also bears some examination.   I say this because I believe the call to ministry has been designated as a special call to select individuals based on God’s selection for specific ministry roles.  I do believe that has some merit but I think it requires some reconciliation to the biblical witness of Christian ministry.

First, I think the ‘call to ministry’ as designated for select individuals is misleading.  All Christians are called into ministry because all Christians have spiritual gifts that are to be employed for service to the body of Christ (1 Peter 4:10).  That doesn’t require some specified direction but a working out of those gifts as we grow in our Christian walk and seek to serve the body.  1 Corinthians 12:12-24 identifies that everyone has a part to play in the growth of the body (also supported Ephesians 4:16).  I don’t dismiss the fact that God may have specific roles or even specialized ministries that He directs us to, but it is more indicative of our progress in the faith.

Second, the New Testament witness to the concept of calling is predominantly related to the salvific call of election.  God calls individuals into the body of Christ but not into individual ministry roles.   It is through service to the body that one works out there inclination. There is much to be said for passion and desire.  I heard a popular preacher say once that if you want to know what you should be doing pay attention to what drives you and what bothers you when its off.  I don’t believe that should be equated with a critical, fault finding mission, but an inclination of things that God has placed within us.  This is a process.  It doesn’t happen overnight. But in time, we will find ourselves inclined and passionate in certain areas of ministry that we will gravitate towards.

I don’t dismiss the fact that individuals may have some kind of revelatory event that designates their direction in ministry, but I think this sets a questionable precedent when expected as the guide.  I believe this  relies on the over-used and abuse of Proverbs 29:18 as I wrote about here.  Yes, desires can lead to vision and specific things we should be doing in Christian ministry.  But I am not convinced that is the predominant way one is called into ministry but may give us a guide to what God will have us do. Continue Reading →

Ten Arguments for the Existence of God

1. Cosmological Argument: Also called the argument from universal causation or the argument from contingency, the cosmological argument is probably the most well-known and well-loved among theistic apologists. The basic argument is that all effects have an efficient cause. The universe, and all that is in it, due to its contingent (dependent) nature, is an effect. Therefore, the universe has a cause…but that  cause cannot be an effect, or one would have to explain its cause. Therefore, there must be an ultimate cause, an unmoved mover, an uncaused cause that began the process. This cause must transcend time and space in order to transcend the law of cause and effect. This transcendent entity must be personal in order to willfully cause the effect. This ultimate cause is God.

2. Teleological Argument: (Gr. telos, “end” or “purpose”) This is also known as the argument from design. This argument moves from complexity to a necessary explanatory cause for such complexity. The universe has definite design, order, and arrangement which cannot be sufficiently explained outside a theistic worldview. From the complexities of the human eye to the order and arrangement of the cosmology, the voice of God is heard. Therefore, God’s existence is the best explanation for such design. God is the undesigned designer.

3. Moral Argument: This argument argues from the reality of moral laws to the existence of a necessary moral law giver. The idea here is that if there are moral laws (murder is wrong, selfishness is wrong, self-sacrifice is noble, torturing innocent babies for fun is evil), then there must be a transcendent explanation and justification for such laws. Otherwise, they are merely conventions that are not morally binding on anyone. Since there are moral laws, then there must be a moral law giver who transcends space and time. This moral law giver is God.

4. sensus divinitatus (“sense of the divine”): While this argument goes by many names, the sensus divinitatus argues for the existence of God from the innate sense of the divine that exists within humans. This sense of the divine, it can be argued, is the “God-shaped void” within all of us. This explains why people, societies, and cultures of all time have, by nature, sensed a need to worship something greater than themselves.

5. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience: This is the argument from universal beauty and pleasure. Beauty and pleasure are universally recognized as such. Even subjective variations in one’s definition of what is beautiful are not distinct enough to relativize this principle. From the beauty of the sunset over the Rockies to the pleasure of eating certain foods, there is a common aesthetic experience that transcends the individual. This transcendence must have a ultimate source. This ultimate source is God. Continue Reading →

The Rise of Rome in a Nutshell

In order to be a good Protestant, you must be a good anti-Catholic. I am not Catholic. I am Protestant. There are many doctrines of the Roman Catholic church that I am against, but there are many things that I appreciate about them.

Both Protestants and Roman Catholics have our lineage in the catholic church. Yes, I just said that. I am catholic, but not Roman Catholic. I’ve got some info for you: If you are a Christian, you are catholic too. This differentiation between catholic and Roman Catholic is part of a solid Protestant polemic against Roman Catholicism. It normally drives Roman Catholic apologists crazy, since it undermines their belief that they are the one true church. But it is true; Protestants are catholic Christians, but not Roman Catholic Christians. The word “catholic” was used very early to describe the church. It simply meant “universal,” describing the church’s universality. The church is not exclusive to Gentiles, Jews, Greeks, Romans, those in the East, or those in the West. The church that Christ built is universal, or “catholic.”

However, there was an institutional arm of the catholic church that eventually became known as the Roman Catholic church, complete with its own hierarchy, doctrines, and liturgical distinctives. The type of institutionalization that eventually characterized the Roman Catholic church is one of the major issues the Protestants battled against, believing that it had corrupted the catholic church to the core, even obscuring the Gospel itself. We now call it the Roman Catholic church due to its identification with the “seat of Rome.” This seat, according to the Roman Catholics, is the perpetual seat of ultimate authority that Peter passed on. It is known today as the papacy, which is the office of the Pope. The Pope sits in the seat of Rome, having the infallible authority to guide and direct the church in matters of faith and practice. He, along with the magisterium, form the institution and can, through “ordinary” or “extraordinary” means, intervene in church life and doctrine in a binding way. If a heresy arises in the church, the institution can condemn it, thus securing the faith of the church. Intervention rarely takes place (though this is debated), but this infallible safeguard  can theoretically step in at any time and protect the church from corruption.

How did this come into being? Protestants are right to point out that this institution is not biblical. If this is the truth, and this system is not biblical, how did such an institution come into being?

The answer is very complex, but let me attempt to give you a bird’s eye view by means of some charts!

Apostolic Succession

First, let’s get introduced to a concept called “apostolic succession.” This is not simply a Roman Catholic concept. As we will see, in its uncorrupted and ideal state, apostolic succession is very important for the church, Roman Catholic or not. Notice the chart. It starts with Jesus. Jesus handed his teaching over to twelve Apostles. The Apostles were authorities in the early church. When they spoke, people listened. Why? Because they were trained by Christ. They were witnesses of his death, burial, and resurrection. They carried unique authority in the establishment of the church. Continue Reading →