Should Christians Defend their Faith? Pt. 1

Consider this conversation:

“Don’t defend the Bible. Just let it loose.”

“But sir, the Word doesn’t profit if it isn’t mixed with faith in them that hear it?”

“Son, the Word is a two-edged sword and you just have to keep jabbing people with it.”

“But Paul affirmed God’s existence by natural revelation, moral reasoning, and even quoted philosophers. He supported supernatural revelation with reason and proof. Even the disciples had to SEE Jesus before they believed!”

“You just don’t have enough faith.”

“I do have faith. I just know some people need a reason to believe something that contradicts what they’ve always been told or what people they respect have taught them.”

“Without faith, you can’t please God! And faith doesn’t need evidence!”

Fideism. This is the teaching that belief (faith) does not need reason or proof. Fideism could be summarized by the statements, “believing without evidence” or “believing without seeing” or “believing without reasons.” Here are some examples of fideistic thinking:

  1. “I believe the Bible because it claims to be the Word of God. I don’t need evidence.”
  2. “I believe the Book of Mormon for it claims to be the Word of God. I feel it’s true.”
  3. “I believe the Koran because it claims to be the Word of God. I don’t need proof.”
  4. “I believe what the pope says because he is God’s pope. I don’t need a reason.”

Which of these statements is true? Well if you’re Christian-1, a Mormon-2, a Muslim-3, and a Catholic-4.

How can one know which belief is valid since they all claim divine authority? Should one offer reasons, ration, or evidence? Some Christians castigate questioners for “doubting” the Word of God because they desire a reason to believe it is God’s Word. Is this the way God demands all follow Him, with no proof, evidence, or reason? How can people of other faiths believe in truth if they can’t be shown why their religion is false and verify the Bible’s truthfulness?

If one were to tell a Muslim he should reject Islam because “The Bible is the Word of God, and it is because it says so inside and the Koran is false because it is not the Bible,” he would reply “well you should reject the Bible because the Holy Koran says IT is the Word of God!” Who is right? Both books claim to be the Word of God!

What is seen in this example is two people pitting their beliefs against one another. This is one of the reasons America is moving toward a post-Christian society. The world recognizes that beliefs can be separate from facts. On most college campuses youth are accepting the views of relativism because of fideistic teaching concerning religion and morality. They already feel judged and underprivileged so why should they choose to follow the white, anglo-Saxon, privileged, bigoted, misogynistic belief of Christianity over that of peaceful Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims? (I speak facetiously) Why should they believe anything at all?

Although it may take a while to work through the stereotypes of modern liberal propaganda, the reason each should believe is because Christianity is TRUE. In spite of what someone believes, the truth remains valid, and a belief not grounded in truth (no matter how deeply held) is invalid. The truth is supported by facts and verified through reason or evidence. If there is none of these, a person will have little reason to believe something is true.

For example, it seems true that “mother birds leave their eggs if they are touched by humans.” This is something widely believed, and it makes sense because the bird smells the human and is scared or put-off by the eggs. However, this is not true. How would one belief show another to be wrong? Truth trumps belief. It would seem the wrong belief has good logic concerning the scent of humans, maybe a bird didn’t come back to its eggs one time after someone touched them, so there is evidence. It could be shown though that there is evidence of eggs being tampered with and not left by mothers, the fact is that birds likely can’t even smell the humans because they don’t have a good sense of smell, and birds are often loyal to their chicks to the point of death. Also, one could support each statement by bringing in professional opinions who study and verify that “in abandonment, a destroyed nest is more likely the cause than disturbing the eggs.”

In spite of what is believed about human scent driving away birds, it is wrong. In spite of what is believed about reincarnation, the Book of Mormon, and Muhammad being a kind man, they can be shown as false or unbelievable. Christianity must also be subject to a form of verification, or it can’t be shown as more valid than the alternatives. There are expectations for evidence concerning almost everything, why would one treat the most important belief of all, that which relates to the eternal soul, any differently?

God often gave visible evidence to His servants in the Bible. He appeared to Abraham in dreams and through angels before destroying Sodom. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him three signs for his doubts. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joshua before the walls fell. Gideon was allowed to lay out a fleece, twice. God gave a sign to Hezekiah that he would live through his illness. Jesus performed miracles that people might believe through the miracles even if they struggled to believe His words. If real faith is believing without seeing then the disciples were never saved. They had to see the resurrected Christ before they believed. This is also true for Paul the Apostle. Even John the Baptist doubted the very Christ he proclaimed would come and sent his followers to question Christ. Jesus told his followers to share with him the miracles they saw. Jesus showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs. John wrote that they were testifying of things “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled.” Thomas had to see and feel to believe and Jesus gave him that privilege. 

Often when Christians are questioned about the Bible’s divine authorship they point to prophecy as evidence. This is a proof of their faith. It is a validation. But if asked about canonicity they reply that a person just needs to have faith the Bible is accurate. When a person desires to defend their Bible translation they will point to the historical proof that the translators used the right method or correct manuscripts or were more intelligent and educated than other translators. Yet, when someone desires historical evidence for the resurrection or gospels this is wrong and an unbelieving heart. Why is this inconsistency so prevalent?

As has been shown, the God of the Bible does not expect man to believe Him with no evidence. He has given creation, a conscience, and a resurrection verified by written records in the gospels, eye witnesses, and alluded to by historians. To not believe what there is good reason or proof to believe is an evil heart of unbelief. Israel was shown plagues, the red sea crossing, and water from a stone to believe that God would carry them into the promised land! Yet, they didn’t trust what they knew about God. They rejected what they knew, this is evil.

In helping someone to faith (strong confidence in something or someone) in Christ it is not unbiblical to give them reasons and proof. Some need more evidence than others (Thomas, Moses, Gideon). Christians can not see all that they believe (Hebrews 11:1), but that does not mean there is no evidence to support their beliefs! The wind can’t be seen, but there is evidence to believe in it, so it is with God.

May believers in Christ not shortchange God’s preserved Word, shun honest questions and keep people from coming to Christ by stubbornly expecting people to have a faith to know God that He does not require. 1Peter 3:15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

Here is a link to answer one main objection concerning a more sure Word: http://www.tobiengland.com/2016/02/a-more-sure-word.html

 

“Where’s the Beef?” A Missing Ingredient in Traditional Church. (Warning: Millennial Perspective)

The church is facing a great dilemma, especially the Fundamental Baptist Church: we’re right, we’re godly, we’re biblical, we’re separated, we’re holy, we’re doctrinal, we’re conservative, but we’re shrinking! “We’re losing the millennials! What are we going to do?” This is a question I have been asked on many occasions since I am a millennial, and because I have had the opportunity to serve in dozens upon dozens of churches in evangelism. Many answers on blogs and social media have been given to solve this conundrum: change the music, drop the ties, use media, speak their language, focus on their needs, have cooler activities, connect on their level, preach topically, preach expository, be vulnerable, be real, have fun, be funny, be serious, focus on social issues, involve them in community outreach, get them active in community service etc etc etc… While some of these are good, many churches do these things and still fail to reach this generation.

Some men don’t want to reach the millennials. They’d rather attack anyone who builds a church by doing something different than what the preachers of the 1960’s did. They believe most millennials are carnal, selfish, narcissistic, shallow, and ignorant. They think all we care about is lower standards, more fun, and novelty. While this may describe a portion of this generation (and many in their own), I don’t believe it describes the majority of conservative Christian millennials. I have many friends who passionately love God, but are searching for His presence in a church. A lack of teaching on standards, less conservatism in the culture, lack of dedication, and wrong music are ultimately not what is hurting this generation. The problem is much deeper.

Do you remember that old Wendy’s commercial with three short old ladies standing around a huge hamburger bun? It’s about a foot in diameter and they can’t stop commenting about the size, “That’s a big bun.” Another says, “That’s a very big bun.” The first replies, “That’s a fluffy bun.” The taller one answers bewildered, “That’s a very big fluffy bun.” Then she removes the top with a gasp, and inside there is a patty so small it’s hidden under the pickle slice. The third lady, who is the shortest and crankiest of the three, chimes in for the first time and angrily asks while looking around the room, “Where’s the beef? WHERE’S the beef? HEY, where’s the BEEF?” The announcer then confidently compares McDonalds to that measly excuse for a meal and promotes Wendy’s more fulfilling version.

The main ingredient and substance of a hamburger is not found in the bun, a hamburger is nothing without the beef. The attraction of the early church was not social reform, music, activities, or cool buildings. It was the power of God (Acts 1:8). From my travels in evangelism over the past four years, and studying and conversing with Christlike millennials, members, and pastors, what we are all wondering is, “Where’s the POWER?”

We’ve heard of the great preachers in the 60’s and 70’s. We’ve seen the great church buildings and Christian schools so many sacrificed to build. We know that this older generation loves God! Yet, for THIS generation we have been left asking, “Where’s the power?”

John the Baptist preached with the power of Elias (Luke 1:17). The church was filled with miracles. It had incredible prayer meetings where God answered and filled men with His Spirit (Acts 2). The Christians prayed for boldness and went into the world seeing thousands receive Christ (Acts 4:33). Stephen was full of faith and power. When they had a problem they didn’t make excuses, they prayed down the power of God. Paul’s preaching wasn’t about homiletics, illustrations, and alliteration, it was “In demonstration of the Spirit and in power.” Read the book of Acts. Read 1 Corinthians. It was the power of God that brought people to Christ; not gimmicks, not tricks, but the felt, seen, and heard power of God!  1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. If there’s one thing the millennials I know are asking, it’s this: Where’s the POWER?

Growing up in a Bible preaching, conservative, separated movement I remember hearing at camp, in church, and in Bible college of the evils of CCM, liberal, and just less conservative churches. I was taught very clearly from an early age why I should be an Independent Baptist, and the reasoning made sense! These “compromising” and “backslidden” churches were obviously a great distress to a holy God. Sure they saw people saved and had powerful services, but that didn’t matter because they never grew to be as spiritual as us. They didn’t comprehend biblical separation and holiness.

I understood and was told that those people lived “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”  They had hype, but they didn’t have true spiritual power. They were full of sin and worldliness, while we were separate and holy. Yet, as I was reading through 2 Timothy recently and trying to be honest about myself and where I need to grow, I was surprised to see how many evidences of “powerless religion” are found in my own life, and in our churches.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:from such turn away.Where's the beef?

Take a second to look at those verses and compare them to yourself and your family. Take a look at those in your church and see if these qualities don’t exemplify the daily lives of your friends and congregation. If you read this list and honestly consider yourself, it may convict you about how many of those sins are in your life.

Could it be, that in our conservative churches, we read these verses thinking of a church down the road, when most of these sins are found in our own? Could it be that we have churches full of people who love themselves too much to sacrifice time to lead souls to Christ; or are too busy to encourage others around them; or are too worried about their reputation to eat with “publicans and sinners” so sinners might know the love of God?

Could it be that Christians in the most prosperous nation of the world are unthankful for multiplied blessings, while continually wishing we had better cars, more clothes, nicer homes, and bigger TV’s? Do we not have hearts full of covetousness towards those who are more wealthy, respected, or talented?

Are we not full of pride because of our Bible knowledge and conservatism? Is there not boasting of how great our families and our churches are? Are there not numbers of young people leaving our churches and teens rebelling because, since their youth, they were disobedient to parents?

Could it be, with all of our “dedication” to the Word of God, that we still get more pleasure out of hours of March Madness, TV shows, movies, sports, hunting, fishing, shopping, and hobbies than we do time with God or preaching (although we would never admit it)? Are you a lover of pleasures more than a lover of God?

Could it be that we have a form of godliness with our ties, suits, hair, dresses, choirs, conservatism, and haughty Christian verbiage, yet we don’t have the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace etc..?

Could it be, in spite of all of the righteousnesses found in our positions, we also lack the power of God in our lives? Aren’t many of our services attended out of duty, and not pleasure because we sense the presence of God? I have been in churches across the country which have as much of the Spirit of God working in them as you’d find in a catholic mass. The preaching is as convicting as the reading of Scripture in Latin. There’s no joy. The hymns are dead.

We’ve been doing the same stand up-sit down routine since we were born and can’t remember the last time we felt the presence of God. We don’t know what it is to personally see lives transformed through the gospel. We have never experience a moving of God in corporate prayer. We have no expectations of experiencing the Holy Spirit at church, it’s just a religious duty. Where’s the power?

One of my professors in college often said, “The greatest problem of our day is that the times are desperate, and we are not.”

We see anger and fighting between spouses, dads aren’t involved with their kids spiritually, and being a mom is less attractive than a career. This is because of a lack of natural affection. We frequently enjoy movies that blaspheme the name of God and which idealize pride, rebellion, sexuality, and materialism (it’s ok to watch just not in a theatre). We have all the same problems as “the church down the road” but we’re better because our services haven’t changed in a hundred years. Sure, our services aren’t like the early church, but we’re better than most.

Could it be that we have so lost the power of God that we think He is pleased with us just because of our standards? Meanwhile pride, envy, anger, impatience, lust, ingratitude, gossip, lack of compassion, and jealously reign unchecked and unconquered in our hearts and homes. Are we religious, but powerless over the flesh? Are we “Christian,” but nothing like Christ?

It seems to me that this is the case. We have raised a generation that knows not God, nor His works (Judges 2:10).

So, how do we bring back the power? Most importantly, we must be humble enough to admit we have a problem. We must quit judging every other church and be broken over the condition of our own lives and homes (James 4:6-11). We must realize that what God wants from us is to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; not just to check off Christian duties (Matthew 22:37-40). Is there anything you’re holding back from God?

We must compare ourselves with Scripture, and not with the church down the road (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Be like Christ and not any man (1 Corinthians 1:29-31). Let the Holy Spirit have control of your life and services (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). PRAY PRAY PRAY (Luke 11:8)!  Be desperate for the power of God in your life (2 Corinthians 12:9)! God’s power comes with God’s presence (Psalm 63:1-2), and God’s presence comes after we have made peace with man and peace with God (Hebrews 12:14). We can not have God’s power if we no longer seek to be right in His presence.

The number of nonbelievers is a growing group in this generation. I hope to see an outpouring of God’s power in my life and my generation. Do you? Where’s the POWER?

Do We Need Evangelists?

This helpful article was written by Evangelist John VanGeldron:

http://churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-articles/307189-3-reasons-evangelists-still-exist-john-van-gelderen.html

Some challenge the existence of the evangelist, and therefore, the legitimacy of their ministry today. But this minimization seems to be more from prejudice or misinformation than anything substantive. Let’s consider three reasons the gift of the evangelist still exists today.

1. The Precision of Ephesians

Ephesians addresses much concerning the church. Ephesians 4:11-12 states, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Obviously, this passage includes evangelists.

While this passage supports the existence of evangelists and pastors, what about the inclusion of apostles and prophets? Some argue they do not exist based on Ephesians 2:20, “And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone.” If the apostles and prophets were part of the foundation, then the argument maintains their work was completed once the foundation was laid. Since evangelists and pastors are not named as a part of the foundation, this implies that evangelists and pastors would be the gifts building on the foundation.

While others debate this interpretation of Ephesians 2:20 regarding the place of apostles and prophets, what is clear is that evangelists are not a part of the debate. There is no biblical statement that can even be argued over as to the supposed cessation of the use of the evangelist. Therefore, evangelists are a part of God’s plan for the church age.

2. The Emphasis of the Evangelist in the New Testament

Since the word evangelist occurs only three times in the New Testament, some argue they probably don’t exist anymore. But this observation ignores the full picture which is quite otherwise.

Three words with the stem evangel are used throughout the New Testament. The noun for evangel or “gospel” occurs 77 times, the verb for evangelize or “preach the gospel” occurs 55 times, and the noun for evangelist occurs three times. The combined use of these words which all contain the same stem is 135 times. This greatly broadens the picture.

To get the full picture of an athlete, you would need to study athletics. To get the full picture of a singer, you would need to study songs and singing. Likewise, to get the full picture of an evangelist, you need to study the evangel and evangelizing.

It would be fair to assume that one who competes in athletics is an athlete, and one who sings is a singer. John the Baptist was literally called John the “Baptizer” because he baptized. Similarly, those in Scripture described as evangelizing (a word used of preaching to a group, not just personal witnessing) may be rightly understood as evangelists. Again, this greatly broadens the picture.

3. The Corroboration of Church History

Early church history records the use of evangelists and pastors in the first wave of ministry laborers who followed the apostles. Also, evangelists are referenced through church history. Throughout the centuries God has used evangelists in reviving the saints and in awakening the lost.

Both evangelists and pastors are still in existence today as a part of God’s plan for the church age. A church that refuses to use the gift of the pastor may be rightly questioned as to whether or not it is functioning as a New Testament church. Likewise, a church that refuses to use the gift of the evangelist may be rightly questioned as to whether or not it is functioning as a New Testament church. Since God’s plan includes both gifts, then an appropriate use of both gifts is a part of functioning as a New Testament church.