No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tag Archives: Truth

Are Christians Sociopaths?


Are Christians, particularly Christians in America, sociopathic?

What started as an off the cuff remark I made during a recent sermon at my Church (Legacy Church, in Kansas City, MO) has begun to legitimately haunt me (you can hear the sermon here)…

Christian… Sociopath… These are two words that on the surface seem completely incompatible.  Acts 11:26 tells us that the term “Christian” was first used of disciples in the Antioch church.  This was initially used as an insult in that people were saying they were “little Christs”.  In other words, they were just like Jesus, who because of His great love for people, voluntarily died to pay for the sins of the world. On the other hand – the dictionary defines sociopath as “a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.” Another says that “Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.”

How can someone who is living a life that is reminiscent of a man whose critics admit was at least a good person and moral teacher exhibit behavior or attitudes that are patently selfish and apathetic to others? However, in spite of the apparent contradiction, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, the answer is closer to “yes” than any of us who call ourselves a Christian would like to admit… And it tears me up inside… Let me allow this clip from Atheist Magician and Comedian Penn Jillette to begin to explain what I mean:

“How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” There is the rub… Way too many “Christians” fall in a daily routine and are comfortable to coast through life without a broken heart for their friends and family who, if what we believe is really true, are destined for an eternity without God… Well… to be honest that is the essence of selfishly living life “without concern for the effects of their behavior [or lack thereof] on others”, isn’t it???

We certainly shouldn’t be comfortable with it… But sadly I think that may just be the problem… our comfort.  Because we are relatively comfortable, especially in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we just get into auto pilot and unintentionally slip into apathy.  It’s not a conscious thing, but it occurs anyway… and it’s tragic.

Penn said “There comes a point where I tackle you… and this is more important than that.” Because people’s eternities are so important, our “social conscience” should remind us that we have a “moral responsibility” to love those around us enough to take the risk of offending them or losing a friendship to in a sense “tackle” them by sharing the truth about Jesus

Let’s pray to God for forgiveness for our sociopathic tendencies and begin to live a life that actually reflects our name-sake, Jesus… and refuse to scoot through life uncaring and unaffected by the many people we know who do not yet have a relationship with Him.

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Faith, Reason or both?


Below is my submission to the field exam for my PhD application.  It is unaltered and unedited.  What you are about to read was produced in 2 hours and 20 minutes. All total it was 12 pages of content.  I will say up front if you have an ocd for grammar or punctuation…you may want to turn away as this is not my strength.  I tend to focus very heavily on content rather than grammar.  That is what editors are for…

What is the relationship between human knowledge gained through research in the social sciences (reason) and those truths gained through the study of the Word of God (Faith)?

Introduction

The debate between the integration of faith and reason has been going on for hundreds of years. By and large there existed a harmony between the two until the 19th and 20th century. During recent history a large divide has now separated both faith and reason and their individual pursuit of truth. This paper will take a look at the relationship between faith and reason. This includes a brief survey of the current positions, the author’s position on the relationship and the impact on ministry that integration of faith and reason would have.

Current Positions

In order to fully understand the relationship between faith and reason a brief survey will be conducted of the current positions. It should be noted that this specific topic has been discussed or debated for some significant time and most positions have not changed historically. Mankind has always struggled with the boundaries between faith and reason and the ability to strike a balance of sorts. The three dominant current positions can be defined as follows: faith and reason are compatible (compatiblism), faith and reason are incompatible (incompatiblism), and faith corrupts reason (post-modernistic incompatiblism).

Compatiblism

Compatiblism could be said to have its roots with Augustine. This view point has been slightly modified over time, and has had one or two deviations from its fundamental premise. The premise of compatiblism is that faith and reason are compatible. Compatiblism believes that there is a unique relationship between faith and reason that allows one to work with the other.

In this line of thought all truth is from God. Therefore, any truth that is discovered is of God whether it is discovered by science, or by faith. This also extends to the notion that an unbeliever, who seeks to discover a truth through reason and without faith, can indeed discover that truth. John Calvin stated “they are superstitious who dare not borrow anything from profane writers. For since all truth is from God, if anything has been aptly or truly said by those who have not piety, it ought not to be repudiated.”1 This view holds the position that man, though flawed is able to ascertain truth through human reason. However, that truth that he obtains is from and of God.

There are some fundamental assumptions with the position of compatiblism. Those who believe in compatiblism believe that there is an absolute truth that has been given by God. As a result, the search for that truth either through faith or reason will ultimately point to God. Thus, faith becomes a sounding board for reason.

Incompatiblism

The second position to be discussed is the position that faith and reason are simply incompatible. This line of thought can be dated back to Tertullian and can be seen as recently at Van Til. The premise behind incompatiblism is that man is fallen, and through a corrupt mind they are unable to reason truth for themselves. As a result, faith is required to be able to discover the truth.

In this sense the authority of scripture is more than enough and reason must be submitted to scripture, not vice versa. Van Til states “We cannot subject the authoritative pronouncement of scripture about reality to the scrutiny of reason because it is reason itself that learns of its proper function from Scripture.”2 This position views a humans ability to reason through the eyes of scripture only and that human knowledge cannot be obtained without the Bible.

The basic assumptions of this position are very similar to that of compatiblism. Incompatiblism believes that there is an absolute truth that has been delivered by God. However, incompatiblism places a heavy emphasis on the fact that man has a fallen mind and is thus unable to reason and discover God’s truth. This position no doubt comes from scripture similar to John 16 that states that Gods will lead us to all truth, and that His ways are beyond our ways.

Post-Modernistic Incompatiblism

The final position this paper will look at is the position where faith has corrupted reason. This can more adequately be described as a post-modernistic view of faith. This position holds that faith is a lack of, and requires no intellectual authority. As a result faith in anything is meaningless. They view faith as an impediment to discovering truth through the means a reason or human knowledge.

Richard Dawkins, a well-known critic of the Christian faith described faith as “the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”3 This clearly demonstrates a combative view of faith from a humanistic stand point. In this sense there is only one side to the ability to discover truth, and that is the human’s ability to reason.

The assumptions for the post-modernistic incompatiblist are that God simply doesn’t exist. They come to this conclusion based under the assumption that science has already proven that God does not exist. Therefore, they are able to draw a conclusion that faith in a God, that doesn’t exist, is a waste of time.

Faith and Reason

Prior to looking at the relationship between reason and faith it is important to set the appropriate definitions for each. The definition of faith can be found in Hebrews 11:1 where the author states “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”4 This definition matches and perhaps is more refined than definitions that can be offered by secular scholars and dictionaries. Reason, can be defined as the discovery of truth through human means. Reason can be best described as a process to ascertain truth, with the conclusion being the discovery of irrefutable truth. Aquinas defines faith and reason as being two truths, “one to which the inquiry of reason can reach, the other surpasses the whole ability of human reason.”5 This notes the clear difference between the two from a basic definition perspective. Wilhoit comments on this further by stating that truth is “a question of origins – with faith representing the sphere of understanding as revealed by God in His Word, and learning representing the sphere of understanding as discovered and recorded by man.”6

There is a clear distinction between faith and reason in that one is obtained through human understanding, and the other is revealed by God.

Faith and reason most certainly have a relationship. The post modernistic view fails on the simple point that no matter what their own faith is, people will continue to have faith. The position of this paper is that faith and reason have three primary relationships: first, faith is dependent on reason; second, reason is not dependent on faith; and finally, faith can only exist in the absence of reason.

Faith is Dependent on Reason

When one looks at the very nature of faith it is belief in something that has not been seen. That being said there is a point in time where all faith will be revealed as either truth or not truth. In this sense we see that reason will ultimately provide a validation or invalidation of faith. Reason can serve in judgment of faith as long as the truth discovered by reason is absolute and without flaw.

John Locke concluded “reason is given the task of determining whether an alleged revelation is genuinely from God. Though it is certain that whatever God has revealed is true, reason must judge whether any particular revelation comes from God and a revelation should only be accepted if it has the backing of reason in this way.”7 This conclusion, while taken to an extreme can produce negative consequences, illustrates the point that reason will ultimately, in one day sit in judgment of faith. This is an unavoidable reality that ends with the second coming of Christ which at that point all will be revealed.

Faith can only exist without reason

This second point illustrates the reality that if a verifiable truth has been gained through reason, then there is no need for faith. To illustrate this point one need only look at the advancements in biblical archaeology and history. History now demonstrates to us that there was in fact a man named Jesus who walked around during the early first century. This requires no faith because human knowledge and reason has demonstrated this to be irrefutably true. This required an amount of faith on the part of those who lived in the 17th century (and others). In the 21st century it requires no faith to know that Jesus existed. However, it still requires faith that Jesus was the son of God, and that he arose from the grave 3 days after his crucifixion.

In this sense the need for faith will and always has been continuing to diminish as more and more truth is revealed by God. In Romans 1:18-23 Paul notes that God has made it clear to all so that none are without excuse. Aquinas stated in Questiones Disputatae de Veritate that truth discovered by both faith and reason are superfluous.8The truth of God has been available for us to find since creation. As we continue to find it through reason, it diminishes the need for faith and faith is replaced by God’s truth being revealed.

Reason is not dependent on faith

Scripture provides a clear picture that we all contain the faculty to reason and discover truth, and that it is not reliant on our faith in Jesus Christ. Looking at Matthew 16 we see Jesus talking to Pharisees about the red sky at night. The Pharisees are looking for a sign, and Jesus points out that their ability to reason is intact and working. They know that red sky at night is a sailors delight and that red sky at morning is a sailors warning. Jesus is able to rebuke them because they have the ability to reason and discern the truth, even without faith, yet they choose not to.

Those who argue that non-believers are unable to discover truth through reason are in denial as it contradicts the history of humanity. Mankind was given the ability to reason from God. Thus truth can, and has been discovered independently of faith. This demonstrates the nature of origins for the discovery of truth and the reliance of faith on reason for verification of that truth. Reason has the unique position of being able to validate faith, or theory. Faith is a belief that something is true, and reason is the process to ascertain the truth that one has faith in. As a result we see that reason is not dependent on faith, faith is dependent on reason and that faith can only exist in the absence of reason.

Fundamental Premise of Impact on Ministry

The integration of faith and reason is critical to the impact of ministry. It is important to note the author’s fundamental premise and presuppositions before discussing the impact on ministry.

The church should never lose sight of the fact that all truth is God’s truth, and that all truth that has been discovered whether through faith or reason will ultimately point to God. Holmes stated “if all truth is God’s truth and truth is one, then God does not contradict himself and in the final analysis there will be no conflict between the truth taught in scripture and truth available from other sources.”9 Additionally, one should take note that truth revealed by special revelation can only be attained by faith, and not through human reason. In this sense there are two truths, one discoverable by faith, and one discoverable through human knowledge.

Impact on Ministry

In reviewing the impact of the integration of faith and reason into ministry the author read through proposed methods to integrate faith and reason into ministry from Robert Harris. Harris concludes that in order to integrate the two we would need to bounce new knowledge off of the old verified knowledge. This would be to validate both faith against faith and reason against faith and reason. Harris also noted that it is important that truth and knowledge must transfer from one area to another. This is important in that there is one truth and that truth should be transferred from one area to another.

These two approaches offered by Harris provide a brief way to integrate both faith and reason in a way that will allow faith to be reasonably validated by reason and in a way that will trust that all truth that has been discovered will ultimately point to God and give Him glory.

Conclusion

The debate over faith and reason has heated up as of late with the New – Atheist movement. Their argument being that faith is a ridiculous notion that can never be compatible with reason. Hitchens stated “all attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule.”10 This author believes that Hitchens, and Dawkins statements must be taken with some validity and explored.

How does one draw a conclusion that so belittles the notion of faith? The author believes that it is because more times than not, these men have seen Christians express blind faith rather that reasonable faith. In fact, one could more than likely draw a comparison to Post-Modernism and New-Atheism to the downfall of intellectual Christianity. Atheists are able to draw the conclusions that Hitchens or Dawkins draw due to the fact that when challenged a number of Christians cannot express their faith from the perspective of reason, rather “you just gotta have a faith”.

Additionally, with tele-evangislm and a heavy emphasis placed on faith and spiritual revelation most Christians today do not feel the need to understand the historical background of Philippians or the arguments for law of first beginnings. This has lead to a dumbing down of Christianity and has validated the response from Atheists when Christians follow blindly.

Faith and reason do inevitably have a relationship that is organic and fluid. However both are dependent upon the one truth that has been delivered by God. This truth then should be extrapolated and applied where useful to benefit His kingdom. John 16 tells us that He will lead us to all truth. He will lead us with through special revelation or through His general revelation.

Reference List

Alexander Miller, Faith and Learning: Christian Faith and Higher Education in Twentieth Century America (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1977), p. 195 quoting John Calvin’s Commentary on Titus, Opera III

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles (Translated by Anton C Pegis) New York: Hanover House 1955-1957 (Book 1 Chapter 4)

________________ Questiones Disputatae de Veritate (Translated by James V. McGlynn, S.J. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953.

Barth, Karl, The knowledge of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of the Reformation. New York: Charles Schribers Sons, 1939.

Dawkins, Richard.  Untitled Lecture, Edinburgh Science Festival (1992)

_________________ The God Delusion, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company 2006 p. 346

Evans, C. Stephen Faith Beyond Reason Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998.

Harris, Sam, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005 p. 65

Harris, Robert J. Defining the integration of faith and learning. Virtual Salt 9/20/2003 http://www.virtualsalt.com/int/intdef.pdf

Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great, New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.

Holmes, Arthur The Idea of a Christian College Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975

______________ All Truth is God’s Truth (Downers Grove:

InterVarsity Press, 1977), pp. 53, 8, 14.

Jensen, Steven. 2009. “Faith integration and the irreducible metaphors of disciplinary discourse.” Christian Scholar’s Review39, no. 1: 37-55. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 14, 2013).

Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding er. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975 Book IV.

Paul II, John. “Encyclical Letter Fides Et Ratio”, 1998. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-et-ratio_en.html

Sproul, R. C. Defending your Faith an Introduction to Apologetics. Wheaton: Illinois, 2003.

Wilhoit, Mel. “Faith and Learning Reconsidered, the Unity of Truth.” http://www.iclnet.org/pub/facdialogue/9/wilhoit

Stott, John. Your Mind Matters. Leicester, England Intervarsity Press.

Van Til, Corenelius, The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian and reformed publishing CO, 1955

1 Alexander Miller, Faith and Learning: Christian Faith and Higher Education in Twentieth Century America (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1977), p. 195 quoting John Calvin’s Commentary on Titus, Opera III

2 Van Til, Corenelius. The Defense of the Faith. Phillipsburg, 212. New Jersey, Presbyterian and reformed publishing CO, 1955.

3 Dawkins, Richard.  Untitled Lecture, Edinburgh Science Festival (1992)

4 All scripture quoted in the paper will be from the ESV version.

5 Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles (Translated by Anton C Pegis) New York: Hanover House 1955-1957 (Book 1 Chapter 4)

6 Mel Wilhoit. “Faith and Learning Reconsidered, the Unity of Truth.” http://www.iclnet.org/pub/facdialogue/9/wilhoit

7 Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding er. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975 Book IV.

8 Thomas Aquinas. Questiones Disputatae de Veritate (Translated by James V. McGlynn, S.J. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953.

9 Holmes, Arthur The Idea of a Christian College Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975

10 Hitchens, Christopher. God is not Great, 64. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.

Easter is a Myth?


Easter is fast approaching.  So now we get the fine pleasure of hearing a ton about a magical

Hollywood's real version of what easter is ALL about!

 Easter bunny who runs around getting people fat(ter).  Movies like “Hop” are coming out but strangely there are no movies about the resurrection of Christ coming out this Easter.  So, I thought it would be good to tackle the resurrection from a historical perspective.

To sum up where we are thus far…

  1. We can prove that the time span of the writings of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament took place within an acceptable time frame from the crucifixion.
  2. We can also demonstrate that the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is far superior and in fact the most documented event in history.

This post is going to take a look at the most critical event in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

The resurrection is the lynch pin of the Christian faith.  Without it, there is no arisen God, and thus Jesus was not who he said he was.  So the question then becomes, are the events depicted in the Gospel historically accurate?

Here are the facts that are relatively agreed to by most New Testament Scholars

  1. On the Sunday morning after the crucifixion the tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  2. On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live  Jesus after his death.
  3. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.

Those that dispute the above three facts are on the fringe.  Many New Testament skeptics will accept the above facts.  The support for this evidence is the documents within the New Testament. 

Quick Note….Most atheists immediately dismiss the use of the New Testament because it is part of the Bible.  I would argue against this.  You cannot, at least from a true scholarly perspective, dismiss the documents of the New Testament.  While it is presented in a single book, the New Testament must be viewed as a collection of documents which were recorded by several different men.  Thus the New Testament provides an opportunity for skeptics to corroborate evidence from one author to another.  Again, historical evidence shows that the New Testament was written within an acceptable amount of time from the crucifixion.  The manuscript evidence is 99% accurate.  So we can say with comfort, what we read in the New Testament, was in fact written within 20-60 years of the crucifixion.  Let’s look at each fact.

1.       The Empty tomb

There are multiple sources besides Mark that testify to the empty tomb.  Matthew and John are independent sources about the empty tomb.  It is also mentioned in the sermons in Acts (2:29; 13:36) and implied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4.  These are independent sources attesting to the fact of an empty tomb. 

Another thing to consider is the fact that women discovered the tomb first.  This is most definitely note worthy for one simple fact: women were not highly regarded in Jewish society.  Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law! If the empty tomb was legend and not fact, the writers of this legend  most certainly would have put men at the tomb for the discovery, rather than women.  The fact that it is women who discover the tomb empty can only mean one thing…they were in fact the chief witnesses to this event. 

2.       On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live  Jesus after his death.

The list of eyewitnesses to have Jesus after his death is numerous.  Paul provides a list of those who have seen him in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8.  In this list Paul includes the name of Peter, the Twelve, and James.  These are people that Paul personally knew.  These appearances cannot be dismissed as mere legends.

Additionally, narratives of the appearances are multiple and independently attested to.  Consider for example this, the appearance to Peter is attested by Luke and Paul; the appearance to the Twelve is attested by Luke, John and Paul; and the appearance to the women is attested by Matthew and John.  The testimony of the appearances is so broad that it cannot be reasonably argued that the earliest disciples did have such experience.

3.      The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.

This is a topic we have covered before by asking you “Would you die for a lie?”

Here is the reality of the situation for the disciples.

  1. Their leader was dead.  Messianic expectations of their Messiah were one of the Messiah defeating Israel’s enemies not being shamefully executed as a criminal.
  2. The Jewish belief system did not have/did not allow for anyone being arisen from the dead before the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world.

Despite these two realities the original disciples came to believe so strongly that Jesus had arisen from the grave and began preaching it throughout the world.  The simple fact here is that these Jewish men went about the world preaching something that ultimately was un-Jewish and outlandish according to their own faith.  Acts 5:33-39 illustrates these points of contention. 

So now the question becomes…what is the best explanation of these facts?

First some common attempts to explain the above facts:

  1. The body was stolen.

This would explain the empty tomb, but not the appearances, and most definitely not the change of the disciples, even if they stole the body.

  1. The appearances were hallucinations.

This is highly improbable (if not absolutely impossible) considering that the ENTIRE list provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 would have had to have the same hallucination.  That is 500+ people all having a hallucination of Jesus returning from the dead.

The only plausible and absolute explanation of the three facts mentioned above is that Jesus in fact rose from the dead.  No other event or explanation could cover all three facts.

We hope we have answered some of your questions regarding the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection… If you have further objections you would like us to answer, please let us know… If not, would you consider trusting in Him today?

You KNOW it’s a Myth!


You KNOW it's a Myth

Atheist's may have this one right...for a change.

The above image is a snap-shot of a billboard put up near the Lincoln Tunnel by the American Atheist Society.  I may not agree with Atheist’s on 99.999999999% of things, but they may have inadvertently stumbled onto something with the “You KNOW it’s a Myth” billboard.  If you know us at all… you know our stance on Biblical reliability and authority, but hear me out here…

There is a lot about the Christmas story that is either presumed or assumed.  Much of this has to do with the story of the wise men.  From a biblical perspective, very little is known about the wise men.  However, much can be determined based on their actions.  This to me is the story behind the story of Christmas.  The story of the wise men provides a interesting backdrop to the birth of the Messiah, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Where did the Wise men come from? 

There is very little in the Bible that indicates where the wise men came from.  Tradition (as well as a popular Christmas carol) have them coming from the Orient.  From a biblical perspective this assumption is tenuous at best.  What we know from the Bible is that they simply were from the East…  nothing more.  That being said, in order to determine where they came from we have to look at historical circumstances.  For that let’s look at the Parthian Empire.  The Parthian Empire was a rival to the Roman Empire.  The “MU” to the “KU”, the “OU” to the “UT”. The Parthian Empire was the ruling empire of East Asia.  It’s boarders extended from the Euphrates river all the way to Modern day Pakistan.  The Parthian Empire is relevant because it was the ruling Empire for Babylon at the time of Christ’s birth and the Parthian Empire fought with the Romans in 40 BC for control over Palestine.  The Parthian Government was ruled by two assemblies; the Arsacids (royal family) and the Megistanes which consisted of Magi (priests) and wise men (influential Parthian of non-royal blood).  While there is still debate as to where the wise men, or Magi, came from, the Parthian Empire may provide the best possible place for a number of reasons that will be explored a little later on. 

Many speculate that the wise men came from Babylon.  This is entirely possible.  The interesting thing is, Babylon was located within the Parthian Empire.  One more interesting item of note:  The Parthian Empire was on the door steps of Palestine.

Who were the Wise men?

So who exactly are these wise men?  Most Christians probably pay no attention as to who they really are, and focus more on the fact that they were at the birth of Christ. 

Here is what we can gather from the Bible.  Depending on the translation you use you will see the word Magi, or wise men in Matthew 2:1.  While I do agree that some Magi (wise men) were pagan in nature there were some who were not.  Something to consider: while the Israelites were held captive in Babylon, Daniel was appointed to be the Chief Administrator over all of the wise men (Daniel 2:48).  Additionally, a large number of Israelites (Levites, and Bejaminites) stayed in Babylon after the exile.  The conclusion here is that there was a fairly large contingent of Israelites in Babylon for a long period of time that would extend from post exile (approx 537 BC), to Parthian Empire Babylon (247 BC) to the Birth of Christ (approx 4 BC). 

In a broader context one could look at it this way:  There is a high probability that there were Magi in Babylon (circa the Parthian Empire) that were very well aware of the prophecies of Daniel), as well as the prophecies.

Again, Some Magi were members of Parthian government.  It would be the equivalent of the Senate in the US.  These are men who were able to elect the King as well as depose the King.  Needless to say, the Magi carried a certain amount of gravitas wherever they went.  Remember, the Parthian  and Roman empires bordered one another and  had been at war for a number of years just prior to the birth of Christ.  As a result, Herod probably feared the Parthian Empire, because he was once replaced as King by  King Antigonus who was a vassal to Parthia.  When the Romans regained control of the area… Herod was restored to power. 

Why would the Magi come to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem?  

This question gets to the heart of the matter.  Why would these men travel to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem upon seeing a star?  There would have to be something incredibly compelling to travel nearly 1,000 miles to see the King of the Jews.  Ezra’s travel from Babylon to Jerusalem was 120 days (Ezra 7:8-9).  This is a pretty significant trip.  Overall, for the Magi, this would be a trip that lasted nearly 8 to 9 months.  Why would they do this?  What was so compelling to them that they would leave their homes, travel by caravan, to follow this star?  I would suggest that it is because of Numbers 24:17.  

Numbers 24:17 reads as follows: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel”.  The interesting thing about this passage is that Balaam was a sorcerer hired by Balak to curse the Israelites as they camped on his boarders, ready to conquer him.  Instead of cursing Israel, God took control over Balaam and he blessed the Israelites (Numbers 24:10-14).  Then Balaam dropped the bombshell in numbers 24:17.  Many speculate what the meaning of 24:17 is.  Some say that it relates to David’s kingdom.  If this is the case, then the prophecy was not fully fulfilled by David.  The Damascus Document is a part of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It is a commentary on scripture that dates back to 2nd century BC.  Part of the Damascus commentary focuses on Numbers 24:17.  And the star is the seeker of the Law who came to Damascus, because it was written a star has came forth out of Jacob and a scepter has risen out of Israel. The scepter stands for the prince of the congregation. At his coming he shall break down all the sons of Sheth.”  Numbers 24:17 had been interpreted to mean the coming Messiah.  If I’m correct, this is how the Magi would have read Numbers 24:17. 

Back to the motivation for the trip…  If these men were holdovers from the exile or shared the same office that Daniel had, there is a very good chance that the Magi would have to have been familiar with the prophesy of Numbers 24:17 in order to understand the meaning of the star over Jerusalem.  This is why they left seeking the King (Scepter) of the Jews.  Additionally, they may have known they were in the Messianic era because  Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy was coming to an end. If this is the case, they would have expected the Messiah to be born soon in order for the prophecy to hold true.

How many Magi came?

Most, if not all, nativity scenes show three Magi present.  Most Christmas stories tell of three wise men being present.  The reality is that Bible makes no mention of the number of Magi that came to Jerusalem (it only lists their three gifts).  In fact, men of the stature as described above would have required many attendants to come with them.  Given the value of their gifts to Jesus and the dangerousness of the road they likely traveled, the Magi more than likely would have needed an armed escort – especially if they were officials from the Parthian Empire.  This presents an interesting image of not just three but literally hundreds of attendants with any number of Magi travelling across the country side following a star.  This point is most notable as the caravan reaches Jerusalem and is seemingly able to get virtually an immediate audience with King Herod.

When did the Magi come?

Again, if you look at most nativity scenes, you would be under the impression that the Magi were present at the birth of Christ.  Again, this is not biblically supported.  As a matter of fact, the Bible (Matthew 2) clearly contradicts this notion.  Matthew 2:1 is the first indicator that the wise men were not at the birth of Jesus.  Additionally, take this into consideration; if the star appeared over Jesus at the time of birth we know at a minimum that it would be at least 120 days before the Magi could reach Jerusalem.  If you add on the time that it would take to identify the star, organize the caravan, plan the trip and get on the road, one could easily be looking at anywhere from 5-6 months total time before they reached Jerusalem.  Maybe another month before they reached where Jesus was.  This would make sense with King Herod’s order to kill all of the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16).

Based on the above information we can logically determine that (in regards to the “Three Kings” of carol fame) the Atheists have it right – Well, sort of… and purely by accident.  However, we should celebrate reason, rather than legend.  And reason dictates that the Bible is historically accurate and the final authority on all things theological and historical. This really is the little known story of Christmas.  If my historical theory holds true, then many of the idea’s surrounding the greatest story ever told would be a legend built off of this historical story.

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HOLY WAR (but NOT Jihad)!!!


God’s Word makes it very clear that all Christians are in a very dangerous and deadly battle – we are called to MAKE WAR!  That is why we are given instructions on how and who and with which weapons we are expected to fight. Check out what Eph 6:10-18 has to say about it:

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Not only are we expected to fight, but we are expected to WIN – BIG TIME (cf. Romans 8:37).

Over the coming days we are going to look at the various aspects of the Armor of God… and see how each to be used to increase our effectiveness for our Supreme Commander-in-Chief. But before we strap on the Armor and go out Rambo-style to kick tail and take names I think it’s important for us to examine just exactly who who or what is/are the enemy.

Far too often I see Christians assuming that we need to fight against people and their messed up thinking… their ideologies (aka their politics), but it seems to me that verse 12 above makes it pretty clear that this is not the case. Let’s take a peek at what God says about it elsewhere (Ephesians 2:1-3):

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

One can derive from this passage, and the one from chapter 6 above, that Christians have three basic enemies: the World (culture), Satan/the Devil, and our own wicked Flesh… NOT other people!!! Nowhere does it talk about political entities… Hmmm…

Now for those of you who know me you know that I personally have a massive disdain for certain political views and that most of these views are held dear by a certain political party here in our country. This, of course, leads me to have VERY strong negative feelings about that party. But I have to stop and ask myself are rage… frustration… outrage… disgust… against a political party (and thus many of the people in it) a good use of my time and energy?

If our enemies are the World, our own flesh and Satan, aren’t we already fighting on 3 fronts? No military expert would tell you that is a winning battle plan… So why on earth would we want to add a 4th? It is a losing strategy, it is harmful to other people, the reputation of Christ and when you get down to the bottom of it, in almost every instance, fighting against other people it is downright sinful…

When I studied this out to teach it on our recent youth retreat I think I found that, we can reduce this fight to a two front battle. I deeply believe that if we will rightly focus our efforts it will make us more effective for the cause of Christ – I welcome your comments on whether or not the following makes sense.

In spiritual warfare we often (rightly?) begin by focusing on Satan as the primary enemy. Let’s look at some of his names (characteristics) to understand him better and fight him better. As I studied out his names I saw a pattern or progression unfold that made a lot of sense to me and helped me focus my battle efforts – hope it does the same for you.

In simplest terms the Devil is God’s enemy… Satan HATES God and would love nothing more than to replace Him. We see this in these names: Satan (which means Adversary) 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:15; Enemy/Opponent – Matthew 13:28; Evil One – John 17:15…

He is not powerful enough to oppose/fight God directly so he employs a round-about attack by going after God’s people and doing everything in his power to keep others from becoming God’s people… To do this Satan has masterfully influenced the culture toward greater and greater depravity and evil. God recognizes this ploy and has warned us in other names that have been given to Satan: Prince of the Power of the Air (which means he controls unbelievers) – Ephesians 2:2; Ruler of Demons – Mark 3:22; Ruler of this World (which means he rules the world system/culture) – John 12:31; God of this Age (which means he influences the thinking of this world) – 2 Cor. 4:4; Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies) – Matthew 12:24; Belial (which means that he is worthless – just like the corruption he has brought to the world) – 2 Cor. 6:15

Satan then uses the Culture/World to provide temptation for our flesh (the second enemy listed above). We see this in his names: Tempter – 1 Thes. 3:5; Serpent of Old – Deceiver in Garden – Rev. 12:9, 20:2

God warns us from falling to these schemes in 1 John 2:15-17 when He says:

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

However, Satan is stubborn and will not give up… through the World/Culture will try to tell you that certain sins are OKAY… he’ll try to convince you that they are not that bad… He’ll provide you with every kind of justification from “I’m just wired/born this way” to “God wants me to be happy and this will do it” to “I/they deserve this”… But I’m here to tell you IT’s NOT OKAY…

Satan is a masterful liar (cf. John 8:34) – Though he tries to make it look good, pleasing and harmless, sin is an affront to God and His Holiness and it is harmful to our soul and damaging to our lives and relationships! Sinning is telling your heavenly father that you know best – it’s basically giving God the finger… and though God is loving and forgiving that is a dangerous game to play…

Once Satan has trapped you in one of his schemes and he has hooked you with some type of addictive sin, he then capitalizes upon our temptations and failures. God calls him the Accuser  (Rev 12:10) because Satan bad-mouths you to God, in your mind and to other people. He is called the Dragon/Destroyer (Rev. 9:11; 12:3, 7, 9) because he uses your sinful mistakes to ruin your life. He is called a Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:8) because he wants to swallow you up in the consequences of sin and keep you from experiencing fellowship with God. He is a Murderer (John 8:34) because he leads people to eternal death (aka Hell). The term “Devil” actually means “slanderer” ( Matt. 4:1) because If he can’t get to you any other way, he’ll try to destroy your/God’s reputation.

So, what I see from all this is that if Satan is the deceiving force that is corrupting the culture we only truly have to fight the battle on two fronts… We need to Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7-8).  And we need to MAKE WAR against our sinful nature (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27, Galatians 5:16-26). John Piper would say that the war against our own flesh is the most important aspect of this… but I’d have to respectfully disagree… I think both prongs of our counter-attack are equally important… If we fight directly against Satan (and we’ll see how to do that in coming posts) then the culture will be effected which will minimize temptations as much as possible, making it easier to fight against our sinful desires…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen sin’s painful effects on a lot of people’s lives and I’m hopping mad about it… I’m ready to strap the armor on and get it on with Satan in God’s mighty power… Will you join me?

Wives….SUBMIT to your husbands!


So if you have been keeping track of the comments under my “That’s it…I QUIT!” post, you would have noticed that a commenter has some questions regarding the submission of the woman to the man in the Bible.  The contention of the commenter (among many others) is that the Bible teaches subjugation of the woman to the man, and requires her to be submissive, in an unequal setting.  Rather than trying to re-create the wheel I am going to lean on a sermon given by John Piper specifically addressing Ephesians 5.  This is a very good sermon that gets right to the heart of gender equality or the balance of relationships (as I like to call it).   Below are some snippets of the sermon.

“So marriage is like a metaphor or an image or a picture or parable that stands for something more than a man and a woman becoming one flesh. It stands for the relationship between Christ and the church. That’s the deepest meaning of marriage. It’s meant to be a living drama of how Christ and the church relate to each other.”

 

“Notice how verses 28–30 describe the parallel between Christ and the church being one body and the husband and wife being one flesh. “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it.” In other words, the one-flesh union between man and wife means that in a sense they are now one body so that the care a husband has for his wife he has for himself. They are one. What he does to her he does to himself. Then he compares this to Christ’s care for the church. Picking up near the end of verse 29, he says the husband nourishes and cherishes his own flesh, ” . . . as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” In other words, just as the husband is one flesh with his wife, so the church is one body with Christ. When the husband cherishes and nourishes his wife, he cherishes and nourishes himself; and when Christ cherishes and nourishes the church, he cherishes and nourishes himself.”

“Think about this for a moment in relation to what we have seen so far in this series. I tried to show from Genesis 1–3 that the when sin entered the world, it ruined the harmony of marriage NOT because it brought headship and submission into existence, but because it twisted man’s humble, loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. And it twisted woman’s intelligent, willing submission into manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. Sin didn’t create headship and submission; it ruined them and distorted them and made them ugly and destructive.”

“Therefore, headship is not a right to command and control. It’s a responsibility to love like Christ: to lay down your life for your wife in servant leadership. And submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That’s not the way Christ wants the church to respond to his leadership: he wants it to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening.”

“In other words what this passage of Scripture does is two things: it guards against the abuses of headship by telling husbands to love like Jesus; and it guards against the debasing of submission by telling wives to respond the way the church does to Christ.”

“Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”

“Submission does not mean putting the husband in the place of Christ. Verse 21 says you submit out of reverence for Christ. Submission does not mean that the husband’s word is absolute. Only Christ’s word is absolute. No wife should follow a husband into sin. You can’t do that in reverence to Christ. Submission does not mean surrendering thought. It does not mean no input on decisions or no influence on her husband. It does not come from ignorance or incompetence. It comes from what is fitting and appropriate (Colossians 3:18) in God’s created order.”

“The call in verse 25 for husbands to “love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” revolutionizes the way he leads. This is where we ended last week in Luke 22:26 where Jesus says, “Let the leader become as one who serves.” In other words, husbands, don’t stop leading, but turn all your leading into serving. The responsibility of leadership is given not to puff yourself up, but to build your family up.”

This really is an awesome sermon, and has proven to be helpful to me as I continue to grow in Christ, and learn to be a true servant leader for my wife.

Back to the basics


Open air preaching is absolutely fascinating to me.  It is a back to the basic’s approach to evangelism.  Think about it…this is how the apostles did it.  They stood out in public and preached.  They made their argument under the most intense scrutiny.  It is incredible to watch the reaction of the world to those who preach in the open.  You when I wrote The No Shame + No Fear series it was geared towards evangelism.  So clear is the call for evangelism that many forget how to evangelize.  Open air preaching is one way to do it.  Keep in mind it is not for everyone.  But there are a number of ways to this.  Everyone has opportunities to witness.  It could be on facebook, Myspace, with your friends or wherever!

Here are links to some open air preaching:

Huntington Beach 1

Moral Relativism

Here is another one

These video’s were put up by a group called The Way of the Master.  This is Ray Comfort, and Kirk Cameron.

We’ve got mail….yeaaaaaaah. We’ve got mail, we’ve got mail, we’ve got mail…


No Apologizing now has its own email… noapologizing@gmail.com.

KB and I are gearing up for our 100th post.  It is a pretty big deal that we hit this mark.  For the 100th post we are hoping to put together a vlog.  For those of you not familiar…a vlog is like a blog but only in video format.  What we would like to do for our vlog is to be as interactive with you as possible.  This could include questions about us, questions you have on theology, or just comments in general.  That is where the e-mail comes in…

Use the e-mail to send us your questions or comments.  We will use them in the vlog to generate discussion.  If you have something you would like for us to debate….send it in.  I can tell you right now the vlog has been decided on.  If we don’t receive any e-mails Kevin will be forced to do 20 push-ups on camera…well maybe that won’t work…because I am sure people will want to see that.

On behalf of Kevin (who is probably getting upset reading this) and I, we would like to thank you for reading our posts, and we hope you get something out of it.

SEND US SOME COMMENTS!

Global Warming and the Christian


One of our readers posed a comment that I thought would make for an interesting post.  The topic…why is global warming such a polarizing topic for atheists and Christians.  After all doesn’t everyone want to take care of earth? 

Before we look at this from a biblical perspective, let’s look at (at least at a high level) the science that is driving global warming. 

At the basic level the premise for global warming is this…1) man produces harmful emissions (through technology); 2) those emissions are causing the earth to warm; 3)  those emissions can/will destroy the earth if it is not stopped.  I am sure that if I am wrong….some global warming advocates will appear and correct me.  Recent articles have called into question the validity of the data being used to support the findings of global warming science. 

The basic argument to combat global warming is good stewardship of the earth.  There are extreme elements (perhaps even on the non-extreme side) that argue that more extreme measures must be taken to protect the earth (stop using gas, oil, etc…).  It seems that every so often we have some who come out and propose a doomsday scenario where the earth will flood, or burn or will be un-inhabitable.  These predictions (extinction of the human race, or all kinds of animals) pose some unique questions.  Can man destroy the earth that God built?  Better yet, if the Bible mentions nothing about the destruction of the earth by man’s hand… will it happen that way?

From a biblical perspective we should all be good stewards.  Probably the most significant mention of this is the parable of the unjust steward.  The point of this parable is found in Luke 16:10-12:  “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?” 

So how does this relate?

This parable is important because it says that we must be able to handle little so that we can be trusted with much.  The parable specifically mentions wealth and property.  Think about this for a second, if you throw a candy wrapper on the ground, are being trustworthy with God’s property?  In essence…we are stewards over every blessing that God has given us.  If we can’t be trusted with the more simplistic things (finding a trash can) then how can we be trusted with the bigger things (managing the Garbage Company).  This includes the earth.  We are obligated to be good stewards of it.

I recently found this list on a web site that talks about ways to involve kids in stewardship…however this is applicable to all of us as stewards:

Top 10 ways to involve kids in stewardship

10. Recycle everything from cans to clothes
9. Consolidate car trips; read a book while you wait
8. Shut off lights and appliances not in use
7. Harvest what you plant, share what you harvest
6. Share clothes with a sibling or parent
5. Use e-mail rather than long distance
4. Treat possessions as valuables
3. Ride a bike or walk for short errands and exercise
2. Wipe your feet
1. Eat leftovers

 Now to the controversy…

The split, at least for me personally, is when someone who believes in global warming says that man is capable of destroying the earth.  What really gets me is a Christian who says that man can destroy the earth.  Such a statement, not only labels the Bible as being errant, but places man on the same plateau as God.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for everyone to do what they want.  My family practices many of the things listed above.  I cannot emphasize this enough…WE ARE TO BE GOOD STEWARDS WITH THE BLESSINGS GOD HAS GIVEN US! 

Where I draw the line is on individuals who worship science over God.  God has declared how this earth will meet its end.  Anything other than that cuts against the grain of biblical truth and at least starts to place something over God.  If science is telling you that man will destroy the earth, you know that cannot be true because God did not say they would in His Word.  Case and point…global warming advocates will tell you that the earth will flood from the polar caps melting.  This is in direct contradiction to the promise by God that he would never flood the earth again (Genesis 9:11).  How can you believe in both?  The short answer….you can’t.  I have a hard time stomaching Scientists trying to tell me that the earth that God created (the most powerful God, who is capable of anything) can be destroyed by man.  I resent that.  We have power over nothing, and yet we can melt the world?  

This, in my opinion, is why global warming advocates and Christians will tend to split when it comes to global warming.  Christians will look at what is happening and say God controls it, global warming advocates will look at what is happening and say that man controls it.  If you are a Christian you should avoid the temptation of believing that man can control the temperature and then worship a God that you proclaim controls everything.  This is another point of the parable of the unjust steward. Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other

It’s schizophrenic to try and serve both God and the science of global warming – They are diametrically opposed to one another.

What can Bible do for you?


We’re just about ½ of the way through the G90X challenge that was originally laid down by Greg Stier. I’ve really enjoyed pressing on and reading through the Bible in a short period… it has, of course, been very helpful in my spiritual walk… I’ve continued to gain a deeper and deeper appreciation for just how precious of a gift God’s Word is.

Here at the (almost) half-way point let’s take a look at some of the benefits God has promised those who will dive into His Word, the Bible:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13

What this is saying is that God’s word reveals what is truly inside us… I’ve heard some people compare it to doing spiritual surgery! Allow me to expand on that idea a little, God’s Word skillfully opens us up in a way that nothing else can and then removes spiritual cancers from our lives and, if we allow it to, it will even do spiritual cosmetic surgery on us as well… In other words… if we will read and obey what God has told us in the Bible (cf. James 1:22) God will use it to remove sin from our lives and then transform us to be and do more like Jesus! Isn’t that AWESOME?!?!

How does it do this? 2 Timothy 3:13-17 says:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

We need to not only read it, but also memorize and meditate upon it so that we can let us teach us what we need to know… rebuke us when we sin… correct our bad attitudes… and train us in how to relate to other people and to God…

If you are in the middle of the G90X with us… keep it up… if not, then please put some plan into motion to help you engage in God’s Word more than you are today… it will change your life… I promise.

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