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Philosophy Bites

23 Sep

Throughout Scripture, Christians are encouraged to be in the world, but not of the world.  While this means that our behaviors shouldn’t reflect the moral views of those who don’t know Christ, it also means that we will encounter those views.  When we do, we need to be equipped to meet them. 

That’s why, this week, we’re featuring the Philosophy Bites podcast: a secular resource dedicated to introducing listeners to the views of modern philosophers in easy-to-digest bites.  In 10-20 minute, bi-weekly interviews, Edmunds and Warburton explore the issues that bend the brains of some of today’s greatest thinkers and help you to do the same.  You’ll be treated to a variety of views on everything from existentialism to vegetarianism, all presented in a friendly, non-aggressive environment that encourages dialogue rather than conflict.

As you listen, take the time to critically consider each of the views presented.  Are there merits to any of the philosophies explored?  What factors detract from the reasonableness or believability of the interviewee’s viewpoint?  How would you Biblically respond to each point?  Are there places where your own philosophy could use some strengthening?

You’re sure to find these podcasts challenging and you may want to listen to some of them more than once as you exercise your critical thinking skills: applying Biblical principles to modern philosophy!

Kingdom of the Cults

16 Sep

Cult.  It’s a word we don’t like to use today.  It conjures images of secret ceremonies and strange behaviors of unquestioning deference to authority and deviant acts.  To suggest that someone is a member of a “cult” is tantamount to calling them a “freak” or a “weirdo”… and it certainly doesn’t help our ability to effectively share the Gospel!

So why feature a book on cults?  The answer is simple: while we may not enjoy using the word, it’s still important for Christians to understand the differences which exist between traditional Christianity and those religions which pose as “Christian” while denying the fundamental teachings of the faith.  The truth is, not all cults lean towards the occult.  Indeed, many “cult” members are quite normal both in their beliefs and practices.  What makes them a danger is the way in which they twist the requirements for Salvation from the simple faith taught in the Bible into legalistic systems.  Sadly, it’s not always easy to discern where or how such twists have taken place and that’s why, this week, we’re featuring the revised edition of Walter Martin’s classic “Kingdom of the Cults, The”.

Using Scripture as the measuring rod, Martin and Zacharias take readers through the tenants of each variation to see how they measure up to the Gospel presented by Jesus and His apostles.  You’ll enjoy the clear way in which both authors highlight the differences between the faiths and open up insights into potential evangelism opportunities. You’ll be introduced to the unique cultures of each cult and gain useful insights into the way members of these unique organizations think and act.  Read cover-to-cover or used simply as a reference, this in-depth guide will provide you with information on the history and teachings of the most prominent cults of our day.

Kingdom of the Cults, The” was produced by Bethany House Publishers and is available for $22.24 from www.Amazon.com.

William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy

9 Sep

Throughout the world today, people are learning to be more efficient farmers, to keep more sanitary houses, and to prevent diseases all because someone was committed to bringing them the Bible in their native tongue.  This connection may not be obvious at first.  After all, what does the Sacred Writ really have to do with better medical techniques or the production of crops?  The answer may be simpler than you imagine.

Each of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world today began as an oral form of communication.  While this allows people to communicate their immediate needs, it is rarely an efficient form of accurately conveying information in the long term.  Like a game of “telephone”, verbal instructions can be warped and mutilated until what began as history and good advice becomes legend and folklore.  The ability to write changes this… and frequently this transformation begins with the work of men and women dedicated to sharing the words of the Bible.  It’s a story shared by literally thousands of languages, including (not too long ago) our own.

That’s why, this week, we’re featuring the 60 minute DVD “William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy”.  Brief and informative, this winner of the 2004 WORLDFEST International Film Festival GOLD Special Jury Award will introduce you to the man whose efforts to make the Holy Scriptures available in the common tongue led to the creation of the modern English language.  In this incredible documentary, you’ll learn about Tyndale’s spiritual journey and the passion which drove him to defy the ruling powers as he translated the Bible into the language of his people.  You’ll hear about his fearless drive, even in the face of death, and you’ll witness first-hand how the written language can impact both the fate of nations and of individuals.  It’s a fascinating journey through the history of the world’s most popular book filled with insights into the origins of one of the most spoken languages of our day!

William Tyndale: His Life, His Legacy” was produced by Avalon Press and is available on www.Amazon.com.

Got Questions

19 Aug

Got questions?  Most of us do.  And while the answers to some questions aren’t all that important (like whether the fuzzy thing in the fridge is a kiwi or a moldy plum), others can make the difference between life and death, Heaven and Hell.  That’s why GotQuestions.org exists!  A non-denominational volunteer ministry, GotQuestions.org seeks to answer the questions of both Christian believers and spiritual seekers in a way that accurately and fully represents the Biblical view.

Starting with “Crucial Questions”, the site carefully lays out Christian doctrine as it has been passed down through the centuries answering questions like “Does God Exist?”, “Is There Life After Death?”, and “Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?”.  Through a series of concise, easy-to-read answers, GotQuestions.org explains the core beliefs which bind us together as followers of Christ.

But just as there are similarities, there are also differences.  While Christians all subscribe to the same views of God, man, sin, and salvation, we don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything else.  Embracing the belief, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity”, the site labors to answer questions like, “Should a Christian Woman Wear a Bikini?”, “Should a Christian Play Video Games?”, and “Is it Wrong to Want to Be Famous?”.  You’ll find answers to questions on topics ranging from relationships to the End Times, so take some time to sit down and explore!

Want to take the site with you when you head to school, work, or the gym?  Why not download the GotQuestions app for iOS or Android?  You’ll have all of the features of the website right at your fingertips – providing the right answers at the right time!  Don’t like reading?  Why not check out the GotQuestions podcast. You’ll hear the same great Biblical advice seen on the website in an easy-to-use collection of 2-5 minute episodes!

However you choose to get your answers (and regardless of your status as a Christian or a seeker), you’re sure to find GotQuestions.org to be an excellent resource!  So check it out today!

Cross Examined

12 Aug

Facts and statistics play an important role in sharing our faith but they don’t do much good if they can’t be quickly and accurately applied to real-life situations.  Learning to do that can take some practice and that’s why, this week, we’re featuring Cross Examined, the apologetics ministry of Dr. Frank Turek.

Co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and a former Naval aviator, Dr. Turek brings both his ability to think rationally and act quickly to table each week through his radio program and podcast.  Addressing the pressing issues faced by today’s believers, he teaches listeners to respond both thoughtfully and respectfully to the problems predominant within our society.  A good balance of logic and Scripture, each program is sure to leave you better prepared to defend what you believe.

Looking for a bit more?  Why not check out Frank’s blog where he addresses common objections to Christianity in detail?  View articles on church beliefs, morality and politics, or intelligent design and evolution.  Each thought-provoking essay is sure to leave you feeling both more competent and more confident in your ability to make a strong case for your Christian beliefs!

Whether you’re an experienced apologist or new to the faith, you’re sure to find something that will help you as you share your faith with others!  So check out Cross Examined today.  You’ll be glad you did!

Encountering the World of Islam

29 Jul

What does it mean to be a follower of Islam? The question is a simple one, but the answers are not. According to the Pew Research Center, there are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today – that’s nearly ¼ of the world’s entire population! Spread out across six continents, these faithful seek each day to become more wholly submitted to the will of Allah, but what this looks like can vary tremendously from one sect to another. That’s why Keith E. Swartley’s textbook, “Encountering the World of Islam” was one of my first stops as I began seeking a deeper understanding of a faith so different from my own.

Designed to provide Christians with an introduction to the development and expression of Muslim belief, “Encountering the World of Islam” takes an in depth look at the origins, theology, and culture which surround this historic faith. In eleven carefully planned lessons, readers will learn what it means to be a Muslim, what the faith looks like in daily life, and how they can most effectively communicate their own faith with their Islamic friends. Supplemental readings introduced students to the world of Muslim missions (and some of the difficult questions which surround the topic) while practical activities help readers to better understand the culture which surrounds one of our world’s biggest religions. Join in the online community and you’ll receive an even more enlightening introduction!

Re-released in updated form by IVP Books in 2012, “Encountering the World of Islam” is available for $27.12 in paperback and makes an excellent introduction for everyone from the casual observer to the mission-minded believer!

Cold Case Christianity

11 Feb

What does Forensic Statement Analysis (FSA) have to do with the Gospels?  More than you might think!  Most of us are familiar with the archaeological evidence for the reliability of the Gospels, yet few of us have encountered (or analyzed) the forensic evidence.  And that’s what makes J. Warner Wallace’s new book “Cold Case Christianity” special.

Using this relatively modern branch of science, Wallace (a former atheist) teaches readers to effectively apply the skills of a police detective to the Gospel accounts.  From circumstantial evidence to the chain of custody to conspiracy theories, Wallace uses real life cases to walk his readers through the steps necessary to secure a conviction in a cold-case homicide… then teaches them to apply the same standards and procedures to the case for Christ.

Throughout the pages of this entertaining volume, you’ll learn how detectives harmonize eyewitness accounts, determine the reliability of their witnesses, and filter out biased testimony.  You’ll travel with Wallace to the scenes of robberies and homicides as you learn to collect and assemble enough evidence to result in a conviction… and develop a solid case for the Gospel.

Written clearly and concisely, the book is as entertaining as it is informative.  Wallace’s skill as a story teller is surpassed only by his common sense approach to apologetics.  “Cold Case Christianity” is an excellent primer for anyone interested in presenting a solid case for their faith in the Bible and the God it portrays.

“Cold Case Christianity” was published by David C. Cook and is available in print or e-book through Amazon.com.

Utah Lighthouse Ministry

4 Feb

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.”  Bold words?  You bet!  If you’re like most of us, you’d be hard pressed to identify who spoke them… and you might be surprised to discover that they are found in an official account of a sermon delivered by Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Like many of the prophet’s teachings, these words come not from hearsay or the accounts of those who seek to destroy the LDS church, but from the records of the church, itself… in this case, History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 408, 409

For many, claims like this, are sufficient to elicit suspicion.  After all, how many leaders of Christian churches would be so bold as to claim themselves capable of that which Christ, Himself was not?  Unfortunately, many modern members of the LDS church are unaware of the teachings of their founder and his early successors, choosing, instead to simply repeat the line that the Mormon church is Christian… merely a denomination of a larger faith.

It is for the purpose of addressing this claim and others like it that the Utah Lighthouse Ministry was established.  Created in 1983 by Jerald Tanner (a great-great grandson of John Tanner) and his wife, Sandra (a great-great granddaughter of Brigham Young), UTLM seeks to make teachings such as these readily available to both members and non-members of the LDS church in the hope of encouraging careful analysis of the doctrine of the prophets upon whose teaching the church was established.

Visit their website, and you’ll find a multitude of useful resources starting with Jerald Tanner’s testimony of his own journey out of MormonismView the stories of others who have left the LDS Church, then take a look at what they found to be a compelling case for their departure as you examine 3,913 Changes to the Book of Mormon as well as an extensive list of places in which the Book of Mormon directly contradicts the teachings of the Bible and view a few of the contradictions which exist within the LDS Scriptures.  Explore LDS Theology in-depth as you tackle topics from the test of a prophet to church teaching on the role of Lucifer.

Then, learn to effectively share your faith with your Latter-day Saint friends and family.  Check out a variety of FREE gospel tracts including Jesus and Joseph Smith, Testing the Book of Mormon, and The Fall of the Book of Abraham.  And when your friends are ready to leave, check out the comprehensive explanation of the process for removing your name from the church rolls.

The site is full of great resources from audio interviews and video clips to a selection of online books, so take your time.  Read the resources carefully and you’re sure to be ready to address the claims of the LDS church with your Mormon friends in a way that reflects both gentleness and respect!

How Do Christians Determine What they Accept as Scripture: Settling on the Final Selections (And Why You Don’t Necessarily Have to Agree in Order to Be a Christian)

1 Feb

Well here we are!  Over the last few months, we’ve taken a careful look at “How Christians Determine What They Accept as Scripture”.  We’ve examined tests ranging from prophesy and accuracy to authenticity and value.  (If you’d like to review any of these tests, click the highlighted link above.)  Today, we conclude our series with a look at how, when, and where, the final selections were made and what effect this determination does or doesn’t have upon Christians today.

Confirming the date at which the Bible was finalized in its present form can be tricky business.  Why?  Quite simply because it took a few decades between the composition of each book and its distribution to and acceptance by the individual congregations scattered throughout the world.  What is certain is that all 27 books of the New Testament were accepted and in use by the time of the Nicean Council in A.D. 325 – a council which (contrary to urban myth) never even addressed the issue of what should or shouldn’t be included in the Canon.

It was the Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393 that produced the first complete New Testament list and it is interesting to note that the Synod did not establish the Canon, but merely recognized it.  Indeed, it was the churches themselves, individual believers who had done the hard work of reviewing the candidates for Scripture, comparing them to previous revelation, and establishing their accuracy and apostolic authority.  Perhaps the greatest miracle of the Canon is that independent thinkers throughout the world came to the same conclusion that these 27 books deserved a special place within the faith.

So, do you have to accept all 66 books in order to be a Christian?  Absolutely not!  While I, personally, believe that the Old and New Testament are the accurate, inspired, and infallible Word of God, some of the most respected Christians in history have found what they felt to be sufficient cause to doubt.  Martin Luther, the instigator of the Protestant reformation doubted the books of Esther and James.  John Calvin, his northern counterpart, questioned Esther.

Christians sometimes encounter difficulties in Scripture which seem hard to resolve – but their doubt concerning the books themselves, does not equal doubt in God.  Nor does it equal lack of saving faith. Christianity, after all, isn’t about what you know, but about Who you know.  It is faith in Christ’s shed blood as the full payment for our sins which saves us, not absolute certainty that every word in our modern Bible is actually a part of Scripture.

So if you doubt, don’t lose hope.  Struggle with the hard questions.  Be open to admitting your doubts.  Seek the answers.  And cling tight to the One who gave His life in order to redeem yours!

Stand to Reason

28 Jan

It doesn’t take long for most Christians to realize that evangelism isn’t just about presenting knowledge; It’s about how we present that knowledge.  Rattling off the Romans Road and a list of facts that lead to a reasoned faith in the resurrection isn’t bad, in and of itself.  But if we do so without attention to the direction of the conversation or an understanding of the positions of those with whom we’re sharing, it can have a major impact on how others perceive our God!  And that’s where Stand to Reason comes in.

Stand to Reason exists not for the purpose of helping Christians accumulate knowledge, but rather to assist believers in developing wisdom in regard to the presentation of knowledge.  Their goal is not simply to teach what a Christian ought to think, but to help Christians learn how to think – assisting believers as they form the skills to critically analyze the claims of other philosophies as well as their own.  Take a moment to review the Ambassador’s Creed for an overview of what makes a good Christian apologist and see if you’re willing to commit to developing these skills.  Then dive right in!

The site offers a wide range of resources for anyone seeking a ready answer, but without the time to read lengthy articles.  Check out Quick Thoughts where you’ll find concise answers to difficult questions as well as insightful articles from other Christian philosophers and theologians. Or examine on-site articles on topics ranging from bio-ethics to science and philosophy. Explore the link between abortion and human rights, discover a good reason for evil, and struggle with the question of animal ethics.  Want to be certain you can defend your point?  Why not take a look at the Solid Ground archives where you’ll find organized cases for everything from Israel’s attack on Canaan to the rejection of Mormonism as a Christian denomination.

Prefer to listen instead of read?  STR offers a broad selection of podcasts ranging from the Stand to Reason Weekly Radio Show to Thinking Out Loud, a few brief thoughts on the subjects that really matter.  Then, visit the Stand to Reason Blog for follow-up on the shows and links to relevant sites.

There’s plenty to see on this easy-to-digest site, so give it a quick scan, then bookmark it for future reference.  You’re sure to be back time and time again!

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