Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cultural illiteracy and the gospel

The following are ex-scripts from a conversation on Facebook regarding the contextualization of the Gospel. As a disclaimer I will say that while I agree that the gospel or good news of Jesus is eternal and requires no context but the one it brings of it’s own accord, I believe we have a responsibility as ambassadors of Christ to make an effort to provide as clear of a communication of that message in whatever cultural context we find ourselves in as possible.

“Do our folks really need all that much re-education in order to communicate with the lost?”

In many cases, I would say yes.

We have created a very noticeable Christian sub-culture. My atheist coworkers affectionately call it “Jesus-junk” (here’s an example) We have segregated ourselves in many respects. We’ve created a “Christian” version of almost everything.

We need to take a sober stock of what we’ve surrounded ourselves with. What is acceptable/beneficial to take part in. For example, social media. We missed the boat the first time around, but thankfully we were given a second chance when MySpace lost it’s foothold and Facebook took it’s place.

We also need to take into consideration what we need to stop taking part in. Like right-wing politics to the point we end up wrapping the Cross of Christ up in the flags of our fathers.

Finally, as Christians who are under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We should actually be in a better position to gauge and plot a course through the turbulent waters of our culture. Especially in a time when most people are simply carried away by any new fad, technology, etc.

Christians ought to serve as anchors even when the culture at large has no sense of moorings. And we should lead not just morally or ethically, but economically and technologically as well.

So yes, we need to be students of the culture we find ourselves in. Just as doctors don’t start prescribing medicine without examining a patient first, we can’t expect to sent culturally illiterate people into the world and expect them to have the best possible results.

“The state of a man’s heart is not dependent upon his culture.”

No, but the state of the culture a man finds himself in does determine how and if that man’s heart may be reached by varying means.

While I agree that the gospel transcends culture, I believe we are clearly tasked with figuring out the best ways to communicate the truth of the gospel in varying contexts.

Just like we can’t ignore context when interpreting Scripture, we also can’t ignore it in relation to the lives of the people we seek to reach and expect to be efficient communicators.

“I do not share your appraisal of illiterate evangelists. Success of the gospel does not depend upon the education, class, background, training, or experience of the messenger.”

True. Baalem shows us that God can apparently use even an ass to get His message across. But do we really want to make Him? Isn’t part of being a good ambassador knowing one’s cultural context?

Yes, God can use any means he wants. However he has chosen to use us and he has charged us with seeking after the wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit.

I believe Francis Schaeffer’s predictions regarding a fundamental epistemic shift in our culture has largely come true. Sadly, our present discussion about whether (rather than how) to understand the culture shows we still largely simply haven’t gotten the message.

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Wordy Wednesday: Pornography

What it means

Greek

Combination of πόρνος and γράφω

Transliteration/Pronunciation

pornos/por’-nos and graphó/graf’-o

Strong’s

Combination of G4204 and G1125

Definition

The etymology of pornography is basically “writing about prostitutes/harlots/whores” with the Greek root being pornographos from the words pornos and grapho.

Where it’s found

Pornos:

Genesis 34:31; Genesis 38:15; Genesis 38:21; Genesis 38:22; Leviticus 21:7; Leviticus 21:14; Deuteronomy 23:2; Deuteronomy 23:17; Deuteronomy 23:18; Joshua 2:1; Joshua 6:17; Joshua 6:23; Joshua 6:25; Judges 11:1; Judges 16:1; I Kings 3:16; I Kings 21:19; I Kings 22:38; Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 6:26; Proverbs 29:3; Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 23:15; Isaiah 23:16; Isaiah 57:3; Jeremiah 3:3; Jeremiah 5:7; Ezekiel 16:30; Ezekiel 16:31; Ezekiel 16:35; Ezekiel 23:43; Ezekiel 23:44; Hosea 4:14; Joel 3:3; Nahum 3:4; Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:32; Luke 15:30; I Corinthians 6:15; I Corinthians 6:16; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25; Revelation of John 17:1; Revelation of John 17:5; Revelation of John 17:15; Revelation of John 17:16; Revelation of John 19:2

Grapho1:

Exodus 24:4; Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15; Exodus 32:32; Exodus 34:1; Exodus 34:27; Exodus 34:28; Exodus 39:30; Numbers 5:23; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 5:22; Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:2; Deuteronomy 10:4; Deuteronomy 11:20; Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 24:1; Deuteronomy 24:3; Deuteronomy 27:3; Deuteronomy 27:8; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 29:20; Deuteronomy 29:21; Deuteronomy 29:27; Deuteronomy 30:10; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:19; Deuteronomy 31:22; Deuteronomy 31:24; Deuteronomy 32:44; Joshua 1:8; Joshua 8:31; Joshua 8:32; Joshua 8:34; Joshua 18:9; Joshua 23:6; Joshua 24:26; I Samuel 10:25; II Samuel 1:18; II Samuel 11:14; II Samuel 11:15; I Kings 2:3; I Kings 6:29; I Kings 8:53; I Kings 11:41; I Kings 14:29; I Kings 15:7; I Kings 15:23; I Kings 15:31; I Kings 16:5; I Kings 16:14; I Kings 16:20; I Kings 16:27; I Kings 16:28; I Kings 21:8; I Kings 21:9; I Kings 21:11; I Kings 22:39; I Kings 22:45; II Kings 1:18; II Kings 8:23; II Kings 10:1; II Kings 10:6; II Kings 10:34; II Kings 12:19; II Kings 13:8; II Kings 13:12; II Kings 14:6; II Kings 14:15; II Kings 14:18; II Kings 14:28; II Kings 15:6; II Kings 15:11; II Kings 15:15; II Kings 15:21; II Kings 15:26; II Kings 15:31; II Kings 15:36; II Kings 16:19; II Kings 17:37; II Kings 20:20; II Kings 21:17; II Kings 21:25; II Kings 22:13; II Kings 23:3; II Kings 23:21; II Kings 23:24; II Kings 23:28; II Kings 24:5; I Chronicles 4:41; I Chronicles 16:40; I Chronicles 24:6; I Chronicles 29:29; II Chronicles 9:29; II Chronicles 12:15; II Chronicles 13:22; II Chronicles 16:11; II Chronicles 20:34; II Chronicles 21:12; II Chronicles 23:18; II Chronicles 24:27; II Chronicles 25:4; II Chronicles 25:26; II Chronicles 26:22; II Chronicles 27:7; II Chronicles 28:26; II Chronicles 30:1; II Chronicles 31:3; II Chronicles 32:17; II Chronicles 32:32; II Chronicles 33:19; II Chronicles 34:21; II Chronicles 34:24; II Chronicles 34:31; II Chronicles 35:12; II Chronicles 35:19; II Chronicles 35:25; II Chronicles 35:26; II Chronicles 35:27; II Chronicles 36:8; II Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:4; Ezra 4:6; Ezra 4:7; Ezra 4:8; Ezra 5:7; Ezra 5:10; Ezra 6:2; Ezra 8:34; Nehemiah 6:6; Nehemiah 7:5; Nehemiah 8:14; Nehemiah 8:15; Nehemiah 9:38; Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 10:36; Nehemiah 12:22; Nehemiah 12:23; Nehemiah 13:1; Esther 1:19; Esther 3:10; Esther 3:12; Esther 6:2; Esther 8:5; Esther 8:8; Esther 8:9; Esther 8:10; Esther 9:1; Esther 9:20; Esther 9:23; Esther 9:29; Esther 9:32; Esther 10:1; Esther 10:2; Esther 10:3; Job 19:23; Job 42:17; Psalms 40:7; Psalms 69:28; Psalms 102:18; Psalms 139:16; Proverbs 8:15; Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 8:1; Isaiah 10:1; Isaiah 10:19; Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 30:8; Isaiah 65:6; Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 22:30; Jeremiah 25:13; Jeremiah 30:2; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:10; Jeremiah 32:12; Jeremiah 32:25; Jeremiah 32:44; Jeremiah 36:2; Jeremiah 36:4; Jeremiah 36:17; Jeremiah 36:18; Jeremiah 36:27; Jeremiah 36:28; Jeremiah 36:29; Jeremiah 36:32; Jeremiah 45:1; Jeremiah 51:60; Ezekiel 2:10; Ezekiel 13:9; Ezekiel 24:2; Ezekiel 37:16; Ezekiel 37:20; Daniel 5:5; Daniel 6:9; Daniel 6:25; Daniel 7:1; Daniel 9:11; Daniel 9:13; Daniel 12:1; Habakkuk 2:2; Malachi 3:16; Matthew 2:5; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:6; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 11:10; Matthew 21:13; Matthew 26:24; Matthew 26:31; Matthew 27:37; Mark 1:2; Mark 7:6; Mark 9:12; Mark 9:13; Mark 10:4; Mark 10:5; Mark 11:17; Mark 12:19; Mark 14:21; Mark 14:27; Luke 1:3; Luke 1:63; Luke 2:23; Luke 3:4; Luke 4:4; Luke 4:8; Luke 4:10; Luke 4:17; Luke 7:27; Luke 10:26; Luke 16:6; Luke 16:7; Luke 18:31; Luke 19:46; Luke 20:17; Luke 20:28; Luke 21:22; Luke 22:37; Luke 24:44; Luke 24:46; John 1:46; John 2:17; John 5:46; John 6:31; John 6:45; John 8:6; John 8:8; John 8:17; John 10:34; John 12:14; John 12:16; John 15:25; John 19:19; John 19:20; John 19:21; John 19:22; John 20:30; John 20:31; John 21:24; Acts 1:20; Acts 7:42; Acts 13:29; Acts 13:33; Acts 15:15; Acts 15:23; Acts 18:27; Acts 23:5; Acts 23:25; Acts 24:14; Acts 25:26; Romans 1:17; Romans 2:24; Romans 3:4; Romans 3:10; Romans 4:17; Romans 4:23; Romans 8:36; Romans 9:13; Romans 9:33; Romans 10:5; Romans 10:15; Romans 11:8; Romans 11:26; Romans 12:19; Romans 14:11; Romans 15:3; Romans 15:4; Romans 15:9; Romans 15:15; Romans 15:21; Romans 16:22; I Corinthians 1:19; I Corinthians 1:31; I Corinthians 2:9; I Corinthians 3:19; I Corinthians 4:6; I Corinthians 4:14; I Corinthians 5:9; I Corinthians 5:11; I Corinthians 7:1; I Corinthians 9:9; I Corinthians 9:10; I Corinthians 9:15; I Corinthians 10:7; I Corinthians 10:11; I Corinthians 14:21; I Corinthians 14:37; I Corinthians 15:45; I Corinthians 15:54; II Corinthians 1:13; II Corinthians 2:3; II Corinthians 2:4; II Corinthians 2:9; II Corinthians 4:13; II Corinthians 7:12; II Corinthians 8:15; II Corinthians 9:1; II Corinthians 9:9; II Corinthians 13:10; Galatians 1:20; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:22; Galatians 4:27; Galatians 6:11; Philippians 3:1; I Thessalonians 4:9; I Thessalonians 5:1; II Thessalonians 3:17; I Timothy 3:14; Philemon 1:19; Philemon 1:21; Hebrews 10:7; I Peter 1:16; I Peter 5:12; II Peter 3:1; II Peter 3:15; I John 1:4; I John 2:1; I John 2:7; I John 2:8; I John 2:12; I John 2:13; I John 2:14; I John 2:21; I John 2:26; I John 5:13; II John 1:5; II John 1:12; III John 1:9; III John 1:13; Jude 1:3; Revelation of John 1:3; Revelation of John 1:11; Revelation of John 1:19; Revelation of John 2:1; Revelation of John 2:8; Revelation of John 2:12; Revelation of John 2:17; Revelation of John 2:18; Revelation of John 3:1; Revelation of John 3:7; Revelation of John 3:12; Revelation of John 3:14; Revelation of John 5:1; Revelation of John 10:4; Revelation of John 13:8; Revelation of John 14:1; Revelation of John 14:13; Revelation of John 17:5; Revelation of John 17:8; Revelation of John 19:9; Revelation of John 19:12; Revelation of John 19:16; Revelation of John 20:12; Revelation of John 20:15; Revelation of John 21:5; Revelation of John 21:27; Revelation of John 22:18; Revelation of John 22:19

  1. This is much more common as it can also refer to letters, writings, books, Scripture, etc. []

Are Christians crazy or do they have a rational basis for their beliefs?

A common refrain from non-religious people is that belief in God is akin to a mental disorder. Well here are a few resources which should help put things into perspective and show how a theist is comfortably warranted in their religious beliefs:

For Esau I have hated.

One of the most common proof-texts used to show that God arbitrarily elects some to salvation while damning others without merit or cause is Romans 9:13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Many people have a hard time with this passage as it is often posited as evidence of God’s sovereign choice unto election of Jacob and express damnation of Esau “before he had done good or evil”.

The first thing to note about this section is that the phrase “for Esau I have hated” is derived from the words of the prophet Malachi who, in Malachi 1:2-3, was talking about the nations of Edom and Israel. In the same manner Paul, writing in Romans 9 after a lengthy discussion regarding the need for his fellow Israelites to repent, was discussing the lineage of the chosen Messiah. It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation since the context is the messiah’s lineage. consequently, the pots mentioned in Romans 9:19-26 are not people but nations.

At this point, many (primarily from the reformed camp) will argue along the lines that “nations are made up of people”. While this is true, we are still a long ways away from a particular view of election.

Hebrews 12:16 seems to indicate that Esau was a profane man but you don’t seem to think that God foreknew that or that such a knowledge could have played a part in God’s choosing. It seems plausible that the foreknown, freely made choice to sin was the basis for God’s hatred and condemnation of both the person of Esau as well as the nation that sprung from Esau’s loins; why then would we think that the same sort of freely chosen and foreknown transgressions wouldn’t be the basis of God’s choice to bring the promised seed through one and not the other?

For a more in-depth treatment of this subject I encourage you to listen to:

Wayne Grudem on what the Bible says about capital punishment and self-defense

[HT: Wintry Knight]

Wayne Grudem recently delivered a two-part lecture on the ownership and use of weapons (self defense) and the death penalty from the perspective of what the Bible teaches. I encourage you to download these lectures to your MP3 player and listen to them when you get the chance. For those of you who are of the same persuasion as Greg Boyd in that Christians ought to be 100% pacifistic in their disposition, I believe you will be quite surprised to discover what the Bible says on the subject.

More talks by Wayne Grudem, including more lectures from his book “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture“, can be found here.

Young earth vs. old earth, two great debates

[HT Apologetics315, Wintry Knight, Thoughtful Christianity]

One of my favorite recurring debates in Christiandom is the one of young earth creationism vs. old earth creationism. There are many nuances such as the appearance of age, whether death existed before the fall, etc.

Here are two excellent debates on the subject between Hugh Ross’s ministry reasons.org and Ken Ham’s ministry, Answers in Genesis.

Hugh Ross vs. Jason Lisle

Hugh Ross/Walter Kaiser vs. Ken Ham/Jason Lisle

How are women portrayed in the Koran vs. the Bible?

[HT Answering Muslims]

Here are videos from an excellent debate between Mary Jo Sharp of Confident Christianity and Tabassum Hussain PhD. on the topic: “Women: The Bible and The Quran.”:

OPENING STATEMENTS

1ST REBUTTALS

2ND REBUTTALS/Q&A

CONCLUSIONS

What is original sin?

When dealing with the doctrine of “original sin” it is important to understand what this doctrine does and does not mean. Simply put, it does mean that because of the sin of Adam and Eve (though, Biblically, the full weight of responsibility for this sin falls on Adam’s shoulders) sinful proclivities have entered into the hearts of men. As a popular Christian song puts it:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;1

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

What the doctrine of original sin does not mean is that we are all borne owing the debt of sins Adam incurred. In order words,

We are not responsible for the sins of someone else.

One of my favorite verses showing how we do not pay for the sins of others, Deuteronomy 24:16:

“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”

This doesn’t mean we don’t suffer the effects of sinful choices of others. David’s son certainly did, as Exodus 20:5-6 and Deuteronomy 5:9 clearly state. This also doesn’t mean we don’t suffer from a proclivity towards sin (which is what we inherited from Adam).

It simply means God does not charge us a debt we did not incur which is why Jesus’s willing sacrifice on the cross is so full of grace because He freely chose (under no compulsion, though with great agony) to take on a debt He Himself did not incur.

“Original sin”, if understood in the sense that we are guilty of sin from birth logically leads to the untenable conclusion that all children go to hell (unless one holds to the unbiblical stretch known as covenantal theology) for sins they did not freely choose to commit.

Romans 3:23, which tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, is not a prescriptive phrase, that we will by necessity sin, but rather a descriptive phrase about what we all freely choose to do. Given long enough, after reaching the age of accountability, we will come to know the difference between good and evil and we will freely choose to sin of our own accord.

The fact is that we are actually borne innocent and freely choose to sin thereby breaking ourselves and disqualifying ourselves from participating in a relationship with a holy God.

We need a savior, not because of a bum deal we inherited but because we knowingly bought into the lie of sin.

UPDATE: Here is an excellent article on this subject over at 4truth.net.

  1. Unfortunately this actually came true in the life of the author. []

Applied intelligent design

[HT Uncommon Descent]

I recently ran across a two part article on Uncommon Descent which attempts to answer the question of what practical use intelligent design serves in our pursuit of scientific truth.

Part 1 opens up with a provocative and succinct statement that “Every science works as much from its limits as it does from its potentials.” John then goes on to outline a 5 point argument against the open-endedness presupposed in a pure Darwinian system:

  1. In order for evolution to be open-ended (i.e. work in environments which it did not have in mind beforehand) it must be on a Universal system (a system which can be programmed open-endedly)
  2. Universal systems are chaotic
  3. Chaotic systems are characterized by chaotic mappings between input configuration and results
  4. Natural selection assumes a fairly continuous mapping between input configuration and results
  5. Therefore, evolution cannot be open-ended, because navigating such a chaotic mapping would require design, and not having such a chaotic system would violate the notion of being open-ended in #1 & #2.

He then goes on to outline how, according to Turing, logical constraints on the input and outputs of systems necessitate a closed, as opposed to open, system of biological development.

In the second part the logic surrounding software development is compared to the apparent biological system at work and we are presented a very compelling argument, again, necessitating a closed rather than open system.

It looks like ID can actually help us out a lot when deciding where to look for the next big scientific breakthrough. Perhaps there’s a reason after all why the pioneers of science came from a Judeo-Christian ethic. As the initial statement indicates, we would do well to examine the potential of any philosophy that lies behind our scientific inquiry.

John Lennox on the relationship between science and religion

[HT Justin Taylor]

From the article:

Here are a pair of lectures by Dr. John Lennox (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford) on the New Atheism, science, and morality. They were delivered March 11-12, 2008 as the Carver-Barnes Lecture Series at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I love how the second lecture ends with Lennox citing “the problem of evil” as the “most difficult question the theist will have to answer” and how/why it is so important.

Bonus, here is a link to the excellent debate between Lennox and Dawkins.

UPDATE: Apparently the videos above are now privatized. This is a good reason why I prefer to not post links to youtube-clones  like vimeo. On a related note, it disturbs me how many ministries are choosing to use obscure and less functional services like this to host their content on. What? Is a simple MP3 not flashy enough for you?