Tag Archives: growth

In intellectual neutral

[HT Brian Auten]

William Lane Craig presents this talk calling on Christians to be intellectually engaged. Entitled In Intellectual Neutral, this talk can be found in theaudio/video section of ReasonableFaith.org. Craig offers three reasons to become fully engaged intellectually in order to impact the culture for Christ.

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Where did you go to seminary?

I am often asked where I’ve gone to seminary. Usually after speaking with someone I’ve recently met, and especially when visiting a church.

I fully understand where this question comes from. It is, unfortunately rare to find someone who is well trained Biblically, theologically, philosophically, and apologetically. So when we run across someone who has such specialized training, it is easy to assume they pursued formal education in order to obtain it.

What I want to tell people who ask (and seldom have the chance to do so fully in the span of a few seconds) is that I am nobody special and encourage them by getting them to understand that they can learn and grow just as well as I can and have1.

Stephen at “Chronological Bible Storying Journal – Rural Brazil”, in a post outlining lessons learned regarding discipleship [HT Alan Knox], observed:

Don’t be a Bible scholar. When I first arrived in Brazil, I loved to talk theology and apologetics. This was expected in many pastoral circles in America. Inadvertently, I began to create a dependency on me as the expert and not the Bible. People would not trust themselves to understand the Bible or apply it correctly. (Incidentally, this is an extreme problem in Brazil, even in evangelical churches. It creates a passive and shallow form of Christianity.) I had to change from teaching to asking questions, and guiding discovery. Huge difference.

I believe Stephen is dead-on, here. Which is why I take great joy in telling the people who ask me where I went to seminary: Nowhere, but I am Biblically trained.

If time permits, this answer leads gracefully into the obvious follow-up question of what resources I recommend to them to assist them in their walk.

We may not all have the resources or opportunity to attend seminary, but especially in the 21st century we do all have access to some excellent training material to make us all better biblical scholars.

For anyone interested, here is a list I wrote a while back where you can find some excellent training material.

  1. Not that I’ve learned all there is to learn, mind you, growth and learning is a lifelong commitment. []
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Are you my elder?

Alan Knox recently posed the question on his blog:

I wonder, what do you see as being requirements for being an elder? By this, I mean, what absolutely must someone be, do, think, believe, etc. in order for you to recognize that person as an elder (pastor, if you prefer)?

Here’s my answer:

I suppose my simplified response would be this; There has to be something in that person that I recognize I could stand to learn. That would include spiritual disciplines such as prayer, giving, graciousness, hospitality, etc. And also intellectually in terms of mastery of various subjects.

This is a great question to consider.

If we consider the believers that surround us to truly be a family, then our ability to recognize our spiritual elders has a direct bearing on our spiritual growth and maturity.

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Like riding a bike

We’ve recently undergone the task of teaching our daughter to ride her bike without training wheels. And through the tears we often hear the protest “you’re hurting my feelings” from our less than enthusiastic daughter. To her, riding a bike has gone from an enjoyable activity to a huge chore that her parents force her to undertake almost every evening.

While working with my daughter I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between learning how to ride and learning theology and apologetics.

Learning how to ride a bike is hard. Especially for children whose motor skills and sense of equilibrium are still developing. Learning how to ride a bike results in a lot of falls, tears, and anger. And worst of all, it is not over in a day.

The same could be said for learning theology and apologetics.

It takes hard work, time, and a willingness to risk making mistakes (sometimes very big mistakes) to learn theology and apologetics. Feelings are bound to get hurt along the way as we both develop and sharpen our beliefs and as we learn how to argue for our beliefs. Sometimes we get embarrassed when we go to argue for a newly formed belief we don’t quite fully understand and, due to our lack of experience, end up falling flat on our face when blindside by a rebuttal we hadn’t considered before.

And just like riding a bike. We don’t learn theology or apologetics because it makes us feel good or because the potential positive feelings later on will outweigh the pain experienced now. We learn how to ride a bike because it is a good thing to learn in and of itself. With theology and apologetics, we can add to this that we also study them because they help us grow closer to God.

No one said that learning theology and/or apologetics is easy.

It’s like riding a bike.

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Favorite preachers and teachers

In a recent conversation a few friends of mine were talking about their favorite preachers/teachers so we all compiled a list of (mostly)1 contemporary preachers and teachers we liked and admired. Here’s my reply:

While I won’t dare to compile an exhaustive list, I will take my cue from Jeff and list a few favorite sermons by some guys I greatly admire (some of whom are pastors). Sorry, these guys aren’t as dynamic and energetic in most cases as Jeff’s list2 😉 but I’m sure yall will enjoy them all the same.

First, some one-hit-wonders3:

John Brandon

Excellent lecture titled “Telling the Truth in the Business World” where he describes, among other things, standing up for Christ in the world of corporate America. He has been/is the CEO of some pretty major corporations (like Adobe) and his stories are pretty inspiring as well as challenging.

Mary Poplin

Excellent lecture titled “Radical Marxist, Radical Womanist, Radical Love: What Mother Teresa Taught Me about Social Justice” where she describes her radical transformation from an extremely liberal worldview to a conservative Christian all while maintaining a strong focus and commitment to issues of social justice. Her testimony is absolutely amazing.

Scott Klusendorf

Has an excellent method of defending the lives of the unborn against abortion via a handy mnemonic device that uses the acronym of SLED.

As a bonus you should also listen to the agnostic Serrin Foster‘s lecture on the feminist case against abortion.

Bruce Little

We had the pleasure of meeting Dr Little when he came to our church in North Augusta for a conference on “God, Evil, and Suffering”. His teaching on such a touchy subject was extremely insightful. Since it’s something everyone in this world deals with, and the biggest objection to a Christian God, I think everyone should take time to explore this subject.

Now for some people you might just want to bookmark:

Os Guiness

Os is a member of the beer-making family of the same name (which alone makes him worthy of note in my book) and a student of Francis Schaeffer (another awesome pastor). He has worked extensively in the academic and political communities and has

William Lane Craig

Dr. Craig actually lives here in Atlanta4 but speaks all over the world on a wide range of topics. He is known widely as the bane of atheists and in his many debates (literally hundreds) they (that is, the atheists themselves) only credit his opponents with a handful of marginal victories. One of his best lectures is entitled “Religious Epistemology” and while it is a bit heavy it is extremely useful in combating common “God of the gaps” and “religion is merely wish fulfillment” and “you can’t claim to actually know anything of a religious nature”

Greg Koukl

Greg’s lessons on tactics to defend the faith and never read a verse are things I wish every Christian would take to heart. He also co-authored a book with Francis Beckwith (another great Christian) titled “Relativism: Feet firmly planted in mid-air” which gives a great description and prescription for the current age and climate of our culture.

Peter Kreeft

A Catholic philosopher who has a great lesson on ecumenism without compromise (even though I disagree, obviously, with his assertion about the Roman Catholic Church, his approach and focus on healing the body of Christ is, I think, spot-on). He also has many excellent lessons on CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien (particularly the Lord of the Rings saga). One of the best things he’s produced in my opinion, however, is a mock dialog he has with Socrates5.

Gary Habermas

Habermas can almost be compared to a broken record. All of his messages are about the resurrection and it’s historicity and even though that may sound dull and boring, he brings a considerable amount of scholarship to bear on the subject and manges to make it extremely interesting at the same time. Because of his narrow subject matter he manages to cut right to the chase and has been instrumental in convincing hardened skeptics like Anthony Flew that there is indeed truth to what the Bible (and we) proclaim.

Alvin Planginga

One of the foremost Christian philosophers alive today. His material is extremely dense (just ask Beth) but it is also very useful in debate and edifying if you have any questions in the realm of “how do I know what I know” and “can anyone really know anything spiritual?” His series on “Warrant and Proper Function” is absolutely foundational to any study on epistemology.

Ken Myers

Ken is a former NPR reporter who runs a ministry named “Mars Hill Audio”. He recently gave a great lecture at SEBTS on the comprehensive character of Christian discipleship (part 2) where he argues that we, as Christians, need to be more culturally aware and able to, as Isiah says, “understand the age”.

I think I’ll break it here and add more later, enjoy!

  1. I say mostly because there is an age gap in our group so some of the people listed I don’t really consider contemporary anymore 😛 but I digress… []
  2. Since Jeff’s a bit of a charismatic, his list included some pretty lively characters. []
  3. Not that these people haven’t done much, I simply call them one-hit-wonders because I haven’t found a lot from them. What I have found, though, makes me  wish I could. So if you know of any more material from these people, by all means, let me know! []
  4. In fact, he teaches a Sunday School class (The Defenders) at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. Sadly, people don’t bust down the doors to get into his Sunday School classroom like they do Jimmy Carter. []
  5. That I’m currently unable to find a link to for some reason… []
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Questioning the sermon

One of the greatest myths in modern Christianity, particularly in the South1, is that any attempts to discuss the sermon amounts to disapproval of either the pastor or his message, or both.

Quite often those who dare to raise the question “What did you think about the sermon?” expecting anything other than the pat and unhelpful response of “I thought it was great!” are seen as gossips spreading discord and division.

Unfortunately this has the effect of stunting too many Christians’ spiritual growth by blocking off what can otherwise be a very fruitful avenue of discourse and discovery. As much as a pastor would like, they simply can’t exhaust the subject (whatever it may be) in one hour on Sunday morning, or three if you grant him Sunday and Wednesday evenings.

A large part of real discipleship is asking questions, and since many sermons are forgotten the moment we walk out the doors, discussion and debate would at the very least serve as a memory aid to help us keep the message fresh in our minds.

Try taking a poll sometime of who remembers last week, or this morning’s, sermon. If they do remember the general topic, press them for what they specifically learned or about details. For kicks, ask them afterwards where they ate and with whom afterwards. My hunch is that many people will be able to tell you what their conversations were about during lunch more than they could tell you about the content of the sermon they heard only a few hours earlier.

But there’s more to it than that.

We are told in Scripture that the Bereans, among others, searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was accurate or not2. While I’ve heard many pastors encourage this practice, I’ve heard fewer who also encourage real cross examination. Rather, most rush to add to their exhortation to search the Scriptures regarding their sermons to only ask them questions in private. However if we are to learn, examine, and grow we must be willing to talk publicly about what we’ve been taught. After all, if the pastor has slipped up, he should expect and encourage the correction of observant and loving brethren rather than, for the sake of false unity and a misguided and misapplied sense of authority, wish such falterings to remain in the dark.

I believe many churches would be radically transformed if the people in them would simply have the courage and conviction to question the sermons they hear in a loving and respectful manner.

  1. Ironically the south is also commonly referred to as the Bible belt. []
  2. Acts 17:10-12 []
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Audio resources for learning and growing

For the past year or so I’ve been traveling to Atlanta on a consistent basis and because it’s a 2.5 hour trip, I decided the time was best spent listening to sermons, lectures, and Scripture (though, not without a good cup of coffee to help keep me awake first). Anyhow, I figured there might be some out there who want/need some good audio content for your MP3 player (or want to burn some of this content to CDs) so here’s my short list of where you can find the best fishing:

UPDATE: I’m going to continue to add links to sites I find helpful in the “Links” section.

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