Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Quantum of Solace" & Quantum Physics

The good news is that "Quantum of Solace" is not the worst movie ever made. That distinction goes to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

But QS is bad. Precisely because Daniel Craig has not one quantum of solace. Not one tiny indivisible entity of inner peace. And his face shows it. Craig's is the most monodimensional face in any movie I've ever seen, except for the robot Gort in the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still." I'm not expecting James Bond to break out in Jim Carrey-type grins but Sean Connery's Bond had more than an occasional twinkle in his eye. Craig's eye is as mischievous as a quark (but even quarks have six flavors).

I had trouble following the story line for the same reason I have trouble understanding quantum physics. The theatre I was in had poor sound. Linda and talked about this and then agreed that even though we had trouble hearing the words we didn't miss anything anyway.

Chuck Norris's Voice and Mine

Last week Linda and I went to Subway. "What would you like?" asked the young man behind the counter?

"A tuna sub on honey oat bread."

"What would you like on it?"

"Swiss cheese, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, extra hot peppers, oil and vinegar."

He then asked me, "Do you know who you sound like?"


"Chuck Norris."

I thought, to this kid I sound like Chuck Norris. I felt a warm feeling inside. I felt bigger, taller, stronger, more dangerous, more capable. And the only words I said were the ingredients of a sandwich.

Since then I've talked out loud while driving alone, just listening to the sound of my voice. A few times I've thought, "I do sound like Chuck Norris." I speak, and my enemies tremble.

Today's Toledo Blade on Darren Wilson's "Finger of God" and SSE at Our Church

Today's Toledo Blade has a nice article on Darren Wilson's "Finger of God" and promotes Chris Overstreet's School of Supernatural Evangelism at Redeemer.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

3 Meditations on Thankfulness

(Monroe County Community College)


“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

- Hebrews 2:18

We’re not in control. Agreed? Things we don’t control include: the global economy, what’s happening in India today, what’s happening in Bangkok today, other people, our own addictions, the weather, the common cold, gas prices, nations, the past, the future, most of what’s happening now, and death. Because these things are fundamentally out of our control or anyone’s control, attempts to control them sometimes get ugly, such as when we try to control other people.

All these uncontrollable things shift and move beneath our feet and before our eyes and make life uncertain. Sometimes the very foundations of our life get shaken and we get fearful. This has happened to me and will happen again, I am certain.

Many years ago my life was shaken. “I” was out of control. My choices and their results left me in a fearful condition. It was then that I looked to Christ. And something inside me shifted. The shift was from a heart that trusted in fundamentally uncontrollable things to life in a “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” This shift has been, for me, THE event of my entire life. Now I spend most of my time seeking the kingdom of God, and studying the things of the kingdom, and looking to God for strength to live these things out. I’m not the perfect kingdom citizen. But, like others I know, I’m the recipient of God’s kingdom. The result is that I am thankful. And it causes me to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”


“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

- Colossians 4:2-3

I think there are a lot more people who call themselves “Christians” who are not devoted to prayer then there are those who are devoted to prayer. I don’t mean to judge people re. this, but for years I’ve led conferences and taught on prayer throughout the United States and around the world. “Devotion to prayer” is lower in America and Europe than in Third World countries. I have found that the more one enters into the Third World the more devotion to prayer there is. Why?

Because the more stuff one has creates the illusion of un-neediness. And, a person has to be very, very busy to acquire all the stuff, so “there’s no time to pray.” In reality we’re all very needy. In America, mostly, we just don’t realize it.

The same, I think, is true for “watchfulness.” The American way of watching is passive, unengaged media-gazing. Media-deprived people know what it is to be watchful, like the farmer standing in his field gazing deep into the horizon searching for rain. True watchfulness follows from true neediness.

Paul instructs us to be devoted to prayer and to watchfulness. Real watchfulness contains an element of mystery. The media-illusion casts a spell of “knowledge” on people, masking the truth that this world we live in, to include our own selves, remains fundamentally a great mystery. The more mystery, the less we know we’re not in control, the more watchfulness emerges.

I find it interesting that Paul next instructs us to devote ourselves to being thankful. Thankfulness follows from prayerfulness and watchfulness. This is because a person who is devoted to prayer and watching has a great sense of need and dependency. When one is needy, then provision is not so taken for granted. Hence, thankfulness emerges. Gratitude happens.

Give your life to being thankful. Focus on thankfulness. Love being thankful. Make thankfulness a priority. Dedicate to thankfulness. Get a prayer life. Get a watchful life. Get a thankful life.


“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

- Colossians 2:6-7

At age 21 I received Christ Jesus as Lord. I welcomed Jesus. The result is that for the past 38 ½ years I have lived in him. Not perfectly. Jesus is God, I am not. But my receptiveness to Jesus has so changed my life that I wonder if I’d even be alive today were it not for him. I have sunk my roots into the deep, rich, life-giving soil of God’s kingdom and never left. If anything good has come into me and through me to others it’s Jesus, flowing through me.

And I am thankful. I feel thankful today. I don’t always feel that way, and when that happens I’ve lost the forest for the trees. I see the darkness and miss the light. I rarely feel ungrateful. Sometimes, I’m just in neutral – not ungrateful, but definitely not overflowing with thankfulness.

To “overflow,” literally, means to have more than a full cup. When a cup of water is full it overflows. Overflowing is the indicator of fullness. Therefore to be filled with God’s Spirit is to necessarily overflow. Part of this overflow is a thanks-shaped heart. It’s a wonderful way to live this life. It’s life sans bitterness. It’s for every day, every week. It’s even for Thanksgiving week.

Receive Christ Jesus as Lord.

Continue to live in him.

Sink your roots deep into life in his Kingdom.

Be built up in him. Construct your life in him.

Find yourself being strengthened in faith.

Let the overflow of thankfulness pour forth.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Synopsis of Michael Brown's Case for Jesus as the Messiah

(This is especially for those who heard my message last Sunday out of Luke 18.)

In Luke 18:31 we read: Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.

This is high Christology; viz., the claim that Jesus makes regarding himself being the fulfillment of the ancient Jewish Messianic promises. There are things that are going to unfold and happen in Jerusalem when Jesus gets there. It’s like Jesus us saying to his disciples, “You’ve heard of these things before. You’ve longed for these things to happen. Now’s the time.”

So what did the prophets write about? I’m going to present the reasoning of Dr. Michael Brown , using his synopsis found in Lee Strobel’s The Case for the Real Jesus. I find his analysis compelling. He’s a great scholar, having done his Ph.D in Near Eastern Languages and Literature from NYU. And, he’s a Jew who has found Jesus to be the Messiah. Here are Brown’s bullet points. (Many of these are simply direct quotes from Brown’s interview.)

1. Long ago, as recorded in the book of Genesis, God gave specific promises to the tribe of Judah regarding the covenant God made between himself and Israel. For example, Genesis 49:10 says “The scepter will not depart from Judah.” There was a man named Jesse who was of the tribe of Judah. Jesse had a son named David.

2. Isaiah 11:1 says “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The word “Branch” is commonly used to refer to the Messiah. The idea is that from Jesse, who is from the tribe of Judah, there’s going to come a “Messiah” who will bear fruit. There’s going to be a lasting kingship through David.

3. In Jeremiah 23:5 God said that he will raise from David’s line “a righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely.”

4. In the book of Isaiah we see references to someone called “the servant of the Lord.” Which means, “Messiah.” “Anointed One.” (The Greek words for “the Messiah” are “the Christ.”

5. Isaiah 42:1-4 say that the Messiah will not stop [falter] until he brings justice to the earth.

6. Isaiah 49 says that the “servant of the Lord” has the mission of re-gathering the tribes of Israel to bring them back to God.

7. In Isaiah 49:6 God says he will not only re-gather Israel. We read: “I will make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

8. Isaiah 50:6 speaks of the Messiah’s voluntary suffering.

9. In Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 we read that the Messiah will be highly exalted but first will suffer terribly. He will actually be disfigured in his suffering. The words here say the people of Israel didn’t get it. They thought he was suffering for his own sins and wickedness. They didn’t realize he was bearing their sins, suffering for them, and by his wounds there was healing for them. Then these verses speak of his death and his continued life after that.
a. Lee Strobel asked Michael Brown the question – “How important is this passage?”
b. Brown said: “It’s almost as if God said, ‘I want to make it so absolutely clear Yeshua is the Messiah that it’s undeniable.” I almost feel as if God would have to apologize to the human race and to the Jewish people for putting this passage into the scriptures when it so clearly points to Yeshua if he didn’t really mean it.”

10. Now we narrow things even more. In 2 Chronicles 7 God says if Israel’s sin reaches a certain level he will destroy the temple [Solomon’s], exile the people, and leave them in a state of judgment.
a. God says to the people of Israel – “Forsake me… and I will destroy the temple in Jerusalem.”
b. And, sure enough, all of this happens in history.

11. The prophet Daniel prays in Daniel 9 that God would have mercy.
a. God gives Daniel a revelation about the temple being rebuilt.
b. Before this new temple is destroyed, Daniel is told that several things are going to happen.
c. This includes the bringing of everlasting atonement – the final dealing with sin.

12. The Second Temple is built.
a. The prophet Haggai lives to see this second temple built.
b. But it’s nothing like the first temple, Solomon’s temple. Solomon’s temple was a stunning physical structure, far more imposing than the second temple. It also had the glory of God there. When sacrifices were offered, fire came down and consumed them.
c. The second temple didn’t have the presence of God or the divine fire.

13. BUT… Haggai said the glory of the second temple would be greater than the glory of the first temple. I love these verses – read closely:
a. Haggai 2:6-9 - 6 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD Almighty. 8 'The silver is mine and the gold is mine,' declares the LORD Almighty. 9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."
b. God would fill the second temple with his glory. But when God says he’ll fill the temple with glory, He’s talking about filling the temple WITH HIS PRESENCE.

14. Then the prophet Malachi, who lived later, says God HIMSELF… will come to his temple and purify some of his people and bring judgment on others. Malachi uses a Hebrew term that always refers to God himself – the Lord – he will come to this Second Temple.

15. The second temple was destroyed in AD 70. The prophesied visitation of God had to take place before the second temple was destroyed. So guess what’s happening, e.g., a passage like John 7. "On the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Tabernacles – God, you have provided… like You did in the wilderness…; food…, and water. SO… SEND RAIN!!!], Jesus stood [in the temple courts]… and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. 40On hearing his words, some of the people said, "Surely this man is the Prophet." 41Others said, "He is the Christ.""

16. The prophecy of Haggai is fulfilled when Jesus enters the temple courts and says things like “I am the light of the world,” and “If you are thirsty come to me.”
a. In this regard Michael Brown says – “So it’s not a matter of maybe there’s another one who’s the Messiah. If it’s not Jesus (“Yeshua”), then throw out the Bible, because nobody except him accomplished what needed to be done prior to AD 70.
i. What divine visitation did take place if not for Yeshua?
ii. When else did God visit the second temple in a personal way?
iii. Who else atoned for sin?
iv. How was the glory of the second temple greater than the first?
v. Either the Messiah came two thousand years ago or the prophets were wrong and we can throw out the Bible.
vi. But they weren’t wrong. Yeshua is the Messiah – or nobody is.” (Strobel, Case for RJ, 198)

For the full text of Strobel’s interview with Brown pick up The Case for the Real Jesus. It’s an excellent read – the entire book.

For Brown’s more complete and scholarly writings on this go here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Witherington on Calvinism's Unbiblical Intellectual Certainty

Here's a nice post by Ben Witherington on Calvinists who seem to think they've achieved "intellectual certainty" re. their theological position. Witherington wonders not only how such a thing is possible, but finds such a quest unbiblical.

Groothuis Reviews Moreland's "Kingdom Triangle"

(J.P. Moreland)

Doug Groothuis has reviewed J.P. Moreland's Kingdom Triangle. I was pleased to see that Groothuis agrees with Moreland's rejection of cessationism. Groothuis writes:

""The restoration of the Spirit's power" fills out the last leg of the kingdom triangle. Although Moreland graduated from a seminary that teaches that the supernatural gifts of the spirit (such as healing and prophecy) have ended (cessationism), in the past few years he has experienced some of these gifts himself and has reevaluated what the Bible teaches on these matters. He has come to believe that this dimension of Kingdom living is crucial if we are to respond effectively to the deadness and darkness of our time. I completely agree. While Moreland does not give a detailed exegetical or theological argument for the ongoing manifestation of supernatural gifts, he points out that the old cessationism has been losing its credibility among many, that Christians in the global south are experiencing these gifts in powerful ways, and that he himself has experienced or witnessed the miraculous dimension of the Kingdom of God in the past few years. What Moreland advocates is not classical Pentecostalism or the Charismatic renewal of the 1960s and 1970s, but the "third wave" approach of the Vineyard movement. This is an orientation that does not emphasize a second "baptism of the Holy Spirit" or insists on the speaking of tongues. It rather seeks God's supernatural agency for healing, prophecy, and other signs and wonders." "

J.P. will be one of the main speakers at our HSRM conference in Wisconsin this coming summer 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Plantinga & Draper on Noetic Structures & the Reliability of Belief-Forming Mechanisms

In my Philosophy of Religion class I'm wrapping up Alvin Plantinga's "Religious Belief Without Evidence," in Pojman's Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology. Plantinga's essay is followed by atheist Michael Martin's "A Critique of Plantinga's Religious Epistemology." Here Martin gives the rather famous "Great Pumpkin objection' in the form of the "voodoo objection."

A little over a year ago I wrote Dr. Plantinga some questions from Martin's essay, to which he kindly responded. I read Plantinga's letter to me to my class this morning.

After the class one student told me she read Paul Draper's essay in Pojman: "Evolution and the Problem of Evil." She asked how Plantinga might respond to that. I told her about the recent debate/dialogue between Draper and Plantinga found here.

Here's one of Plantinga's points to Draper, the point which I have been explaining in my class.

"Isn't there a problem, here, for the naturalist? At any rate for the naturalist who thinks that we and our cognitive capacities have arrived upon the scene after some billions of years of evolution (by way of natural selection and other blind processes working on some such source of genetic variation as random genetic mutation)? The problem begins in the recognition, from this point of view, that the ultimate purpose or function of our cognitive faculties, if they have one, is not to produce true beliefs, but to promote reproductive fitness.[3] What our minds are for (if anything) is not the production of true beliefs, but the production of adaptive behavior. That our species has survived and evolved at most guarantees that our behavior is adaptive; it does not guarantee or even suggest that our belief-producing processes are reliable, or that our beliefs are for the most part true. That is because our behavior could be adaptive, but our beliefs mainly false."

"Darwin himself apparently worried about this question: "With me," says Darwin,
the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?[4]"

AND... here's from Plantinga's review of Dawkins's God Delusion. Plantinga discusses theistic and atheistic noetic structures on the reliability of human cognitive faculties.

"Toward the end of the book, Dawkins endorses a certain limited skepticism. Since we have been cobbled together by (unguided) evolution, it is unlikely, he thinks, that our view of the world is overall accurate; natural selection is interested in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. But Dawkins fails to plumb the real depths of the skeptical implications of the view that we have come to be by way of unguided evolution. We can see this as follows. Like most naturalists, Dawkins is a materialist about human beings: human persons are material objects; they are not immaterial selves or souls or substances joined to a body, and they don't contain any immaterial substance as a part. From this point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be adaptive; but why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable?From a theistic point of view, we'd expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalist point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a na�ve hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he'd have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It's as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world.If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable—a reason for rejecting that belief, for no longer holding it. (Example of a defeater: suppose someone once told me that you were born in Michigan and I believed her; but now I ask you, and you tell me you were born in Brazil. That gives me a defeater for my belief that you were born in Michigan.) And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for any belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs—including naturalism itself. So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; natural- ism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins' naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can't rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Plantinga's Modal Argument on Foreknowledge & Free Will

This is for my Philosophy of Religion class. Sorry about that fact that I could not figure out how to get both modal logic symbols and symbolic logic symbols on this post.



(See: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [IEP], "Foreknowledge and Free Will")

Consider these two statements:

- A) God knows that Paul will eat an orange.
- B) Paul will eat an orange for lunch tomorrow.

Each of these propositions, by itself, could be true and could be false.

But if A is true then B cannot be false. For if A is true (i.e. if it is true that God knows that Paul will eat an orange for lunch tomorrow) then B is also true.

Put another way: the truth of A guarantees the truth of B. This is to say that:

(1) It is impossible (for A to be true and for B to be false).

The compound sentence, A and not-B , is impossible (i.e. is necessarily false).

It reads: It is not possible that: God knows that Paul will eat an orange tomorrow and that Paul will not eat an orange tomorrow.

So, that entire statement is: TRUE.

"Now it is a curious fact about most natural languages – English, French, Hebrew, etc. – that when we use modal terms in ordinary speech, we often do so in logically misleading ways. Just see how natural it is to try to formulate the preceding point this way" (IEP):

That is, because (1) is true, it seems that (2) is also true. And (2) is:

(2) If A is true, then it is impossible for B to be false.

It reads: If [God knows that Paul will eat an orange tomorrow], then it is not possible that [Paul not eat an orange tomorrow].

Statement (2) is: FALSE

NOW NOTE: the proposition expressed by (1) is not equivalent to the propositions expressed by (2).

So (1) is true. But (2) is false and commits the modal fallacy.

The fallacy occurs in its assigning the modality of impossibility (necessity), not to the relationship between the truth of A and falsity of B as is done in (1), but to the falsity of B alone.

AGAIN (1) states: It is not possible that [God knows that Paul will eat an orange for lunch tomorrow and Paul choose to not eat an orange for lunch tomorrow]. THAT’S TRUE.

BUT (2) DOES NOT FOLLOW LOGICALLY: If [God knows that Paul will eat an orange for lunch tomorrow] then it is not possible [that Paul can choose to not eat an orange for lunch tomorrow].

If (2) was true, then it would be NECESSARY that Paul chooses to eat an orange tomorrow.

But the statement “Paul will eat an orange tomorrow” is a contingent, not a necessary, statement. Therefore (2) is false, and not logically equivalent to (1).

[1] In formal logic, a modal logic is any system of formal logic that attempts to deal with modalities. Traditionally, there are three 'modes' or 'moods' or 'modalities' of the copula to be, namely, possibility, probability, and necessity.

False Teachings of the (Declining) Church of Oprah

(Sterling State Park)

Oprah Winfrey is a false prophet who has referred to herself as a “Christian” but who embraces a mix of mystical teachings that are unrelated and antithetical to actual Chrsitianity. This is seen in her love affair with the ideas of a man who calls himself “Eckhart Tolle.”
Tolle wrote a book that became a big seller called “A New Earth.” Last year I read this scandalous and sophomoric book because, apparently, many were buying it. Were people actually reading it? That I don’t know, since I have learned that people don’t necessarily read the books they purchase. For example, when Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was big seller it was called “the book everyone has bought but no one has read.” I actually read Bloom’s book over a series of days – it’s a very good, very deep and insightful read. As for Tolle’s book, I read it one night – it’s shallow reading. And, as I said, it’s scandalous, spiritually speaking. Tolle’s citations of Jesus are, honestly, laughable. Yet I wasn’t laughing at the thought that some would read his book and think he was on to something.

I am suspicious of anyone who changes his first name from “Ulrich” to “Eckhart” and then writes about being truthful and authentic. This is because, in my doctoral studies, I did an independent study with medieval scholar Richard Kieckhefer (Northwestern U.) on the German Christian mystic Meister Eckhart. Meister Eckhart is, historically and even spiritually, interesting. But he’s questionable when his idea of mystical experience approaches what sounds like the possibility of a metaphysical union with God.

Does “Eckhart” Tolle understand Meister Eckhart? I can’t tell. But he’s definitely on the metaphysical union side of things, except it’s far from clear that the m-union has anything to do with God. It’s more like the old “surprise – you can be one with the Universe” kind of thing. At any rate “Eckhart” Tolle is a universe away from Christianity.

When Oprah promoted Tolle’s book I thought, “She’s even more dangerous and off-base then I thought she was!” Now, in a new book called “Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth: A Critique,” Chicago theologian Erwin Lutzer takes on the “Church of Oprah.” Lutzer says: “If you understand Christianity, you understand that the kind of new spirituality that is being propagated by Oprah is incompatible. It’s a form of occultism that is being packaged for American audiences.”

A recent Chicago Tribune article on Lutzer’s book states: “Since March 2008, more than 2 million people from 139 countries have tuned into Winfrey’s new spirituality “webinars” such as “A Course in Miracles” and “A New Earth.” Students learn about the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening that requires transcending our egos—a prerequisite for personal happiness and world peace. Lutzer said many who are taking these courses are searching for something that will bring them closer to God. But Oprah, who describes herself as a “freethinking” Christian, is not leading them into a deeper walk with God, he said. She is leading them astray.”

I agree. Oprah is a false prophet.

And, according to others, the Church of Oprah is now in decline.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Michael Brown on the Real Jesus

Dr. Michael Brown is a Jew who has come to believe that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. Brown is arguably the greatest defender of Jesus the Messiah today. He did his Ph.D in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He’s one of the scholars interviewed in Lee Strobel’s excellent The Case for the Real Jesus. Brown makes a clear and compelling case for Jesus being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophetic Messianic hopes. I loved what Brown said in his concluding remarks to Strobel.

“Yeshua is the right continuation of my Jewish roots. He’s the Messiah of Israel and the savior of the world. He’s the one to whom I owe my life, and through him I’ve come to know God.

He is the one who provided for me complete forgiveness of sins, who loved me when I was a miserable, ungrateful, rebellious, proud wretch. He put a new heart and a new spirit within me; he has turned my life around and given it meaning. He’s the fullness of God in bodily form. He’s the very expression and image of the Father – in seeing him, I see and know God.

And he’s the only hope of the world. Outside of him, all we see is darkness. He’s the hope of Israel. Israel will run out of options and finally in the end recognize that the one it thought was the source of all its pain and suffering through the years actually is its only hope.

He’s the beginning and the end, the all in all. I cannot imagine existing outside of him. I can’t imagine purpose in life outside of him. So really he is the ultimate expression of God to the human race. That’s why I’m spending my life talking to Jewish people – as compassionately and accurately as I can – about the reality of Jesus the Messiah.

I just can’t withhold God’s very best from those he dearly loves.” (225)

I find these to be good words, especially today, given the global fears that surround us. Political solutions fail. Yeshua is the only hope for the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The End of America

Yesterday's London Times has an article titled "National Intelligence Council report: sun setting on the American century." The article begins: "The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant global power, according to a frighteningly bleak assessment by the US intelligence community.
“The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” said the report by the National Intelligence Council, a body of analysts from across the US intelligence community."

So, here's our [possible] future:

- daily threat of nuclear war

- environmental catastrophes

- decline of America as the dominant global power

- increased conflict over resources such as food and water

- terrorist groups have easier access to nuclear weapons


- global warming will aggravate the scarcity of food, water, and energy resources

- climate change will force 200 million people to migrate

- the wealth - poverty gap will widen

- there will be a global economic balancing

- organized crime will increase, maybe even take over entire countries in Europe

The bleak article concludes with one sentence: "On a positive note it added that an alternative to oil might be in place by 2025." Well that makes me feel better!

To all this I say... why not? Anyone with even a slight understanding of history knows all of this is possible. And, when I think of my children and potential grandchildren, it's sad. As a Christian theist this kind of report only strengthens my conviction that our real hope lies in the kingdom of heaven coming to earth. Most of these depressing possibilities concern human choices and what they lead to. The Jesus-message of the Kingdom says this: change human hearts and socio-cultural transformation will inexorably follow.

Logic and Rhubarb Pie

We're currently studying informal fallacies in my Intro to Logic class. On the coming exam students will have to identify whether an argument commits any one of a number of informal fallacies or commits no fallacy.

In Hurley's Intro to Logic he gives, as an example of "no fallacy," the following argument.

1. Rhubarb pie is a dessert.

2. Therefore, whoever eats rhubarb pie eats a dessert.

In this argument no informal fallacy is committed. Also, it's a valid deductive argument, which is to say: if the premise is true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. So, formally, it's a valid deductive argument. But is it a sound argument? Only if P1 is true.

We had quite a debate tonight over this thing! One student even left the classroom for a few minutes and went to a computer to print out the lexical definition of "dessert."

If you're in my class I now appeal to you:

The argument commits no informal fallacy.

The argument is valid deductive.

We don't know if it is "sound" or not - that depends on P1 being true. In other words we have to know that P1 is true. It seems debatable, and I think that's where the debate was taking place tonight. As for me, I think P1 is true.

Now imagine this. You're sitting down to a Thanksgiving meal next week at your grandmother's house. She says "Let's start with an appetizer!" She then proceeds to bring out a rhubarb pie. You say to her, "But grandmother, that's a dessert, not an appetizer, because the lexical definition of "dessert" means "something served at the end of a meal."" (Privately, you also wonder about her mental competency.) She says "Oh yes, I am so sorry." It's only because you recognize rhubarb pie as a dessert that you're able to express your confusion about this. But then someone says, "Why don't we eat the rhubarb pie first?" And, getting very radical, you all do just that. You begin the meal with "dessert" and violate it's lexical definition.
Or, you go to a restaurant and on the list of entrees there appears, right below prime rib, "rhubarb pie." Hasn't something gone quite wrong here precisely because a dessert is mislocated?

Therefore, has not my point been made? :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

American Christians Are Responsible For the Unhappiness of American Atheists?

Paul Bloom's thesis is that American atheists are less happy than American religious people because the latter exclude the former from community. It's community that makes us happy, not religion. Bloom argues that, e.g., Danes and Swedes are happy even though they are atheists precisely because they call themselves "Christians," "they get married in church, have their babies baptized, give some of their income to the church, and feel attached to their religious community—they just don't believe in God... Scandinavian Christians are a lot like American Jews, who are also highly secularized in belief and practice, have strong communal feelings, and tend to be well-behaved."

I find Bloom a bit unclear about this, since he's reviewing Phil Zuckerman's new book Society Without God. "Zuckerman looks at the Danes and the Swedes—probably the most godless people on Earth. They don't go to church or pray in the privacy of their own homes; they don't believe in God or heaven or hell. But, by any reasonable standard, they're nice to one another."

OK - Danes and Swedes: 1) don't go to church: and 2) get married in church, have their babies baptized in church, give some of their income to the church, and feel attached to their religious community." Since, biblically, "religious community" = "church" (and does not equal "a building"), it sounds like Danes and Swedes aren't part of the church and are part of the church. I just need more help from Bloom here, since he's arguing that Danes and Swedes are non-religious and happy but are attached to a religious community.

Does religion make a person happy and non-religion make an atheist not happy? Who cares? I'm reminded of something I read from C.S. Lewis years ago (in I believe, God In the Dock). Lewis was asked if he converted from atheism to Christianity because it made him happy. Lewis responded that if his goal was happiness he would have popped open a bottle of wine instead of converting to Christianity. He became a Christian because he thought it was the truth. Me too. Believing that one is on to the truth could produce inner joy if that truth gave one meaning in life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roman Catholic Bishops to Oppose Obama on Abortion

Today's has an article re. Roman Catholic bishops who will confront Barack Obama on the abortion issue. The article states:

"Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is preparing a statement during the bishops' fall meeting that will press Obama on abortion.

The bishops suggested that the final document include the message that "aggressively pro-abortion policies" would be viewed "as an attack on the church.""

Monday, November 10, 2008

Violent "Reconversion" of Christians in India to Hinduism

Here's a article on violent Hindu groups in India who are "reconverting" Christians back to Hinduism. I'm especially interested in this since we have friends now in India training Christian leaders.

Billy Graham on Praying for Political Leaders

Tired of reading Christians who demonize our political leaders? If so, then consider some actual wisdom from Billy Graham. It’s his 90th birthday, and he is interviewed at

Billy is asked:

I understand that you are an avid TV news and talk show watcher. Were you following the presidential campaign? Any endorsements?

Graham responds: “I’ve always tried to keep up with what’s happening in the world, and I still do—including politics. But no, I’m not making any endorsements, and I’m staying out of partisan politics. I’m grateful for our system of government, and I strongly urge people to vote—but I don’t endorse any candidate.

I also strongly urge people to pray for our new leaders, whoever they are, because they will be facing enormous problems, and they’ll need great wisdom and patience from God to deal with them. I pray also that they’ll be able to work across party lines on these problems, and avoid the partisan wrangling that we’ve seen in recent years.”

Now there’s a biblical idea. It’s 1 Timothy 2:1-7 -”1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” If you or I have a problem with some elected leader God has allowed us to see it so we can pray for them. Surely God loves them. Jesus told us we’re even to love our enemies. Personally, I don’t view any current elected leader as my enemy precisely because I am free to live out the Gospel and preach it. What if that changes? I don’t see that stopping me either. Don’t panic or spread panic. Instead, pray.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Deconstruct Self-Love to Construct a Cross

Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To take up the cross everyday one must deny the self. This means, among other things, that self-love and cross-carrying don’t go together. Deconstruct the self in order to construct a cross and carry it.

This is a profound thing because the self-love issue goes very deep. Self-love, writes Thomas Merton, "is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unquiet and all misery and all unhappiness - ultimately, it is hell."[1] How much easier is it to love the self before loving others and living sacrificially in relationship to them. One British politician's actions were once described as "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his friends for his life."[2] I discover in my heart a deep-rooted propensity to love “me” as my first priority. But I want to follow Jesus, so I see the “love me” thing must be rejected.

As a young Christian I was counseled to keep my priorities as follows:
a. Love God first
b. Love others second
c. Love self
I have found that when I live in this way the love I have for myself is healthy and godly. This love of self is also called pride. C.S. Lewis called pride “the great sin – the complete anti-god mentality.” Put simply, it’s impossible to love God with all one’s being if one has such an elevated love of self. Francis Frangipane refers to pride as “the armor of darkness.”[3] I like this definition of pride because is shows how this kind of self-love necessarily thwarts spiritual renewal and transformation. And, as Merton said, while all this seems counterintuitive to the proud lover of self, in reality it’s all boredom and misery.

1 – Thomas Merton, The Waters of Siloe
[2] Eddie Askew, No Strange Land, p. 20
[3] Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds

Refuting the Legendary-Jesus Thesis

While teaching apologetics at Faith Bible Seminary I mentioned that there are a few scholars and some internet non-scholars who maintain that Jesus never existed. Two books that decisively refute this idea are: The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition, by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd; and The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N.T. Wright (especially chapter two).

Eddy and Boyd write: "Much of the fuel for the legendary-Jesus thesis is drawn from anachronistic approaches to the early Jesus tradition, approaches that are tied to a modern, literary paradigm. Our contention is that when the early Jesus tradition is assessed from an orally oriented perspective - and in concert with an appropriate historical methodology - the legendary-Jesus thesis becomes difficult to maintain... We will provide an overview of eight major lines of argumentation that are typically proffered by defenders of the legendary-Jesus thesis." (15)

Eddy and Boyd are so thorough that their book becomes the text that must be looked at if one thinks Jesus didn't exist as a historical person.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Philosophy of Religion Oral Exams: #2

Oral exams will be held: this Friday, room C-232; next Monday, room Z-272.

Students need to be able to explain the views of the following philosophers re. the "problem of evil against the existence of God":

1. Mackie's logical argument

2. Buddhism - evil is an illusion

3. Plantinga - refutation of Mackie

4. Rowe's inductive argument from evil

5. Hick's soul-making theodicy

6. Wyckstra's refutation of Rowe - CORNEA

"Be Still" dvd at Redeemer Tomorrow Morning

Tomorrow morning at Redeemer (Thursday, Nov. 6), from 9:30 - 11, we'll be showing a new movie called "Be Still."

From the website:

"One of the greatest challenges for believers today is to stop, to be silent and learn to listen to the still, small voice of God through scripture. BE STILL is an interactive DVD that explores the history, importance, and power of listening prayer from a cross-denominational point of view. It features interviews with Dr. Henry Cloud, Calvin Miller, Max Lucado, Priscilla Shirer, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Beth Moore, and many more. BE STILL demonstrates how, even in the hectic modern world, the practice of listening prayer can deepen our relationship with God and those around us and become a vital part of everyday life."


"BE STILL" DVD FROM 9:30 - 11

You're all invited!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On God's Love - in English & in Mandarin

One of the messages I preached on 11/2/08 at Faith Bible Church in NYC can be listened to or watched here.

This Election Will (NOT) Change the World

On Christiane Amanpour writes: "No election has electrified the U.S. like this since 1968. But the whole world wishes it could cast a vote in this one. Whatever happens, this U.S. election will change the world."

#1 - "No election has electrified the U.S. like this since 1968." Probably TRUE.

#2 - "The whole world wishes it could cast a vote in this one." FALSE. If taken literally. True if taken figuratively? I don 't know. How could one tell?

#3 - "Whatever happens, this U.S. election will change the world." FALSE. Ahhh, the excitement of the media.

#4 - If the upside-down kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed comes the world will be changed. TRUE.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Apologetics at Faith Bible Seminary in NYC

For my FBS students:

Thank you for allowing me to be your teacher last week. I greatly enjoyed being with you, and thank God for all of you!

Here are some thoughts and resources regarding our Apologetics course I want to share with you.

OUR KEY BIBLE VERSES WERE: 1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:16-32.

1 PETER 3:15 - the English words "to give the reason" translate one Greek word - apologian. "Apologetics" is to give the reason for the hope we have inside of us.

Here are some very good websites for studies in Christian apologetics:

- - the website of Christian philosopher William Lane Craig

- - Ravi Zacharias ministries

- - the website of Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland
- - the website of Christian philosopher Paul Copan

The Moral Argument for God's Existence, as formulated by William Lane Craig, is this:

1. If there is no God, then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

For Craig's argument go here, sign up for free, then go to "scholarly articles," "Existence of God," and finally to "The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality."

Some very good books that relate to what I taught in class include:

- The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N.T. Wright (In class I shared that a strong historical argument can be made for the resurrection of Jesus)

- Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, by Ravi Zacharias (This relates to my presentation on the uniqueness of Jesus and Christianity among the other world religions)

- C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason, by Victor Reppert (Reppert's argument relates to by free will argument I gave in class)

- Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (This is one of the most famous apologetic books ever written.)

- Satan & the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy, by New Testament Scholar and Christian philosopher Greg Boyd (On evil, Satan, and human free will. I really like Greg's response to the question "How can there be an all-loving, all-powerful God and evil in the world?")

If you have any questions please e-mail me at: