Apologetics, What Good Are They?

Apologetics Applied

How useful is apologetics, making a systematic and reasoned defense for your faith?

I’ve always loved the practice, since it combines the way my mind works, helps answer difficult questions for me, and is useful in arguments. I think it is that last part that raised the question of how useful a working knowledge of apologetics may be. Winning an argument with someone is not winning the person, and what is the point of that?

Should we as followers of Jesus Christ be self satisfied, feeling good that “we are right”?

To be clear, there are a couple places where St. Paul strongly advocates being able to make a defense, or argument, for our Christian faith. It fortifies the mind against the hostile assaults that are so common today. If you don’t think that American society in particular, and the global community in general, doesn’t have an axe to grind with Christianity I’m not sure where you’ve been keeping yourself. Having a solid set of reasons for believing in Christ and the tenets of the gospel is a strong protection against the ridicule and bitter diatribe aimed towards Christians.

There is no question in my mind about how useful strong, reasoned defensive arguments are for a Christian, personally. I do have serious doubts about the application of this type of thinking and communication in the interactions of evangelism. That is the use of apologetics in sharing the gospel seems far less effective than some groups of Believers would have it.

I spent the better part of my life in some sort of debate of this kind with people around me who I desperately hoped, and fervently prayed would come to faith in Christ. I so much wanted to see them experience the peace, the joy, and the wholeness that a relationship with God can bring. But, frustratingly, the arguments, even when masterfully destroying every barrier and stronghold, just didn’t produce much fruit.

The best that could be said for such conversations is that they bulldozed through preconceptions and paved the way for possible consideration of Christ. But those arguments didn’t bring life. And ministering life is what the gospel is all about. Even if that brings death to old traditions and cherished misconceptions.

So, it can be said that all the time spent with my Dad, or on forums arguing the merits of Christianity were not all time lost, but they were not times that produced what I most hoped they could.

Apologetics are useful for the intellect of a person, but that isn’t where most people’s struggles take place. For most, if not all, it is in the heart. And if apologetics aren’t so useful in that arena, what is?

The answer seems like a cliche waiting to happen, but if you combine the clearly defined explanations of 1 Corinthians 13th chapter, and the book of 1st John, (for starters) you will find the real power of conviction is steadily applied Agape love. Caring, honoring, self-sacrificing, serving, healing, longsuffering love. The type of love we call unconditional, but which we so often mar with our conditions.

In the face of such love, hostility and the hardest internal barriers are defenseless. Nothing in the world or the depths of hell has any weapon of use against it.

If I were to look for a reason to say apologetics is important or necessary, it would be to say that it is as a support for the formation of that sort of love and enduring spirit. Apologetics are more for us as Christians, and it is the good works, the signs and wonders, and the kindness that is evangelism’s companion actions. With the heart, sometimes a good argument just gets in the way.

Christianity is a whole package deal, and without putting the whole of ones heart, soul, body, and spirit into God’s hands, there is little of worth we can produce. Today’s piecemeal ala carte Christianity doesn’t represent Christ well, and it doesn’t deliver life dependably, but the gospel as it was meant to be believed and lived offers the only antidote to death, and all its horrible manifestations in humanity.

No where else is there the answers we need. The application of Christian apologetics establishes a plain pathway to see that more clearly. And that is its usefulness.

Examples of my efforts in apologetics:
Why Christ Had To Die
Answering Atheism

Will Cessationism cease? That is the question…

I am taking the liberty to fisk a high profile posting on the cessationist argument… as it was lobbed to the post of Adrian Warnock. I just wanted to …. even though fisking may be frowned upon.
This is the post, mostly -skipping over the preamble, answered in a rebuttal manner as is common in forums. I use asterisks to point out important points to answer, the color for Adrian, the color for Pyro and my template color for my answer or comment.

Tongues” across the water: response to Adrian, part one
by Dan Phillips

… our friend Adrian Warnock “got all het up” over my post on the tongues of angels. My roughly 630 words provoked something like 2700 words of response from Adrian. I tremble at the thought of what these larger posts will bring down on my poor old head.

In doing me the honor of raking me over the coals in Christian love, Adrian, God love him (and I mean that), wanders pretty much all over creation. He brings in Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Piper, African missionaries, the Toronto “Blessing,” a dozen texts or so,….

I propose three posts in response. In the second, I mean to give semi-rapid-fire responses to at least most of Adrian’s text-based questions. In the third, I hope to present some concluding areas of agreement and disagreement.

In this the first response, I’ll target what to me is not only the heart of Adrian’s post, but of much of the Charismatic bypath. It is found among his final words in the post. It’s long, but I want to quote it in toto:

Why do so many cessationists actually argue for the exact opposite of what Jesus Himself says in Luke 11 (see the whole context). Jesus ends the parable by saying, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else. Where they have asked for the bread of tongues, they have been given the stone of foolish gibberish. Where they have asked for the fish of prophecy, they have been given the serpent of hallucinatory delusions worthy of a madman. This cannot be right, in my humble opinion, as it makes Jesus Himself into a trickster. At the very least, God should have given us clearer directions in the Bible to manage our expectations and help us ALL to realise that cessationism is the biblical teaching. This issue has clear implications for the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. If Jesus Himself appears to tantalise these people with an offer to give the Spirit to those who ask and really means something very different to the gift of the Spirit we see in Acts, then surely He would have told us!

I see two critical problems in Adrian’s reasoning here.

*******First, brother Adrian reads a great deal into the text. Our Lord simply asks, if rendered over-literally, “If therefore you, though actually being wicked, know to give good gifts to your children, how much rather will the Father who is from Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13, emphases added). ****

Is he reading into it, or is he adding together from other scriptures to get a balanced view of the whole? The verses here are assurances that what God is spiritually giving to a sincere believing supplicant can be presumed good. It is directly related to receiving the Holy Spirit.. and inclusion of all the attending gifts and actions, that God chooses, could be implied .

Adrian immediately leaps hither:
“The cessationist has to deal with the fact that millions of people today have asked God for an experience of the Holy Spirit, and that in direct contrast to what Jesus Himself said, by definition, if cessationism is true, they have not received the Spirit, but rather something else.”

Then Adrian immediately goes to prophecy and tongues.
But what has Jesus said in this verse about tongues, or about prophecy? What did He say about any specific and particular manifestation or “experience”? Is there any chance that even one of Jesus hearers would have made the associations Adrian makes? Surely not.****

The manifestations are spoken of in a different place, and further underlined by the history that starts in the book of Acts. Our associations would be based upon the history that follows, in this case, with scriptural canon imprimatur.

Indeed, here as in other texts (as I’ll show, DV), Adrian’s proof proves too much.If Adrian is going to read this passage as an iron-clad guarantee… well, the mind fairly reels with the consequences.

**** This would have to mean that God, on Adrian’s stated understanding, will always and ever give whatever specific spiritual manifestation everyone and anyone asks, on any occasion. Nor can we condition it on God’s will, nor on our faith — again, on Adrian’s reading — for our Lord mentions neither. ****

I do not see that implied in Adrian’s statements, it seems to be your own extrapolation. It appears to be a cheap shot at association with some of the worst of excesses in modern Christendom for the sake of a knee jerk response on the part of the reader.

****Anything that happens after such a prayer can be charged to God. To fail to do so calls the perspicuity of Scripture (not our handling of it) into serious question.
If it’s an ironclad and unconditional guarantee as presented above, then one request by any believer should ever and always result in any spiritual gift he names. God has to do as I ask, for His glory’s sake.****

This is so much of a twist that I hardly know where to start. Just because I am assured of the faithfulness of God, and confident enough to bring my petitions does not translate into a jerk chain around the neck of the Heavenly Father- as if such a thing could be imagined in the context of Who God Is. But I perceive a little jerk chain of your own in citing things this way, and I have to ask myself…why is that? Conflated thinking. Assurance of something being good and coming from God is not the same as God being bound to the creatures command .

Is God really at my command, to that degree? This seems to me to be one of several junctures at which the first word in the phrase “reformed charismatic” is the weaker of the two.

You may have a point, but in the whole context of your argument I am not willing to give it to you right now. You will have to work for it and explain just what you mean. That the two are inimical?

Now, we know that this has never happened thus in church history. Anywhere. Ever. Has anyone ever even taught this? Surely Adrian will deny that this is what he believes. Yet this is where his line of thinking necessarily leads from his way of handling the text, if followed out relentlessly.

Support this please, if this is not based on the previous ( wrong) premise which misunderstands both the scripture and what Adrian was saying. For I believe it to unsupportable as stated.

*****Further, this way of dealing with the text plucks it right out of its place in the history of redemption. Did anything change in God’s dealings with men, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ, and Pentecost? Ezekiel thought something would change someday (Ezekiel 36:25-27). John the Baptist surely thought something would change (Mark 1:8). John certainly thought something would change (John 7:39). John certainly presented Jesus as thinking something would change (John 14:17). Peter thought something did change (Acts 11:15). Does Adrian? When was that change?
What was that change? Does the change at all inform how we handle texts placed before and after it? Does context have any meaning whatever?

Your line of thinking is not clear here. Can God change? No. “I change not”[ Psalm 55:19] Can He do something new? Yes, “I proclaim to you new things from this time, Even hidden things which you have not known.” [Isaiah 48:6] And besides this, it is not clear that you know, from your own interpretation, when specific changes take place. Now or in the time to come? Before or after Christ’s second coming? When, in your understanding and according to the scriptures do the cited changes take place? This is the gist of the contention, the timing of when certain spiritual things are fulfilled and put away and which remain now, and close at a future time and event.

This is a common mistake in charismatic thought. The Bible is read as if the great moments of redemptive history — the descent of the Spirit, the closing of the Canon — have no real implications. It is as if the Bible should be read as a mural, a large photo, instead of as an unfolding story with movements, climaxes, and openings and closings of acts (Hebrews 1:1-2).********

I don’t see how this can stand. Just because they understand things a different way, does not implicate that they do not see sequentially, as well. The difference seems to be in the when and how that view of sequence is applied. If there is a case for cessationism then the sequence of the closure and the timing of it has to be proven from scripture… the whole point of Charismatics, and all those convinced of the continuation of God’s gifts to the Church is that the closure has not yet taken place.

What if we took Adrian at his word, though?
******* His way of dealing with the text means that Jesus has made an unconditional guarantee to give any manifestation of the Spirit to anyone who asks. Jesus is responsible for everything that happens after I ask. If it isn’t legit, then He (according to Adrian) is a trickster.

Well, then, let’s say I think the Bible could use another book or two. For instance, it could use one that settles this whole Charismatic issue forever.*****

It isn’t a matter of unconditional, and not a matter of anyone getting everything they ask… it has never been taken out of the context that Christians receive what God decides in His sovereignty to give them. But they are encouraged to ask and that with boldness and faith.

The second statement here is a straw man. A real one. You can say anything you want, and no doubt Christians would like the Bible to say more specifically what they want it to say. But the important things are in there for those who have the ears and the eyes to discern it. The Bible, as it stands, says plenty about the gifts, and particularly about speaking in tongues. The continualist says that is still applicable. Does God say some things, still, that aren’t written in the canon, but are no less His Words? The Bible makes a strong case for that. Is this what you are disputing? That man can no longer hear a personal Word form God? For himself, or his family or his nation… or the Church? It doesn’t have to be written on stone plates to be a true word from the Lord. The judgment of that is clearly given in the scriptures, and Israel struggled with the false and the true, so that isn’t something new under the sun either.

****So what if I ask the Lord to give me the gift of prophetic, inscripturating revelation? What if I ask Him to write those books through me? What if I ask Him to send the Spirit to make me the author of the sixty-seventh book of the Bible?*****

Is this what the authors of canon did? did they approach God or did God approach them with the writing of scripture? So it is a false question. Church Fathers passed judgment centuries after the time of the early Church on what was and was not canon scripture. The closure was not found within the books themselves. Can people limit themselves to the Book? yes. Can they limit themselves to KJV Only? yes. But that doesn’t erase validity of the Lord speaking in other ways. Guidelines for judging the prophetic are within the scriptures. No one has to take anything as scripture, if only they judge things by scripture that has gone before…. as the books of the canon were indeed judged inter-contextually.

****Isn’t Adrian bound by his own thinking either to accept my book, or conclude that the Lord is a trickster?****


****And what if the book I write after praying for revelation says that Charismaticism is a delusion? What a bind that would put Adrian in!****

I don’t think so. You could, and people have. It still gets judged by what has gone before and the test of the basic accepted canon. Adrian has not placed himself outside those boundaries, neither should another.

Or what if I asked for a tongue and an interpretation, said “Wobbedy bop,” and interpreted it to mean “Tongues have ceased”? Wouldn’t that, on Adrian’s reasoning, be chargeable to Jesus’ account?

Only on your previous erroneous premises.

“Oh, no, that’s just stupid,” someone will reply. “You’d be tempting the Lord. He isn’t responsible for every lamebrained thing you do, just because you prayed before you did it!”

Which brings me to my second point.

The Lord is not responsible for every lamebrained thing we do, just because we prayed first.
wholehearted agreement. You see, Adrian’s handling of this text really leaves us with only one choice. I was going to write “two choices,” but on reflection, Adrian leaves us only one. Everything that happens after we pray has to be of God, or Jesus is a “trickster.”

Only in your own line of thinking… not predicated upon what is actually in the scriptures. The only thing the scriptures point out and which every Christian anchors within is the goodness and faithfulness of God. The God who is the same today, yesterday and forever. The manifestations are spoken of in a different place, and further underlined by the history that starts in the book of Acts. Our associations would be based upon the history that follows, in this case, with scriptural canon imprimatur.

This premise, a faulty one in my estimation, binds good folk like Adrian. It chains them to defend the indefensible, as surely as the Roman Catholic must defend every ruling and appalling error of his sect. Since manifestly nothing that the Charismatic movement has uniquely produced in the last 100 years has ever measured up to the Biblical phenomenon note: subjective judgment, we have to re-interpret the Bible to fit what is happening today. Because if it’s all a fraud and a distraction, then Jesus is a “trickster.” And since Jesus cannot be a trickster, we have to come up with some explanation that makes wanna-be manifestations legit. We have to define the Biblical phenomena down, to prop the modern phenomena up.

How about fitting it all to be within the parameters of the early Church, would that be acceptable?

*****This is a big reason why Charismaticism is where it is today, the “twenty million people can’t be wrong” argument.****

I can’t emphasize enough how much this is NOT the Charismatic argument. It isn’t about numbers, it is about the validity of that person’s testimony as a bona fide Christian, and the numbers represent many of those bona fide Christians. The question is why would you dismiss their testimony? Upon what scriptural basis?

Can’t they? Can ten out of twelve spies be wrong? Can the majority of the nation of Israel be wrong? Is truth settled by majority vote alone? Is that how we do exegesis — people prayed A, and Z happened, therefore the Bible must mean theta?

*****I’ve done lots of stupid things, after praying. Can I bill them all to God? Wouldn’t that be cool?****

Are you done with the argumentum ad ridiculum yet?

Well, no, if we force ourselves to think it through, it really wouldn’t be cool. Sure, there would be the short-term gain of me being able to shrug off responsibility for all the stupid, foolish, and sinful things I’ve done after praying.

Do the Charismatic churches teach this? Support your statement, because I don’t find that either in the writing or the practice. I find lots of teaching about accountability and personal responsibility, without limiting the manner in which God acts, based upon our scriptural understanding of that.

But the long-term loss would be inestimable. In short, I’d lose the Biblical portrayal of God. God would be the author of my stupid and sinful behavior. He’d become a fickle imp, and prayer would become a good-luck charm at best, or a get-out-of-responsibility-free card at worst.

Again, this conclusion is based upon your own earlier premises in the best circular manner

Of course, there is an alternative.
*****We can cleave to the Word above all and through all, and judge our experiences by it — not the reverse.***

We are back to our base of agreement. I’m with you on this.

Is it not a judge of the thoughts and emotions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)? Is it not forever settled in the heavens, far above the shifting vagaries of our experience, and the passing trends and fads of our culture (Psalm 119:89)? Is it not the means of my fellowship with the Father and His Son (John 14:21-23; 1 John 1:1-3)? Is it not my cleaving to the Word that proves the reality, or unreality, of my claim to be a disciple (John 8:31-32)?

Yes, yes, and yes… but does this call speaking in tongues or the baptism of the Holy Spirit or the spiritual gifts ( charismata) into question? They are all in scripture. They are spoken of as for believers. Where is the dilemma for you?

So here’s what I am seeing. In direct contrast to all Scripture precedent and command,
excuse me, what is this? millions of people have indeed (as Adrian said) asked for revelatory gifts.

And not one of them has received anything like what is described in the Bible.

And you judge this, how? Criteria, because I smell a generalization fallacy which attempts to lump all charasmata in one basket of disrepute. And further.. I would ask what puts you in the position to see all these millions and be sufficient to assess this with reasonable accuracy .

****Is God to blame for that? Is God to blame, and the fact of the perspecuity of Scripture suspect, because of their persistence in something very different from what He Himself sets out in His Word?****

I lost how anyone is blaming God. I thought the Charismatics were thanking God; and I still don’t see the case made for how speaking in tongues or ministering prophetically is different from what is set out in the Word

I knew a pastor once, a man with very strong training in the Biblical languages and sciences. But he had a doctrine of the guidance of the Holy Spirit that led him to believe that he should pray for that guidance, and then whatever followed had to be of the Spirit. His sermons were bizarre, meandering, idiosyncratic affairs. A friend of his (!) likened the way he handled texts to a drunk staggering through a church. His people stopped bringing Bibles. They didn’t really need them.

Once, a fellow-believer and I approached him, and shared our concern. We spoke out of genuine love, respect, and care.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “before I preach, I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. If I believed that He was not doing so, I would leave the ministry!”

This trump-card spiritual browbeating worked wonderfully for him at the time. Both of us were young Christians, and we were properly rebuked and appalled. We didn’t want him to leave the ministry! We retreated, horrified and abashed.

What you have described is something endemic throughout Western Christianity of all flavors . We all hate it. Many of us have our stories… it is abuse of authority, and not relegated to the Charismatics alone. I’m very sorry you suffered this damage.

Of course, the problem wasn’t the Holy Spirit. this is an excellent lesson to learn, and we all have to come to terms with it, worth extracting from this post to meditate upon. The problem was this man, and his faulty doctrine of the guidance of the Spirit. But like the reasoning ****Adrian sets out, he had prayed, and so he had to conclude that whatever followed was of the Spirit — or his whole structure would collapse.****

Only in your logical argument, not in the personal and subjective experience of a man with his God. This is always the problem with Christianity, it is “Come and see” and not reasoned argument into the faith of Christ. It is God revealing Himself personally to the man..

The Charismatic movement is, in large measure, the result of applying that same procedure on a massive scale.
Well, that is one general dismissal if I ever saw one. You have managed to collapse down the entire Charismatic movement, which is quite a feat. How about the Pentecostals, now? They’ve been around a bit longer.

Let me put it more personally and individually still. I can, you know; for I write as one who once thought he was speaking in tongues.

Shall I reinterpret the Bible, to legitimatize my experience?

Or shall I stick with the Bible, and let it judge my experience?

I opted for the second choice. That is why I am an ex-charismatic.
Ah, now we are down to it. It is personal with you… now why didn’t you say that at the beginning?
Continue reading Will Cessationism cease? That is the question…

What is Christianity?

Again, an essay written a few years ago to follow the one on Christianity vs. Materialism. To dig into whether Christianity is merely a system:

In resuming of the train of thought begun in the last essay, I realized that the approach to the questions of whether Christianity is a system and whether it was relevant to modern man and how to present it, began a whole set of questions on viewpoint. Are we speaking of Christianity within the group of world religions? Christianity within its own history or the history of the world? In its permutations of types and philosophies? Read on to the resolve of this dilemma.

If viewed from the top down, this is a subject so unwieldy that whole volumes have been written of its history, the philosophies of singular points have involved books by great thinkers and academics. It was too great, too huge, an undertaking for which my lifetime, not mentioning my intellect, was unequal. But then, the amazing thing within Christianity is that it has its elemental parts which essentially express everything in a most defined way. Yes, everything. So, what is this, Christianity?

Christianity begins with the monotheistic belief of the Jew, the same Creator God expressed in the sacred writings of what Christians term the Old Testament. Within that, Christians believe in the person of Jesus Christ, as the early church fathers defined in history and stated in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds.
(See below).

That is, Christians believe in a certain person who lived in history and have a set of structured beliefs about who that person is, the Son of God. Next, Christianity is defined by a set of written scriptures, which are called the Bible. Those are the three inalterable components of Christianity. It cannot be represented as Christianity if any of these three interlapping parts are missing. (One God, Only Begotten Son, One Word)

While defining Christianity, these basic blocks are only the outer representation. The body, but without the spirit. The one defining factor that I think sets Christianity apart from all other religions, is the person of Christ. Not just that he lived, or taught, or spoke, or did things miraculous or unusual, but that He is living now, and can be personally experienced and spoken with NOW. That is why we do not turn towards Mecca, or any Holy shrine to meet with Him. Studying His teachings is not enough, emulating His lifestyle is not enough. He is available to know now, and that immediacy of knowing and interacting is necessary. He himself has insisted upon it and pictures it with the vine and branches. Although sections of Christianity have differing ideas on shrines, nowhere is it a tenet that a Christian must meet with Jesus Christ within any Temple or certain Church.

This idea of a personal encounter with the Living God, available to any person anywhere, is basic to true Christianity, from its inception at Christ’s birth. It has grown through many changes, from the time when a person had to physically walk to where the person of Jesus was, through the opening of the faith to the Gentiles through St. Peter’s experience with Cornelius, to St. Paul’s apostolic journeys to the Gentile nations, to the Roman Church, to the dissemination of the scriptures to the nations, through today’s evangelistic calls. The same message is given, “Come and see”. That many diversions and conflicting vehicles for the message have come and gone is the history of the Christian religion, but I submit to you that the Person and the message remain. The person of Jesus is unchanged, and He may be met with as friend; but God has always had more to offer than friendship, His otherness has always needed a bridge which is termed a covenant. This, too, is the uniqueness of Christianity. The covenant takes place within the blood and life of the person of Christ, so His resurrection and continuous (eternal) life are inseparably important to our life. That is why St. Paul states that if Christ did not raise from the dead and were not presently alive and active in our lives, now, we would be “of all men most miserable”. So the life and spirit of Christianity remain “Come and see”.

Here is Christianity:

I hear of Jesus

I believe in Jesus

I follow Jesus

I meet Jesus in Spirit

I speak of Jesus

In finality, I meet Jesus in body, Physically

I am nevermore separated from the living GOD, and I will live forever with Him.


The Ecthesis of the Synod at Nice

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of
very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in
heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made
man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the
quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of
God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a
different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion–all that so
say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Now, to start with the question, is Christianity a system?

Since Christianity as a religion and belief system has influenced governments, has been found within the vortex of conflicts, and has birthed many institutions from hospitals to welfare societies, communities, and political parties, we might well be tempted to view it as a system of thought, government, or religion. And so we ask:

“Is Christianity a system?” Then,”Is it outmoded?” There have been many that believe the answer is yes to both those questions; even many within the Christian church. A number have come to this conclusion through the acceptance of the time/chance beliefs of those who embrace a philosophy involving the theories of evolution, deconstruction of religious writings, and eventually atheism (or the “leap of faith” ideas for religious diehards). These are all interrelated thought systems and lead to the same despairing conclusions. The majority of the people who take issue with Christianity, in my experience, have based their complaint upon the history of the institution, the Church, and usually give exception to the person of Christ, Himself and His teachings. However, while the institution of the church and individual Christians have often acted in ways contrary to Christ’s teachings, they cannot be entirely disassociated from each other.

While it is true that Christian beliefs, as embodied in the Gospels, do give rise to systems of varying efficacy and merit, they are not simply a system, or institution. So, in answer to the first question, no, Christianity is not a system. One of the primary reasons for this answer are the words of Christ,Himself: “My kingdom is not of this world”. That has not kept many of the proponents of his teachings from trying to prove otherwise, and this,in turn, has proved a point of contention for those who criticise the Christian religion. The efforts from Charlemagne’s hammering of the Saxons through many historical events such as the Spanish Inquisition and pogroms against the Jews exemplify the worst of efforts to build an earthly kingdom, or system, of Christianity. That is not to say it is without a form and effect within man’s policies and governments!

So how may we identify the proper context of the Christian and his beliefs within society? A way to define something is by describing what it is against what it is not: Christianity is not merely an institution, system, or even a religious belief. That is right, it is not simply a religious belief. As explained within the writings of the Bible, the analogy of an organism is used. As the human body is a system filled with interacting systems, and yet is more than a system, it is a life. A life consisting of the body, soul and spirit. This life is lived out on an individual and corporate level. The Christian lives in his society with recognition of authority and duty, yet not unmindful of the human propensity to oppression and abuse. So whether as an individual or in a group, Christians are required to function outside systems-even their own derived systems- should it deviate from the standards stated earlier(the teachings of Christ and basic Church beliefs based thereon). That is why I have to say it is not a system nor institution, per se.

Is Christianity outmoded for todays world?

Two definitions (as found in a dictionary) of outmoded are: something outmoded because it is discarded; something outmoded because it is no longer useful. As stated in the first essay, Christianity may not be termed outmoded as defined in the second sense. That it continues, and has always produced, stable humanitarian institutions such as hospitals and food pantries, along with many other commendable actions within modern society illustrates.
In the first sense of outmoded, well, we often see periods of time and individuals which consistantly, and sometimes militantly, determine that Christianity is outmoded. But as the plight of the present Chinese Christians shall show, the will of some to discard it shall not effect the final outcome. No matter how fierce the oppression, or forcible the opposition, Christians continue to persevere. The history of the Church demonstrates that, whether persecuted from within or without, the faith of Christians remains viable, dependable, and effectual.

As events unfold, the Christians, not only of China, but of Laos, of India, within the Muslim walls of intolerance, and throughout many parts of the world, are facing ever increasing persecution, some laying down their lives. Our world is entering a face-off as dramatic as that between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in history past. The prophets of Baal are being given their hour to lash out, lacerate themselves and offer up their sacrifices to Baal, in the hope that power might remain in their hold; but the Spirit of Elijah is arising, pouring out barrels and barrels of water, of faith and expectation. Is Christianity outmoded? Is it merely another system of mankind’s making? The hour that Christians have longed for is arriving: when God, Himself, will exonerate His name. And that is what we, as Christians, are looking for, because we are only witnesses of what we have seen and heard of Him. And the Lord which we follow will answer for Himself, in His own time, in His own way. I say, “Maranatha”!

Why The World Needs Christians

Some years ago I spent time on lists and forums. That has been replaced with blogging, but many of the conversations are the same because people grapple with basic concerns and because many of the cultural challenges are still the same as they were in the year 2000. I have decided to post this essay on my blog because it is pertinent to some of the discussions I find myself in at this time.
Below is something I worked on in response to discussions on the validity of the Bible. These are reasonings rather than proof in the scientific sense.

You need Christians like me. Your system needs us: Christians who believe in their God and the validity of their scriptures. You need us to volunteer in hospitals, visit the lonely and elderly, man soup kitchens and homeless shelters, help feed the hungry, share with the poor, giving sacrificially-so they might have shelter and clothing; give time, goods, and counsel in a thousand services to maintain and strengthen our society. You need us to raise our children with love and training so that they will be contributing to society after us. And in our belief system, we strive to do these things because we believe such actions please our God, our scriptures are full of directives and practical measures to show love and kindness to our fellow man, and how to live in a way that recognizes human dignity and worth. We believe we can sacrifice ourselves in this giving because we believe the reward from our God is sure and eternal. So, it is beneficial for you that we believe as we do and function as optimally as possible in carrying out these actions. The cudgels and pokers used to cow Christians and gut their faith works against this.

The difficulty is that your system cannot control us, your system that holds that all is made of time and chance. We keep insisting that our final allegience is to our God, and placing the requirements found in our scriptures above yours, and refusing to give creedance to your philosophies. We refuse to bow to Caesar, although we will obey him under our God. Thus, the cudgels and pokers.

The trouble with the system that holds ideas of the world and all its inhabitants being no more than chance combinations of molecules, that any or no idea of God is acceptable, that one persons ideas and actions are as good or as meaningful as anothers, (etc. ) is that while sounding equable, it gives no foundation to its adherents for a functioning society. A life of slacking is as good as a life of diligence-it is the individuals choice. A choice for abortion is equal to a choice of giving birth; a choice of philanthropically giving is equal to keeping ones wealth to oneself; an act of kindness no better than an act of cruelty. Of course, not all those adhering to this foundation live this way, many, many are giving and kind and selfless- but there is nothing in their system to warrant it. Why is it good to be kind? It just is…it is because I feel it is. Why is it good to help the impoverished and displaced? Or any other good work? Because they are humans.

Now, we enter another problem with this system of thought. What differentiates the humaness? How are these sets of molecules any more meaningful or important than any other set of molecules in the universe? Why should human life have any more meaning than a snake, or a tree, or the soil? All being interchangeable it will all come out in the wash……….won’t it? As long as people adhere to concepts of human worth, kindness, generosity, all the concepts we consider worthy, then society functions and holds together. As soon as groups of people decide, more and more, that there is just as much to gain and nothing to lose by destroying life or neglecting needs or obligations involving others, then some real problems arise. We are seeing this already, why are teen mothers leaving their babies to die in trash cans? Morally is it a difference to have an abortion rather than kill your baby with neglect or action at the birth? Why do students feel they can harm or kill a teacher? Or another student causing them mental pain? On what, O TIME/CHANCE adherents do you base your arguments? To what may you appeal? What if these persons JUST DO NOT CARE? So you bring out your authoritarianism, because in the end that is all you will have left. It is so because I say it is so, and I have all the guns.

So in the end, you are left with individuals desperate to find meaning and worth for their lives. Agonizingly desperate. I think this is one reason so many are looking into nature religions, they are hoping for some sense and peace and meaning; but they are still functioning in this system, and all they have is a palliative, an anaesthetic to ease their mind and give them direction…even though they cannot say it is anything more than an illusion -based on their system. Now, if you will stay with me I would like to quote one of your own and speak to you of some of the issues facing us, especially women.

Where Are We Going?

In a book I am reading , a published author,an eminent biologist and an athiest, Francis Crick is quoted and commented upon. I would like to quote here and add some of my own observations. The book I am reading is ‘Back to Freedom and Dignity’ by Francis Schaeffer and he quotes Francis Crick:

“I think one has to say that scientifically, astrology really is complete nonsense. I have tried very hard to think of a way it could make some sense and it’s too much. I wonder whether people who think that way should be at university.”

At this point, Schaeffer takes issue with the idea that one should be shunned from a university based on their beliefs. This is pertinent as an indicator of the arbitrary manner of judgement that is often applied to people in lieu of real standards.

[Crick,again quoted:] “Nonetheless, you must realize that much of the political thinking of this country (the USA) is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say, in the period of the American Revolution, when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystical validity in a religious context, but when you ask what you mean by all people being created equal, it is not the same as saying that they should all have equal opportunity. It’s not only biologically not true, it’s also biologically undesirable. If you had a population in which everybody was the same, any biologist would say that it was a very bad situation, that it was too homogenous. You must have variety in biological situations. Yet, this is not the sort of thing that is regarded as particularly tactful to say. But sooner or later people have got to be saying these things. We all know, I think, or are beginning to realize, that the future is in our hands, that we can, to some extent, do what we want.

Now, what is happening at the moment? What is happening is that we know that with technology we can make life easier for human beings; we can make changes. What we are really doing is learning to tinker with the system. But there is very little thinking at the fundamental level as to what sort of people we would like to have. In the long term, that is the question you are bound to come up with.”

…..”It’s the aim of medical research to try to cure as many diseases as possible, in particular cancer and heart conditions. Those are probably the major killers. But what is going to happen under that situation? What is going to happen is that you can easily work out the age distribution, under a stable population, from the death rate. It means that gradually the population is going to become very old. What medical research is aiming for is to make the world safe for senility.”

….”We’ve just seen that the discussion as to how many people there should be in the world has now, as it were, become quite acceptable. It is not acceptable, at the moment, to discuss who should be the parents of the next generation, who should be born, who is to have children. There’s a general feeling that if we are all nice to each other and if everybody has 2.3 children, everything will pan out . I don’t think that is true. For good genetic reasons,even though you have more medical care, transplantation of organs, and all these things, it would be an unhealthy biological situation. Some group of people should decide some people have more children and some should have fewer….You have to decide who is to be born. Biology is indeed a revolutionary subject when you look at it this way. It is, in fact, the major revolutionary subject. It is the one that is going to make the new concepts which will come into social thinking. Biology is not simply, as it were, what you think you can do with herds of cattle. There are much more intricate things involving people at the psycological level interacting in society, but I don’t think you’re going to solve all these problems by just tinkering with the genetic material. I think it will turn out that thinking along these lines will have to take place, and if you don’t do it in this country, it will start in another country.” [unquote]

This quote was taken from a lecture given sometime past, but the thoughts are not essentially different from any we might hear in a university or the media today. these thoughts raise many issues, but I would like to focus on the last paragraph, because of its pertinence to women. If such thinking is inherent in the general system of thinking (and I can find no reason why it couldn’t be) then what do women, by virtue of their biological make-up become? We become the breeders, or even worse -useless and defective for breeding . It becomes the sum of our existance, and now dear feminists, where is any idea of self-actualization at all? If a woman is considered valuable genetic material, where are her dreams of deciding for herself whether to have children, or to spend her life in other pursuits? Or the woman who desires children, but is considered a social liability genetically? In China we see how a society deals with pregnant women who are deemed as not contributing to the good of society as a whole. Forced abortions. Forced sterilizations are not unkown in modern history, either.

In the light of these things, I have no qualms, no hesitations, no apologies for my belief in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, or the idea that the writing of the Bible could not only contain truth, but The Truth, and the very words of God. And in the light of believing these things I will recognize the right of man, individually or corporately, to accept or reject these things, but to his own hurt. I will have to trust God to not allow the hurt to end in destruction, a trust no different than I hold today.

Now, for the question of which system of thought is right (accurate,true) or provable. I hold that you can neither prove your system unequivocally, and that I cannot prove mine. What I submit here is that my system produces results that TEND towards the benefit of mankind. As a “system” its weakness has always been that its adherents fail in applying its truths. But I have also submitted to you that the weakness of your system is that more proponents will succeed in carrying out its implementation. We may all come to a worse case, and that is that both systems discarded out of hand will lead to a system that will make the Nazi and Stalinist regimes look like child’s play. And the Bible has some things to say about that,as well.

Of course, this begs the question: is Christianity merely a system? And, outmoded at that? If not,why not? As the thoughts continue….. ?

Catching up: Francis Schaeffer

A little late making the rounds on my blogroll, but Bonnie, who will soon pilot the Intellectuelle group of bloggers, had a post on the 50th Anniversary of L’Abri, Saturday. This linked to Challie’s retrospective post authored by Rick Pearcey.

I didn’t read much of Francis Schaeffer until after some years of being a Christian. Then I read everything I could get my hands on and finally bought the 5 volume set of his Complete Works. As well as a couple small volumes written by his wife, Edith. The Schaeffers are authors I agree with to an almost 100% extent. It is unusual to find that much agreement when the topics covered are some of the knottiest conundrums for modern Christians.

I think the primary aspect of Schaeffer is that he was authentic, and he consciously maintained that authenticity, as a man and as a Christian. It is something I deeply admire.

If you read these posts, you might consider some things such as how difficult it is to maintain ones core integrity in modern life. It is assaulted all the time, but you might pick up some key points on how this is done by reading over accounts of L’Abri, the Schaeffer’s ministry. One last observation. You will find small places where it is stated tht without Edith serving in the background L’Abri would not have been what it was. It supported the intellectual cultivation with supporting “womanly arts’. That is, if you read her books, on family and homemaking, you will see the connection between civilization’s structure and the importance of women. I do think it is just that important.

And I will give any feminist a run for her money in the debate. History in the making in on my side when I maintain how important women who manage the homes, and take care of their children are to the very fabric of all the rest. All the rest of society is woven upon that weft.

So, while the philosophical explanations of Francis Schaeffer are of extreme importance in my thinking, the background is their homelife. This is probably more of an introduction to topic than the ending place. I will push pause, for now, but at the risk of becoming a book store here, I recommend these books highly.

Francis Shaeffer Complete Works

The Power and Necessity of Definition

The Usefulness of Semantics

Some negate it, some exalt it, but the study of words and their meanings is paramount to one thing: communication.

If you are truly going to understand someone, or something ( as in a subject) you better be clear on the vocabulary. And that is at the base of a lot of misunderstanding.

Ryland, Again

So here we go with another of Ryland’s posts: I am willing to chalk this latest to frustration, as well as the first one…. but then it becomes a matter of intellectual laziness, if one continues to misunderstand the need to define the terms properly.

It seems that determining what is Christian is now labeled “legalistic”. Ok, Ryland, what does that mean and in whose vocabulary? Is it “legalistic” in the Christian’s vocabulary to define oneself by the Nicene Creed?

It became apparent rather early on to the Church Fathers that we needed some idea of what a Christian believed. And to decide whether a Christian acts “Christian” you pretty much have to define how that action looks as opposed to something “UnChristian” or whatever.

This is going to happen every time you try to describe any group. What is Muslim and what is not of Islam? What is a Liberal? What is a Conservative? What is Fundamental? In what context?

It is in the context of the definitions that we get the understanding of what we are really talking about….. and it ends up being very important, and especially so if one is going to answer vague accusations and mandated actions. Mandated by whom?

Although it is all very tiresome if one is not actually interested in truth …just in fueling intimidation and emotional rants and finding some handy scapegoats.

The only trouble with that is that it will eventually lead to lots of inequity.

And then some people are going to be very unhappy. And rightfully so.

So if we are going to dialog, let’s articulate the people, problems, and issues distinctly, shall we? It will call for some tiresome defining, but worth it in the long run…even if only to know your enemy, if that is what you want to make of a group of people.

It could end up with mutual understanding , toleration, and respect, though. That, surely, is worth the temporary tedium. Time when the academic is worth its salt.

To the GIST:

Is it Christian?

If it is Christian-defining to act and believe a certain way, then it would be illogical to ask one to stop believing and acting that way- as a Christian.

The very term, “legalistic” is anathema to Christian doctrine for behavior, but there are lots of ideas on what that “legalism” consists of.

It is a discussion of internal relevance to Christians in the form it seemed to be used in Ryland’s latest post. That is how I understood it, anyway.

But you have to have some sort of working sense of what a Christian is, in order to discuss the subject cogently.

So we aren’t talking about the internal disputes of sectarians, but the general sense that the world might have of what the word, ‘Christian” means. Just follower of Christ. That is pretty simple and to the point.

Then we can get on to talking about how certain behaviors are in line with specific things that Jesus taught or is not. That isn’t too hard, is it?

But necessary…

Is Ryland correct?

In what way yes and in what way no?

Ryland said:

“The legalistic side says that in order to get into Heaven, you have to follow God’s laws (ideally, as laid out in the bible, even though it’s arguably impossible to do that). The spiritual side says that the only way to get into Heaven is through accepting Christ and being reborn.”

Actually, no. Ryland was a lot closer when he was citing the faith known by its works quotation ( Jas 2:17-24). His grasp of what is legalistic is fairly accurate, though, if one is talking about earning righteousness and standing. The spiritual does say that acceptance of salvation is by faith, belief. But the case is clearly made that those who are Christs are those who do His works as He, also said:


Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

So there is a definition of good and iniquitous works. One that is not legalistic, but illuminating. The illumination will come by way of what is already revealed in scripture texts.

Fred Phelps? President Bush?

So which is Fred Phelps doing?

And which defines the supporters of President Bush? And who is right and who is wrong, in terms of following Jesus?

It matters. Especially if you are calling for corrective action. And corrective action will necessarily take place within a legal context, one of jurisdiction and right.

Is President Bush wrong in using authority? Does he abuse his authority as outlined in the presidency of the USA? If not, then you can rail all you want (freedom of speech), but it won’t make much sense to call on Christians to make a crusade of it.


“If Jesus were alive today, would he persecute gay people because they want to get married?”

I think it is safe to say that Jesus would not be found persecuting anybody. That wasn’t His business, but He did do a great deal of talking about repenting and turning back towards God.

He didn’t spend a lot of time defining sin, the Mosaic Law had done a pretty good job of that. It was now a matter of finding how to enter into relationship with God, given that we all had sin problems.

This is all I will say here, but I would like to say something more of the idea of crusades, later.

Be very careful of crusades…. in whatever context.