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Den of Lambs

Christian Defense of the Faith

Month

September 2015

Why Youth Are Leaving The Church (I)

Youth Leaving

A few years ago, in David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church…and Rethinking Faith (Baker 2011),  Kinnaman argued that there are at least six reasons why men and women between 18-30 leave the faith behind.

Let’s examine the first three reasons.

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.

Indeed there is a failure in our churches to engage with challenges to Christian belief.   In our culture, which is imbued with relativism, scientism, and pluralism, it seems that pastors are either unwilling or incapable of addressing questions which run headlong into Christian truth claims.  Subjects such as evolution and geology bring into doubt Christian Doctrine and Biblical teachings so there seems to be either a “turn the cheek” or “ignore it” mentality.

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twenty-somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.

Often, youth experiences in church are more like social gatherings with scripture sprinkled in.  There is a lot of superficiality in general church services today rather than solid Doctrinal teaching.  Services often seem more intent on entertaining primarily which leaves teaching the Gospel a byproduct of the Sunday production.  As Dr. William Lane Craig states, “…the time for simpering devotionals and feel-good Bible stories is past.  We have to teach our kids sound doctrine and apologetics.”

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.

The Creation-Evolution debate which still, is undoubtedly a huge issue, is a sort of unholy alliance between New Atheists and Young Earth Creationists. If you think that the world is older than ten to twenty thousand years, you have somehow betrayed or contradicted the Bible. So, if you are convinced that those two ideologies are incompatible then something has got to give and the church will come across as antagonistic to mainstream science.

I will discuss the final three reasons in the next blog.

An Argument For Arguments And Evidence

“Nobody comes to Christ through arguments!”

Although I didn’t come to believe in Christ through apologetics, it has, over the years strengthened my faith.  Time and time again, we see that there is a group of people who will respond to arguments and evidence when they are used by the Holy Spirit.  This group is often younger generations to which scientism and verificationism has been inculcated.  I hear it every day in the friends that I converse with and even my own teenage children.

My brother-in-law and I stayed up until 3 a.m. (a total of about six hours) one morning discussing the reasons why I accepted and he rejected the Christian faith.  Although, there was a seeming impasse, it was further confirmation that I had strong reasons to believe.  (Please join me in prayer that the Holy Spirit moves in him.)

ArgumentEvery person is precious to God; a person for whom Christ died. Having a defense of our faith can help reach the minority of persons who respond to arguments and evidence. Think of the impact that former unbelievers have had for Christ. Unbelievers such as C.S. Lewis, Oxford Professor and author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and the Screwtape Letters. Lee Strobel, former Legal Editor of the Chicago Tribune and author of A Case for Christ and A Case for Faith, and Ravi Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. These men have been instruments that God has used to reach untold millions of people all over the world for decades.

Knowing that Christianity is true by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit is one thing but showing it’s true using arguments and evidence is another. This gives non-believers the intellectual permission to open themselves up to the reception of the Gospel.

I must stress that apologetics aren’t necessary for evangelism and it isn’t effective with everyone, but there is value to an ever increasing minority in our western culture. God uses means in order to bring people to the knowledge of Himself and, I believe that apologetics is one of those means.  As Paul said of his ministry, “I have become all things to all men that I might by all means win some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22

Questioning The Origin Of Life

Author Lee Strobel notes, “In Charles Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species,” there is only one illustration; it’s called the Tree of Life. It explains how every species of animal and plant that ever existed on earth had evolved from the same common ancestor, through small gradual steps, over enormous periods of time. The problem, is that there is no conclusive evidence of the common origin of all life.”
Perhaps the most damaging blow to Darwin’s theory is the fossil record. If all living organisms have descended from the same common ancestor then the rock strata of the earth should be filled with the fossilized remains of animals that were once part of a great evolutionary chain; Yet, after two centuries of research, the multitude of missing links that should exist are absent.
The most graphic example of this void in the fossil record is a geological era known as the Cambrian Explosion.

Fossil
Molecular biologist and author Jonathan Wells says, “The branching tree pattern of Darwin’s theory is actually not seen anywhere in the fossil record. So the Cambrian Explosion is the most dramatic refutation of the Tree of Life. If we imagine the whole history of life on earth taking place in one 24 hour period, the current standard estimates for the origin of life put it at about 3.8 billion years ago. So, if we start the clock then, at six hours, nothing but these simple single celled organisms appear. Twelve hours; the same thing. Eighteen hours; the same thing. Three quarters of the day has passed and all we have are these simple single celled organisms. Then, at about the 21st hour, in the space of about two minutes, BOOM! Most of the major animal forms appear in the form that they currently have in the present and many of them persist to the present and we have them with us today. Less than two minutes in a 24 hour period. That’s how sudden the Cambrian Explosion was.”
The question is, does it take more faith to believe in a theory that science is leading away from, or as the Bible says, “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” Gen 1:21

Why Would They Ask Jesus Who Was Hitting Him?

 Then did they spit in his face and buffet him: and some smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ: who is he that struck thee? Matthew 26:67-68

To the skeptic, the question posed to Jesus during the beating at His trial before Caiaphas may seem odd.  After all, his attackers were standing right in front of Him.  In what J.J. Blunt, author of Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of the Old and New Testament, an Argument of Their Veracity; with an Appendix, Containing Undesigned Coincidences between the Gospels and Acts, and Josephus, called an undesigned coincidence, Luke explains the question in context:

And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and beat him. And they blindfolded him, and asked him, saying, Prophesy: who is he that struck thee? And many other things spake they against him, reviling him. Luke 22:63-65

Therefore, in Matthew’s account the question seems inappropriate but with Luke’s testimony, the question makes sense.  So, why would they ask Jesus who was hitting Him? Because Jesus was blindfolded.

Fishers Of Men

 And walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, “Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they straightway left the nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence he saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they straightway left the boat and their father, and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22

Fishers of MenJesus’ calling of the four fishermen to become disciples is as moving a scene as can be described.  One can imagine the authority and power of Jesus’ teaching compelling humble laborers to surrender their means of provision for their families, stopping what they were doing (mending their nets) and embarking on a journey of discipleship with the Messiah.

The only problem is that if Matthew’s testimony was the only account that we had, it wouldn’t make sense.  If you recall, according to Matthew, Jesus had just come out of the wilderness to start His ministry and discovered that John (the Baptist) had been jailed.  There was nothing in Matthew’s account of the brother’s even knowing who Jesus was, much less following His teachings.

The mystery, however, is resolved when we hear from Luke.  In an undesigned coincidence, Luke makes sense of  it all:

Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon Him and heard the word of God, that He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And He entered into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes out of the boat. And when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answered and said, Master, we toiled all night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets. And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their nets were breaking; and they beckoned unto their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken; and so were also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their boats to land, they left all, and followed Him. Luke 5:1-11

After hearing all of the independent testimonies, a more detailed and less inscrutable account emerges.   The disciples didn’t just drop everything and take off.  They had heard Jesus preach, they had seen Jesus’ miracles (which also explained why James and John were mending their nets) and only then were they compelled to follow Him.

As influential Baptist Preacher Charles Spurgeon so eloquently put it, “O you who see in yourselves at present nothing that is desirable, come you and follow Christ for the sake of what he can make out of you. Do you not hear his sweet voice calling to you, and saying, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?'”

But…

“But…,” I often hear my beautiful three year old daughter say. The use of this word is obviously not isolated to her as I catch myself using it as well. That is our nature. The sin nature that has pervaded humanity since the fall.

If you look up the word “but,” you’ll see it defined as a conjunction used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. Oh, how often we hear it. “I want to get in shape, but I don’t have the time to exercise.”, “I don’t really have the money, but I really like that watch.” , “I don’t need it, but I’m going to get it anyway.” , “I know I’m not following Jesus’ teachings, but God knows my heart.”

Prov 28:9 tells us, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to My instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”

ButWe as Christians don’t have the luxury of “but” for we live under a law that transcends the world’s excuses and rationale. God’s Word has been given to us as an instruction manual for our lives. Not only should we feel compelled but we should strive to live by it’s teachings when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We must not say something and contrast it in the next breath for “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:8

Passages in Scripture don’t include, “Love thy enemy, but…” , “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, but…” , “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, but…” or “If Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain, but…” The challenge for us, as followers of Christ, is to remove the word “but” from our lexicon.

If we can do this, we will be a better witness to His glory and power in us. “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Mat 5:37

” Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Cor 16:13

No ifs, ands, or buts…

Truth

In a world suffused with relativism and pluralism; where legal and social sways to and fro like a tree in the tempest of societal and historical influences, our modernist and postmodernist culture leatruthns on ones own self to find meaning and truth. Real is subjective.

That reality is what you make it. Of course, this doesn’t always apply. According to the tenants of natural science, if you place a frying pan in fire it will get hot. If you touch the frying pan when its hot, you will burn yourself. No amount of subjectivity will alter the result. After all, only the degrees of pain are relative but certainly the residual blisters aren’t. How about engineering? Is it plausible to say, as postmodernism will, that the words load bearing wall have no objective meaning? Surely your building inspector would disagree. Its only in matters of society or religion that anyone but the most misguided would say that there is no objectivity.

We all can see that society has evolved. Once, slavery was a legal business. Today, slavery is abhorrent. Once prejudice was the norm. Today, bigotry and intolerance is unacceptable. But why, if there are no objective truths is owning another human being or thinking one race better than another frowned upon socially? Why aren’t, what we would consider social abominations merely the “fashion” of our time and place in history? If there is no objective wrong in these instances, could we eventually move back to an acceptance slavery and prejudice? How could we judge? Who are we to make those distinctions? After all, what’s real is subjective and reality is what you make it, right?

In the Christian world view, there is right and wrong. Our Lord and Savior died on the cross for the injustices that we perpetrated on this world. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21 I believe that there is an objective reality and there are basic truths that we all hold because of experience. As Paul says, ” For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Rom 1:20. So, look around you. Live your life knowing that there are objective truths. Look Jesus Christ, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Q&A: Does The Bible Misrepresent The Domestication Of Camels?

A Facebook friend named Oliver recently asked for help addressing an unusual challenge to biblical inerrancy. A skeptical friend of Oliver’s claimed that the Bible misrepresents the timing of camel domestication. He wrote, “If the Bible can’t even get that right, how can I believe the rest of what it says?”

I admit I had not heard of this particular objection until Oliver brought it to my attention.
It turns out to be a relatively recent challenge. In late 2013, two researchers from Tel Aviv University reported that domesticated camels first appeared in Israel around 930 BC.1 Yet Genesis mentions domesticated camels several times. For example, inGenesis 12, Pharaoh gifts Abraham (then Abram) with camels and later, in Genesis 24, Rebekah offers to draw water for a camel caravan. The camel use described in Genesis would have taken place around 2000 to 1500 BC.

Skeptics have been quick to note that the mention of camels in Genesis is a significant discrepancy. It indicates, they say, that this portion of Scripture was written at a much later date than previously thought and not by Moses, as tradition has it. According to Israeli biblical scholar Noam Mizrahi, the camel stories in Genesis “should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”2 Mizrahi continued, “These traditions were indeed reformulated in relatively late periods after camels had been integrated into the Near Eastern economic system.”3

The Israeli archeologists didn’t undertake their work on camel domestication in order to test the Bible’s reliability. They simply wanted to determine when dromedary camels (the one-humped variety) were first domesticated in the Levant. The domestication of camels permitted long distance trade across the desert for the first time, connecting Arabia with India. This connectivity had huge social and economic impacts.

To determine when camels were first domesticated in Israel, the researchers focused their excavations on copper production sites in the Arabah Valley of Israel. They reasoned that the timing of camel domestication should be marked by evidence for major changes in the production practices in the region because the people would have had beasts of burden available to carry supplies and mined copper. They discovered the sudden appearance of camels at that site in layers that date to around 930 BC. The anatomical features of the camels’ leg bones show evidence that they were used to carry heavy loads. The researchers noted similar evidence from other archeological sites and concluded that this was the time camels became domesticated in the Levant. Camel remains have been recovered in layers earlier than 930 BC, but the researchers argued that these camels were most likely wild animals hunted as a food source.

From my vantage point, the researchers make a compelling case that camels were first domesticated in Israel several hundred years after the camel use recorded in Genesis. But does this mean that the Bible is unreliable? Hardly.

Archeological evidence indicates that dromedary camels were first domesticated in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula around 3000 BC. Genetic evidence indicates thatBactrian camels (the two-humped species) were domesticated in China and Mongoliaaround 4000 to 3000 BC.4 These dates mean that it is possible that the patriarchs counted camels amongst their livestock, even if these animals were not widely used throughout the Levant between 2000 and 1500 BC. This explanation becomes even more plausible when one considers that Abram acquired his camels from the Egyptians (Genesis 12:16). According to scholar Andrew Steinmann, all additional mentions of camels in Genesis refer to people related to Abraham or people who were associated with the Arabian Desert (the location of dromedary camel domestication).

The Bible never “claims” that domesticated camel use was widespread in the Levant at the time of the patriarchs, just that Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph possessed domesticated camels—again, most likely through their association with the Egyptians—completely consistent with the archeological and genetic data.

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