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Three reasons your group should break up

Brandon Hiltibidal:

Small groups have at least one thing in common with middle school daters and pints of Graeter’s in my freezer: they can’t be expected to last forever. Of course, commitment to your group is critical. Group members can’t sharpen one another without time and the willingness to deal with discomfort. However, it is unlikely and perhaps even unhealthy to assume you will “do life” with the same eight people until Jesus comes back. Sometimes some relationships lack the right fit for solid discipleship. We are called to love everyone in the church, but we can’t dig deep with everyone we meet. Let’s be willing to reset our group when it doesn’t make sense for shared spiritual growth.

So, here are three reasons your group might want to consider a cordial break-up, in order to build new relationships with other group members. Remember, this doesn’t mean you can’t all go to heaven together—just that maybe you should “see other people” until then.

15 Years and What Do You Get?

Joan Hartley:

It has occurred to me that fifteen years did indeed go by in a flash. Fifteen is not a very big number, and yet in that amount of time, I have observed tremendous change all about me. Of course, the home that was new a few years ago has begun to show its age and need for attention. Our parents have all died. Our children have gone from being pre-teens and teens (which once afforded us the luxury of resident slave labor) to adults in their upper 20s and early 30s – some with children of their own. Amazingly, my husband and I now both qualify for AARP discounts at participating hotels.

Don’t Pray About the Book of Mormon

I appreciated a lot about this post, particularly the point that some things we don’t need to pray about because they’re kind of obvious.

Why Encouragement is Not Optional

Dan Darling:

People closest to us need to hear words of affirmation from us. They need to hear them regularly, consistently, and sincerely. Not empty words of flattery, like something we’d type on Facebook on someone’s birthday (“best husband in the whole world!”), but genuine and heartfelt praise for the unique gifts and contribution of those closest to us.

8 Reasons Why Loving Money is so Dangerous

David Murray:

Having dealt with the roles and relationships of men and women, elders and deacons, employers and employees, in 1 Timothy 6v9-10 the Apostle Paul addresses with the Christian’s relationship with money and issues eight warnings about why we should not turn it into an idol.

A key point we miss in defending the faith

be-weird

One of the classic texts for apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, where we read that we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Certainly this is true, but we’re missing something kind of important. I was reminded of this afresh as we studied this text together at church on Sunday, and our local missions pastor made an important point:

The primary action in this text is not to make a defense, but to honor Christ in our hearts. Remember, the verse in full reads, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (emphasis added).

The heart, as many Christians have been told time and again, does not refer to the physical organ, but the seat of the will, or the central being of the person. It’s what makes you, you. When Peter commanded us to honor Christ in our hearts as holy, he was saying this is something we do with the entirety of our being. Our words, our lives, our all is to be committed to honoring Christ are the foundation of apologetics (and arguably our greatest apologetic).1

This is where I see so many “discernment ministries” go awry. They seek to defend the faith, but with their words tear it down. They often lack gentleness and respect,2 and so fail to honor Christ as holy. And in some cases, their “defense” puts them to shame as in their apparent zeal for the truth, they misrepresent those they are supposedly defending against.

But this is not a problem for “those guys.” It’s a problem for all of us. It is a struggle for every one of us to honor Christ as holy in the every day. When we’re at work, we want to be liked by our co-workers, and not seen as the weird Christian guy or gal. We don’t particularly want to ruffle feathers. We just want to live at peace with everyone in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Sometimes, though, we’re called to step out and be weird. For example, when Abigail was still in public school, we had to have conversations about yoga with two of her three teachers. The first was her junior kindergarten one, to whom I simply explained that because of religious convictions as Christians, we didn’t believe it was appropriate for Abigail to participate. The teacher (who was great) was totally cool and respectful and agreed. Problem solved. A couple years later in grade one, we had the same conversation with a different teacher. This one was less agreeable, instead saying, “Well, I’ll just call it stretching then.” (Never mind the chanting at the beginning of class about being loved and at peace with everyone.) She wasn’t belligerent; she just didn’t get where we were coming from. And so we seemed a bit weird to her, which is par for the course when it comes to the Christian life.

But no one said the Christian life was easy. The Christian life is one where we’re going to constantly be seen as out of step, on the wrong side of history, backwards, archaic or simply weird. But this is what will happen when we choose to honor Christ above all, even as we choose to be gentle and respectful. Defending the faith starts with living holy lives, pleasing and acceptable to God. It means using our words, correctly. It means living in step with the commands of God. And sometimes it means seeming kind of weird. So onward Christian soldier—go forth and be weird to the glory of God.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just one new one that I’m aware of so far, and that is Ordinary by Michael Horton ($1.99). Over at WTS Books, you can get a great deal on Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics ($67 for the three volume set).

Two Sisters, Two Views of Gay Marriage

This is a good example of how disagreement can be handled with love.

Reigning with Christ

David Murray:

Very few of us would like to be President. However, most of us, at least some of the time, would like to be involved with the President. We’d like to be able to share in his decision-making, to have some input and influence, to be in a position and possess the power to affect outcomes, and even to enjoy some of the privileges that go with such a position.

Well, that’s unlikely to happen to any of us any time soon. But, there’s something even more amazing than ruling with the President and sharing in the President’s position and power. The Christian will reign with Christ, with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Is Christianity Dying?

Russell Moore:

Secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists. Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office. This is good news because the kind of “Christianity” that is a means to an end—even if that end is “traditional family values”—is what J. Gresham Machen rightly called “liberalism,” and it is an entirely different religion from the apostolic faith handed down by Jesus Christ.

Who really wrote the Gospels?

Timothy Paul Jones addresses a skeptical scholar’s reconstruction of how the four gospels became associated with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

When To Stop Chasing Your Dream

Michael Kelley:

Dreams are wonderful things; they fill us with hope and optimism; they make us view every day with new possibilities and cause us to spring with joy at the prospect that “today might just be the day.” They are wonderful, that is, until they aren’t any more. It’s at that moment when you come face to face with the reality that maybe it’s actually not going to happen for you.

But I want to propose that there is a time when it’s not only necessary but actually appropriate to stop chasing your dream. Here’s the reason why.

“I went all the way back”

Ray Ortlund:

If our hearts are not filled with the love of God, mere orthodoxy about God cannot suffice.  Indeed, our orthodoxy about God only intensifies our frustration and rage, because we are experiencing less than we know is real.  But if our spiritual starvation diet goes undiagnosed and unremedied, we inevitably reveal our soul-deprivation toward God by the horrible ways we mistreat one another.  That is when we orthodox Christians can become as harsh and brutal as a radical leftist.  But our orthodoxy justifies it.

6 books I’m reading on apologetics and outreach

And so, the day has come: my reading has been assigned.

In just a few weeks, I’ll be starting my first course at Covenant Seminary, Apologetics and Outreach with Jerram Barrs. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited about this course—but I’m also pretty keen on starting digging into my textbooks.

Here’s a look at what I’ll be reading over the next few weeks:

Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus by Nicholas Perrin:

lost-transmission

Bart Ehrman, in his New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, claims that the New Testament cannot wholly be trusted. Cutting and probing with the tools of text criticism, Ehrman suggests that many of its episodes are nothing but legend, fabricated by those who copied or collated its pages in the intervening centuries. The result is confusion and doubt. Can we truly trust what the New Testament says?

Now, Wheaton College scholar Nicholas Perrin takes on Ehrman and others who claim that the text of the New Testament has been corrupted beyond recognition. Perrin, in an approachable, compelling style, gives us a layman’s guide to textual criticism so that readers can understand the subtleties of Ehrman’s critiques, and provides firm evidence to suggest that the New Testament can, indeed, be trusted.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs:

heart-of-evangelism

This biblical study of evangelism gracefully reminds us that the New Testament model of witnessing is not a one-size-fits-all methodology. With compassion for the lost filling every page, Jerram Barrs shows the variety of approaches used in the New Testament—where the same uncompromised Gospel was packaged as differently as the audience—and calls you to follow its example.… And as you watch God work in the lives of others and see the great blessings He brings, you’ll discover what a privilege it is to live out the heart of evangelism: truly loving others to Christ.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs

learning-evangelism

Studying Jesus’ conversations with diverse people in his day, Jerram Barrs draws lessons and principles for attractively communicating the gospel to unbelievers in our day.

Living in a culture that is opposed to Christianity tempts God’s people to conform, to retreat, to be silent. But Jesus showed the way to live faithfully before an unbelieving world.

As the greatest evangelist, Jesus exemplified how to attract people to the gospel. He modeled how to initiate spiritual conversations full of grace and truth. Christian evangelism, then, both in theory and practice, must be shaped by his pattern. … This highly practical book will guide Christians in how to live before unbelievers and how to love them into the kingdom, just as Jesus did.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


Evangelism in the Early Church by Michael Green:

evangelism-early-church

Evangelism in the Early Church provides a comprehensive look at the ways the first Christians — from the New Testament period up until the middle of the third century — worked to spread the good news to the rest of the world.

In describing life in the early church, Green explores crucial aspects of the evangelistic task that have direct relevance for similar work today, including methods, motives, and strategies. He assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the evangelistic approaches used by the earliest Christians, and he also considers the obstacles to evangelism, using outreach to Gentiles and to Jews as examples of differing contexts for proclamation. Carefully researched and frequently quoting primary sources from the early church, this book will both show contemporary readers what can be learned from the past and help renew their own evangelistic vision.

Buy it at: Amazon


Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness

Renaissance-The-Power-of-the-Gospel-However-Dark-the-Times-0

Throughout history, the Christian faith has transformed entire cultures and civilizations, building cathedrals and universities, proclaiming God’s goodness, beauty and truth through art and literature, science and medicine. The Christian faith may similarly change the world again today. The church can be revived to become a renewing power in our society—if we answer the call to a new Christian renaissance that challenges darkness with the hope of Christian faith.

In this hopeful appeal for cultural transformation, Guinness shares opportunities for Christians, on both local and global levels, to win back the West and to contribute constructively to the human future. Hearkening back to similar pivotal points in history, Guinness encourages Christians in the quest for societal change. Each chapter closes with thought-provoking discussion questions and a brief, heart-felt prayer that challenges and motivates us to take action in our lives today.

Buy it at: Amazon


Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar

schaeffer-christian-life-spirituality

Francis Schaeffer was one of the most influential apologists of the 20th century. Through his speaking, writing, and filmmaking, Schaeffer successfully transformed the way people thought of the Christian faith, from a rather private kind of piety to a worldview that addressed every sphere of life. This volume—written by a man converted from agnosticism within days of meeting Schaeffer—is the first book devoted to exploring the heart and soul of Schaeffer’s approach to the Christian life, and will help readers strive after the same kind of marriage of thought and life, of orthodoxy and love.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Now I just have to figure out where to put them…

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals for you:

What not to get your pastor for pastor’s appreciation month

Eric Geiger:

…I am grateful for the few folks in every church who remember Pastor Appreciation Month, likely because the Christian radio station they listen to reminds them. Because I am no longer a “pastor” as my full-time job, I feel some freedom to speak a bit bluntly about some of the gifts our pastors, your pastors, may be in jeopardy of receiving this year. If you have given your pastor some of these gifts before, don’t feel bad. There is no condemnation here. Only grace. And your pastor really did know you cared, was honored you remembered him, and likely thought, “It is the thought that counts.” But I want to be helpful and encourage you NOT to get your pastor the following this year.

The Hound of Heaven (trailer)

This short film written and directed by N.D. Wilson looks fantastic:

How the News Makes Us Dumb

Kevin DeYoung:

Of course, not all news is pointless. There are long form essays, insightful commentaries, skilled journalistic exposes, striking documentaries–all of these can come under the category of “news” and all of them, when done excellently, can point people to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Sommerville’s not even against the here-today-gone-tomorrow bits of news. Neither am I. The Lord knows–and so does the internet–that I’ve written blog posts on current events before, and every Monday I post two or three minutes of silliness, for no reason except to laugh a little. The news doesn’t have to make us dumb, but if we don’t take the necessary mental and habitual precautions it almost certainly will.

Repenting of Our Lack of Sleep

Scott Slayton:

We often fail to think about what our daily habits say about our view of ourselves and our view of God. When we push ourselves morning to night seven days a week for days on end we demonstrate that we have a Messiah complex. We think the world will fall apart if we are not constantly doing something. We face a major dilemma though. We cannot keep going day in and day out without feeling terrible and lashing out at the people around us. We were not made to function on a lack of sleep. The Psalmist says in 121:4, “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Only God does not need sleep. He is the one who made the world and who sustains the world. The world would fall apart if he took only a moment off, but we are not him.  Much to our chagrin, we find that the world continues to function quite well while we sleep. Sleep reminds us that God is God and we are not. John Piper said this as only he can, “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day.”

Does Apologetics Convert People?

Clint Roberts:

If we ask the question, “How many people became Christians because they heard a good defense of something like the existence of God, the historicity of the Gospels, or the archeological verifications of biblical narratives?” the answer is probably “very few”.

But the question, “Does apologetics convert anyone?” is a poor question to begin with.

Social Media and the Sensation of Missing Out

Joey Cochran:

Social media is both a blessing and curse as we all know and have experienced. One curse is that it facilitates the sensation of missing out.

For example, have you ever gotten onto Instagram to see pictures from all your friends who are at the same event together? But you didn’t go. Your immediate response of dismay, envy, and justification for why you didn’t go or why you weren’t invited is how you manage that sensation of missing out. Or have you ever gotten on Twitter and discovered an unreal conversation that went on for swipe after swipe of your forefinger? Did you not feel those twinges of dismay and envy again? Did you feel a tractor-force beam pull to exhaust fifteen to thirty catching up on the conversation and then add a triumphal tweet of your own? This sensation of missing out is a beast to tame. It will own you until you own it. Here’s two things to remember about your sensation of missing out.

Links I like

Fasting from Technology

Thomas Kidd:

In my small group at church we have been discussing the spiritual disciplines, and one of the recent topics was “unplugging,” or fasting from technology. Fasting is, of course, an ancient practice, but in the past fifty years or so it has been applied more and more to electronic devices, from the radio to the smart phone. My group really resonated with the need to take intentional, periodic breaks from the internet, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, as well as the devices that deliver these to our eyes and brains.

“Genitalia Are Not Destiny” — But Are They Design?

John Piper:

Is gender set by a preference of the individual, or a providence of God? Or to put it another way: Is my sex determined by my decision in my mind, or by God’s design in my nature?

To find God’s instruction about this, we turn to Romans 1:19–28.

Acts 2 Ministry in an Acts 17 World

Dan Darling interviews James Emery White about his latest book, Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated. Here’s a quick look:

As pastors and church leaders survey the data on “nones,” how would you counsel them to approach their ministries in this new era?

Well, the entire second half of the book delves into this question, but here’s an overarching theme: I would suggest they move from an Acts 2 model to an Acts 17 model. By that I mean that in Acts 2, you had Peter addressing the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem. On a spiritual scale from one to ten, they were probably on an eight. They believing in God, the Old Testament Scriptures, heaven and hell, and a promised Messiah. That’s a lot to begin with! And Peter fashioned his approach accordingly. Fast forward to Paul in Acts 17. On our imaginary scale, they were probably about a two. Paul didn’t approach them as God-fearing Jews, but as the (at best) agnostics that they were. He had to start with creation and work his way forward. He understood that evangelism, for that group, would involve both process and event. Too many churches are taking an Acts 2 approach in an Acts 17 world.

Emotion Isn’t the Caboose to Faith

Owen Strachan interviews Tim Keller:

You state that we all know there’s a standard by which we will be judged—”there is a bar of justice somewhere for all of us.” Could you unpack this idea? Why is it relevant today?

What that means is in our hearts, we know that morality’s not relevant. We know that there’s a standard by which people are going to be judged regardless of how they feel. We bear witness to that when we may say morality’s relative, socially constructed, evolution and culture determine what we feel is right or wrong, but there’s no real standard. But then, deep in our hearts, we do feel when someone does something wrong that they should be accountable. So I was trying to tell people what they intuitively know to be true is true. There is such a thing as objective moral truth.

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Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung in an excerpt from his upcoming book, Taking God at His Word:

The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts spoken by Jesus.

The road to joy

Jeremy Walker:

Your entry into and experience of joy depends, then, largely on your honesty before God and with yourself and others. That begins with honesty about our misery, our sin, our rebellion, our nature and our weakness. It is only when we face these facts that we will begin to find corresponding peace with and delight in God known in Christ Jesus. As sinners – even as saved sinners – there is nothing to be gained by denying or downgrading the depth of our past and present deeds and needs. Rather, our guilt and weakness is the very backdrop against which the grace of God shines most brightly. The bitterness of our sin and frailty makes the sweetness of divine mercy all the more distinct.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A whole bunch of new deals to start your week:

Also free from Logos this month is Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians.

How Not to Debate a Christian Apologist

Rob Bowman:

In an article on Huffington Post (naturally) entitled How to Debate a Christian Apologist, atheist Victor Stenger explains why non-Christians usually do so badly in debates with Christians and then offers a cheat sheet of brief answers to Christian apologetic arguments. The reason why the Christians do so well, according to Stenger, is that they have had years to polish their arguments in their religion classes and churches. The atheists, apparently, don’t have comparable opportunities. This will come as a surprise to Christian students throughout the Western world who have sat under atheists and other skeptical professors routinely spouting off against Christianity even if it entails ignoring the subject matter of the course.

The False Teachers: Muhammad

Tim Challies continues his new series on a few of the most famous false teachers through history:

Muhammad was born around 570 in Mecca in what is now the nation of Saudi Arabia. This was an area where there were significant populations of both Christians and Jews, so there was access to the Scriptures and the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims claim that Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael, and thus of Abraham, though the only evidence to support this comes through oral tradition. Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother sent him as an infant to live in the desert with Bedouins in order to become acquainted with Arab traditions. While in the desert he is said to have encountered two angels who opened his chest and cleansed his heart with snow, symbolic of Islam’s teaching that he was purified and protected from all sin.

What’s Your Worldview by James Anderson

whats-your-worldview-anderson

When I was a boy, I loved “choose-your-own-adventure” novels. There was one I especially loved in my school library, a Star Trek one if I recall correctly. Depending on how you answered a question, Captain Kirk could be romancing a lady with green-skin and low standards, or a Klingon warship could de-cloak and blow up the Enterprise.

In hindsight, the book was pretty cheesy, but there was something really exciting about discovering the outcome of a particular choice. What I chose drastically impacted the story.

Who’d have thought this would make a great template for a book on worldviews? Inspired by “choose-your-own-adventure” novels, James Anderson set out to write a book allowing readers to see how their answers reveal what they believe about life, the universe, and everything. And this is exactly what you’ll find in What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions.

By up to 21 questions—dealing with freedom, truth and knowledge, unity, matter and mind, and pretty much everything in between—Anderson takes readers on a journey to discover their worldview. Depending on how you answer, you may discover you’re a Deist, Christian, Relativist, Skeptic or any one of a number of alternatives.

This is extremely helpful for readers to see, as I’ve no doubt there are many who don’t give any thought to the idea of worldview at all. After all, “worldviews are like belly buttons,” he writes. “Everyone has one, but we don’t talk about them very often. Or perhaps it would be better to say that worldviews are like cerebellums: everyone has one and we can’t live without them, but not everyone knows that he has one” (12).

He continues:

A worldview is as indispensable for thinking as an atmosphere is for breathing. You can’t think in an intellectual vacuum any more than you can breathe without a physical atmosphere. Most of the time, you take the atmosphere around you for granted: you look through it rather than at it, even though you know it’s always there. Much the same goes for your worldview: normally you look through it rather than directly at it. It’s essential, but it usually sits in the background of your thought.

If our worldview is this important, then we ought to be more aware of it. We should wrestle with the beliefs undergirding all our other thoughts and beliefs because it truly changes everything. Take the issue of abortion, for example. What we believe about its validity  as a practice is necessarily tied up in what we believe about the nature of humanity, when life begins, its value… The same can be said of same-sex marriage, poverty alleviation or any number of hot-button issues.

What we believe drastically affects our response, so we should seek to be more aware of the framework undergirding our thinking.

But readers should also be quick to understand this is not an in-depth analysis of any particular worldview. What Anderson offers readers is a basic sketch covering the major points of each of worldview mentioned (21 in all). Although there’s part of me that would love to have seen more, Anderson’s approach is a welcome one since it’s clearly meant as a launch pad for further study, rather than a one-and-done experience.

When I read through What’s Your Worldview?, I immediately began thinking of the different applications for it. I believe there are two distinct uses for it. First, the book would be an excellent tool to use with newer believers or those who are looking for a basic primer on what a worldview is, and what some of the major ones out there look like.

Second, and most importantly, this seems to be an ideal book with which to engage non-believers to open the door to the gospel. The style of the book itself is extremely non-threatening, eschewing editorializing and the temptation to persuade to a specific way of thinking (at least as much as any of us are capable).

In fact, if there’s anything he’s attempting to persuade readers of at all, it’s this: worldviews really, really matter. “Your basic view of the world shapes how you feel about the world and how you engage with the world” (102).  What you believe drastically impacts what you do. What’s Your Worldview? is a wonderful tool to help us understand this truth, and I trust it will be a blessing to all who engage with it.


Title: What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions
Author: James N. Anderson
Publisher: Crossway (2014)

Buy it at Westminster Book | Amazon

Book Review: “O” God by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett

Although it’s been several weeks now since Oprah’s long-running talk show went off the air, her influence is as present as ever. Hundreds of thousands of women continue to read her magazine, watch her network, and check her recommended reading list (and if you’re on it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be a bestseller). Although she is adored by many, there are a number of others who are concerned about the form of spirituality that she promotes: a pantheistic worldview that unites God and creation in the same sphere of being, encourages a subjective view of truth and is opposed to the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to salvation.

Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett are two of the individuals who are concerned about the influence of Oprah’s spirituality. Their book, “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality, examines a number of the claims made by Oprah herself and the spiritual teachers she endorses, their relationship with truth, religious pluralism and their view’s compatibility with the Christian worldview. Recently, Emily and I sat down to talk about the book—what we appreciated about it, Oprah’s impact on us and who should (and maybe shouldn’t) read “O” God:

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One of the greatest difficulties Christianity faces in the western world today is it’s relationship with religious pluralism—in that the two are completely antithetical. In one chapter of the book, the characters engage in a dialogue on this issue, resolving in this outstanding excerpt:

Religious pluralism claims to be open-minded, but is it really? When we stop and think about the claims of religious or spiritual pluralism, we discover that actually, they don’t accept any faith expression that is not pluralistic. Even though pluralism is touted at many universities as “open-mindedness,” it’s actually just another form of religious exclusivity. . . . It excludes anybody who doesn’t believe it. Therefore, pluralism excludes the beliefs of hundreds of millions of Christians who claim that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation. (p. 41)

Christianity and any other worldview will always be opposed to one another. We must learn to disagree in a winsome, humble way, but it’s helpful for us to understand that there can be no compromise on this issue. Truth cannot be reconciled to a lie.

Both of us would encourage you to take a look at “O” God by McDowell and Sterrett. Get a copy for yourself and maybe one for a friend. Go through the discussion questions together, and see how God might use your dialogue as an opportunity to open the eyes of those who cannot see the truth.


Title: “O” God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality
Authors: Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett
Publisher: WND Books (2009)

The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask

People have a lot of hard questions for the Christian faith. But why is it that, while there are some that we certainly give it our all to answer, there are others that Christians don’t seem to want to answer?

Why is that?

It’s (hopefully) not that we don’t want to give the answers, but it’s most likely that we don’t have the answers themselves.

That’s where The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask comes in. Author Mark Mittelberg, along with his publisher and the Barna Research group polled one thousand Christians asking them what questions they hoped no one would ask. The results came down to ten questions:

  1. What makes you so sure that God exists at all—especially when you can’t see, hear, or touch him?
  2. Didn’t evolution put God out of a job? Why rely on religion in an age of science and knowledge?
  3. Why trust the Bible, a book based on myths and full of contradictions and mistakes?
  4. Everyone knows that Jesus was a good man and a wise teacher—but why try to make him into the Son of God, too?
  5. How could a good God allow so much evil, pain, and suffering—or does he simply not care?
  6. Why is abortion such a line in the sand for Christians—why can’t I be left alone to make my own choices for my body?
  7. Why do you condemn homosexuality when it’s clear that God made gays and that he loves all people the same?
  8. How can I trust in Christianity when so many Christians are hypocrites?
  9. Why are Christians so judgmental toward everyone who doesn’t agree with them? [note: questions 8 & 9 are combined in one chapter]
  10. Why should I think that heaven really exists—and that God sends people to hell?

These are not questions with easy answers, and Mittelberg offers thoughtful responses to each, along with very helpful discussion aids and small group questions.

One of the things I appreciated about the book was the author’s ability to be speak plainly on some very complex subject matter. Particularly when speaking about subjects such as evolution, it can be very easy to get bogged down in language that is foreign to the average person. He also tries to be careful about letting his position on each answer be the only position. Again, using the example of evolution, he doesn’t simply provide one option, but several generally accepted Christian views. While I don’t know if I would agree his inclusion theistic evolution, Mittelberg keeps his eye on accessibility and that’s something that should be commended. [Read more…]

Did the Resurrection Happen… Really? By McDowell and Sterrett

In the first two books of their Coffee House Chronicles series, authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced us to a group of students (and a couple of instructors) who, together,  go on a journey through the evidence surrounding the reliability of the Bible and the truth of Jesus Christ’s identity.

At the end of book two, Who Was Jesus… Really?, Nick’s friend Andrea had placed her trust in Christ has Lord and Savior—as did Dr. Peterson, Nick’s professor who had spent much of his life and career casting doubt upon the reliability of the New Testament accounts and the person and work of Jesus Christ. So powerfully convinced was he that he held a lecture recanting of his former positions against Christ and detailing the evidence for His existence and the truth of His divinity.

The final book of the series starts off with a bang (literally) as, in the wake of Dr. Peterson’s lecture on the deity of Christ, tension on campus is at an all time high. Dr. Peterson and Jamal Washington began receiving death threats, but ultimately believed it to be nothing more than someone blowing smoke—until one day, when Brett (a pre-med student and member of the school’s atheist club) travels to Dr. Peterson’s office to talk more about Jesus.

As he approaches the building, he sees students begin to run out in a panic. A young woman collapses on the lawn, her shirt covered in blood. Someone had opened fire on the Religious Studies building. In the end, nine people were killed, including Jamal Washington, Nick Ridley (two primary characters in the first two books) and the shooter himself.

In the wake of this tragedy, Dr. Peterson, Mina, Andrea and Jessica begin a series of conversations with Brett, Lauren and Scott about one of the most central issues of the Christian faith:

Did the Resurrection Happen . . . Really?

It’s fair to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the issue upon which the entire Christian faith stands or falls. “[I]f Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:17. Because Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, His literal, physical resurrection is a sign of God’s vindication of Him (for the Jews believed that one who was crucified was cursed of God). As the authors put it, “Without the resurrection, Christianity doesn’t work” (p. 27). [Read more…]

Book Review: Who is Jesus…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Who is Jesus . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

In the first book of the Coffee House Chronicles series, Is the Bible True… Really?, co-authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced readers to Nick, a freshman student at a State school in Texas who’s faith is put to the test when confronted with the hard questions about the reliability of the Bible.

In book two of the series, Who is Jesus . . . Really?, we find Nick has gone on to lead a student Bible Study that meets in a local coffee house and things are great—until the school’s atheist club arrives with a series of hostile questions about the identity of Jesus Christ. Among the group’s members is Nick’s friend Andrea, who had followed him along the journey of discovering the truth about the Bible, but rejected God after the death of a close cousin.

Nick and friends Jamal, Jessica and Mina begin a series of conversations with Andrea and her friends Brett, Scott and Lauren to discover if the claims of Christianity about Jesus are reliable. Along the way, they learn that:

1. If one trusts the historical evidence for the existence of Socrates, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, one must also accept the evidence for the existence of Christ. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that there is more evidence for Christ’s existence than of any of these men. Likewise, His existence is verified through multiple sources, not only Christian, but Greek, Roman and Jewish. Each source confirms the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent worshipping of Him as God by His followers. [Read more…]

Book Review: Is the Bible True…Really? by McDowell and Sterrett

Title: Is the Bible True . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)

Meet Nick. Nick grew up going to church, believed the Bible, and was generally a pretty good kid.

Then he went to college and met Dr. Peterson, his Religious Studies professor, a critical scholar of the New Testament who rocked his confidence in what he (Nick) had been taught about the Scriptures.

Is the Bible reliable? How can we really know that what we have today is really what was originally written? What do we do with all the variances in the manuscripts that exist?

Is the Bible true… really?

These are the questions that Nick was left facing. And they’re the same ones faced by all Christians today, especially those heading off to college where their faith will be severely tested. Without good answers to these questions—and many others—their faith will not stand.

That’s what inspired Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett to write Is the Bible True . . . Really? In this book, the first in their Coffee House Chronicles series, the authors seek to equip and encourage readers as they follow Nick on his quest for the answers to the questions surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

By late January of his freshman year, Nick was a professing agnostic who put a lot of stock in the ideas popularized by the Zeitgeist movie that’s been making the rounds on YouTube for the last couple years and in books by Dan Brown and Bart Erhman.

So convinced is he that he decides to write a twenty-one page paper entitled The Plagiarism of the Bible: How the Bible Stole from Pagan Mythology. Hoping to get his teacher’s input, he instead meets Jamal Washington, Dr. Peterson’s new teaching assistant, a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (and former college football star). As he begins a friendship with Jamal, he finds his new-found agnosticism shattered as Jamal details the real facts surrounding the reliability of the Bible.

So what does Nick (and readers along with him) learn? [Read more…]