Thursday, January 2, 2014

Think Faith: New Blog

I invite you to join me at my new blog "Think Faith."

It started bugging me that while "Flee Naked" may be a catchy name that makes people take more than a glance, to get the name I was basically prooftexting. The idea comes from Mark 14:51-52 where a young man escapes capture by slipping out of his robe and running off naked. My take on it was that there are many things in this world, even good things (like the young man's clothing) that can be used to hold us captive to sin. We need to be willing to let go of these things and escape from sin, even if that means embarassment or awkwardness.

Now, that is all well and good, except that I'm not actually sure that is the point Mark had in mind when he recorded it.While "fleeing naked" may be a principle you can argue from other places in Scripture, THIS verse isn't addressing that issue.

There is a danger when we allow ourselves to read our own ideas into a text from The Bible. This is called, "reader response." Reader response is a method of interpretation when you ask, "What does this mean to me?" Where as the important thing to get from reading Scripture is, "What did the author intend to convey?"

See, if we stretch the text beyond it's intended meaning, we may not drift off into heresy right away, but we set a dangerous habit of believing our own ideas/feelings over what God has said. Often times we do this with verses that can be pulled out of context to be used as a clever little one-liner to get across a point or to encourage during certain circumstances.

Sometimes this isn't necesserily a big deal because the idea we are reading into the text is actually a sound Biblical principle found elsewhere .. but our prooftexting says it more cleverly. Hence "Flee Naked."

Like I said, not necessarily a big deal, except that it sets a precedent and creates a habit that is bad Bible interpretation that can cause all sorts of trouble when the principle is NOT something found elsewhere in the Bible, and we basically start putting words in God's mouth, claiming He has said or meant things which He never said or meant.

We do not need to bend and stretch The Bible to say certain things or sound a certain way, especially taking verses out of context and creating a meaning in them to say things that other verses already say instead. The Truth of God's Word is clear and robustly upheld when you examine the evidence from logic, reason, science, and history.

God has not required us to leave our brain behind as we follow Him. Indeed in Matthew 22 we are commanded to love the Lord with all of our MIND (v37). The Christian faith is not blind faith. Is is a thoughtful and logical faith.

So join me as I think about faith.

Friday, December 13, 2013

You are Unworthy but Worth It

At a recent meeting with other youth pastors, the conversation turned to the issue of self-injury. We were all pretty saddened by how wide-spread this is among teenagers. It seems like depression, anxiety and anger rule the day with so many young adults these days. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the #1 thing I want to impart to young people I meet. The #2 thing is this: You are NOT your feelings! Both of these ideas taken together should be a warm blanket to the soul of anyone, but even among "church kids" we see large amounts of depression, anger and even cutting. I can't help but wonder how many of our young people actually understand and believe these 2 truths.
Our culture teaches us that our worth and value as people is based on how we feel, or what people think about us, or how we feel about what other people think about us. It's all wrapped up in the idea of self-esteem and belonging, and it is tearing people apart. I have seen several well-intended people share things on social media basically saying something along the lines of "Don't pay attention to people who make fun of you on the outside because you are beautiful on the inside." Is that supposed to mean that if they just knew "the real you" they would like you? All that does is instead of people judging you based on the outside, now they judge you based on the inside. And I hate to break it to you, but people are jerks. There are going to be people who mock and hate the "inside" as well as the outside. Because it's not about you. It's about them. They are jerks.
Your worth or value is NOT based on what other people think about you, inside or out. And that even means it is not based on what you think about yourself.
Please read through everything I say, because the first point is gonna be a bit hard to swallow.
You are not awesome.
According to the Bible, the Word of Almighty God who created you and knows you better than you know yourself, you are a sinful, selfish, pride-filled sinner who's wicked heart seeks to be the ruler of your own little world instead of obeying the holy, righteous and loving God who gave you life. Because of this you are not deserving of warm, happy thoughts and pep talks about individual worth and value. You deserve punishment for your crimes against the Creator who not only gave you life but continually blesses you each day despite your rebellion against Him.
But guess what ... so does everyone else! Let that one sink in.
 You're not alone in this. We're all in the same boat. All those people who want to down on you and tell you you're no good ... they're no better. They are wretched little sinners just like the rest of us, so why care what they think?
So where's the warm blanket? This is feeling kinda cold.
Your worth or value is not based on how you feel or what others think. It is based on God. What He says, and what He thinks about you. And despite your sin, He still loved you enough to pay the ultimate price. Jesus underwent mocking, beating, and death. That punishment you deserved for your sin, He took that for you. Not because you are awesome, but because He loves you. Not because you deserved it, but because that's just who He is. A Savior. We look for someone to tell us that we are good and we are valuable and that we are worthy. But out heart knows better.
I once heard a pastor say (and I use it with my students at church), "It's ok to not be ok, but Jesus isn't going to leave you there."
No, you're not perfect and you're not "worthy", but guess what... He didn't say you had to be, and the mess He found you in, ... He's willing to clean it up for you. It may not happen overnight, and it may not always be fun ... but that wretched, selfish, little sinner He rescued on the Cross, He's going to transform that person into a son or a daughter of God, the King.
He pulls us out of the mud and much and filth of our broken, sinful hearts. He cleans us up and turns us into something new. Something better. We may not have been worthy, but He thought we were worth it.
So you're not perfect ... not even close ... so what? Your value isn't found in other people or even how you feel. It's found in the fact that God finds you valuable. You are valuable to Him, and nothing anyone else thinks or feels about you (including yourself) can take that away.
I grew up skinny, geeky and awkward. I was a target for every variety of bully around. I know there can be times it doesn't feel very hopeful. I know the pain is real and the feelings can seem overwhelming. But remember #2: Your feelings do not define you! Feelings come and go. Your hope is not found in feelings. It is found in knowings. Hope holds on when all reason says to let go, because we KNOW God is faithful and that He loves us, even when no one else seems to. Even when we don't love ourselves. Your hope is not based on the opinions of others. It's not even based on your own opinion. It's based on God.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Uncomfortable Conversations

Could it be that we are awkward talking to non-believers, not because they (or their possible objections) make us unconfortable but because we are uncomfortable talking about Jesus Christ?

Think about it for a moment. What are the things we seem to have no problem talking to anyone about? A recent movie or TV show we watched. Something that happened at work or school. The slow guy in the fast lane on the highway. A recent sports event. A concert we went to. A vacation we took. Some cute or rediculous thing our child or younger sibling or friend did. I'm sure we could all keep coming up with more.

What do these things have in common? It can't be shared interest, at least not primarily. We will talk about some of these things even if the other person is visibly not interested, whether a complete stranger or close family. There are just some things we want to talk about.

And I think that is the key: stuff we want to talk about.

If you are excited enough, passionate enough, annoyed enough or care enough, you will talk to anyone about whatever it is.

Typically, when asked why they don't share their faith more, most Christians usually respond with something like, "I don't know what to say," or "I'm afraid they'll ask questions or have objections I can't answer." But that doesn't seem to stop us from talking about anything else. 

When was the last time someone was uneasy talking abou the Cowboys because the other person might come back with criticism of Romo? ..... ok, bad example .... but you get what I mean! If we enjoyed a concert over the weekend, we don't hesitate to talk to our co-workers or classmates about it just because they may not be fans of that type of music. We don't shy away from talking about all sorts of things. 

We simply do not use the same excuses with other things that we use with talking about Christ.

I think about the guy born blind in John 9. Jesus puts mud on his eyes and tells him to go wash it off. 

When he does, he can see. Challenged and questioned by the religious authorities of his day his simple response is, "I don't know about that, I just know that I was blind and now I see." (paraphrased)

We see this with people Jesus heals all over the place. They run off and tell everyone what happened. They didn't wait to take a class on Biblical doctrine or apologetics or methods of evangelism or read books on tough questions by skeptics. They just went and said, "look what He did!"

Are we interested enough in what Jesus has done for us to want to tell other people about it? If not ... why not?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fundamentalism vs Apologetics

As I mentioned previously, a friend claimed that apologetics seems to be at odds with fundamentalism. Through the course of the conversation we rabbit trailed and meandered through some other areas and miscommunications and even had trouble coming to an agreed on the definition of fundamentalism and the nature of faith. I thought it would be good to do my best to have a clear and concise explanation of my position on this.
Fundamentalism was explained in a previous blog article.
The best I could grasp it, the idea posed seemed to be that fundamentalism is based on faith and faith can't be based on evidence or it ceases to be faith. Since apologetics is the use of evidence, therefore, fundamentalists (like myself) would be inconsistent to "do" apologetics.
That may not be exactly what he was getting at, but I have heard this sort of idea before.
Christian Apologetics as was being used in our conversation I think is best summed up as "a reasoned support of Biblical truth using extra-biblical evidence."
Faith is a tricky thing and a point of much debate in theological and philosophical circles. My friend seemed to indicate (and I have heard this way of thinking before) that the very nature of faith is believing something in a vacuum of evidence (my words).I operate under the definition that Christian faith is reasonable trust in beliefs that have been demonstrated to be trustworthy.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so ... yes, AND because there is other extra-biblical reasons to believe that to be true.
The idea of apologetics comes from the urging we have to be ready and able to give a defense or explanation for the ideas, beliefs, principles, etc. that you adhere to.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
Can extra-biblical sources serve as evidence for biblical truth?
A reasoned argument for apologetics is that extra-biblical evidence is not proof that determines the truth of the Bible, it is evidence that describes the truth of the Bible. God's Word is not dependent on our ability to prove it to be true, however, since God created the world and everything in it, we should expect to find other evidences that agree with the Bible but which are not specifically from the Bible.
An analogy would be a crime. Say I am a citizen deemed to have impeachable character and generally considered by all to be honest and trustworthy (we're just pretending), and I stop a crime in progress. From my vantage point I saw the entire thing from the beginning until I stepped in. I saw the victim. I saw the perpetrator, who happens to also live down the street from me. I heard what was said, and immediately after the criminal fled, I was able to record the entire thing in exquisite detail in my journal. Now, my testimony alone may be enough to convince a jury and convict the criminal. Does that mean that the police shouldn't get fingerprints and check security cameras and check with other witnesses? Is the truth of my testimony dependent on other evidence being gathered? Does the use of these other evidences somehow undermine the strength of my testimony? Of course not. Those other evidences corroborate and lend support to the truth of the primary testimony given, but they have no bearing on whether it is actually true, maybe just whether or not a person will find it more believable.
In the same way, apologetics lends support and additional corroboration to the testimony of scripture, but scripture is not dependent on apologetics to be true or authoritative.
Since the Bible is primarily our source for truth, what does it have to say about using extra-biblical evidences (logic, reason, science, etc)?
God created the world (Genesis 1 and 2), and we know that to at least some degree knowledge about God is knowable from His creation (Romans 1:19-20).
While creation alone cannot point to the specific knowledge of Jesus Christ as the savior of the world on whom we must believe to receive forgiveness of sin, it does demonstrate the existence of God and certain qualities about Him and about us.
We are commanded to love the Lord not only with our hearts but also with our minds (Matt 22:37). Our faith is not only one of love but also entails a "sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). The whole point of the book of Proverbs is about being wise and not foolish in your thinking. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel" (1:5).
The case could be made that God Himself was engaging in the use of apologetics with Job, especially in chapters 38-40.
Jesus often used parables which involve use of logic and reason to explain a concept in a more mundane or  relatable way so it can then be brought into the greater religious context. He didn't just quote the Torah.

Peter in Acts 2 lays out the case and makes a defense (apologetics) for the reason Jesus came and died (and rose again) and why they need to put their faith in Him.

Acts 17 says that Paul "reasoned" with the Jews in the synagogue. 

Paul also makes frequent use of quoting other philosophers and sources, using people's own philosophies and traditions to help explain Christianity to them and make the case for Christ:

What it gets down to is this: If something is true, we do not expect to find only 1 place where it is supported and demonstrated to be true. If it is true that you are an honest person, I do not just take your word for it ... though you saying so would be true. I can check with your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, classmates, and find out if you are indeed an honest person. Evidence outside of you supports a truth claim about you.

In the same way, since the Bible is true, it is only rational that other things in life would demonstrate and point to the truth found in the Bible. And this is indeed what we see, and making use of those other evidences found in extra-biblical realms of knowledge to point back to the ultimate truth of God found in the Bible is not only consistent with a fundamentalist worldview, but it is a prudent and wise thing to do.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fundamentally Unashamed

I recently had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about whether or not apologetics is at odds with fundamentalism. This conversation started because of a link I shared about apologetics, and he knows I identify as a "fundamentalist" which he feels doesn't leave room for the use of apologetics (a reasoned defense of biblical truth using extra-biblical evidences).
I will address the supposed contradiction in another post, but I thought it best that I make clear what I am describing as "fundamentalism". I unashamedly embrace the label of "Christian fundamentalist".
Fundamentalism is defined in the general sense of adhering to a basic set of core beliefs. That could be described as a strong commitment to those beliefs which are "fundamental" to a particular belief system.
"Christian" fundamentalism then would be adhering to the basic beliefs which are "fundamental" to the teachings of Christianity.
I adhere to the fundamental teachings (basic core principles) of orthodox Christianity, therefore I am a "Christian Fundamentalist." Here is a quick summary of those beliefs: The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God, mankind possesses a sinful nature and is in a state of rebellion against God, we cannot 'make-up for it' with good works, and only faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ paid for through His death and resurrection can reconcile us to God, and those who continue in their rebellion against the just, holy and righteous God who gave them life will receive the deserved consequence for their sin (rebellion).
I would like to note that the cultural baggage of closed-minded bigotry and extreme judgmentalism that the word "fundamentalist" usually implies is not "fundamental" to neither the teachings of Christ nor the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. If people claiming to be or labelled to be "fundamentally christian" behaved themselves in such manners, they were in error and opposed to the clear teachings of Christ and the Bible. So, I am taking the word back and unashamedly claim to be a "Fundamentalist Christian."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"It's More Surprising That Anything is Right At All"

A recent paper from a classmate of mine quoted Mark Martindale, a developmental biologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes. Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” (emphasis added)

The quote was from an article at (

The more I learn, the more this seems to be the case with all evolutionary assertions. Ideas and theories from 100+ years ago are clung to with a veracity that rivals the most sold out religious zealot, all the while more and more evidence is being discovered to undermine those ideas. Instead of re-examining the overall model, scientists just redraw the model, completely ignoring (or oblivious to) the possibility that the foundational idea was flawed to begin with. All the while they beat the drum of "science is an examination of the data wherever it leads." As long as it doesn't lead to somewhere we don't want to go.

When creationists say something does not fit with our model, we can rework the model because we have outside information which to compare and help inform of interpretations of the evidence: The Bible. Naturalistic science (claims) has no such external influence inherent to it and is supposed to be based entirely on the physical evidence at hand, though even a general look at science shows that the philosophies of the scientist necessarily play a large role in the process.

Occassionally it seems you get an honest one who will say, "I want to believe it, but the evidence just doesn't go there." Stephen J Gould admitted gradualism can't be shown from the evidence, so he scrapped that and pursued another theory, Punctuated Equilibrium. I would say that he did not go far enough and needed to scrap molecules-to-man evolution all together.

The fact is that no matter what new evidence is found or re-interpreted they continue to try and cram it into a model based on theories from others long ago who did not have the tools, techniques, and access to information that we do today. For some reason, the details gained since Darwin can be adjusted in reference to HOW evolution happened, but don't you dare try to say Darwin or his theory was wrong. It's almost like it would be "blasphemy". For them it is akin to a religion. The evolutuionary fundamentalist will no more consider the theory to be wrong than a religious fundamentalist would deny God. The difference is (aside from the fact God exists) is that we will admit it. They still claim to be "doing science". With most scientists seeming to cling to naturalism and materialism yet denying that a philosophical slant exists, I  can't help but want to repeat the words of Martindale, "Maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all."
“At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” - See more at:
“At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” - See more at:
“At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” - See more at:
“At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” - See more at:
“At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologists drew what they saw. But their microscopes stunk and they didn’t know about genes,” Martindale says. “Now we’re finally able to look closer, and we’re finding that they’re often wrong. But if you think about the tools they had, maybe it’s more surprising that anything is right at all.” - See more at:
Mark Martindale, a developmental biologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. - See more at:
Mark Martindale, a developmental biologist at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. - See more at:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Faith-Healing, Medicine and Freedom

I recently read an article (linked below) regarding faith-healing religious sects that deny medical care and the pain and deaths of children that come as a result. The article focused on the changing of laws that protects the parents of these children from charges of negligence, manslaughter, etc. due to medical care being withheld on religious grounds and consists of a string of heartbreaking stories with links to find more.
I see two issues going on here: (1) Religious Liberty, particularly the right to it and the need for it to be protected, and (2) The relationship between Faith and Medicine. I will address #2 first.
I am personally saddened that many of the "sects" that reject medical care tend to be (or claim to be) Christians. I have run into atheists from time to time who lump all believers into this group or somehow imply that we are being inconsistent or hypocritical to believe in miracles AND make use of medical science. There is no Biblical basis I can find for a doctrine of outright rejection of medical treatment. (I haven't looked into it, but I wonder where Amish fall on this issue and what the death from treatable disease is like among those communities. That would be interesting to know.)
There are common graces in the world, things which all people, believers or not, can all equally enjoy and take benefit from. Rain. Oxygen. Friendships. Just governments. Good food. Love. Humor. Reason. And intellegence. Our ability to reason and invent and discover things about the world God made was given to us by Him. Science of any kind is only possible because God gave us the means by which to do it. Not making use of medicine when sick would be like not making use of prepared food when hungry, claiming that God will simply make a nurishing substance appear in your stomache or grow a fruit tree in your backyard if He wanted you to eat. Could He? Absolutely. But we do not make general rules based on rare or exceptional circumstances.
I understand that many of these sects or religions come from a more charismatic or word-faith understanding of theology. This claims that if you only have enough faith or believe enough then God will do a miracle. That is another issue altogether. Suffice it to say, I believe their interpretations of scripture to be in error.
Another issue that was touched on in the article and that I come across sometimes is the dismissing of the idea that physical illness can have spiritual causes. It is seen all throughout the Gospels and New Testament that demonic possession or oppression by an evil spirit can manifest physical ailments. Whether or not that is true is not the point. Aside from where you fall on that specific issue, it does not follow logically that simply believing that an illness has a spiritual cause would negate the possibility of getting medical treatement to alleviate symptoms while also addressing the underlying spiritual cause. If I suffer a disease or condition because of malnourishment, why would I not be allowed to ease symptoms while fixing the underlying nourishment issue and changing my diet? If I am dehydrated and get a headache, I can take a pain reliever in the short term while addressing whatever habits or activities keep draining without replenishing my fluids. In the same way, even if an illness were to have a spiritual cause underlying it, nothing prohibits us from treating the body with medicine while addressing the spiritual cause with spiritual means.
I think the church at large and Christianity in general tends to get preoccupied with secular worldview issues and "the culture war". I wonder if we might also need to make a consious effort to reach out to those waving the flag of Christianity whether they be false teachers or misguided brothers. This is not an issue we should leave to be decided by secular society who more often than not throws us all into the same pot.
That leads to the other issue here: Religious Liberty.
How do you strike the balance between protecting religious rights and protecting those who may be harmed on the basis of religious beliefs? That answer is complicated and not easily found. Perhaps that is the reason we are a constitutional republic, so that rights are protected from mere disagreement or alternate belief and not easily taken away.
Certainly we do not allow child sacrifice or executions for leaving a church, but Amish people get to be exempt from certain codes and regulations that violate their rejection of technology. Where do we draw the line.
Because of my beliefs based on the Bible, in most cases I may be willing to allow for legal prosecution when there is harm or death caused for withholding medical care. However, we create a very dangerous slippery-slope.
One comment in the article stated the following: "Society has a duty to over-ride parents' wishes when necessary to protect children from harm."
When does society's duty cross the line and invade on parents' rights?

The Romeike family from Germany are looking at being deported back to a country that denied them the ability to homeschool their kids and as a result their kids will be taken away from them if/when they return. Our current administration here in the US has said that homeschooling for religious reasons is not a protected religious freedom.
You may say homeschooling and withholding medical care are 2 different things, but I have had people aggressively argue to me that homeschooling is child abuse. 

So where does the line get drawn? I know where I think the line should be based on my Biblical worldview and political philosophy, but we live in an increasingly diverse culture. Which views and assumptions do we use to make this determination? On what basis do we claim religious freedom should be protected or that medical care must be used when sick? On what belief do we define "society's duty" and what constitutes "parental neglegence"?
There are no easy answers, and I do not think we need to be quite as quick as this article was in tossing aside religious freedom protections. But I also agree that children should not be left to die when medical care is readily available. However, my reasons and justifications may cross paths with secularists on this issue, but their reasonings are easily turned against me down the road when the issue isn't life/death of children.
In summary, it's ok for people to love and serve God, believe the Bible, pray for healings and yet stillseek medical treatment. How we protect religious freedoms yet also deal with the tragic and sad results when people don't get treatment and children die .... I don't know.

Here's the article: