What Good Are Christian Apologists and Philosophers?

(Today’s post is by Randy Everist, my teaching fellow and recent graduate from Southeastern with an MA in Christian Philosophy.)Randy Everist

What good are Christian apologists and philosophers? I have argued elsewhere that we provide strength for our Christian brothers and sisters. However, many people, I suspect, are not too impressed by this. There may be a sense of piety to believe without any (or even in spite of the) evidence; perhaps, for some, the very idea of raising questions in this arena is unacceptable. What’s the overall practical benefit to Christian philosophy and apologetics?

Setting aside the fact the direct impact on believers is small numerically, there is a definite benefit to evangelism. The Trinity functions as a good example. There are four main categories of objections to Christian belief (just indulge me!). First, there are factual objections. These objections state, as a matter of fact, Christianity doesn’t line up with the way the world is. Second, there are rationality objections. These objections say we don’t (or can’t) know whether Christianity is true, but that Christians are acting irrationally by believing in God. Third, there are emotional objections that essentially state someone’s dislike of Christianity. Finally, there are logical objections. These deal with the coherency of Christian belief.

This is where the Trinity comes in. One will encounter adherents of many other religions. These people find the doctrine of the Trinity extremely strange, if not logically contradictory. For them, it’s no more possible that the Trinity could be true than that 2+2=76! Many may be stuck here. What a Christian philosopher/apologist can do is engage in evangelism on the front lines. She can defend the Trinity from objections such as these!

A complaint often heard from Muslims is that the Trinity is a form of polytheism and thus cannot be monotheistic. So long as this objection remains, they will not convert. The answer is to reply, “One what plus one what?” If they say “God,” then that just begs the question against Trinitarianism (e.g., Trinitarianism doesn’t claim, for example, that the Trinity is composed of three gods, so to present it this way is just to assume what one is trying to prove). If they say, “being,” we can again reply that the Trinitarian conception is “one God and three persons.”

While Trinitarian discussions can go on and on, the point is that a simple objection that may throw some believers can be handled on the front lines of evangelism by the Christian philosopher/apologist. If there are practical benefits to having Christian philosophers on the front lines, then there are consequences to their absence. In the future, if we do not have Christian philosophers involved in the Great Commission, the state of the church will be very poor indeed.

Evangelicals Think about the Super Bowl the Way Augustine Thought about Sex

Evangelicals in general, and Baptists in particular, need to develop a theology of recreation and leisure. We really don’t know how to enjoy sports in a way that doesn’t afflict our conscience. For the most part, American Christians approach sporting events–such as the Super Bowl this Sunday–the way many Augustinians approach the physical aspects of the marital relationship.Superbowl2016 Augustine considered sex (i.e. sex within marriage) to be a necessary evil (Confessions 9.3); the physical relationship within marriage is necessary for the propagation of the human race, and the typical Christian does not have sufficient restraint anyway. Similarly, we suspect that our preoccupation with sports is probably wrong. But, hey, we live in a fallen world and watching the game is such a guilty pleasure.

Then we read the statements of Jesus (“We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.” John 9:4) or we read about the exploits of Paul (“In labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” See 2 Cor 11:22-33). We start feeling guilty.

I’m reminded of an incident in the life of the remarkable missionary, C. T. Studd. Studd believed it a sin to take a day off, so he worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. His daughter and son-in-law worked for the same mission, and one day they dared to take a day of rest. Studd fired them. (Doreen Moore recounts this incident in Good Christians, Good Husbands?–a book I highly recommend). In a similar vein, evangelist D. L. Moody used to rail against the sin of reading a newspaper on Sunday. I could go on, but suffice it to say that Christians have always struggled to balance our commitment and fervor for serving the kingdom with our body’s and spirit’s need for rest and relaxation.

Actually, I believe there is a place for leisure in the Christian life. Jesus–our example for life and how it is to be lived–made time for sleep, rest, weddings and good food (Mark 6:31). Somewhere between the extremes of aceticism (“everything is wrong”) and antinomianism (“anything goes”) is the healthly Christian life that enjoys all things in moderation before God. We need to think Christianly about sports and develop a good theology of rest and recreation. We still have some work to do (no pun intended) in developing our thinking about these matters. There is a right way to enjoy sports, games, and fun to the glory of God–even the Super Bowl.

(Originally posted 02-01-13)

China Has Imprisoned the Pastor of Its Largest Official Church

We Americans are preoccupied this week with presidential primaries and an upcoming Super Bowl. That’s not very surprising. However, relatively underreported and unnoticed, the Church in other parts of the world struggles in ongoing, genuine spiritual warfare. Time magazine reports that China has imprisoned Gu Yuese, the pastor of its largest official church.

REUTERS/Lang Lang (CHINA) - RTR1KLS4

REUTERS/Lang Lang (CHINA) – RTR1KLS4

The article explains that Pastor Gu (also known as Joseph Gu) was imprisoned for opposing the government’s practice of destroying public displays of the Cross.

“He had been vocal in his opposition to the government’s destruction of crosses atop church buildings in China’s Christian-dominated eastern province of Zhejiang, a campaign that began in 2014. ‘His arrest marks a major escalation in the crackdown against those who oppose the forced demolition of crosses,’ Bob Fu, president and founder of China Aid, said in a statement. ‘He will be the highest-ranking national church leader arrested since the Cultural Revolution.'”

The pastor’s wife, Zhou Lianmei, has also gone missing and is thought to have been imprisoned too.

The churches of the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” are those officially sanctioned by the Communist government. If they are treating the government-approved churches in this manner, one can only imagine how they deal with unsanctioned churches (which are by far the majority of churches in China). If you want to understand better the Church’s situation in China, I highly recommend God is Red by Liao Yiwu. Read it, then weep and pray.

The Planned Parenthood Videos and Cruel Paradoxes

Last fall, David Daleiden released a number of the undercover videos which accused Planned Parenthood of selling the body parts of human fetuses. The videos created a firestorm. Recently Russ Moore and Jim Daly of the ERLC interviewed Daleiden, and he gave his explanation of why the videos struck a nerve. They revealed “a very cruel paradox:”

“At the heart of the whole baby parts trafficking issue is a very cruel paradox….The humanity of the unborn fetus is not considered sufficient to be protected by law from being killed by abortion. But at the same time it is precisely this humanity that makes them so valuable for scientific experimentation, and motivates Planned Parenthood and their allies to hunt for their body parts like buried treasure.”

During the interview Russ Moore raises the issue with Daleiden about the morality of using undercover tactics. Daleiden defended such tactics, arguing that they are “fundamentally different from lying, because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth, and to bring the truth to greater clarity.”

Speaking of cruel paradoxes, last week a Houston grand jury decided to indict Daleiden rather than Planned Parenthood.

REUJackson

REUJackson

The indictment accuses Daleiden–you guessed it–of lying and using deceptive practices. A Reuters article explains how Planned Parenthood orchestrated a very aggressive strategy to turn the tables with the grand jury:

“An aggressive legal strategy pursued by U.S. women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood may have been critical in turning the tables on opponents who were seeking to prosecute it in Texas for allegedly profiting from sales of aborted fetal tissue….Planned Parenthood’s legal strategy was in some ways similar to how corporations facing major white-collar criminal investigations often cooperate closely with prosecutors to try to influence the outcome.”

In short, Planned Parenthood deliberately pursued a relationship with the prosectors office in order to present themselves as the victims. It appears the strategy worked, at least for the short term. Since other journalists widely employ undercover tactics, the indictment seems to employ a double standard. This appears to be a classic case of shooting the messenger.