Tag Archives: Theology

Kids and Apologetics

The concept of parents teaching their kids apologetics has gained a great deal of traction in recent years.  Now, we’re not talking about having a conversation with your middle or high schooler about something that took place at school.  What we’re talking about is training elementary aged children in apologetics.

While I understand why some people think this is a good idea, especially in a culture where children are bombarded with ideas at a far faster rate than most of us parents ever experienced.  My difficulty with teaching young children apologetics is that it seemingly “puts the cart before the horse.”  People should know something about theology before moving on to apologetics.  This should be obvious, but….

In fact, I would say that the logic of studying theology before apologetics applies to anyone who is young/immature in the faith.  After all, we should know what we believe before we go out and defend why we believe it.  To that end, I think parents should spend time reading and studying the Bible with their children.  As a family does this there will be many opportunities to discuss central tenets of the Christian faith, as well as deal with difficulties that they might encounter.

That second part, dealing with difficulties they might encounter as they read study the Bible, is worth highlighting.  My reason for saying this is that the difficulties we have may not be such an issue with our children and, conversely, they may have trouble with things we simply never anticipated.  We are currently reading through the Bible as a family for the second time and I am continuously intrigued by what stands out to my children.

I will wind this post down with a final thought: It is easier to defend something when you know, understand, and love it.  If we simply teach people to defend the faith without a firm foundation in it, then we are simply training intellectual mercenaries who may, or may not, have any loyalties to our faith.

Putting Our Eggs in the Wrong Baskets

I write this post simply to state that a lot of us, as Christians, misguidedly place all of our eggs into the wrong basket. And, if someone has all of their eggs in a basket that fails, then the result is often times a very damaged, or even abandoned, faith.

For instance, a person can place all of their eggs into a particular view of creation (you can take your choice between Young Earth, Old Earth, Intelligent Design, Theistic Evolution, or something else). If that view comes under attack and the holder of the position does not feel it can be adequately defended, a domino effect can take place in that person’s spiritual life that can lead to the ultimate demise of his or her religious belief.

It is important to note that the Christian faith stands or falls primarily on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul, himself, says as much. Outside of this, there is plenty of room for argument and discussion, but if you are going to put all your theological eggs into one basket, then this would be it. After all, the resurrection has several vital doctrines connected to it.

So, why am I spending these few moments to write this very brief post? The answer is simple. Many people will where themselves out battling over some obscure piece of turf that should have never become as important as they made it out to be. It would be like the United States being defeated as a nation, and surrendering unconditionally, in a battle in Greenland – no offense to the good people of Greenland.

Now, let me wrap this up with a note of clarification: the various doctrines we hold are important (even the ones we disagree on), and there are many things worth fighting for (even Greenland). But, it is my prayer that we don’t get so consumed by items on the margins that we lose sight of the most central component of the faith: the resurrection.

Leaving the Crib

I was listening to a podcast from William Lane Craig’s Defenders class the other day and was struck by a particular point he made.  Many people have no desire to grow in their faith.  They are simply comfortable sitting back and never thinking through either what they believe or why they believe it.  For these folks, the idea is that they have a “childlike” faith that has a noble quality, but is this truly the case?

Craig makes the point that many people have what is actually a “childish” faith and not “childlike.”  To have faith like a child is to be fully trusting in one that is greater, stronger, wiser, etc.  This is typical of the faith you see between a child and parent (obviously there are parents who fail miserably).  This is good and desirable.  In fact, Christ expects us to have faith like that of a child (Matt. 18:2-3).

The faith that does not seek to grow and develop is childish.  This is not something to be striven for, but just the opposite.

The Scriptures plainly tell us to use our intellect in our relationship to God.

Matt. 22:37 – Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  (NIV)

1 Cor. 14:20 – Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

So, you can see that we are to have faith like that of a child, but we are to grow and mature in our thinking.   It is important for us to learn about our faith and have the ability to articulate what we believe.

The question then becomes one of where to begin.  If you have never seriously studied the Bible, then I must say that the place to begin is right there.  Don’t just dive in at random places, but have systematic plan in place.  There are many Bible reading programs that can be used to help keep you on track with reading through the Bible in one or two years.  In addition to reading the Scriptures it is also good to learn about the many doctrines of the faith.  For this, I feel a good introduction is the book, Christianity 101 (click here for Christianbook.com)  I read it years ago an like the way he treats varying viewpoints.  His approach allows you, the reader, to come to conclusions on your own.

All in all, it is my hope that each of us seeks to grow daily in our faith.  While we desire faith that is childlike, let us never confuse that with childish.

 

 

Is God a Cosmic Care Bear?

In my last post I addressed the notion that God is a cosmic vending machine. In this post, I aim to address another common notion in popular culture: that God is a cosmic Care Bear. According to this view, God is simply the always smiling, always cuddly, stuffed animal from our youth that expects nothing of us. The view is often trotted out with the line that God is love.

Now, before I go further, I should make it clear that God is love and I am not questioning that. What I am calling into question is whether or not this is His only trait. For, when we say, “God is love,” and make that His single defining characteristic, what we have done is mischaracterized God in the minds of many. This is the result of a misunderstanding of both love and God.

Many people take love to be some form of blind acceptance and approval of anything and everything. So, according to this view, regardless of what you bring to the table, God would have a big smile on His face and give His approval. But, is this love? I think not. Imagine a parent acting in such a way. Regardless of what the child does, the parent responds with unflinching acceptance. In this scenario, there is no discipline, concern for others, or guidance as the child develops into an adult. Imagine a government that “cares” for its citizens but refuses to administer justice. The result would be pain for countless citizens that are abused at the hands of others, all the while the loving and caring government stands by and smiles with approval. Suddenly what we thought was love becomes hatred. Most of us know what love is, even if we can’t define it perfectly. And we also know, when we are honest with ourselves, that a Care Bear does not represent real love.

Now, moving on to the real substance of this topic. God is God, this is our actual starting block. From here we begin to see the many ways that God is described in the Bible. So, let’s look at a small sampling of the ways God is directly described in Scripture. God is: love (1 John 4:8, 16); Holy (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:26); jealous (Deut. 4:24); great and awesome (Deut. 7:21); a God of justice (Isa. 30:18); one who loves justice, but hates robbery wrongdoing (Isa. 61:8); and the list can go on.

The question is: if we are going to define God by only one term, which one shall we use? Does one deserve more than the others? Or, why can we not just take Him as the Bible describes Him? For myself, I take God as the Bible describes Him, which includes all of the attributes listed in the previous chapter, plus many more. Understanding God in this way does not leave room for the Care Bear view. Adrian Rogers, a brilliant preacher who has gone to be with the Lord, once said, “To preach half a truth as the whole truth is to preach an untruth.” He was referring to people that only emphasize God’s mercy and grace without acknowledging His holiness or role as judge.

And the virgin will be with child

Ahh… The wonder and majesty of Christmas. Celebrated around the world on December 25th (or January 7th if you follow the Gregorian calendar), this is the moment we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. While there are many who challenge the Church’s celebration of Jesus’ nativity on this date, there is also good reason to accept it. And, if you are interested in this debate, then I encourage you to visit www.dec25th.info and read some of the well documented materials found there. I, myself, was quite impressed with the site’s content after visiting it recently. The man who operates the site had an article published in the most recent issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that is well worth reading.

While questions about the date are always interesting, that will not be the focus of this post. Instead, I would like to talk about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. After all, it was not just any baby that was born that day so long ago in Bethlehem. The babe in the manger was none other than the Son of God Himself.

We can see the importance of the virgin birth to the Church by its inclusion in such creeds as: the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Chalcedonian creeds. These early formulations of agreed upon Christian doctrine clearly illustrate that virgin birth should not be viewed as a side issue of minimal relevance to the faith.

But why is the doctrine of the virgin birth so important? I can think of at least three reasons:

  1. It relates directly to the incarnation. There are three primary means by which the incarnation could take place. Jesus could have had two parents, but this would call His deity into question. He could have entered the world apart from any human agency, but this would have called his humanity into question. Or, he could have entered into the world with a human mother that conceived through a supernatural act. This third, and final, option fits best with Jesus being both God and man.
  2. It identified Jesus as the incarnate Son of God. The virgin birth set Jesus apart in a way that no other child or pretender could claim.
  3. It ties together expectation and fulfillment. Isaiah spoke of a virgin being with child, a prophecy repeated in the Gospel of Matthew. Just as Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfilled a prophecy, so did His being born of a virgin.

As we celebrate with loved ones this Christmas, it is my prayer that we all take time to reflect on the wondrous event that occurred so many centuries ago when the Word became flesh.

Merry Christmas!