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Showing posts from March, 2011

10 Books that I thank God for

My friend Brian Hedges gave a list of 15 authors (in 15 minutes!) that have greatly influenced him over his life.  I can't reduplicate that accomplishment, because 1. I don't read as much as Brian, 2. it would take me more than 15 minutes, and 3. I can't really point to that many authors and say that they've had a dramatic influence on me. But there are a few books that I can point to and say, "Man, I'm really, really glad God put that book in my path."  Of course, let me say at the outset that the Bible has certainly influenced me.  But that is in a league all by itself.  It is Inspired with a capital "I".  What I'm talking about here are inspired-with-a-lowercase "i" -books and writers  (I hope you get what I meant by that).  Here they are:

1.  Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray.  I almost get teary-eyed every time I think about the first time I came across this book in Joshua's Christian bookstor…

My Journey in the King James Version Debate

I grew up reading and hearing the KJV, so I have an affinity for this old English version of the Bible.  I also grew up in a denomination that for the most part believed that using any other version, even 400 years later, is wrong, and I inherited this view and held it for many years. With many others, I believed that the KJV is the only English version of the Bible that we should read, study, memorize, and preach out of.  However, I have to say that I no longer hold that view.  In fact, I would argue that there are several modern English versions of the Bible that are far better translations than the KJV.  How does someone who was a rabid KJV-onlyer learn to embrace versions like the NASB or the ESV?  This is my story of how it happened to me.

 What initially convinced me to really embrace the KJV-only position was the reading of books from that perspective that compared the KJV with other versions and then argued that the modern versions were "altering" God&…

The Cross is the answer to my cross

Suffering is perhaps the thorniest problem for theists. If there is a God who is loving and powerful, how come there is so much suffering? It seems that the presence of suffering presents us with a dilemma: either God is powerless to stop it (then he is not omnipotent, and therefore not God) or he is not loving enough to stop it (and therefore unworthy of worship).

Many theists, including Christian ones, protest the above implications by saying that suffering is the necessary concomitant of free will, for free will implies the ability to choose that which is not for our good. God could have made us without free will, but then we could never known what love was, and we could not have been truly human. You can't be human without free will and you can't have free will without the possibility of suffering.

I've always been bothered by that line of reasoning, even though it is at first very compelling. It's actually convinced quite a few people. However…

Doing What Is Right In Our own Eyes

There is a verse in the book of Judges that is repeated at least once, and it reads, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6;21:25). The first of these verses precedes an almost humorous account of a man and his house of idols, and the second follows a sad depiction of the evil that was taking place in Israel at that time. In both cases, the point is the same: anarchy and wickedness were the norm rather than the exception, and the reason for this was owing to the fact that there was no ultimate authority in the land.

But that's always the case: where there is no ultimate authority, anarchy and evil inevitably follow. This is true in government in general, but especially in the arena of morals. If there is no ultimate authority, anything can be legitimatized. But this, sadly, is precisely the case in our culture today: we are without a king, without a reference point for differentiatin…

Christian Counseling is for Christians

I was listening to a radio talk-show program yesterday when a lady called in and in the midst of her conversation mentioned that she had been divorced. When the talk-show host asked if she had tried to make the marriage work, she replied that they had "even tried Christian counseling." As if to say, that if trying "Christian counseling" didn't make it work, then nothing would.

The way she said that made it sound as if there is something magical about Christian counseling, and it got me to thinking. Christian counseling is not for everybody. Christian counseling is for Christians. And what I mean by "Christian" is not just anyone who claims that name: what I am referring to by that title are people who believe in the authority of the Bible, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only Savior of the world, and whose lives have been changed from the inside out, who have received the grace of God by faith alone and not by works.…

Confidence vs Certainty

This is another note springing from my reflections on the conversation between Alistair McGrath and Richard Dawkins. One of the things Dawkins kept complaining about, was that many religious people are not willing to consider that they are wrong. This breeds a kind of contempt for others, a contempt that finds its expression in an extreme case in homicide bombers or in religious persecution. Religious faith, it seems, breeds arrogance, and arrogance breeds persecution. So religion (in Dawkins' eyes) is a very bad thing, the root of all evil.

A few preliminary remarks. First, getting rid of religion (which is what Dawkins wants to do) is not the answer to getting rid of persecution. McGrath rightly pointed out that the 20th century should keep us from that conclusion: the Soviet union, for example, was an atheist state that tried to eradicate religion by means of the gulags and other methods of torture and persecution. And atheism was not just "coincidental…

Dawkins and another Straw-Man

I was listening/watching a conversation between the celebrated Christian theologian and apologist Alistair McGrath and the grandfather of the new atheism Richard Dawkins. To be totally honest, I think in terms of the debate that Dawkins clearly got the better of McGrath, who was weak on several points. I am not an atheist. And Dawkins' arguments aren't very convincing still. But I do wish that McGrath would have done a little bit better!

One of the things that came up in the conversation was the improbability of the universe and how theists (and especially the intelligent design folks) use this argument to point to an intelligence behind the universe, namely God. Dawkins' response to that was to say that, if he exists, God must be more complex that the universe and so it follows that he is more improbable than even the universe itself! So in a sense, the atheists are throwing the argument back in the faces of the theists.

But are they? As I pondered wha…

What is the point of Prayer when God is Sovereign?

What is the point of prayer when God is sovereign? I've often pondered this question, but recently when the daughter of a friend of mine became severely ill, it came home to me with force. My friends are in Cambodia as missionaries, and I'm sure that thousands of people were praying for them. But why? God knew their need. God was able to meet their need. So if God really wanted to help them, he didn't need my prayers either to inform Him or to empower Him. Further, I don't see why a multitude of prayers empower or inform God any better than one prayer. So why pray?

Interestingly, Jesus who told us that "men ought always to pray and not to faint" (Lk 18:1) is also the one who said that "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Mt 6:32) and "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him" (Mt 6:8). So our Lord himself, as it were, poses the very problem.

Even more interestin…