Apologetics and Conversion

You can’t argue someone into the Kingdom!

Wait… really? I personally know dozens of people who experienced “arguments that brought them into” the kingdom of God.

I think I know the source of the objection, though. As a Lutheran, I affirm the statements and explanations in Luther’s Small Catechism. The objection to “arguing someone into” the kingdom is most clearly addressed in the Third Article of the Apostles Creed.

THE THIRD ARTICLE

(Sanctification)

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.

But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian Church he daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers.

On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

How do I see the role of apologetics in relation to this clear helplessness to choose Christ?

Simple. What do you think the Holy Spirit is doing when he CALLS and ENLIGHTENS.

A person in the fallen state cannot overcome their prejudices, personal biases, and suspicions of new information without EXTERNAL help. As this person hears arguments for God’s existence, the reliability of the scriptures, etc, they need the spirit’s help to even consider the views that are contrary to their own positions on those topics.

For more on this topic, I hand you off to my friend, Philosopher and Theologian Ken Samples at Reasons to Believe. Here is the first part of a 4 part series on the role of Apologetics in Conversion.

In historic Christianity the field of apologetics (a reasoned defense of the faith) is considered a branch of theology. Apologetics often has a close connection to evangelism (communication of the gospel message) by attempting to remove intellectual obstacles that may stand in the way of a person embracing faith (conversion).

In this four-part series we’ll take a look at how apologetics can directly impact conversion by examining the historical case of Augustine of Hippo (354–430). St. Augustine had one of the most famous conversions to Christianity in history, and various apologetic elements facilitated his coming to faith. Read more…

50-year-old Professor Bought Jesus is King…Why!?!

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This won’t take long.

  1. I like emotion-filled music. (Faure Requiem, Luther’s Hymns, Jazz, Salsa, and anything else that reflects the Good, the True, and the Beautiful)
  2. I listened to it on YouTube, and I liked it, especially Water and Jesus is Lord.
  3. So I bought it. I recognize the volume of Kanye West’s megaphone will proclaim “Jesus is King” to the whole world. But more importantly, his megaphone reaches places in my own country that my voice simply won’t be heard. I want his numbers to go as high as they can to turn that volume up to 11. So I did my part.

God bless the preaching of His word.

Screenshot_20191031-191734_Amazon Music

I’ve been blessed by it, too. I am encouraged by anyone who speaks the truth from God’s Word.

Even if I take this walk alone
I bow down to the King upon the throne
My life is His, I’m no longer my own
I pray to God that He’ll strengthen my hand
[Closed on Sundays]

 

Every time I look up, I see God’s faithfulness
And it shows just how much He is miraculous
I can’t keep it to myself, I can’t sit here and be still
Everybody, I will tell ’til the whole world is healed
King of Kings, Lord of Lords, all the things He has in store
From the rich to the poor, all are welcome through the door
You won’t ever be the same when you call on Jesus’ name
Listen to the words I’m sayin’, Jesus saved me, now I’m sane
And I know, I know God is the force that picked me up
I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup
[God Is]

 

Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
Jesus is Lord
[Jesus is Lord]

 

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:9-11 ESV]

 

6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” [Romans 10:6-11 ESV]

 

3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. [1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV]

Suicide: An Unpardonable Sin for Christians?

In loving memory of my Uncle Larry and Cousin Kristie.
Thank you Ken.

Reflections

Throughout my professional career as both a college professor and a Christian scholar I have been asked thousands of questions. However, whenever I’m asked about suicide it always strikes an emotional chord deep within me. A close member of my familydied by suicide more than 40 years ago when I was just a teenager.My wife also lost a member of her family in the same tragic way.

In thispost I’ll makefour points about the tragedy of suicide.My central focus will be on the question of whether God forgives this act.

  1. The Serious Nature of Suicide

To intentionally take one’s life is indeed a sin of great magnitude. Why? Because suicide is self-murder. And what makes murder such a horrific act is not just the stealing of innocent life, but also the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore, murder constitutes…

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Five Greek Words and Apologetics Persuasion

If you see a trend in my reblogs, congratulations. I’m sure it is obvious that I value Ken Samples perspective and writing.

This is another great topic. Enjoy!

Reflections

What role does persuasion play in communicating Christian truth to people?

To engage in Christian apologetics is to enter into the enterprise of personalpersuasion. When apologists defend the faith it is for the purpose of persuading people of the truth of historic Christianity.But what actually goes into making a good case of persuasion in general and for Christian apologetics in particular?

Rhetoricis the field of discourse aimed at persuasion. And persuasion is involved in many critical areas of life such as education, law, science, politics, and religion, including Christian efforts at evangelism and apologetics. However, too often people associate rhetoric with disingenuous attempts to sway people through slick manipulation—but abuse doesn’t rule out the proper use of rhetoric.

Five basic elements have come to be accepted as legitimate tools of persuasion. While these broad principles were first systematized by pre-Christian Greek philosophers, the modes of persuasion themselves…

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Three Goals in a Christian Apologetics Encounter

Ken and I are of exactly the same mind on this. I crave deeper conversations with people about the foundational issues that we build our lives upon. Read Ken’s blog post to see how he and I approach these deeper conversations.

Then contact me. Let’s have a conversation, especially if you are curious about science-faith issues.

Ken is a philosopher and theologian, so he would have much more insight into those issues. He’d love to have you comment on his blog.

Reflections

Recently someone asked me how you can know if you have had a successful apologetics encounter. My immediate answer was that defending the faith (Greek:apologia) is never easy and one must trust in God’s grace for the results. Ultimately, I believe thatonly God by his extraordinary grace can instill a desire for himself in a human being.

Yet I do think there are important goals to strive for in apologetics interactions. So whether it’s a television or radio interview, a formal debate, or a personal discussion with someone, I generally have three goals in mind when engaging in the enterprise of apologetics. If I can work toward accomplishing these goals, then I think my time of defending the faith has been well served.

3 Broad Goals of Christian Apologetics Interactions

First, I try to present clear, careful, and cogent arguments for my faith. Whetherpresenting arguments for God’s existence…

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Enduring Wisdom of St. Clive

A Reblog of Drew Rick-Miller’s Science in Congregations email…

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A few years ago, when the bestselling author and New York Times columnist David Brooks found himself undone by a recent divorce, he began to contemplate a move spiritually and it became public. According to The New Yorker, “He received, by his own estimation, three hundred gifts of spiritual books, ‘only one hundred of which were different copies of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.’”

Undoubtedly this was about ninety-nine copies too many, but the friends and acquaintances were on to something. Lewis remains a potent force for instigating conversion. (It worked for me as a first-year student at Berkeley.) I have heard in countless lectures about Christian thought leaders who read “St. Clive” (my nickname—his full name is Clive Staples Lewis) and his enduring influence. I would say, with pardonable overstatement (I hope), that just about every Christian academic I know has read Lewis and been changed.

Lewis, Collins, and Oberg

But let me limit that comment above to thought leaders in faith and science. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, repeatedly cites Lewis as the reason he became a Christian in medical school at age 27. Alister McGrath has written several biographies of St. Clive and his enduring impact.

Continue reading

Five Ways Christianity Is Reasonable

This is an excellent and concise defense of the rationality of Christianity.

Reflections

Is the Christian faith a reasonable religion?

Some believers throughout church history have agreed with many nonbelievers in proclaiming that Christianity is not a reasonable religion. Nevertheless, a powerful theological-philosophical consensus within the history of the faith has argued that the historic Christian religion involves knowledge and is indeed compatible with reason. This historic agreement has often been expressed in the common statement: “faith seeking understanding.” Its most articulate and persuasive spokespersons through the centuries have been such distinguished Christian thinkers as Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas.1Five Aspects of Christianity’s Reasonableness

Since the perception that the Christian faith is not a reasonable religion persists today, it is important to examine five ways that historic Christianity is reasonable.2

First, the Christian worldview offers a plausible explanation for affirming an objective source for knowledge, reason, and rationality. That basis is found in a personal and rational God. Infinitely wise…

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How we come to change our minds

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TLDR: 1. How can we get an honest evaluation of our opinions (especially our opinions of ourselves)? 2. God the Holy Spirit enables us to view things (and ourselves) rightly.

Have you ever been wrong?

It is a legit question, because it is becoming extremely rare to hear someone admit, “I could be wrong, but here is what I think…”.

More and more people just spout declarative statements with no apparent consideration at all that they could possibly be wrong about something.

Slide2

Think about a time when you realized your belief was incorrect.

What did it feel like to realize you were mistaken?
[comment below]

How do we come to realize we have a mistaken belief? Is this an act of the will? How can it be? We are learning something that goes against our will.

What or who lets the contrary facts into our mind? I have seen that changes of mind are almost always unwanted.

The philosophy of ‘knowing’ is called epistemology.

definition of epistemology

The Stanford Encyclopedia has an excellent article on epistemology and defines Knowledge as “justified true belief”.

My use of the word “opinion” above is “belief” in their article. The various epistemologies outlined in the article center on the evaluation of the truthfulness and justifiedness of these beliefs.

Likewise, I have used a similar approach in my series of “No Such Thing as Blind Faith” posts.

But this post diverges from an analysis of epistemology and explores the phenomenon of opening your mind to the possibility that YOU might be mistaken. That your belief might be false in actuality.

You might be familiar with prominent skeptics like Peter Boghossian who use epistemology to argue against religious belief. I’m arguing that epistemology cuts both ways. And I’d like you to explore how it feels to change your mind.

It is built into the Christian world view that the reliability of our faculties is compromised.

I believe the Bible contains a few exceptions. This is controversial, so those with opposing viewpoints, I welcome your dialog in the comments. 

My church body teaches total depravity not just of behavior but also of our perceptual faculties. Because of this, many of my friends take a presuppositional approach to apologetics, claiming that “there really are no atheists” but only those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18 and 21).

I believe in total depravity, but I propose that the depravity exists not in our perceptions, but in our depraved desire to act on the truth of our perceptions. We may discover a true belief about the world or ourselves, but we are unable to fully bring our behavior or our beliefs in line with that truth. More on this later.

The support for the truthfulness of our perceptions comes in the very next verse in Romans.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them [mankind], because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [Romans 1:19-20 ESV, emphasis added]

With the above I wish to emphasize that clear perception of the world around us is a gift of God. He is showing us that we can rely to some degree on our senses to form Justified True Beliefs (Knowledge) about the “things that have been made”.

Back to the feeling of being wrong and changing one’s mind.

That strange and externally-powered “uh-oh” feeling should become more and more familiar to us as we age.

Slide5

I like the word conviction for these discovered truths. A conviction is imposed upon the convict. It is an externally-sourced internal judgement that one cannot help but act upon. Your convictions become your world view, and they are very difficult (often painful) to change.

One of the deepest convictions that is stubbornly difficult to change is the conviction:

“I am basically a good guy. Sure I make mistakes, but who doesn’t. We are all deep down inherently good and don’t really deserve punishment for the wrongs we have done. I mean, there are always external causes for the bad we have done. Right?”

Sorry to knock you off your horse, but you might be wrong about that.

Slide6

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” [Romans 3:10-12 ESV]

Whoa! That’s tough to accept!

But is it? Forget about everyone else. Ask YOURSELF if YOU are righteous. Do YOU understand? Do YOU seek God? or have YOU turned aside? Do YOU always do good?

The Law

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus in Matthew 5:48

Do you feel that familiar irritating tension? Namely, “I may be wrong about being a good person”.

Perhaps, you are distressed by the Law, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Good. You should be distressed by the Law.

That is a major mistake people (you?) make about Christianity. It is not a moral code. It does not teach that you can work your way to God.

There is no way to be perfect if we are fallen.

Good News

Christians talk incessantly about the Gospel (which means good news). Or, at least they should be talking incessantly about it.

What is the good news? Jesus fixed this impossible situation.

“If you would be perfect,… come, follow me.” Jesus in Matthew 19:21

Bold claim. And an evil claim if Jesus was a mere mortal man.

I don’t want you to mistake the purpose of this post. I’m not asking at this point for you to “trust Jesus”, believe the Gospel, etc. Although if you did, I’d be thrilled.

I am asking you merely to consider the possibility that you might be mistaken about what you believe.

Just crack the door on your heart. If there’s light out there it will come in. If not, it won’t.

I believe there is light on the outside of your dark heart.

The Holy Spirit’s Role

Jesus, when he was wrapping up his ministry with his disciples discussed what would happen next. He knew he was going to die, rise, and then go away (ascend) to Heaven. He shared that he would send the Holy Spirit back for a very specific purpose:

7 …I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” [John 16:7-8 ESV emphasis added]

Once again, we see an external source for our Justified True Beliefs (Knowledge). Only this time it is not merely beliefs about the external world. This counselor will convict us regarding our distorted self-esteem. We will be given new convictions externally applied that tell us we are broken and in need of fixing.

That’s why I am focusing on this feeling that we might be wrong about our deepest beliefs.

If you feel like you might be wrong about YOUR view of your own goodness, this is God speaking to you. Let that light in, even if it hurts.

Slide8

C. S. Lewis relentlessly resisted admitting that he was wrong. But as with all externally-imposed realizations, the fact that he was wrong was involuntary. It was a conviction. It was light that burned his heart and began to soften it. It was a gift of God.

This is a reliable progression.

There are three uses of the Law:

  1. Curb
  2. Mirror
  3. Guide

We are all familiar of the law behaving as a curb. These are the “don’t’s”. And unfortunately, most people stop there. They think that this sums up all of Christianity. “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t have any fun! If it tastes good, spit it out!” (Oh, that last one was not Christianity; that was my doctor.)

But the second use of the law is how the Holy Spirit breaks into our lives, uninvited.

The Mirror is God’s gift of self-awareness.

self awareness is a gift

The Mirror of the Law says you are “not good”. We hate this, naturally. But we also know this to be true because of the Spirit of God working in our very own consciences.

Why!?!

The spirit’s desire is to bring us to the foot of the cross, with an attitude like David in Psalm 32.

i confessed my sin

And Paul in Romans 7 “Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The curb leads us to the mirror. The mirror leads us to the Cross. And God the Father sees us through the window of the Cross. Our imperfections do not get though because of Jesus role in cleansing us from all unrighteousness. We are made perfect in God’s eyes because he sees Jesus’ holiness when he looks at us.

Slide23

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. [Isaiah 1:18 ESV]

Who Knows!?

Jordan Peterson understands the curb and the mirror very well. This is painfully clear in his latest video where he wrestles with the question, “Do you, Jordan, believe in God?

Slide22

Like Jacob, wrestling with God, Jordan wrestles with all he has. He’s familiar with the mirror that tells him he falls desperately short. And he is left dumbfounded at the audacity of one claiming to believe in God.

But there is one more piece to the puzzle that I wish desperately for him to discover. He says we can’t know because we are separated from eternity by the veil of death. WHO KNOWS?! he asks.

THAT is why Jesus came, why he died, and why he rose.

Jesus knows.

He is not just a moral teacher. He is the champion over death and can heal our epistemic blindness.

Jesus pleads, “28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30 ESV]

I have great respect for Jordan Peterson. If you know him, please pass this along.

Thank you,

Darren

P.S. The Guide use of the Law turns the law into a positive tool for action. The Curb says, “do not lie”, and the Guide says, “tell the truth”.

No Blind Faith – Part 6

MOVED TO FAITH BY DIRECT EXPERIENCE

In support of the Central Thesis:

No one can actually believe in something blindly.

Direct Experience is perhaps the most common route to faith articulated in the Bible, and quite possibly by Christians the world over.  Seeing something “with your own eyes” is the quickest route to establishing “a fact”, something you can put your faith into.  However, even if one has not “seen” Christ with their eyes, many would claim to have seen His work directly through the lives of Christians that they know and His work directly in their own lives.  But does this count?

“All we know are the facts, ma’am.” –Joe Friday

How do we get these types of Direct Experience facts, and are these proper grounds for belief?

Primarily, we use our five senses, which must be properly functioning and properly sensitive to the experience, and Christian Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has written much on this topic.

“an immediate ground of a belief is an experience, on the basis of which the belief is formed.” – Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, p105.

This is in line with the experiences of Jesus’ Disciples after his resurrection.  Thomas touched him.  They saw him eat.  They heard his voice.  Their belief in the resurrection was based upon direct physical interaction, as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

In fact, a relationship would be a case where belief is warranted, thus, requiring no further justification.  For instance, I don’t have to prove my mother exists using documentation. Her existence is not up for debate because I know her and have had a mother-son relationship with her for many decades.  I have an unshakable and properly basic belief in her existence.  My faith in her existence is not BLIND, even though I do not remember her giving birth to me.

(I am not claiming that this belief makes her truly my biological mother.  I could have been deceived.  I am merely addressing the false characterization that this is blind faith.  It is not blind if it is based upon direct experience of a relationship.)

What of the Christian’s claim of direct experiences with Christ?  No doubt, these form a basis for strong belief, falsifying the claim that these Christians are believing blindly.

But do these claims of a relationship leading to properly basic beliefs satisfy our quest for direct experience fact?

The point is almost inarguable.  For those who are convinced that they sense God’s presence, hear his voice (in their inner dialog with conscience), respond to His prompting, and obtain His blessing in good times and bad, there is no debate.  “God exists because I have met Him” becomes the ultimate apologetic from the perspective of the believer.

jesus

But this is not well understood by those who are not convinced that they sense God’s presence, etc.  A description of a relationship with my mother with an emphasis on the inputs from my five senses seems to be qualitatively different than a description of my relationship with Christ with emphasis on inner-dialog, answered prayer, and peace in troubled times.  There is fertile ground to explore how best to describe a relationship with Christ. Perhaps that will be another blog post.

Whether Christian or not, hopefully you can see that when someone claims to have a relationship with Christ, they are basing that belief on what they deem to be direct experiences, which are properly basic.  This is not blind faith.

You may still ask, “OK, so faith is not BLIND, but is a person’s faith well placed?”  “Is what they believe actually true?”  And for that I must refer you to the materials available at www.thepoachedegg.netwww.apologetics315.com, and other blog entries on our site www.ratiochristi.org where the case is made for the TRUTH of the Christian world view.

:DW

ROADMAP FOR THE SERIES

This series of blog posts will explore what is meant by Christians when they say they have “faith” in Christ.

  • Part 1 – Introduction to my “No Such Thing as Blind Faith” series of posts
  • Part 2 – What is the Biblical concept of the word “faith”?
  • How does one come to have “faith” in something?
    • Part 3 – Sources they trust – parents, pastors, professors, publications, papers, posts
    • Part 4 – Intuition – putting the pieces of life together (least “explainable” but still not “blind”)
    • Part 5 – Reaction to stress or joy – mountain tops and valleys in life
    • Part 6 – Experience – direct experience with Christ in some way
  • Part 7 – Conclusion, support of the central thesis, and how we come to change our minds

No Blind Faith – Part 5

MOVED TO FAITH BY THE MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS IN LIFE

In support of the Central Thesis:

No one can actually believe in something blindly.

VALLEY

“There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.” – Father William Cummings

Chances are good that you have heard the above quote (often misattributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower), especially in light of the latest stink raised by those who would purge religious speech from anyone employed in government service.  Here is an excerpt from an article giving context to Father Cummings’ famous statement.

foxhole

“In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan. They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea.

Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.

“When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf. For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.” He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”

Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation.”

 

MOUNTAIN

In contrast to the despair of impending death, there is the mountain top experience of the Spiritual Retreat. The fact that spiritual retreats are not merely a Christian phenomenon is interesting.  There appears to be some value in the practice for bringing people to faith or for strengthening the faith of those who already believe.  Here are the typical features of the Christian retreats I have seen:

  • Large gatherings for worship, which give a sense of belonging to something much larger than a circle of acquaintances and a sense of love from complete strangers.
  • Small groups for discussion, which allows the ability to know and be known by others.
  • Time alone for reflection, which allows the processing of the information and emotion gathered by the other experiences.

This often results in the attribution to God the love felt and conveyed during the retreat.

BACKFIRE

Mountains and valleys can also have the opposite effect.  The despair of helpless situations has caused many to scream at God, demanding answers, “right now”.  Likewise, sadly, some have gone to spiritual retreats, seen the love shared all around them and they have “felt nothing”.  They have concluded that it was all an act, an exercise in socialization.  Not getting answers from God, not “getting” retreats, and not getting clear reasons why others do is a big sticking point for those who don’t or feel like they can’t believe.

There is only one “magic bullet”, and it is not the mountain top, nor the valley.

RELATIONSHIP

Both examples – the fox hole and the retreat – have relationships as the common factor.  One who comes to faith because of that relationship is NOT acting blindly.  They are moved to faith by what they perceive as true and foundational, namely, “The inexplicable love I feel in this place (from Father Cummings or from complete strangers who love the Lord) is evidence that Christ loves me also.”

But let us go back to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes:

“Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular. Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative. The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?'”

Faith itself may factor into one’s general health, but this is not about lowering your blood pressure, or meditating to relieve one’s stress levels.  What is the object of the Christian faith?

“For I can testify about them that they [the Israelites; but also applies to others who] are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” [Meaning fulfillment of the law will bring life. But perfect living is impossible.]

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  – Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 10, V 2 – 10 with [my comments].

In a nut shell, we are powerless to live a perfect life which is necessary to have a relationship with a perfect God.  So God himself became man in Jesus and became the culmination of the law.  We didn’t invent this scheme, but rather it has been revealed to us in the Bible that God has laid our punishment onto Christ, thus covering our imperfections and allowing us to have a RELATIONSHIP with the one true and perfect God.  Amazing.

I know it is unlikely and confusing and probably doesn’t make sense if this little post is all you know about Christianity.  So before you make a judgment, do two things:

  1. Read the Gospel of John and
  2. Really get to know a Christian who studies apologetics.  If you ask a Christian acquaintance if they study apologetics, and they say “Huh?”, then respectfully move on.  Those who are studying apologetics are studying how to answer your deepest questions and they SHOULD want to be your friend and treat you with Christ’s love and respect regardless of what you believe.  If they don’t.  If they treat you like a project and not a person, then respectfully move on.  You are on a QUEST FOR TRUTH, and you shouldn’t extrapolate too far from one or two bad encounters.
  3. The non-helpful “option 3.”  Read tons of blogs and watch tons of debates online.  This will inform you some, but God seeks a RELATIONSHIP with you, and this often starts with a RELATIONSHIP with one of His believers.

WEEKLY MOUNTAINS AND VALLEYS

Finally, what we see on Sunday Mornings is a retelling of the “valley of the shadow of death” typically in the form of the Confession and Absolution [in liturgical settings, but also prevalent in non-liturgical worship].  We also sing, say, or read about Christ’s victory over death on the cross.  This is the ultimate mountain top experience for the Christian.  We welcome and celebrate the deepest despair and the highest joy at least once a week, and you are welcome to join us.

Our faith resulting from the relationship we have with Christ, from the love in Christian circles, from the historicity of the Scriptures, and from the evidence of Christ’s death on the Mountain of Calvary and His resurrection is not a blind leap into the unknown, for unknown reasons, or against evidence to the contrary.  It is a strong foundation, as strong as the very rocks that form mountains and valleys.

:DW

Since the Air Force has already removed the article once, I am posting the full article here to ensure its preservation:

“Commentary by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kenneth Reyes, JBER Chaplain

7/17/2013 – JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —

The “Chaplain’s Corner” offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

[Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.]

‘No atheists in foxholes’: Chaplains gave all in World War II.

Many have heard the familiar phrase, “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

Where did this come from?

Research I verified in an interview with former World War II prisoner of war Roy Bodine (my friend) indicates the phrase has been credited to Father William Cummings.

As the story goes, Father Cummings was a civilian missionary Catholic priest in the Philippines.

The phrase was coined during the Japanese attack at Corregidor.

During the siege, Cummings had noticed non-Catholics were attending his services. Some he knew were not Catholic, some were not religious and some were even known atheists.

Life-and-death experiences prompt a reality check.

Even the strongest of beliefs can change, and, I may add, can go both ways – people can be drawn to or away from “faith.”

With the pending surrender of allied forces to the Japanese, Cummings uttered the famous phrase “There is no such thing as an atheist in a fox hole.”

In one of my many discussions with Roy, he distinctly remembered a period on the “Hell Ships” – these were ships the Japanese used to bring POWs from the Philippines back to Japan.

They were unmarked and thus ‘fair game’ for attacks from the allies from the air and sea. Of the 3,000-plus POWs listed on the ships, only 180 survived the journey.

“When our own planes were attacking us,” Roy said, “I remember Father Cummings calming us down by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and offering up prayers on our behalf. For a brief moment I did not hear the yells and screams of dying men as our boat was attacked by our own men.”

He went on to say, “There was a peaceful quiet during the attack that I cannot explain nor have experienced since.”

Later on during the trip to Japan, Cummings, after giving his food to others who needed it more, succumbed to his own need and died of starvation. Everyone expresses some form of faith every day, whether it is religious or secular. Some express faith by believing when they get up in the morning they will arrive at work in one piece, thankful they have been given another opportunity to enjoy the majesty of the day; or express relief the doctor’s results were negative.

The real question is, “Is it important to have faith in ‘faith’ itself or is it more important to ask, ‘What is the object of my faith?'”

Roy never affirmed or expressed whether his faith was rooted in religion or not, but for a moment in time on the “Hell Ships,” he believed in Cummings’ faith.

What is the root or object of your faith?

Is it something you can count on in times of plenty or loss; peace or chaos; joy or sorrow; success or failure?

What is ‘faith’ to you?“

ROADMAP FOR THE SERIES

This series of blog posts will explore what is meant by Christians when they say they have “faith” in Christ. Roadmap for the series:

  • Part 1 – Introduction to my “No Such Thing as Blind Faith” series of posts
  • Part 2 – What is the Biblical concept of the word “faith”?
  • How does one come to have “faith” in something?
    • Part 3 – Sources they trust – parents, pastors, professors, publications, papers, posts
    • Part 4 – Intuition – putting the pieces of life together (least “explainable” but still not “blind”)
    • Part 5 – Reaction to stress or joy – mountain tops and valleys in life
    • Part 6 – Experience – direct experience with Christ in some way
  • Part 7 – Conclusion, support of the central thesis, and how we come to change our minds