Daily Archives: September 19, 2015

Stephen C. Meyer lectures on intelligent design and the origin of life

WINTERY KNIGHT

A MUST-SEE lecture based on Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s book “Signature in the Cell“.

You can get an MP3 of the lecture here. (30 MB)

I highly recommend watching the lecture, and looking at the slides. The quality of the video and the content is first class. There is some Q&A (9 minutes) at the end of the lecture.

Topics:

  • intelligent design is concerned with measuring the information-creating capabilities of natural forces like mutation and selection
  • Darwinists think that random mutations and natural selection can explain the origin and diversification of living systems
  • Darwinian mechanisms are capable of explaining small-scale adaptive changes within types of organisms
  • but there is skepticism, even among naturalists, that Darwinian mechanisms can explain the origin of animal designs
  • even if you concede that Darwinism can account for all of the basic animal body plans, there is still the problem of life’s origin
  • can…

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GTY – Frequently Abused Verses: What Are the “Greater Works” for Believers?

John 14:12

Code: B150918

by Jeremiah Johnson

In the quiet intimacy of the upper room, just hours before His arrest, Christ gave His disciples some final encouragement and instruction. He revealed again His unity with the Father, comforted His disciples with the promise of heaven, and told them about the Helper who would empower them for the work ahead (John 14:1-17). But as usual, the disciples failed to fully understand what He was saying.

Some of their confusion lives on in the church today. In particular, one of Christ’s statements in this passage has confounded and divided many believers, with some using the Lord’s promise as proof of the continuation of the apostolic gifts throughout the history of the church.

In John 14:12, Jesus promises His followers: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”

In his book The Upper Room, John MacArthur explains why there is persistent confusion in the church today about the nature of Christ’s promise.

Christians over the centuries have wondered at the richness of such a promise. What does it mean? How could anyone do greater works than Jesus had done? He had healed people blind from birth, cast out the most powerful demons, and even raised Lazarus from the dead after four days in the grave. What could possibly be greater than those miracles? [1] John MacArthur, The Upper Room (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Biblical Resources, 2014) 93.

For charismatic authors who believe in the continuation of the apostolic gifts, the answer is simple. In his book Authentic Fire, Michael Brown explains it this way:

Jesus gave a universal promise in John 14:12 that implies that all believers can ask God to demonstrate His healing and miracle-working power through them, since the statement in John 14:12 is programmatic, as Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” How is this not universal in scope, given that the identical Greek phrase ho pisteuon eis eme, whoever believes in Me, is always universal in application in John? (See John 6:35; 7:38; 11:25; 12:44, 46.) And while we can debate exactly what Jesus intended by the “greater works,” it is difficult to escape from the conclusion that whoever believes in the Son will also perform miraculous signs, based on: 1) the immediate context (14:9-11, with the emphasis on miracles as the works done by Jesus); 2) the universality of the language used; and 3) the assurance which follows, guaranteeing the efficacy of prayer to the Father in Jesus’ name. . . .

This promise cannot be limited to the apostle based on the language of “whoever believes in Me,” nor can it [sic] limited to non-supernatural acts of service. The reverse is actually true. [2] Michael Brown, Authentic Fire (Lake Mary, FL: Excel Publishers, 2014) 188-189.

Writing for Charisma Magazine, charismatic author Larry Sparks makes the same assertion that Christ’s words to His disciples are “a powerful blanket statement” for all believers, throughout church history.

Whoever means whoever. This is beyond the 12 apostles and the 72 called-out ones in Luke 10. Whoever spans all generations. Whoever invites us, in the 21st century, to once again contend for an outpouring of supernatural power in our midst.[3] http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/newsletters/spiritled-woman-e-magazine/23749-the-danger-of-celebrating-halloween

Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, (one of the most influential charismatic churches in the world) and instructor at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, teaches a similar interpretation of the “greater works.” In his book When Heaven Invades Earth, he writes, “The miraculous is a large part of the plan of God for this world. And it is to come through the Church.” [4] Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth (Shippensburg, PA: Treasure House, 2003) 136. Johnson teaches that in His incarnation, Christ emptied Himself of all divine attributes, and in His humanity is the model for our lives.

Jesus became the model for all who would embrace the invitation to invade the impossible in His name. He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God . . . not as God. If He performed miracles because He was God, then they would be unattainable for us. But if He did them as a man, I am responsible to pursue His lifestyle. [5] When Heaven Invades Earth, 29.

Through that lens of Christ’s humanity, Johnson understands John 14:12 as a challenge to surpass His miraculous works.

Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement. Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief. It does not impress God to ignore what He promised under the guise of honoring the work of Jesus on the earth. Jesus’ statement is not that hard to understand. Greater means “greater.” And the works he referred to are signs and wonders. It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark. He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure. What could millions do? That was His point, and it became His prophecy. [6] When Heaven Invades Earth, 185.

We could go on and on with examples of that kind of teaching from charismatic sources, but you get the point. For those arguing for the continuation of the apostolic gifts, John 14:12 is a battleground text.

But was it really meant to be a promise of miraculous power to every believer? The testimony of church history suggests it was not, as many generations of saints have come and gone without any evidence of apostolic power. And while charismatics will argue that there is evidence of miracles today, it’s always anecdotal, rarely documented or objectively substantiated, and often comes from the far-flung corners of the globe.

Even by that flawed standard, the Spirit’s supposed miraculous work today is significantly different than His ministry through the apostles in the first-century church. Far from healing the crippled, curing the ravages of disease, and raising the dead, it seems the focus of the Holy Spirit’s healing ministry today is limited to rheumatoid arthritis, nagging back pain, and other subjective ailments. No longer is His work dramatic, obvious, and undeniable—today it’s mysterious, indiscriminate, and surprisingly absent when and where it’s most needed.

There is no arguing against the fact that Christ bestowed His supernatural power to His disciples (Acts 5:12-16). But there is no reason to characterize their miracles as “greater” than Christ’s, either in magnitude or degree. Furthermore, there is scant evidence that His promise of power extends to the subsequent generations of the church. In other words, not only have we not seen the charismatic interpretation validated by nearly 19 centuries of Christian history, it can’t even be validated by the miraculous works of the twelve apostles! (For further exegetical explanation of the limits of Christ’s promise in John 14:12, I recommend this article from Matt Waymeyer.)

So if Christ wasn’t promising miraculous power that exceeded His own, what did He mean by “greater works?” As John MacArthur explains, Jesus was indicating that the disciples works would be greater not in power, but in extent.

The key to understanding this promise is in the last phrase of verse 12: “because I go to the Father.” When Jesus went to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s power completely transformed the disciples from a group of fearful, timid individuals into a cohesive force that reached the world with the gospel. The impact of their preaching exceeded even the impact of Jesus’ public teaching ministry during His lifetime. Jesus never preached outside a 175-mile radius extending from His birthplace. Within His lifetime, Europe never received word of the gospel. But under the ministry of the disciples the good news began to spread, and it’s still spreading today. Their works were greater than His, not in power, but in scope. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, each one of those disciples had access to power in dimensions they did not previously have, even with the physical presence of Christ.

The disciples undoubtedly thought that without Christ they would be reduced to nothing. He was the source of their strength; how could they have power without Him? His promise was meant to ease those fears. If they felt secure in His presence, they would be even more secure, more powerful, able to do more, if He returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit. [7] The Upper Room, 93-94.

Christ did not hand-pick His disciples merely to perform signs and wonders in His name. They were chosen to extend the good news of His sacrificial, atoning death beyond the reaches of Israel and Palestine, to the far reaches of the globe. They were preaching the completed work of Christ on behalf of sinners, spawning spiritual revival throughout the known world. In that sense, their work was greater than Christ’s, as they bore witness to the truth of His life and death, and saw firsthand the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

As John MacArthur explains, the work of the gospel is the greatest ministry work of all.

After all, the greatest miracle God can perform is salvation. Every time we introduce someone to faith in Jesus Christ, we are observers of the new birth; we are supporting the most important spiritual work in the world. How exciting it is to be involved in what God is doing spiritually and to do things greater than even Jesus saw in His day. [8] The Upper Room, 94.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B150918
COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You

SBTS: How to apply logic to arguments

How to apply logic to arguments, part 1

Planned Parenthood is exposed for trafficking aborted baby parts. Bruce Jenner changes himself into Caitlyn Jenner and the culture lauds him as courageous. The United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision, recognizes homosexual marriage. In the midst of the maelstrom of change in American culture, traditional Christian beliefs and values are no longer the norm but the exception. The Christian now finds himself having to defend his beliefs against a vocal and aggressive liberal agenda that seeks to remove any vestige of Christianity from our culture. If there has ever been a time in America where the believer must be ready to give a reason for his faith, it is now.

But, just how do you argue effectively in the midst of a cacophony of competing ideas? I want to provide some tips to keep in mind as you engage our culture. In doing so, I will use George Stephanopoulos’ recent interview with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, as a test case. Richards’ argumentation is indicative of what you can encounter in our culture and of what to avoid when developing your own arguments.

Listening well

When you are engaging someone else about any cultural issue or objections to Christianity, there are several things to keep in mind that can help you effectively address their objections or issues. In particular, there is the receiving aspect of engagement where you listen to and process the arguments of others. Then there is the answering aspect where you address an issue with your argument. Let us first look at the receiving aspect of engaging the culture.

Listen to the opposing argument. Too often Christians talk past those of different viewpoints because we fail to pay close attention to their objections and issues. Though the Lord can use you despite any mistake, you strengthen your case when the other person knows you hear their argument. Listening to another’s argument entails that you hear what they are saying and not saying.

One’s argument consists of his claim and his stated reasons of support (or premises). Yet, when you encounter an argument, there is more than meets the eye. Undergirding every argument is the arguer’s unstated reasons and presuppositions—basic beliefs that are taken for granted. When you encounter an argument, listen for what the arguer is not saying. Detecting the arguer’s unstated premises and presuppositions may give you more headway in addressing the real issue at hand.

The PP interview and logical fallacies

In her July 26 interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Cecile Richards defended the actions of Planned Parenthood doctors caught on camera allegedly negotiating prices for aborted fetuses. According to Richards, the doctors have done nothing wrong, and what Planned Parenthood doctors really offer are basic healthcare services for women. What Richards does not state in her interview—that which necessarily informs her claim—is her views on the nature of man and on what constitutes a basic human right. To adequately address Richards’ interview, you would need to deal with her unspoken premises in order to make any progress in exposing and defending the truth.

Analyze for possible logical fallacies. A basic logic course can equip you with the most common fallacies committed in everyday arguments. If you have taken a logic course, but time has erased what you have learned, there are excellent books and web resources that can refresh your memory. What you basically need to look for, however, are the following fallacious methods:

1. Attacking the arguer, not the argument. The easiest thing to do when answering an someone’s argument is to attack their character or to bring up circumstantial issues that are not related to the point at hand. In short, does the other person shift the focus away from the topic in their argument? (And a word of caution to you – do you employ such a method in your own argumentation?)

Consider again the Richards’ interview. Rather than address the pressing issue (was the content of the released videos true?), Richards quickly shifts attention to those behind the videos, labelling them as “militants” and “extremists,” as well as grouping them with those who have bombed abortion clinics and murdered abortion doctors. By attacking the credibility of those who released the videos, Richards essentially neglects the real issue of the interview to take the spotlight away from her. Such a move, however, is fallacious as her argument does not address the claim made by the released videos.

2. Distracting the audience. Here the arguer at least stays on topic (in general), but subtly shifts the focus to a simplified version of the another’s argument. The arguer then attacks this simpler argument in order to bolster his own claim. Usually the subtle change is such that the audience, if not careful, can potentially accept the arguer’s claim despite its fallacious argument (this is another word of caution for you as well—stay on topic.).

Richards’ modus operandi throughout her interview is to shift the focus to a related but irrelevant topic. George Stephanopoulos raised questions regarding the content of the released videos: Do Planned Parenthood clinics profit from selling parts of aborted babies? Have the doctors who appear on camera been reprimanded? How many clinics are known to harvest fetal parts and profit from them? Richards answers the questions, but consistently directs the audience to the menacing authors of the videos and to the numerous health services Planned Parenthood offers to women. In short, Richards’ answer to the charges brought against Planned Parenthood does little to bolster her claims.

3. Using unclear language. A problem with printed or recorded arguments is that, if the arguer is not careful to be clear, the audience can mistake the meaning of a word or idea intended by the author for another meaning. Words that are ambiguous (they have more than one distinct meaning) or vague (they have an indefinite range of meaning) can be misinterpreted if the arguer fails to explicitly define them or clarify the context in which they are used. When the arguer is not present, it can be difficult for the audience to know the intended use behind such problematic words.

Euphemisms are problematic as well. Euphemisms are words or phrases that attempt to “soften” words or phrases that are harsh, disturbing, or socially unacceptable. In her interview, Richards uses the euphemism “unintended pregnancy” for those women who visited Planned Parenthood for an abortion. By labeling the pregnancy as such, Richards attempts to paint abortion in a more positive light by implying women have the choice to end an unintended or unplanned pregnancy. The abortion, then, is not about the baby, but about the woman’s choice. In part 2, I will unpack the answering aspect of the argument.

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J. Daniel McDonald, Ph.D., serves as adjunct professor of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at Boyce College.


How to apply logic to arguments, part 2

Editors’ note: Part I of this two-part series was published on Tuesday.

Engaging the culture involves more than the picking apart of opposing arguments. While this is important, you must develop and use well-reasoned arguments. It is far too easy to point out the faults and inaccuracies of someone else’s argument, but to make this your only method does little in advancing the truth. You must be ready to give an answer for what you seek to correct. To help you toward this end, here are four fundamental tips related to the answering aspect of engaging the culture.

1. Provide the solution, not just a critique. This may sound like I am being repetitive, but it is worth repeating. Don’t stop at pointing out your another’s faults (regarding his argument). For instance, I recently read a Twitter post where someone claimed that a particular theologian’s argument committed the straw man fallacy, thus undermining his argument and essentially all of Scripture. The tweeter failed to provide an explanation as to why the theologian committed the straw man fallacy. Merely labeling an argument as fallacious is nothing more than name calling. If an argument is fallacious, explain why.

But, do not stop there. Pointing out a fault without offering a corrective is like a dentist removing a cavity without putting in the filling. Sure, the patient no longer has the cavity, but without filling the hole properly, the patient will have worse dental problems in the long run. To fix the problem, the dentist must add a filling after removing the cavity. Likewise, you must offer a corrective or a solution after pointing out a fault in another’s argument.

With regard to the Richards’ interview, it is easy for Christians to lambast Richards for her views on abortion and the actions of Planned Parenthood. We do little by way of bring truth to light if we focus only on the weaknesses of her argument. Instead, build a case that demonstrates how Richards’ claim is untenable and how the argument made by the Center for Medical Progress demands action.

2. Be informed. Know what you are talking about. Facebook and Twitter are excellent mediums to use when engaging cultural issues. The temptation, though, is to jump into a discussion and rely solely on hearsay or personal experience. Another temptation is to provide immediate responses to keep the upper hand or momentum.

Take the time to research the topic at hand. If you are unfamiliar about a particular issue, do some research and think through your response before replying. Peter’s instruction in 1 Peter 3:15 implies that we reflect carefully upon why we believe what we believe and how we answer objections to the faith. We can apply this principle to our cultural engagement as well; we are to be ready to defend the truth, whatever the situation.

Will you be able to answer successfully every charge? No. Will you make mistakes when defending the Christian faith? Yes. But this should not stop you from preparing well to give an answer for your faith. Jesus Christ promises the Holy Spirit to guide you when you face opposition, but he also instructs us through Peter to prepare for such times. He will bless your work.

3. Let emotion support, not carry, your argument. The ongoing controversy with Planned Parenthood ought to anger you. It is natural and biblical to be outraged at the murder of helpless babies and the trafficking of human parts. You ought to be disgusted at the recent videos of PP doctors and the attempt by Richards to justify their actions. God has created us to experience emotions, and these emotions spur us into action. Care must be given, however, to not let your emotions carry the force of your argument.

Allowing emotion to carry the day can lead you to create a fallacious argument.  Excessive emotion can inhibit your ability to think clearly, can lead you to attack you’re the other person as opposed to their argument, and can do more harm than good against those with differing views. A reasoned argument undergirded by a proper expression of emotion can address not only the opponent’s mind, but their heart as well.

4. Pray. Our Lord Jesus Christ did nothing without prayer. He prayed before choosing the 12 disciples. He went away to a mountain to pray after feeding more than 5,000 people. During the hours leading up to Jesus’s arrest, our Lord spent agonizing hours in the garden praying to the Father. If Jesus Christ prayed often about his ministry and about those to whom he ministers, so should you pray that the Holy Spirit will guide your thought process and your cultural encounter. Ask that he would work in the heart of those who propagate falsehood, open their eyes to their need for salvation through Jesus Christ. Through prayer, you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and submit yourself to the will of the Lord; without prayer, you walk in the futility of your own strength.

These tips are by no means exhaustive. They do, however, touch upon key factors to keep in mind when engaging our culture.  As a student at SBTS or Boyce College, you have the privilege of sitting under professors who give you the tools necessary to face an unbelieving culture with the power of the gospel. Your Old and New Testament courses saturate you with the truths of God’s Word as you delve into the riches found from Genesis through Revelation.

Theology professors ground you in the essential doctrines of the faith and the reasoning behind such doctrines. Missiology and evangelism courses get you out of the ivory tower and into the trenches of spiritual warfare, applying what you have learned for the salvation of lost souls. Preaching and church leadership professors guide you in the art of shepherding and teaching the people of God. Your Christian worldview and apologetics professors teach you, in part, how to argue effectively in the defense of and propagation of the gospel.

I encourage you to take advantage of your time here at seminary or Boyce. We are in a day and age where all Christians must be apologists. You will face objections to the faith that will require every resource you have to answer in defense of truth.

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J. Daniel McDonald, Ph.D., serves as adjunct professor of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at Boyce College.