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Articles - Miscellanea

Posts in Miscellanea
The Virtue of Work in Human Flourishing

Reading an essay by syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, during the early days of 2015, introduced me to a small, but unusual book called the Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. The author of the book is the late Sir John Glubb, British diplomat who lived from 1897 to 1986. The Thomas essay was originally titled “America Interrupted” and first appeared in the Cal Thomas column published by the Chicago Tribune, 29 December 2014. I read it from a copy of The Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV) handed to me by a friend. The headline of the article in the Wheeling paper was “Without Duty, Decadence.”

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“Is there a cultural war?” A good question. What do we mean by culture? Culture is “the sum total of ways of living developed by a group of human beings and handed on from generation to generation” (qtd. in Gagging of God 538). This definition creates conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, God and the world, but cannot be avoided. Incidentally, this is the meaning of Armageddon in Revelation 16:16. 

The biblical worldview. In the beginning (Genesis 1-3), God set forth the biblical worldview culminating in Christianity (Hebrews 1:1-2a; John 14:6). The biblical worldview insists man obey, serve, worship and glorify God (Revelation 4:11). God defines both the origin and purpose of man. God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27) and as the apex of His creation. He imbued man with all the traits of personality. God created man a creature of choice; i.e. man could choose to obey or disobey God. Consequently, man walks in the biblical worldview when his behavior is learned and modified by the divine standard, the Bible.

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Early Defenders of the Faith

From its beginning the Christian faith has been in conflict with the world, facing the hostility of rival religions, philosophies, and political powers. The “city of God” (as Augustine calls it) has always been at war with the “earthly city,” and that conflict, in the view of Augustine, is the dominant fact of world history. It is a struggle for the hearts of men, and it still goes on wherever Christians are found.

   In the first three centuries the church encountered four chief antagonists: Judaism, philosophy, paganism, and the Roman state.

   Judaism.  The earliest extended account of a controversy between Christian and Jew is the Dialogue with Trypho, written by Justin Martyr not far from the year 150. Trypho was an educated Jew, perhaps identical with a Rabbi Tarphon, who is mentioned in the Jewish Mishna. Justin went about, wearing the philosopher’s cloak to mark him as a teacher, and talked of Christ as he had opportunity. He was walking one day in Ephesus when he was hailed by Trypho, who asked what was the nature of the philosophy he professed. In reply Justin gave an account of his early studies with Stoic, Pythagorean, and Platonist philosophers. Then he met an old man who was able to go beyond Plato, telling him of ancient prophets to whom God had revealed things hidden from philosophers, especially the future coming of his Son, the Christ. Justin was converted and resolved to devote his life to teaching others.

   Trypho laughed when he heard the story, saying that Justin would have done better to stay with the teaching of Plato, unless he was willing fully to accept the Law and the prophets, along with observance of circumcision, the Sabbath, and the other ordinances.

   Justin replied by quoting Isaiah on the calling of the Gentiles, and Jeremiah on the two covenants. Christianity, he declared, is the new covenant foretold by the prophet. It replaced the old, and it is now being preached to every people. So the discussion went on, with constant appeals to the Old Testament, which was recognized by both as a final authority. Particular emphasis is laid on the divinity of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, and the conversion of the Gentiles. Micah had spoken of the last days, when Jehovah should be exalted, and the nations should say: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-7; cf. Dialogue 109). Through Micah God had made a similar prophecy. “From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering” (Malachi 1:10-12; cf. Dialogue 117).

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A Few Thoughts On Probability

When I was training gospel preachers, I would at times tell them the following: The affirmation of a probability is the admission of the possibility of the contradictory. What does that precisely mean? It means that when a person asserts that something is only probable, he is already saying at the same time what is being asserted may not be correct at all. In other words, if I say that I will probably attend a ball game tonight, it is also the case that I may not attend that ball game. The contradictory (I may not attend) is possible just as the affirmation (I will probably attend) is possible and stated as a probability. The chances of the occurrence of my attending or not attending do not cancel this truth: When I say that something is probably the case, I am also saying that it is possible that it may not be the case at all.

A second fundamental point needs to be stated just here: Nothing ever probably occurs in the real world external to the human mind. Probability is not a characteristic or an attribute of the world in which we live. I am afraid that in the discussion of probability this truth is sometimes not realized.

Whatever happens—happens. Whatever does not happen—does not happen. When it happens or does not happen, probability is nowhere to be found in the event.

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On American Motherhood

In our modern industrial civilization there are many and grave dangers to counterbalance the splendors and the triumphs. It is not a good thing to see cities grow at disproportionate speed relatively to the country; for the small land owners, the men who own their little homes, and therefore to a very large extent the men who till farms, the men of the soil, have hitherto made the foundation of lasting national life in every State; and, if the foundation becomes either too weak or too narrow, the superstructure, no matter how attractive, is in imminent danger of falling.

But far more important than the question of the occupation of our citizens is the question of how their family life is conducted. No matter what that occupation may be, as long as there is a real home and as long as those who make up that home do their duty to one another, to their neighbors and to the State, it is of minor consequence whether the man’s trade is plied in the country or in the city, whether it calls for the work of the hands or for the work of the head.

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Apatheism Is More Damaging to Christianity Than Atheism and Antitheism  

The greatest threat to Christianity is found not in the arguments of the atheist but in the assumptions of the apathetic. The “new apathy” is a more dangerous threat than the new atheism.

The “new atheism” fad of Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and dozens of other ornery antitheists created a lot of noise over the God Question, reaching its peak in the late 2000s. The loud, kaleidoscopic festival of fallacies served up by these commentators attracted a lot of media attention. Westerners had never had such a public and prominent debate on God’s existence, and millions were seduced by superficially intriguing yet ultimately facile questions like “who created God?” and “is a prime mover not equally as plausible as a giant plate of pasta floating in space?”

Western liberals bemoaned the crimes of the religious, dreaming Lennonishly of a world without fanaticism—as if Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Hoxha had not amply proven that extremism can exist among the atheistic. There were religious responses, but too often they were simplistic and unconvincing, like the infamous “crocoduck.” More nuanced and incisive rebuttals, such as Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition and David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions, somehow never quite achieved the same recognition.

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The Importance of Meta Apologetics

The need to explain the meaning of Christian apologetics is not uncommon in the classroom, much less, casual conversation. When introducing the term in the classroom or Bible study, I typically begin by asking about the modern use of our word “apology” to jumpstart a conversation about the older meaning of apology from the Greek word apologia. If I am in a philosophy class this helps clarify what to expect in the reading of the Apology of Socrates by Plato; and if I am in a Bible class it is a way to elaborate on the meaning of 1 Peter 3:15 and connect it to our modern meaning of Christian apologetics. After this simple introduction I typically jump into an overview of the major pillars of Christian faith: existence of God, the inspiration of Scripture, and the deity of Christ. However, the more familiar someone becomes with topics and writers in Christian apologetics, the more relevant another kind of inquiry becomes, that is, of meta apologetics.

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A Special 2019 Apologetics Event

Reflecting on the past and present event opportunities afforded Warren Apologetics Center should produce deep gratitude. The words of Paul strike a chord: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

The Warren Center, namesake of Thomas B. Warren, one of the greatest voices on behalf of Christian theism in the 20th century, challenges religious skepticism through the rich legacy of Warren’s classical (biblical) apologetics approach. He being dead still speaks (cf. Hebrews 11:4). His debate with Antony Flew, arguably the world’s foremost philosophical atheist in the 20th century, has been called the most significant debate on the existence of God during the last 100 years or more. From Warren’s flawless logical theistic argumentation, the great public interest generated by the debate, and all followed three decades later by Flew’s “conversion” to belief in God, it may very well be the time when atheism was handed its most devastating defeat since the earliest days of Christianity.

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Remembering Thomas B. Warren

In 1994, or perhaps 1995, I was a student at East Tennessee School of Preaching. At the time I was having a dispute with my teacher, Al Simmons, on a logic matter. If I recall correctly, Al was teaching a hermeneutics class when the dispute arose; Al was a good student of Scripture and logical analysis. Before my enrollment in the school, I took some philosophy classes at Boise State University and one formal logic class. This was about 1990, while I was serving in the US Air Force. Since Al was the teacher of the class, I was on the short end of the dispute, but I was convinced I was right on the problem. All I knew to do was call someone of logical note, and I thought the best one to call was Thomas B. Warren. Not knowing how to get in touch with Dr. Warren, I called Garland Elkins at Memphis School of Preaching. I explained my conundrum and asked for assistance. After a few moments of conversation, he said I should call Warren, something which I was very much interested in doing. After having given me his number, I made the call.

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Is the Christian Faith Rational?

  There are Christians who become troubled when they think about their faith and sometimes they wonder if their Christian faith is true. Too many Christians have accepted the facts of Christianity solely on the basis of trust and confidence in others (parents, friends). They have never given a close and careful consideration to examine the basis of Christianity (the Bible).

   The age in which we live is both sophisticated and educated. It demands that we know what and why we believe something. Believing something does not make it true. A thing is true or not true regardless of whether anyone believes it. This is true of Christianity as of everything else.

   There are those who reason that Christianity is at least non-rational if not irrational. They use Paul’s statement: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, ESV). However, this is an abuse of Paul’s statement. Christianity is rational. The Bible is the ground of faith. Faith in Christianity is built on evidence. Paul wrote: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV). The Christian faith is reasonable and rational.

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Our Culture and Life

Someone wrote, “The culture around us has declared war on all biblical standards. . . . Some Christian unwittingly began following suit several years ago. That has opened the door for a whole generation in the churches to embrace postmodern relativism openly and deliberately.” No one will deny that our culture lacks a biblical basis and has a secular basis. To understand the “war on all biblical standards,” we mean there is no right and wrong, no true and false, no good and bad but only shades of gray. This is not the proper way of understating God’s truth. Stated above is what is called postmodern relativism. The confusion of the above concerning our culture is troubling. We believe the following observation is correct: “The United States is entering a post-Christian era and is rapidly becoming a foreign nation to committed believers” (Charisma Magazine). The question is: “How can we instill in our society a love for God’s truths.” Consider the following:

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On the evening of September 3, 1814, 35 year old Francis Scott Key was held captive on British warships while the British attempted to subdue Baltimore. On that rainy night Key watched as Fort McHenry was continually bombarded by cannon and rocket fire. When dawn broke on September 4, Key was so inspired to see the large flag still flying over the fort that he wrote a poem entitled, “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” The poem was later set to music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” On March 3, 1931, by congressional resolution, “The Star-Spangled Banner” officially became our National Anthem.

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The Greatness of the Christian Life

Because of the debates like that which he had with the late Antony Flew, Thomas B. Warren is remembered as a great debater. However, Thomas B. Warren was also a great preacher. I recall listening to him deliver a masterpiece sermon a few years before his death in 2000. The sermon was on the Christian life, and the text was Philippians 4:1-23. In the introduction Warren observed that there are times when we need to take lengthy passages and “follow along” in the passage to see what it is telling us. In this case, he asked, “What is Philippians 4:1-23 telling us about the Christian life?”

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Apologetics Training

 In an article titled “Insights for Apologetics from Other Disciplines,”  I focused on a number of things, but essentially, the necessity of good questions so as to (1) gain information from our opponents, (2) expose weaknesses in their arguments, (3) better understand what their objections are, and (4) ensure that we are discussing the real issues involved rather than missing the point.

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A THANKSGIVING MEDITATION: What Do You Have that You Did Not Receive?

I recall reading the following story as referenced by Jerrie Barber. While on a short-term mission trip, Jack Hinton from New Bern, NC, was leading worship at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. There was time for one more song, so he asked if anyone had a request. A woman who had been facing away from the pulpit turned around. “It was the most hideous face I had ever seen,” Hinton said. “The woman’s nose and ears were entirely gone. The disease had destroyed her lips as well. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, ‘Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?’”

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The following significant statements are taken from an issue of the Gospel Advocate, many decades old (September 13, 1973). The statements were penned by the late Thomas B. Warren. He wrote: “The basic thrust of New Testament preaching is apologetic in its nature. . . . It is a grievous error to conclude that the study of ‘Christian Evidences’ [apologetics] is one extraneous to the study of the Bible. The two go hand-in-hand.”

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The Sons of the World Are Wiser Than the Children of Light

On June 7, 2011, Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple, Inc., the American multinational technology company, made his last public appearance. Jobs died from cancer later in 2011. His last public appearance was before the city council of Cupertino, CA, for the purpose of announcing Apple’s plan to build a 2.8 million square foot office building located on a 175 acre property, the former campus of Hewlett-Packard’s advanced products division. This high tech office development will be surrounded by 7,000 trees, including apricot, plum, olive, and apple orchards, and indigenous plants—a landscape of beauty designed by a leading Stanford University arborist...

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