Saturday, December 31, 2005
More on Evangelicals and the Movies

Given my previous post, which shows a shift in the way evangelicals handle movies, a believer may ask how he or she should critically watch and interact with movies as well as other forms of entertainment. Joe Thorn has written a great introductory answer to this question, "Advice for Watching Movies." In this post, he gives three suggestions:

1) Don’t be Reactionary
2) Be Thoughtful
3) Be Redemptive

Thorn gives great advice, and his whole blog entry is worth reading. Another helpful evangelical voice is Brian Godawa, a Christian screenwriter. He has written a much needed book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment.

Let us engage our culture (and its stories as told through movies) with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 11:14 AM  

Friday, December 30, 2005
How Should Evangelicals Witness to Mormons?

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the school I currently attend), has posted an interesting commentary on his web site, "From the Salt Lake to the Jordan River." (This post was originally printed in the Summer 2005 issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, pp. 70-72) In it, he says:

To understand the draw of Mormonism, evangelicals should read the works of Latter-day Saints who explain why they love their religion. Some LDS intellectuals who have concluded, to their regret, that Joseph Smith constructed from his own mind the narrative of the Book of Mormon and the "translation" of the Book of Abraham are instructive here. Grant Palmer's An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, for instance, warns that his conclusions are not for children or new converts. Demonstrating the roots of the Book of Mormon in the nineteenth-century world of King James Bible, freemasonry, occultism, and frontier Americanism; Palmer nonetheless remains a committed Mormon--because he loves the social and theological vision of the LDS culture. Likewise, Coke Newell, a convert to the LDS church in his late teens, lays out why a drug culture vegetarian would find the LDS church compelling. In so doing, he glories in the ancient mysteries of Mormon cosmology and eschatology: from a God and a Goddess who produce offspring to a future in which deified humans rule a vast cosmos. Newell makes clear that he isn't simply convinced by Smith's claims; he is convinced because he loves the picture of reality they portray.

This should come as no surprise to evangelicals who have read the Apostle Paul's revelation of the roots of human idolatry in the first chapter of Romans. Fallen humans have affections and inclinations that they then prop up with beliefs, convincing themselves that their systems are true. This could not be clearer with Mormonism, which is in reality little more than an Americanized version of a Canaanite fertility cult. With this the case, evangelicals should take more than a scattershot approach to knocking down Mormon claims (although this is necessary). We must also present a counter-story to the Mormon story: one that resonates with the beauty of truth and holiness.

While I am not sure how Moore can compare Mormonism with a Canaanite fertility cult, his article is thought provoking when considering how we should witness to Mormons. Check out what he has to say and see what you think.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 7:30 PM  

Thursday, December 29, 2005
Evangelicals and the Movies

I recently came accross an engaging article in the New York Times. The news story, "New Cultural Approach for Conservative Christians: Reviews, Not Protests" (registration required), examines the shift among evangelicals in our approach to movies. It demonstrates a growing maturity in interacting with popular culture. The newswriter points out:

This critical ambivalence represents a change in the way conservative Christians engage popular culture, said Robert Johnston, a professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical institution, in Pasadena, Calif. Until recently, he said, Christian groups would have ignored a sexually explicit movie like "Brokeback Mountain" except to protest it.

"Ten years ago, conservatives would say 'Schindler's List' should not be shown because of its nudity," said Professor Johnston, adding that he had not yet seen "Brokeback Mountain." "But just as in the wider culture, evangelicals as a group are becoming more sophisticated in their interaction with popular culture. There's been a recognition within the evangelical community that movies have become a primary means, perhaps the primary means, of telling our culture's stories. For this reason, evangelicals have become much more open to good stories, artfully told, but they also want stories whose values they can affirm or understand."

I applaud this new approach. At the same time, we must always be vigilant in our discernment. I am concerned with Christians uncritically imbibing popular culture. We need to continually remember the wise counsel of the Apostle John: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 12:27 PM  

Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The Importance of Blogging
The latest issue of Reformation21 is out, and it looks like another excellent edition. Dedicated to the life and work of David Wells, this issue should not be missed.

Carl Trueman includes a fascinating article, "The Theatre of the Absurd." In it, he talks about the problems and absurdity of blogging. This article is simply must reading for bloggers. Here is an excerpt:
There is, however, more to it [my blogging] than the fact that I still have the mind of a seventeen year old schoolboy trapped inside an older but clearly no wiser body. It is that the whole blog phenomenon is inherently ridiculous; that the more serious it tries to be, the more absurd and pompous it becomes; and that I believe that if you can’t beat the inevitable blogological deconstruction, you might as well join it, and that with relish. As the old Buddhist proverb says, 'When faced with the inevitable, one must merely accept the inevitable.'

Should we stop blogging? No. But I do like the option Trueman suggests at the end:
...face this theatre of the absurd head-on; join in with the other nobodies pretending to be somebodies; laugh at your own ridiculous complicity in this nonsense; expose the systemic contradictions for all they are worth; mock the blogworld for all of its inane self-importance; and in so doing try in some small way to subvert the system from the inside. It may not ultimately work; but you’ll have fun in the process.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )
posted at 4:02 PM  

Friday, December 23, 2005
What is "Official" Mormon Doctrine? (Part 3)

When seeking to understand Mormon doctrine, knowing the written Scriptures of the LDS church is not enough. Mormons have no concept of a closed canon (in fact, they tend to ridicule such an idea). There are other ways in which Latter-day Saint teachings are established.

The Second Level: Official Statements from Presidency

The ninth Article of Faith states, "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." For Mormons, God continues to reveal himself and his ways to them. Fundamentally, this revelation comes through the living prophet and president of the church. Thus, official statements by LDS prophets as well as official statements by the First Presidency are authoritative for Mormons. They should also be consulted when examining Mormon beliefs.

The Third Level: Material from the Presidency and General Conference Statements

Materials that are produced by the First Presidency of the LDS church itself with the intent of teaching church members what they believe should also be considered as accurate and helpful sources of church doctrine. One very important book in this regard is Gospel Principles.

Additionally, statements by general authorities during the church's general conferences carry a lot of weight. Since all church members are supposed to watch these general conferences, and since these conferences provide a platform for LDS church leaders to address members, what these authorities say is often important in the beliefs of Latter-day Saints.

The Fourth Level: Other Statements from General Authorities

Once we get down to the fourth level, the authoritativeness can be relatively low. Nevertheless, the general authorities tend to be highly regarded by church members. With this in mind, what they say and write outside of general conferences can also be influential.

The Fifth Level: Other Writings

Some models do not include a fifth level. Nevertheless, I believe that such a level exists in the lives of many Mormons. While these writings may have no "official" authority within the church, some Mormons may see them as authoritative in some sense. As an example, we have already seen that many Latter-day Saints have looked to McConkie's Mormon Doctrine for a summary of their beliefs. Others draw heavily from contemporary Mormon scholars and apologists. We cannot assume that all Mormons believe what is written at this level, but we can recognize that Mormons often will turn to others in having their beliefs explained and defended.

The Solution

This "hierarchy of authority" provides a strategy for understanding, examining, and critiquing Mormon doctrine. It also allows us to keep various LDS material in perspective. With these levels in mind, I hope that we can accurately discuss, debate, and refute the claims of the LDS church while pointing Mormons to the true Jesus Christ.

(I have based my hierarchy on James R. White, Is the Mormon My Brother? Discerning the Differences Between Mormonism and Christianity, 23-42. To see this kind of model implemented, see Cky Carrigan's PhD dissertation, "An Assessment and Critique of the Distinctive Christology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).")

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 3:00 AM  

Thursday, December 22, 2005
What is "Official" Mormon Doctrine? (Part 2)

Let's take this "hierarchy of authority" from the top down. In Mormon doctrine, the first level is the most authoritative whereas the bottom level is the least authoritative.

The First Level: Written Scriptures

Mormonism was summarized by Joseph Smith in the Articles of Faith. The eighth Article of Faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Therefore, we see that the Bible is Scripture as well as the Book of Mormon. The LDS church also includes the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price as written Scripture. Here is a little more about them:

Together, these combine together as the official written Scripture for the LDS church. As such, they are the top level of Latter-day Saint authority. They are foundational to Mormon doctrine, so an individual seeking to understand Mormonism should begin here (at the same time, remember that most distinctive Mormon teaching comes from the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price).

We will look at the remaining levels of authority in my final post.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 3:00 AM  

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
What is "Official" Mormon Doctrine? (Part 1)

What do Mormons believe? Many individuals (both within and outside the LDS church) have attempted to answer this question. Nevertheless, given the nature of continuing revelation in Mormonism as well as the relative authority of various LDS materials, one must begin by grappling with the issue of "official" beliefs. What does the LDS church officially believe and teach?

The Problem

Robert Millet is a professor at Brigham Young University who has recently written a book to share with evangelicals and others what Latter-day Saints believe about Jesus Christ. Yet even in this work, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Millet states,

While I owe a deep debt of gratitude to faculty colleagues, ministers and theologians of other faiths, and students who have challenged me to clarify my thinking, I alone am responsible for the conclusions drawn from the evidence cited. This book is a private endeavor and is this without imprimatur or authorization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Brigham Young University (xii-xiii).

So, Millet admits that the LDS church neither authorizes this book nor does it necessarily summarize official Mormon doctrine.

With this in mind, where can we turn to understand LDS beliefs? Many have found Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine helpful. However, one Mormon scholar points out the potential limitations of this work as well:

For two generations, many Latter-day Saints have relied for matters of doctrinal clarification upon an encyclopedic tome called Mormon Doctrine (first printing 1958) as the definitive statement on the subject, because of its authoritative title, tone, and authorship by a prominent apostle, Bruce R. McConkie. But it never received official sanction, and it expresses what an increasing number of Mormons see as an overly rigid fundamentalism (Terryl L. Givens, The Latter-day Saint Experience in America, 94).

Again, we ask to the question: where can we turn? Where can we look to find the teachings of Mormonism? And how can we seek to correctly understand Mormon doctrine so that we can accurately and effectively respond to the claims of Latter-day Saints? Simply put, we need a way to measure the authoritativeness of LDS sources. Since different LDS material has various levels of authority, we need to keep these distinctions in mind while studying Mormonism.

We will begin examining this "hierarchy of authority" in my next post.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 3:00 AM  

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
President Hinckley on Joseph Smith

The December 2005 issue of the LDS church magazine, Ensign, includes an article on Joseph Smith by President Gordon B. Hinckley, "Joseph Smith Jr.—Prophet of God, Mighty Servant." This first presidency message is well worth reading. It gives us insight into the way members of the LDS church understand and admire their first prophet and founder. Here is Hinckley's conclusion:

When I was a boy 12 years of age, my father took me to a meeting of the priesthood of the stake in which we lived. I sat on the back row while he, as president of the stake, sat on the stand. At the opening of that meeting, the first of its kind I had ever attended, 300 or 400 men stood. They were from varied backgrounds and many vocations, but each had in his heart the same conviction, out of which together they sang these great words:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
Praise to the Man," Hymns, no. 27)

Something happened within me as I heard those men of faith sing. There came into my boyish heart a knowledge, placed there by the Holy Spirit, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of the Almighty. In the many years that have since passed, years in which I have read much of his words and works, that knowledge has grown stronger and ever more certain. Mine has been the privilege of bearing witness on continents north and south, east and west, that he was and is a prophet of God, a mighty servant and testifier of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
(Hymns, no. 27)

That testimony I reaffirm now, in the name of Him of whom Joseph Smith was a witness and of whom I also am a witness, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 2:54 PM  

Meet John Divito

Today I am posting my personal testimony. I was originally asked to write it out when I became a research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM). After it was completed, my testimony was included in the Fourth Quarter 2002 issue of Mormonism Researched. I am posting it here with the permission of MRM.

Since my birth, I had been raised in the atmosphere of the Mormon faith. My parents were dedicated to the Mormon Church, and I was in church every Sunday. I was also involved in many of the other activities the church offered. When I turned eight years old, I was baptized at the youngest age the church allowed. After I was baptized, I continued as a member of the church for a long time. I received the Aaronic priesthood at 12, had a temple recommend, and was baptized for the dead when I went to the temple. I also looked forward to the time when I could serve my two-year mission. But as I grew older, things began to change...

I had come to the age where I could work. The church had begun to change in my eyes, and I did not really have problems with neglecting it by working on Sundays. When it came down to it, I had grown unhappy with the Mormon Church. I came to the point where I was more of an agnostic. I never really denied God’s existence -- I just didn’t care. I had my own life to live. So I worked through the rest of high school.

Then I turned eighteen, and I had a decision to make. Of course, this is the time when I was supposed to go on my two-year mission. I had been raised to go on a mission at this time, and I had even wanted to go through most of my youth. But I didn't care much about religious matters anymore. I wanted to go to college so that I could get a good education and live a decent life. Therefore, I began attending college. After all, I thought it was going to determine how much money I was going to make. While attending college, something amazing happened. I met a woman named Jennifer. I certainly was not looking for anyone. But through a mutual friend, we had begun talking on the Internet. Now at first I just thought of her as a friend. But as we continued to talk, I started to really like her. After about three months, we decided to meet. And after meeting, we began to date. I was on cloud nine. There was only one problem -- she was a Christian. Not that I really minded; I didn’t necessarily think that there wasn’t a God. I just hadn’t cared for so long. She was very active in a campus ministry, and I began attending some ministry activities to spend more time with her. In time, I decided to prove to her that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the true church. After all, if she was going to be devoted in her beliefs, it should be with the true church. I realized that in order to accomplish this, I would need to study and understand the materials out there written against Mormonism. Then I could refute their arguments and demonstrate to her how Mormonism was true.

This wound up leading to a huge problem. The things I was reading could not easily be disproved. In a matter of fact, they could not be disproved -- they were telling the truth. The evidence they gave was well documented and easily verifiable. I started to understand more about the history of Joseph Smith and of The Book of Mormon. There were also doctrinal problems that made the theology of the church illogical and irrational. I began having a crisis of faith. Was everything I had ever been taught through the Mormon Church wrong? After my research, I found out what I had believed was wrong. For me, learning the truth about Joseph Smith and the dubiousness of The Book of Mormon were the two primary reasons that caused me to leave the church.

As more time passed, the minister from the campus ministry began to make some sense. I decided to go with the group to a mission trip in Mexico over spring break. When we finally got down there, I took some time to talk to the associate minister. We spent a long time talking about spiritual things. I realized that I was a sinner -- that I had disobeyed God by trying to run my own life and do things my own way. I also knew Mormonism did not have the answer, and I knew that I could never be good enough to make things right with God (even by keeping the ordinances of the church and the law of the gospel). Worst of all, I knew that I deserved God's punishment for my sins. So I confessed this to the associate minister and he told me that Jesus Christ died on the cross to take all of this punishment upon Him. Jesus also rose from the dead three days later and He has been alive ever since. The associate minister continued by saying that if I came to faith in Christ and what He had done for me, my sins would be forgiven and God would judge me based on Jesus' perfection and righteousness instead of my sinfulness. This was the key. Nothing I could do would help or make me better off. It was not about me anyway. It is about God, whose creation rebelled against Him, and about what He did to restore His relationship with this creation. I realized that what He did through Jesus Christ was glorious, and I wanted nothing more than to trust in Him. As a result, I told the associate minister that I wanted to become a Christian. He celebrated with me, and we told God together of my decision by prayer. He then recommended I should get baptized. Later in the week the entire campus ministry went down with me to a lake where he baptized me. This was the best decision I ever made.

I realized that my separation from God no longer existed. Through Christ, the barrier my sin had made was removed. And as a result, I was in a wonderful relationship with my Creator. I now had purpose in my life. I existed to serve God and to glorify Him. Learning the Bible and about Christianity had totally changed my life. I began to see a real need for Christians to be better trained biblically and to be able to discern truth from error. I gained a passion to use my talents and gifts to serve God in this matter. Because of this, I began gaining education for this purpose at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I also continue to have a heart for the LDS people, and a desire to show them the truth. Hopefully, with my involvement with Mormonism Research Ministry, I will be able to help others in the pursuit of this truth. And I will never forget that for the rest of my life, I will live first and foremost to serve the Lord and to do His will.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 10:00 AM  

Monday, December 19, 2005
Should We Critique Mormonism? (Part 2)

I will continue my previous post by giving two final reasons for critiquing Mormonism.

3) Mormon claims require a response. Mormonism asserts that our churches are false and that our beliefs (as summarized in our creeds) are an abomination to God. Why shouldn't we respond to these charges? The Apostle Peter instructs us: "…and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15). I must defend the historic doctrine of the Trinity against Mormon counterclaims. I must defend the good news—full salvation (eternal life) is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I must defend the inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Bible as God's complete and accurate revelation to us.

Occasionally, I will hear Mormons suggest: "We do not argue against your beliefs." This is simply untrue. Mormonism is built upon a denial of historic Christianity's fundamental beliefs. Anytime a Mormon shares their faith, they are also telling others how historic Christianity is wrong (see
my first point).

Even Joseph Fielding McConkie mistakenly

As to how we as Latter-day Saints view those not of our faith and as to how we determine who in this world is “Christian” and who is not, may I suggest that though many in the Christian world are anxious to draw a circle and exclude us. We choose to draw a very large and inclusive circle. We will pray with any man who is willing to do so. Our bookstores do not contain anti-anybody literature, we do not attack those of other faiths in our missionary lesson plan, nor do we do so in our church services or in any class sponsored by the Church. We do not give out warnings against those of other faiths nor do we ever forbid our membership from listening to or talking to anyone they desire.

(By the way, I highly recommend reading McConkie's entire message, "The First Vision and Religious Tolerance," available in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2)

Apparently, McConkie has forgotten about a book he co-authored with Robert Millet, "
Sustaining and Defending the Faith." This work is a direct attack against the historic Christian faith. Additionally, entire LDS ministries exist to argue against our beliefs. The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (at Brigham Young University, a school run by the LDS church), the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, and many others write against the beliefs of those who hold to the historic Christian faith.

It is clearly incorrect to maintain that the LDS church does not seek to refute historic Christian doctrine. In light of this reality, I must give an answer in response.

4) Love. This reason is the most important of all. If God's truth inherently denies error, if the gospel is the one and only hope for eternal life, and if Mormonism denies God, His truth, and His gospel, then I must show that Mormonism is wrong. I do this out of love, desiring for God and His good news to be understood and believed. I care about humanity and each individual's relationship with God. I also recognize that Mormonism cannot reconcile us with our Creator. Love compels me to proclaim the hope God has given us in Jesus Christ. I pray that we may all trust in Him and in His redemptive work alone for our eternal life.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 3:00 PM  

Should We Critique Mormonism? (Part 1)
When critiquing Mormonism, I have found that it is not uncommon for Mormons to ask: "Why do you want to spend your time attacking another religion? Why don't you just share with others what you believe?" I hear questions like these so frequently that I have given a lot of thought to my response. Here are the reasons I usually give:

1) Proclaiming the truth inherently includes denying error. As Ravi Zacharias (who recently gave a series of lectures on truth in Salt Lake City, including a message at the Historic Tabernacle on Temple Square) has said, "If truth does not exclude, then no assertion of a truth claim is being made; it's just an opinion that is being stated. Any time you make a truth claim, you mean something contrary to it is false. Truth excludes its opposite" (Zacharias quoted in Lee Strobel,
The Case for Faith, 150-151). Simply put, when a person claims that something is true, he or she is also automatically implying that its opposite is false. If I argue for monotheism, I am also necessarily arguing against polytheism. Therefore, it is impossible to just share with others what I believe. By doing so, I am at the same time sharing with them what I do not believe. If I believe that historic Christianity is true, then I also must believe that Mormonism is false. As a result, my faith requires me to demonstrate why this is so. We cannot separate telling the truth from exposing error.

2) The exclusivity of the gospel demands it. Jesus Christ said, "...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). The Apostle Paul maintained, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9). Elsewhere he warned against following those who preach another Jesus, receiving another spirit, or receiving another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). It is only through God, His redemptive work, and His gospel that we gain eternal life. Since historic Christians and Mormons believe in different Jesuses and trust in different gospels, I must seek to show the true Christ and the true gospel.

My next post will give two final reasons for critiquing Mormonism.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )
posted at 3:00 AM  

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Do We Need Apologetics?

Mark Coppenger has written an intruiging article for the Illinois Baptist, "Why the Church Needs Apologetics, Even When the Lost Won't Listen". I suggest checking it out! Here is an excerpt:

Now and then apologetics (argumentation for defense of the faith) has a direct impact on lost people, leading them toward conversion, or at least away from hostility. For instance, perennial skeptic Antony Flew now expresses a form of theism, in part because of the argument from intelligent design in nature. (See the interview at But it's been my experience that the will is more often the problem than the intellect. Men don't want a Lord, they don't want someone interfering with their agendas. Rather than admit this (to themselves or others), they toss out arguments to lend their indifference or hostility to God an air of sophistication.

Still, apologetics is an important handmaiden of evangelism. It can strip away smugness, loosen up hardened soil, embarrass treasured criticisms and sow disarray in a pagan worldview. Of course, the critic will seldom admit on the spot that you've scored points, but his private reflections may be a different story.

What if they don't listen? Is apologetics worth the effort anyway?

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 2:27 PM  

Richard Bushman Interview

Meridian Magazine (an online Mormon web site) has just posted an interview with Richard Bushman. His latest tome is a biography on Joseph Smith titled Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Because I am currently reading this book, I found the interview fascinating. Here are some of the questions that Bushman answered:

You may be intrigued by his responses as well. Check it out!

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 12:39 PM  

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Richard Dawkins Interview

Beliefnet recently posted an interview with Richard Dawkins called "The Problem with God." It is a fascinating discussion, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Briefly, I find the following problems in Dawkins' responses:

1) Overlooking epistemological issues. He says, "I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence." Is this possible? Dawkins fails to acknowledge the difficulty of how one interprets data and evidence. He is being far too simplistic here.

2) Inconsistent appeal to authority. While we cannot accept things by revelation or faith, he admits that he accepts things from other scientists: "Not everybody can evaluate all evidence; we can’t evaluate the evidence for quantum physics. So it does have to be a certain amount of taking things on trust. I have to take what physicists say on trust, for example, because I'm a biologist. But science [has] a system of appraisal, of peer review, so that I trust the physics community to get their act together in a way that I know from the inside." So, Dawkins still accepts some things as true because others tell him that they are true. These truth claims are supported by an appeal to authority (in this case, scientific expertise). Amazingly, in the next sentence, he says, "I wish people would put their trust in evidence, not in faith, revelation, tradition, or authority." Does he not see the inconsistency here? The difference is not one between authority and evidence; the difference is one of between type(s) of authority.

3) A misunderstanding of science. When asked, "There are intelligent people who have been taught good science and evolution, and who may choose to believe in something religious that may seem to fly in the face of science. What do you make of that?" He replies: "It’s certainly hard to know what to make of it. I think it’s a betrayal of science. I think they have a religious agenda which, for reasons best known to themselves, they elevate above science." Here, he fails to recognize the philosophical basis of science and falsely equates science with naturalism and materialism.

4) A theological naiveness. Answering a question on Intelligent Design, he says, " ... it doesn’t explain where the designer comes from. If they’re going to emphasize the statistical improbability of biological organs—'these are so complicated, how could they have evolved?'--well, if they’re so complicated, how could they possibly have been designed? Because the designer would have to be even more complicated." All one has to do is to differentiate between contingent and necessary (incontingent) beings. This kind of question makes me wonder how much he reads or interacts with those who differ with him.

Again, these are just some quick thoughts. But they do point to some fundamental flaws in the thinking of atheists like Dawkins. I only wish that the interviewer was willing to challenge Dawkins more on some of his answers!

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 1:56 PM  

Monday, December 12, 2005
The Trauma of Abortion

New research continues to show the serious psychological trauma of abortion on mothers. reports on the latest research in "The mental baggage of abortion lasts years." Here is the opening paragraph:

It is public knowledge that losing a baby is amongst the most traumatic experiences a woman can go through. It is even believed that this mother-baby connection lasts beyond the womb, with the mother's tie to her child being instinctive. Now a study by Norwegian researchers from the University of Oslo provides evidence that a choice to lose a baby is more painful than the natural loss of a baby even five years after.

So, the loss of a baby through miscarriage appears to be less traumatic for the mother than the ending of a baby's life through abortion.

(The abstract of their research is also available online, along with the provisional article.)

Are these results surprising?

Hardly. Nevertheless, they once again show the ongoing harm of abortion. I pray that God will continue to open the hearts and minds of people around the world to end this barbaric practice!

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 2:48 PM  

Saturday, December 10, 2005
Update on Christmas Church Closing Controversy

Things are heating up...

Now Time magazine is reporting on the debate: "The Fight Before Christmas" (HT: Justin Taylor).

Tom Ascol also has a great follow-up post: "What Christmas Church Closings Indicate."

His conclusion is worth quoting:

The kind of reasoning that is coming out in defense of church closings has more in common with the world and its ways than it does with the Bible. And this is further evidence of how far American evangelicalism has fallen away from basic, biblical Christianity. At some point, like Machen did in the early 20th century with liberalism, we are going to be forced to admit that what passes under the banner of evangelicalism simply is not Christian, no matter how many Christian trappings are retained.

Our only hope is reformation and revival.


(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 10:26 PM  

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Preaching Advertisements?

As most of you already know, the first movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is being heavily marketed toward Christians. But how far is too far?

The Philadelphia Inquirer released "Hyping 'Narnia' to Christians" last Sunday. This article says,

Walt Disney Pictures is so eager for churches to turn out audiences for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which opens Friday, that it's offering a free trip to London - and $1,000 cash - to the winner of its big promotional sermon contest.

The only catch is that the sermons must mention Narnia, based on the hugely popular children's books about four British children who walk through an uncle's magic armoire into an enchanted kingdom.

In response, Philip Ryken (Senior Pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA) posted the following:

Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Walt Disney Pictures is offering a free trip to London and a thousand dollars in cash to the winner of its promotional sermon contest. To qualify, a sermon has to mention Disney's new Narnia film. So welcome to a new medium of marketing: the sermo-mercial. It would seem that something more than Aslan is on the move. I wonder: Would mentioning the film while decrying the absurdity of the promotion qualify one's sermon for the contest?

Christianity Today also commented on this idea in their blog, asking: Did Disney Pay For Your Sermon?

Of course, there is nothing wrong with using Lewis' fictional works as illustrations and examples in sermons. What is alarming is that businesses are apparently willing to exploit preaching to advertise and sell their products.

Regardless, do you know what I find most interesting? That there is really no reason for businesses to pay churches to sell their stuff at all. How many churches do you know of that have already placed "announcements" (known as ads in other publications) about Narnia in their newsletters and bulletins?

Do we still recognize the church as the body of Christ? Or are we now simply seen as consumers?

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )

posted at 4:35 PM  

Johnny Come Lately
If you are familiar with much of the blogosphere at all, then you already know the following: numerous churches across the country are canceling their services on Christmas day. has actually run a front page story on it, "Some megachurches closing on Christmas."

With many others, I lament any church that would decide against corporately worshiping Jesus Christ on the Lord's Day, especially on a day that is supposed to be dedicated to His incarnation!

Here are a few blog entries discussing this phenomenon (in no particular order):

Ben Witherington
Slice of Laodicea
Tim Challies
Tom Ascol
Kevin Hash
Internet Monk
Scot McKnight

Additionally, the Boar's Head Tavern is having quite a bit of discussion on this issue. Of course, I do not normally recommend some of these blogs. Nevertheless, I believe that if they are read with a discerning and critical mind, then we can gain insight from them.

Frankly, I find little to add to the discussion at this point. I simply pray that our churches will return to sanity and rediscover a biblical and robust doctrine of the church (ecclesiology).

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )
posted at 11:21 AM  

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
A Different Kind of Evangelical or Betraying Evangelicalism?
Hello everyone! I guess I'll just begin by jumping in the deep end!

On the emergent-us blog, a recent entry was titled "
A Different Kind of Evangelical" by Steve Bush. In it, he compares and contrasts what he calls "conservative evangelicals" with "postconservative evangelicals" (read backward fundies vs. hip emergent-types). He makes some fascinating comparisons:

1) Theological Differences. "...they are different, and their differences are in large part theological." At least he admits this much! I wish all of the emerging crowd was as forthcoming.

2) Inerrancy. "Postconservative evangelicals believe that the conservatives’ privileging of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is mistaken. Inerrancy is a data-centered approach to Scripture, whereas postconservatives practice a person-centered approach. In our view, the Bible is not a repository of facts, but rather a witness to a living person: the resurrected Jesus Christ." Ah, yes. The false dichotomy. Is the Bible data-centered or person-centered? Hmmm... How about realizing that Scripture contains data which directs us to a Person? Why separate the two and minimize (or even reject) the doctrine of biblical inerrancy?

3) Salvation. "Conservative evangelicals tend to see salvation as an individualistic affair, postconservatives emphasize the communal dimension." Once again, why emphasize one over the other? Christ redeemed His elect, and they compose His body (the church).

4) Hell. "Conservatives tend to see hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment after death; postconservatives are concerned about this-worldly hells of genocides, slums, and diseases." Interesting. I'll come back to this in a minute.

5) Evangelism. "The postconservative attitude towards non-evangelical and non-Christian thought is an attitude of critical but receptive openness. We are not zealous to debunk non-Christian views, but instead seek to find what is valuable in other perspectives." When one believes that God reveals His truth through His Word, and that Scripture is sufficient for us in our faith and in our practice, then why do we look for value in other perspectives? I realize that we want to accurately understand what people believe as well as look for bridges in communicating the gospel, but I get uncomfortable with a Christian seeking "what is valuable in other perspectives." Why not simply seek what God has actually revealed to us in the Bible?

And this gets me back to my general observation of these kinds of statements--they are not grounded in Scripture! How should we understand salvation, hell, and evangelism? By turning to God's Word! In all of Bush's comparisons, none are grounded in the Bible. Doesn't Scripture tell us about the individual and corporate aspects of salvation? What does the Bible reveal about hell? Doesn't the Word of God tell us and show us how to proclaim the gospel? This blog entry certainly doesn't point us in this direction!

As a result, this type of thinking is not directing one toward a different kind of evangelical. It leads to a betrayal of evengelicalism itself.

(Originally posted at the A-Team Blog: )
posted at 2:39 PM  

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I am a former Mormon who has been saved by Jesus Christ. Now I am a missionary involved with the Africa Center for Apologetics Research (ACFAR). I seek to live in light of Paul's words: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 ESV)

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