Me and the UFO Guy

Opportunities to evangelize can unexpectedly occur for the Christian all the time, but  those opportunity are sometimes not only unexpected, but also unusual.One Saturday in the late afternoon a few years ago, I was finishing cleaning up our mini-van. I had removed all of the interior seats, vacuumed the floor as best as I could, and I was in the process of vacuuming the seats and wrestling them back into the van.

While I was cleaning up the van, I was reviewing one of my Bible talk lectures I had given on the subject of evolution on the CD stereo. As I was fiddling with one of my kid’s car seat, movement caught the corner of my eye and I turned to see a guy riding up on his bicycle next to my van. I became a tad apprehensive, because he rode right up to my van and was just sitting there on his bicycle. I began to think about those crime documentaries on A&E and how many of those unsolved murders probably began with someone strolling up to a guy vacuuming a van.

That was just for a split second and I nodded to the guy a friendly “hey,” and he motioned to me that he was listening to the CD. He then asked me who it was and I said, “me.” He looked surprised and said, “really?” I explained to him how I worked at a radio ministry connected to my church and because I direct about 100 volunteers a week who come to help package tapes and CDs to our donors, I have the privilege of teaching them for about 30 minutes or so. I went on to explain how the talk was part of a series of lectures I gave on the subject of evolution and ID.

As I was explaining all this, he swings his leg over his bike and reaches into his pocket. Of course, I begin to eye-ball him to watch what it was he was going to pull out of there. He retrieves a cell phone and says, “Tell me what you think of this.” He proceeds to show me a video image of a round light glowing in the sky over some trees.

I asked, “What is it?” He looks around and lowers his voice a bit and says, “Every night this past week, around 2 AM or thereafter, this light hovers over the wash (big, dried-up river bed that runs through town). It’s not a plane, turns at sharp angles, turns color; my friend has a 45 minute video of the thing. There’s no doubt it’s a saucer.” There was a ominous tone in his voice when he said “saucer.” Like we aren’t talking about drinking tea, if you know what I mean.

I replied, “You mean this thing flies over the wash right over here behind our place?”
He responds, “Listen man, I’m not crazy, I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. I’m telling you, it has been there every night this past week and I bet it will be there again tonight.”

I replied again pointing, “This wash right over there?”

“Yes,” he affirms.

farsideI, of course, began wondering why beings who have the technological know-how to transverse interstellar space with great speeds or travel through wormholes to our planet, would spend their time hovering over the wash in Santa Clarita at 2 in the morning.

Moreover, if they were being all stealthy about it, why would they fly saucer ships that are lit up so bright so as to be seen for miles? And why do they fly their saucers at 2:30 AM, because I never get to see these things when they make their appearance?

Anyhow, I say to the guy, “Welp, I don’t believe you are crazy. In fact, I believe you are certainly seeing something fly over the wash, but why do you assume it is a flying saucer from another planet or inter-dimensional beings?”

He paused for a moment, I think because I told him he wasn’t “crazy,” and then says rather breathlessly, “Because it flies like no airplane I have seen before.”

I say to him, “I happen to know a few people who worked at Skunk Works, Lockheed’s division that develops top-secret aircraft. They tell me there’s a lot of stuff the public doesn’t know about that could easily be mistaken as an other world spaceship that is really just an experimental prototype airplane.”

With out even acknowledging my comment, the fellow says,

“Do you really believe we are the only life in the universe? The universe is huge, we can’t be the only life.”

That tends to be the big argument in favor of extra-terrestrial life: The universe is so vast, with millions upon millions of galaxies, let alone stars, that there has to be others planets out there like ours sustaining super-intelligent life, or at least really fun aliens like Dr. Who. Of course, I have always wondered why these super-intelligent beings want to come to our planet and probe New Agers and lumberjacks in the middle of the night. I mean, if they are here to harvest human DNA to create human/alien hybrids, why not use the better DNA? Surely Richard Dawkins would be preferable to, let’s say, a trailer park manager in Sedona, Arizona.

Then I replied with a transitional comment to steer the conversation toward the Gospel. I believe he was stunned to hear it coming from anyone, let alone a Christian:

“Yes, I do believe there are extra-terrestrials and inter-dimensional beings, but as a Bible-believing Christian, I believe God has revealed to us what they are in His Word. They’re fallen angels or demons. They have the ability to move in and out of our space, can travel at high speeds, and they can and do possess the bodies of human beings.”

He had a blank stare on his face, as if he had never thought of this before. He responded, “Why would the devil impersonate UFOs? What purpose is there to that?”

“Quite simple,” I replied, “They wish to deceive sinful men as to the truth of their creator and the salvation he offers through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

He wasn’t sure what to say to that. He then says, “I go to church sometimes,” and then he indicated to me he had been raised in church and even made the claim he was a Christian.

I tried to keep the conversation on the Lord, but he says again, “I am telling you, my friend has a video of this thing.” I say, “Okay. So why don’t you guys put it up on Youtube or Google video for all the world to see? I certainly would like to see it.”

He became adamant, “Oh man, I can’t do that, the government will find out about it and come and get me.”

I thought a second, “Why would the government come and get you? Why would they even care? Are you telling me the government, that is ran for the most part by flabby, cubicle dwelling bureaucrats, can trace Youtube videos back to the source so that they can arrest you for posting a video of a light hovering over the wash?”

He wasn’t sure what to make of that one.

I jokingly said, “You ought to get a deer rifle and take a shot at it.” “No way man,” he exclaims, “I’m too afraid to do that. It would shoot back with a laser gun or something.” (When I recounted this story later for Officer Pecadillo, he said, “Nah, Fred, you don’t want to encourage a person like that to pick up fire arms.” There certainly is wisdom in those words).

By this time, it was getting dark and I had to help good wife Butler put the children into bed. The fellow jumped back on his bike and says, “Well, I am not sure what it is, maybe it’s not a UFO from another planet, maybe it is a demon, but there is something certainly there.” Then he asks, “Do you think you will go out to see it?” I paused a moment and said, “Probably not, but maybe I will look out the window.”

Believe me, for a brief second, when I turned over that night and saw the clock say 2:30 AM, I thought about putting on a pair of short pants and going outside. Then good sense and sleep overwhelmed me. I didn’t even look out the window.

This is certainly an odd and humorous story to retell, but believe me, in our day and age of sci-fi culture, coupled with Darwinian evolution, Christians ought to be ready to engage individuals like this who seriously believe life exists on other planets and is regularly visiting Earth to capture humans; that is, if they don’t crash their saucers in the desert. I hope my encounter helped with some starting points to engage such a person in conversation.

Answering the Cranky Evidentialist

apologist-profiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….And I don’t mean William Lane Craig or Norman Geisler.

Now that I have expressed my concerns with certain presuppositional practitioners, and presented a simplified, theological outline of what I consider is the best way to engage unbelievers and advance the Christian faith [see here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3], I want to turn my attention toward interaction with criticisms from competing “apologetic camps,” as it were.

For this article, I turn my attention to a brief interaction I had back in 2009, with a pastor who was a self-described “evidentialist Calvinist.” We exchanged words on the subject of apologetic methodology in the combox under a post entitled, The Problem with The Evidentialist Approach to Apologetics.

My detractor had a strong dislike for presuppositionalism in general, and Van Til specifically. He even put up an article at his personal blog called something like, “Van Til Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About,” if memory serves. I tried looking for it to give it a link, but the post had been removed for one reason or another.

Anyhow, in the combox exchange, the pastor left a number of bullet points attempting to challenge my view of apologetic methodology.  I’ll try to organize the material to flow a bit better than the typical back-and-forth in a combox.

1. “Autonomous” is nothing but a pejorative buzzword.

It would be helpful if the good pastor would flesh this comment out more. How exactly is “autonomous” a “buzzword?” Does he mean to say it is a fairly recent addition to the Reformed vocabulary? Or that the concept of “autonomous” as it relates to man’s reasoning is unsubstantiated in Scripture?

If he means that “autonomous” is an unbiblical word, only originating with presuppositionalists, this is a rather problematic assertion. It’s like saying the word “Trinity” is unbiblical because it is nowhere found in the pages of Scripture and had its coinage in the writings of early apologists like Justin Martyr and Tertullian.

When presuppositionalists speak of “autonomous,” they have in mind the idea of sinners who are not submitted to the authority of God as revealed in Scripture. “Autonomous” has in mind what Paul describes as those “lofty and high things that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” and those thoughts that “are not captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Individuals Paul also describes as being “futile in their thoughts” (Romans 1:21) and who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (vs. 18). This is reasoning originating from the sinful heart of men that attempts to rationalize man’s rebellion against their Creator.

2. “Autonomous” reasoning is all God gave us, to receive and evaluate information. There ain’t anything else.

Again, definitions would be helpful. “Autonomous” is not to be equated with the ability to receive and evaluate information; at least the concept of “autonomous” as defined by presuppositionalists. We are not talking about the manner in which a person evaluates chemical reactions, for instance. We are speaking about a person who attempts to live life apart from the “fear of the LORD” as Proverbs describes it.

3. If God is above logic, as Van Til claimed, then we can’t know anything about God. This principle is the pathway to neo-orthodoxy and spiritual skepticism.

I am assuming the pastor has read what Van Til has taught on the subject? Be that as it may, I am not sure where he is getting this claim from Van Til. As I understand what Van Til taught about God and logic, at least according to John Frame as he reports in his book on Van Til’s theology, he believed the foundation of logic was to be the nature of God, meaning logic doesn’t operate independently of God. In that sense, one could say God is “above” logic, because the reason the world is “logical” has to do with God.

4. If you have to understand everything (the eternal context) in order to understand any one thing (brute facts), then none of us know anything. Which is a foolish claim.

I think what he is missing is how presuppositionalists insist that true knowledge begins with a fear of the LORD. This isn’t a “foolish claim” but a biblical one, for instance, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10. How exactly does my evidentialist detractor understanding those passages?

5. If Christians and non-Christians share nothing in common epistemologically, then we are incapable of reasoning with each other, and are forced to just yell louder and more assertively at people. And add pejorative adjectives like the word “brute” in front of innocent words like “facts.”

I wonder what sort of “presuppositionalists” this pastor has spoken with. Perhaps there are muddled presuppositionalists he has encountered, but I personally can think of none who would argue in such a fashion as to say Christians and non-Christians share nothing in common epistemologically.

The issue is not that they fail to see the world logically, for example. It is that they live inconsistently to what they claim to believe by suppressing those truths when it comes to ultimate issues, like the submission to God as their sovereign authority.

6. The argument that presupposing the Christian worldview makes everything else intelligible is… an argument based on evidence. It’s called “the argument from coherence.” Like C.S. Lewis’ “I believe in the sun because by the sun I see everything else.”

As I understand “the argument from coherence” it is merely saying that one’s worldview, or philosophy of life, should be cohesive and consistent as a whole. In other words, portions of your thinking aren’t detached and irrational to the rest of what you may advocate.

Of course such cohesiveness is based on “evidence,” no one is denying such a thing. But it is “evidenced” upon the conclusions of one’s presuppositions. The fact that one can see everything presupposes the luminosity of light that the sun generates.

7. The Bible nowhere claims to be self-attesting. Van Til made that up.

That’s a rather ignorant assertion if the pastor genuinely believes it. The idea of the Bible being “self-attesting, or better, “having self-authenticating qualities,” is an historic, Protestant Reformed doctrine. For example, the WCF states in chapter 1:iv,

The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

Also, consider the concluding sentence of the next point, 1:v, which says,

…our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

You’ll note with 1:iv, the writers state that the authority of Holy Scripture is not dependent upon the “testimony of any man or church.” You can read there also, “established by extra-biblical evidence;” certainly “extra-biblical evidence acting as an authority over Scripture.” Rather, Scripture is the Word of God because it is wholly from God as it claims. Other theologians have historically affirmed that position, including Calvin, Bavinck, and Warfield, all who pretty much pre-date Van Til.

8. Nothing in 2 Timothy 3:16 claims that the Scripture is self-attesting. 2 Timothy 3:16 claims that the Scripture is divinely inspired. Is that what you mean by self-attesting … so do all the other major religious texts in the world.

This is a rather surprising statement. The very doctrine of inspiration implies self-authentication, because inspiration is a work of God. The fact that God is the inspirer of Scripture, which is His revelation, means its veracity and integrity is intricately woven to His character. Scripture’s authority derives from God’s authority. As the writer of Hebrews notes, For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, (Hebrews 6:13).

Additionally, major religious texts do not necessarily claim that kind of inspiration. They may claim an uniqueness to a particular guru, but nothing like the self-disclosed God revealed in Scripture. The closest competitors, like the Qu’ran, and I can maybe add the Book of Mormon also, derive their authority from the Old and New Testaments, or previously disclosed revelation. If those books deviate from the consistency of the previous revelation or Scripture, which both the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon do so rather radically, those book are to be counted as suspect if not outright fraudulent.

9. The noetic effects of sin have no bearing on the fundamentals of presuppositionalism…

The idea of the noetic effects of the fall implies that all men, due to them being separated from God, have their reasoning impacted by that fall also. Contrary to what my evidentialist detractor argues, the noetic effects of the fall go beyond just causing men to be blinded to the Gospel message. They are not merely limited to understanding and accepting spiritual things.

Rather, the fall has impacted all of man’s reasoning abilities in much broader areas. Once again for example, what Paul identifies as “suppressing the truth.” If one is already presupposed to anti-supernatural materialism and scientism as the means of all knowledge, any “evidence” or “testimony” or “facts” that directly challenge those presuppositions will be explained away in light of those presuppositions – or denied outright in some cases.

This is why appeals to evidence alone are not sufficient to convince men hostile to God about the truthfulness of Christianity. All the evidence will be interpreted according to philosophical axioms which spin the conclusions one makes about that evidence.

10. If evidentialism is so bad, why does God use it in Scripture?

I certainly agree God uses evidence in Scripture. I wouldn’t deny it for a moment. For example, in Luke 2, after the angels pronounce the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds, they say to one another, “Let’s go see if this is true.” They wanted evidence, and the angel told them where they could find it.

I as a presuppositionalist am not opposed to the use of evidence. I just recognize that in all the examples of evidence used in Scripture, God is divinely telling us what the evidence means. The cross was merely an instrument of torture and death utilized by the Roman government. God, however, puts a specific interpretation on that cross that now has an entirely new emphasis.

11. Brute facts are the only facts available to anyone. Your knowledge of what I wrote, which controlled the occasion to which you replied, is 100% comprised of brute facts. You don’t God’s “big picture” in, around, and through my comment, nor do know it regarding yours, but here we are talking anyway. …

As I understand Van Til’s view of “brute facts,” he meant to say there are no “uninterpreted facts.” That being, all facts everywhere must be interpreted. One’s presuppositions then interpret those facts.

I am able to communicate with people because God is my creator and He created men to communicate not only with Him, but with each other. God is also not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), which can be extended to mean God is “logical” in all that He does. Communication implies some logical cohesiveness in the means of “communicating,” things like vocabulary, syntax, and grammar that allow people to understand each other.

12. … Jesus said, “Believe I’m the Son of God because I work miracles.” God didn’t give people philosophy lessons in Dutch Idealism before giving them proofs of His own identity. The point remains, one can’t promote a philosophy of knowing that isn’t taught in the Bible (whether explicitly, or by a necessity of logic, as the WCF says), and in fact is contradicted by the words and actions of God.

But here in the 21st century, no one has seen Jesus do miracles. We base our conviction that Jesus did miracles on the veracity of the testimony from eye-witnesses; a testimony that is revealed and preserved in Scripture. Our starting point begins with our faith in God’s truthful character and His ability to keep His word that He will preserve Scripture.

13. … Yes, the Bible does depend throughout on empirical verifications. If archaeologists ever find Jesus’ skeleton (hypothetically speaking), then Christianity and the Bible aren’t true. Correct?

My faith in the veracity of God’s Word is tied directly to what God has revealed of Himself as a Truth telling God.

All critics of Daniel said the book was false simply because chapter 5 mentioned Belshazzer as the king of Babylon. Anyone even remotely familiar with Babylonian history knew Nebonidus was the last king of Babylon. This discrepancy was not solved until it was found in the Nebonidus Chronicles, discovered around the late 1860s, that Nebonidus appointed his son, Belshazzer, to be king in Babylon as a co-regent. So was Daniel true before that time, in other words, self-attesting?

Additionally, sensationalist glory hound, Simcha Jacobovici, claims to have found the Jesus family tomb including the bone box of Jesus. Discovery Channel ran a documentary on it. Has he proven the Bible to be an untruthful revelation? I think my cranky evidentialist would say no.

Biblical Apologetics: Practical and Workable

The first post in my brief series addresses what I believe is a creeping malaise infecting young, Reformed apologists who advance presuppositionalism. Though I believe the apologetic is soundly biblical and the most effective for engaging unbelievers, it has been my observation that presuppositional advocates make the methodology much more difficult to utilize than it ought to be. In my opinion, if an apologetic system can’t be explained and quickly learned by the simplest of lay people, some inherent flaws may need to be identified in the presentation and changed by the presenter.

In my second post, I began addressing my concerns by outlining what I believe are essential theological talking points we must have in our minds as we prepare ourselves to engage unbelievers.

In this last post I want to deal with practical application; moving our theology from the realm of the theoretical. My intention is not to provide a “silver bullet” technique for evangelism – honestly, none exist. I believe each encounter is unique and it has been my experience that God’s Spirit often uses unexpected avenues to draw a sinner’s heart to Christ.

Also, I am not necessarily advocating against the use of Evangelism Explosion, or the Way of the Master, or Greg Koukl’s Tactics, or any number of evangelistic methods. They have their place and can be useful if done so in a manner faithful to the text of Scripture.

My main objective with this post will be to examine two broad areas that Christians should develop in their overall mindset so as to apply their apologetic theology in their evangelistic encounters.

First, believers need to recognize that effective evangelism must begin with the Christian’s character.

It doesn’t matter how passionate a person is for the Gospel or how persuasive his arguments may be for the Christian faith, if the person’s character does not reflect the transforming power of the Lord and Savior he proclaims, he only heaps to himself scorn and contempt.

I cannot stress this point enough to the reader.

Consider one of the key passages on apologetics, 1 Peter 3:15-17. Rather than presenting a series of airtight philosophical arguments for apologetic methodology, Peter instead focuses our attention upon the personal conduct of the apologist, the attitudes that shape his overall life.

Notice how Peter writes that our “defense of the faith” is to be made with “meekness and fear.” Some translations translate Peter’s words as “gentleness and respect.” This speaks to personal heart issues that are put on display for the watching world; nothing whatsoever about making persuasive arguments.

The effectiveness of your apologetic evangelism will stand or fall upon your character. If your life does not show the unbeliever who you claim Jesus is, no amount of apologetic argument will matter.

You may have a sharp intellect, be extremely knowledgeable, and have the ability to shut the mouths of even the loudest atheist. But if you’re a person who is known as a hot head and can easily become belligerent in a conversation, or a single young man or lady with a flirtatious reputation, or a husband who has a strained relationship with his wife and kids, no one is going to care a lick about what you’re telling them about Jesus. Even the most hardened skeptic understands Christianity is about personal, “holy” conduct. If your conduct doesn’t reflect godliness, even in the little things, they’ll shut you off.

Second, when we engage unbelievers with the Gospel, we are engaging their entire way of life with the whole message of the biblical Christian faith.

We need to understand that when we speak with our unbelieving neighbors, friends, and relatives about the Gospel, we are not giving them one more opinion to consider among a group of similar opinions; as if you are trying to convince the person why he should make chocolate-chip his favorite cookie.

This is the major deficiency with the popular apologetics presented in the books bought in Christian retail bookstores and heard taught by hosts on Christian talk radio. They make the Christian faith to be a choice between cookies or flavors of ice cream. “Hey, you ought to try this! I think you will probably find it much more flavorful than your banana chocolate chunk.” They also limit the use of the Bible in their presentations. There is time for the Bible later. Besides, they may argue, it’s not proper to prove the legitimacy of the Christian faith with the Bible.

What a cheap, shameful way to think about the power of God.

No. When we evangelize, we bring the truth of the Christian worldview as it is relayed in the Gospel message against everything the unbeliever holds dear in his heart as true. We are basically telling that person that everything he believes about God, faith, religion, and the meaning of life is wrong. Not just mistaken; but soul-damning, fatally wrong.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul describes the unbeliever as “exalting” his knowledge over the knowledge of God. Scripture proclaims to us that the unbeliever just doesn’t hold to a few errant facts about Jesus, but at his heart level, he lives in rebellion against God’s authority and laws. This is what Paul means when he says the unbeliever “exalts” his “knowledge” over that knowledge of God revealed to us in Scripture.

Moreover, he isn’t “accidentally mistaken,” either. In fact, the unbeliever “exalts” his knowledge willfully, cheerfully, and often with a full understanding of what he is doing even if what he is doing is irrational and doesn’t make sense and perhaps puts his life at great risk.

The goal of our evangelistic efforts is to show the unbeliever that his “exalted” knowledge is an offense to a Holy God; tell him he is justly condemned by God; and then proclaim to him how God in His grace made a way to be made right with Him through Christ. We then tell that person to put away those cherished heart commitments, that heart of rebellion exalting his knowledge above God’s, and embrace Christ and His lordship.

Our evangelistic message is truly that simple. In fact, it’s the reason why the world hates Jesus and Christians. Not only do they hate righteousness to begin with, and seriously dislike having their true self exposed in the light of God’s Word, people hate the notion of someone telling them their thinking about life is wrong.

At this point, I can imagine many folks, having read over my words, will now ask, “Is that it?” “Aren’t you being a bit too simplistic?” “I mean, where does TAG come in?” “The laws of logic?” “Moral absolutes?” “Greg Bahnsen?”

Just so I am clear: I am not saying those things are unimportant. I expect Christians as they grow in their knowledge of Christ to also grow in the knowledge of their faith. That implies growth in their knowledge of apologetics and the ability to engage and answer the objectors to their faith. Christians should want to know how to answer the objections of that skeptical cousin they only see at Thanksgiving. They should want to help college kids grapple with challenges to their faith from bitter atheistic community college instructors. What we know about the history of our Bible and various theodicies can be important, as well as useful.

Ultimately, however, our working knowledge of apologetic proofs in the form of philosophical argument and historical evidence is NOT the power of God unto salvation. We don’t want to merely win an argument with a mean-spirited evolutionist; we want to win a soul to Christ. Only the power of the Gospel can do this.

What then do we do with our understanding of these two broad areas? Where does the rubber meet the road, as it were?

This is where we as Christians take those points I systematized in my second post, and formulate an evangelistic outline to engage those unbelievers. We ask them questions. Force them to defend their claims they make against our faith. Challenge them to defend their personal beliefs. Demonstrate to them the folly of their unbelief and rebellion against their Creator. And God willing, tell them about what Jesus did.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Each person will be different. Each situation will be different. What may be an effective approach for one person may not go so well with another.

Even though our approach may be different between individuals and situations, the one thing for certain is the biblical theology that shapes our apologetic methodology. Our theology will provide the apologetic anchors for any Christian, regardless of spiritual maturity and educational background, to use for effective evangelism.

Biblical Apologetics: Exegetical and Theological

Readers may wish to review my introductory article on this subject before proceeding.

Building upon that previous article on some areas of concern I have with the adherents of presuppositionalism, I want to turn my attention to providing a theological outline of what I have personally developed by learning from presuppositional apologetic methodology. Like I noted before, I think a person’s apologetic methodology is useless unless it can be applied practically with engaging the everyday person in an evangelistic encounter.

Furthermore, I will add here, apologetic methodology should not be so complicated that only academics or theology geeks are the only ones familiar with it. Apologetic methodology must have a practicality to it so that Ricco the shop mechanic, Tina the Wal-Mart associate, and Mary the housewife can learn quickly and utilize it in an effective manner.

Now, I am not saying we Christians should never take the time to sharpen our “debating” skills or that we should shun learning about apologetics in general. As Tina the Wal-Mart associate grows in her faith, certainly she should be discipled to strengthen her ability to present the Gospel. But apologetic proofs in and of themselves shouldn’t be the focus of such a presentation. They are not the power of God unto salvation as Paul writes in Romans 1:16.

Presuppositionalism, I believe, presents a better starting point for our apologetic approach. But as I noted in my previous article, presuppositionalism can also be weighed down with complicated philosophical baggage in the form of its concepts. Even the lingo can be flummoxing for the student. So, cutting straight to the chase, let me boil down what I have learned from presuppositionalism and present it in a brief outline.

1) First we need to develop our theology from the exegesis of biblical truth. As we develop our theology from Scripture, we can then shape our apologetic presentation.

2) All human beings are governed by “presuppositions,” or unquestioned, fundamental, philosophical axioms an individual will take for granted. This first point is absolutely crucial for a Christian to understand before he or she prepares to confront unbelievers with the Gospel. Grasping this simple, philosophical truth will help cut through much of the difficulty Christians struggle with to evangelize the lost. The Bible declares that our battle with unbelief is with the mind as men submit their thinking to various philosophies and worldviews (2 Corinthians 10:1-5). Dan Phillips goes into a bit more detail regarding presuppositions in the introduction of this article. In short,

  • Those “presuppositions” serve as basic starting points in a person’s thinking.
  • A person filters his reasoning through those presuppositions when he or she intersects with the world: society, work, school, family, friends, and other areas of life.
  • A person utilizes those “presuppositions” when considering the big questions in life. Such things as, “where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?”
  • Those “presuppositions” give direction to the person’s worldview.
  • All of this means that all people everywhere are not “neutral” with their thinking. They serve some sort of “master,” as it were. Everyone interprets their world in which they live according to “presuppositions.”
3) The Bible tells us all men every where are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, 27). This means:
  • Man was created to be a spiritual being. He is both physical and spiritual.
  • Man was created to worship His creator and to be in fellowship with God.
  • All men have knowledge of our creator in their hearts and minds.

4) Adam’s sin (Genesis 3) separated all of mankind without exception from fellowship with God.

5) Adam’s sin not only separated mankind from God, it placed all mankind without exception under the righteous judgment of God’s wrath.

6) Hence, all men are born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1ff).

  • Spiritually “dead” in that men are born separated from fellowship with God.
  • Man’s spiritual death will result in his physical death (Romans 5:12, 6:23, I Corinthians 15:56).

7) Man’s spiritual “deadness” manifests itself in a number of ways, but most specifically in rebellion against God and His laws. In fact, man’s sinfulness can best be described as resulting from a hatred of God. The theological term is total depravity. Sin has corrupted the whole person.

8) Total depravity does not mean all men are absolutely the worse sinners they could be. It means sin has totally permeated man’s entire being. Man’s nature is under the dominion and the defiling influence of sin (Mark 7:21, 22) so that:

  • Men have no desire BUT to act sinfully.
  • They are enslaved to sin, unable and unwilling to pursue godly righteousness (Romans 6:20).
  • A person could either live in gross immorality or be a moral philanthropist. With either lifestyle, the person is still a sinner.
  • The person is identified with the old man Adam and his disobedience (Romans 5:12)

9) Yet, in spite of man’s sinfulness and separation from God, he still retains the image of God as noted under [#3]. Sin essentially mars God’s image in man, it does not eradicate it.

  • The image of God gives men an internal knowledge of their creator (Romans 1:19-20). There are no true “atheists” or unbelievers. They may say they don’t believe in God, but their lives betray their hypocrisy.
  • That knowledge stirs in men a willingness to seek to be “reasonable” and “rational.”
  • They intrinsically understand and do God’s laws. Men act morally (Romans 2:14-16) even though they refuse to acknowledge God is the justification for their morality.
  • Men seek to worship. False religions reflect man’s heart to worship a “god.” The rankest atheist skeptic assigns absolute worth to something outside himself even if that something is in the form of philosophical principles or scientific paradigms.

10) That marring of God’s image in man causes man’s reason to be fallen. This is something of a conundrum, for men do act rational as noted under [#9], yet the Scriptures declare their minds are darkened and their hearts blinded (Ephesians 4:17-19).

  • Man’s darkened reason doesn’t necessarily impact his intelligence. Some of the worse sinners and haters of God have been brilliant.
  • Man’s darkened reason has more to do with their ethical morals. It is a spiritual problem.
  • In other words, man’s darkened reason drives him to pursue sinful behavior that could possibly bring a person to ruin and despair.
  • Their folly is demonstrated in the decisions a person makes individually or as a collective whole, as well as the beliefs he mentally ascents to that form his philosophical outlook on life. Those beliefs govern his overall presuppositions that in turn drive how men intersect their world.

11) Man’s sinful condition is spiritual, not one lacking education or intelligence.

12) Because man’s sinful condition is spiritual, it ultimately has to do with His relationship with God.

  • Men pursue sin, as noted under [#4] because they are separated from God.
  • It is a separation men cannot fix on their own.

13) Considering all that the Bible says about mankind, humanity is in desperate need of a deliverer, one who not only restores fellowship with their Creator, but also spiritually reconnects them to their Creator.

  • A deliverer who can turn away the wrath of a holy God against sinners and restore the fellowship man once had with God.
  • A deliverer who can reorient the image of God in man away from earthly things back to God Himself.
  • A deliverer who can change the nature of sinful men so that they desire to seek God’s righteousness.
  • A deliverer who will free man’s reason from the shackles of sin so he can now be truly wise (Proverbs 1:7).

These are the foundational points I have learned from presuppositional apologetics. If we establish in our minds a robust biblical theology of sin, man, God, and salvation, we will lay a firm foundation for building an effective apologetic methodology. Our apologetic will be useful and practical, not merely philosophical and theoretical. In my third post, I’ll take up outlining a practical map with applying my apologetics.

Clearing the Presuppositional Malaise

sheepskateRegrettably, much of what is labeled “Evangelical apologetics” these days fails in regards to two points. First, Christian apologetics has been separated into a philosophical category apart from being grounded in Scripture, and then secondly, apologetics is divided from evangelism as if it is a semi-related discipline.  In my mind, apologetic methodology is pointless if it is not built upon the biblical text and doesn’t meaningfully engage sinners as to their need for Gospel salvation.

Furthermore, it has been my observation that ministries instructing Christians in the field of apologetics intentionally ignore those two vital points. In fact, a number of popular apologetic teachers will go so far as to tell their audiences that the Bible should be the last thing a Christian brings to the discussion with an unbeliever. Other teachers make apologetics dependent upon a Christian having to be familiar with complicated philosophical jargon or so-called empirical “proofs” for the existence of God and the Person of Jesus Christ.

Now: I consider myself to be a presuppositionalist. I believe presuppositionalism is a more biblically robust apologetic approach than what most Christians are familiar with. I would also like to think my presuppositionalism is immune from being entangled with philosophical snares, but it is not.

Presuppositionalism was the apologetic methodology developed by Dutch Reformed Calvinists in the 1800s and made known in the U.S. during the 20th century primarily by theologian, Cornelius Van Til, and a number of his students like Greg Bahnsen and John Frame. The methodology focuses upon defending the entirety of Christianity as a worldview and engaging unbelievers at the foundational level of their worldview.

Without getting into the specifics of all that pertains to presuppositionalism, the focus upon worldviews is what makes the methodology superior in contrast to the other popular views of apologetics. Rather than compartmentalizing individual arguments and calling the unbeliever to reason with the Christian as to validity of each one as “proofs” for the Christian faith, presuppositionalism begins by “presupposing” the truth of Christianity, the reality that ALL sinners without exception know the true God exists, and calls the sinner to repent of the erroneous “presuppositions” that suppress the truth of God and shape his unbelieving worldview.

However, even though I believe presuppositionalism to be the best approach for defending the Christian faith, there is a big tendency for presuppositional practitioners to become just as weighed down with philosophical baggage as their non-presuppositional counterparts. That is seen when they attempt to press their opponents to provide a justifiable reason, according to their chosen belief system, for such things like moral absolutes, the universal laws of logic, and other similar “truth claims.”

Conversations about logic and absolutes, while helpful for the most part, do require some understanding of philosophy and the intellectual ability to challenge unbelievers with that knowledge. Additionally, the whole evangelistic encounter can quickly become a quagmire of unnecessary, impromptu debate the Christian has to slosh through with the unbeliever.  And additionally, the chest-thumping attitude often displayed by many young presuppositional proponents against folks who take a different apologetic approach doesn’t help with advancing their cause.

Now. Having stated all of that, let me make myself clear so that I am not misunderstood. I certainly believe there can be a place for presenting philosophical arguments when we share our faith with non-Christians if the opportunity so arises. Moreover, I appreciate how presuppositionalism places unbelievers on the defensive, moving the evangelistic encounter from haggling over how to interpret evidence to actually challenging them to defend their core “truth” claims about reality, life, and how people are to live. Presuppositionalism is especially useful in this area when talking with atheists. And let me hasten to add that I have personally learned much from hearing presuppositionalists, like Greg Bahnsen for example, engage unbelievers in discussions and debate. Listening to those interactions has helped me to sharpen my own skills as an apologist and evangelists.

What I am saying, however, is that our focus should not stay centered exclusively upon philosophical matters, and because of the emphasis upon philosophy, presuppositionalists have the habit of making presuppositionalism more difficult than it needs to be.

thoughtcaptiveI can recall, many years ago now, reading Richard Pratt’s short book, Every Thought Captive, a book advertised as a high school level introduction to presuppositional apologetics. In spite of its claim as being for high school students, it took me a couple of times reading through it to get the basics of what he was presenting. Maybe it’s just me, but why should apologetic methodology be so hard?

The average church-goer in the pew is clueless about laws of logic and the transcendental argument for the existence of God. Granted, over time they can be taught about those things, but starting out in our evangelism by placing our emphasis on those areas is not only discouraging for the average church goer, it also shifts our presentation away from the pages of Scripture.

As I have interacted with my presuppositional brethren, read their books and listened to their lectures, I have become more and more convinced that a good many of them have overlooked the fundamental disconnect between methodology and actual, “street level” presentation. Such an attitude has been illustrated to me when young-gun presuppositionalists have dismissed certain criticism of their approach, waving them off as silly or outright stupid. Particularly when it comes to genuine practical application in the day-to-day lives of God’s people.

I believe we can do better than dismissing helpful, constructive criticisms out of hand. If we are serious about what Peter writes in his first epistle to set apart Christ as Lord, part of that sanctifying process must be molding our methodology and practice in apologetics. Hammering out bumps and smoothing edges. I want my methodology and practice to fit together in a way that honors the Lord. Our apologetic methodology needs to flow out of the biblical text and actually be meaningfully evangelistic.

Allowing this brief article to serve as an introduction, I want to provide an outline explaining what I have learned from presuppositionalism and show how I have personally made the methodology practical in my own Christian walk. That is what I hope to take up next.

Questions and Answers with the KJV Onlyists

kjv1611Introduction

Back in May 2014, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Andy Olson for his monthly Echo Zoe podcast on the subject of King James Onlyism. See HERE to get the interview for the specific program.

When Andy posted the podcast to his site, within hours, the comment box exploded with KJVO challengers wanting to take me to task for my views. I think he told me there were more comments in response to my interview than all the comments to all 50 plus podcasts he had done combined. I tried to respond to a number of them, but they were cross-posted with Facebook and their comment interface made it near impossible to follow all the comment threads so that I wasn’t sure who it was I was answering.  Out of annoyance, I eventually gave up.

One commenter, however, came here to my blog and wondered why I hadn’t answered the questions that particular individual presented to me. When I explained the irritation I had with the commenting format and that I hadn’t even seen that person’s questions, it was suggested I was offering a convenient excuse to dodge answering them. I stated that if those same questions were posted under my link to the original interview, I would answer them.  The person posted them and so here we are.  Rather than leaving my answers in the combox, I thought I would make a post out of it.

Now I don’t expect my answers to be at all persuasive for my KJVO antagonist; in fact, I expect the KJVO apologists to offer their “defeater” rebuttals. However, I know there are more sober-minded individuals who will encounter KJV onlyists in their churches, Bible study fellowships, and workplaces who may be challenged with the exact same questions, so for them I offer my responses.

Fred says it’s a myth that “heretics, corrupted men and ungodly people” came in and introduced error and theological heresy. However God warns us that this will happen in passages like Jude 4 and 2 Peter 2:1. Why is it hard to believe and why would a Biblically literate person say it’s a “myth”?

The question is a strawman, because I never said heretics or ungodly men never introduced theological error. If you listen carefully to what I did say, I said heretics and ungodly men never intentionally corrupted the biblical manuscripts.

kjvtranslatorsThe key, fundamental talking point in KJVO apologetics is that heretical men produced corrupted texts that are identified as the Alexandrian manuscripts. Over time, true, Bible-believing Christians recognized that intentional corruption and laid them aside and never copied them. Hence the reason why the so-called Alexandrian manuscripts are so few and the Byzantine manuscripts, the family of manuscripts from which the KJV is ultimately derived, are so many. The Alexandrian manuscripts may be “the oldest,” say the KJVO apologists, but that doesn’t mean they are “the best.”

Heretics were active within the first century during the establishment of the NT church. The whole Judaizer issue was one of confronting and answering gross error regarding the Gospel (Acts 15, Galatians 1-2).  The apostle John wrote his first epistle in order to answer the error that claimed Jesus was never physical flesh. Neither group were ever accused of changing the written manuscripts of the Word of God. They were accused of perverting the teaching from the Word of God. See the difference?

So while it is true that heretics were (and still are) active in introducing theological heresy, they didn’t change or alter physical manuscripts in order to spread their heresy. They twisted the interpretation of the biblical text to teach their heresy. Consider for example Arius, who taught that Jesus wasn’t divine and was a created being. He and his followers didn’t change manuscripts to promote that heresy, but reinterpreted the Bible based upon fallacious exegesis in order to teach the heresy. That has always been the standard operation by heretics.

Fred later says there was “no heretical cabal” that attempted to corrupt the Bible. However, based on what we see very early on, as recorded in Genesis 3, why is it so hard to believe that Satan would attack the Word of God? The very first words we see from Satan are an attack on God’s Word! 

The same response applies here. Satan didn’t physically alter a manuscript. He reinterpreted what God said. I am certainly not saying Satan never attacks the Word of God, but it is the manner in which he attacks it. Typically it is through reinterpretation and the promotion of twisted doctrine that is developed from passages taken out of context. For example gay “Christians” who want to reinterpret the Bible to be affirming of homosexual behavior rather than condemning it. Never has a secret group of heretics gathered manuscripts, changed a word here or a phrase there that somehow takes away from essential Christian doctrine, and then tried to introduce their changes to the Christian community.

Fred says the best way to bring someone else out of King James “onlyism” is to prove to them that there was “no conspiracy” to change the Bible. How can one “prove” that?

Quite simply by studying the true and accurate history of the transmission of the biblical text. KJVO apologists would do themselves a grand favor by visiting Michael Kruger’s website Canon Fodder and reading his articles on how the NT canon was established. Better yet would be to purchase his book The Canon Revisited in which he goes into great detail explaining how early Christians recognized and affirmed the NT canon and transmitted the NT documents.

What KJVO apologists do not seem to realize is that their conspiracy theory of how we got our Bible that involves heretical men slightly corrupting physical manuscripts so as to introduce heresy is a variation on Walter Bauer’s thesis that there were competing doctrines among the early Christians that gave rise to a diversity of Christian “orthodoxies” and even NT textual “traditions.”

Fred says that the critical text is actually made up of the majority texts and NOT the Textus Receptus. However, the critical text wasn’t created until the “discovery” of Sinaiticus. The critical text was created from two manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. Is that a majority?

I took the time to listen again to the interview and I have no idea where this comment is coming from because I said no such thing. It’d be helpful if an exact quote was provided. The commenter may be confusing the fact that the TR, the base text used for the translation of the KJV, was put together from just a few number of manuscripts, some say as many at 10 or so. As I will note in my next response, Christian scholars began working on “critical” texts of the NT long before Sinaiticus was discovered.

Where were the “textual scholars” before the discovery of Sinaiticus?

Yes. Many of them.

- Jerome, who compared Latin manuscripts to produce the Latin Vulgate. He wrote about his challenges in his selected letters and works.

- Origen (but of course, KJVO apologists dismiss him as a crazy heretic).

- Cardinal Francisco Ximenes de Cisneros who edited a polyglot Bible in 1514.

- Desiderius Erasmus who edited the TR, and what became the base text for a number of English translations including the KJV. His Greek text, by the way, challenged the Latin Vulgate, which everyone claimed was without error (in the same fashion as KJVO apologists claim about the KJV today).

- Theodore de Beze who published 9 editions of the Greek NT.

- Brian Walton, Bishop of Chester, published his Greek text in 1657.

- John Fell who published his text in 1675.

- John Mill’s edition of 1707 that included 78 new manuscripts never published before.

- Edward Wells who prepared a Greek NT between 1709 and 1719 that departed from the TR in a number of readings.

- Richard Bentley who began work publishing a Greek and Latin text restored to their original condition in the 4th century, but died before the work could be completed.

- Johann Bengel who did a thorough cataloging of all 3000 variants in the NT and concluded that none of them did anything to shake evangelical doctrine. Bengel was the first to classify the importance of marginal readings and recognized the need to divide manuscripts into “families” depending upon the regions where they circulated in the ancient world.

There are a few other key individuals, but all of those men I listed did their work long before Tischendorf discovered the Sinaiticus. Or, if we want to believe Chris Pinto’s conspiracy, before Simonides was even born.

Fred believes the KJV translators “used manuscripts that came 900 years after the few that came 200 years after the apostles wrote.” How old are the manuscripts that make up the critical text, such as Sinaiticus? Have these manuscripts been scientifically tested and where can one obtain those results?

kjvscholarsKJVO apologists have an aversion to any Christian scholarship except their own. If the scholarship doesn’t affirm their KJVO apologetics, it is of the devil, or from the “Alexandrian cult,” or whatever. It is at this point where conspiracy theories are born.

But with their suspicion of textual criticism, KJVO advocates sound almost exactly like the people who become ex-fundy, anti-homeschool cranks who make lame Youtube videos explaining how the Bible is a corrupted book.  We know how old the biblical NT manuscripts are in the same way we know how old any manuscript of antiquity is: by identifying specific stylistic characteristics in the handwriting.

But that hatred of scholarship cuts both ways. How do KJVO advocates know for example that Erasmus choose the right manuscripts? He only used a few, and that according to what he himself said. Honestly, how do we even know anything about early Christianity if scholarship is never to be trusted?

Fred says the KJV went through “many revisions”. What changed, in the KJV, through the process of those revisions?

kjvteenbibleA number of items including modernizing the spelling, updating archaic words, correcting grammar to reflect modern day usage, and correcting and changing whole verses.

Now I anticipate that KJVO apologists will claim that there was really no revision at all and that the only “revision” involved modernizing the spelling and updating the words. That is the assertion made in the publications of KJVO apologists like D.A. Waite for example.

However, anyone who takes time to truly examine the claim of “no true revision” will discover it to be completely false. Rick Norris, in his book, The Unbound Scriptures, catalogs hundreds of revisions that involve more than just updating the spelling and punctuation. Benjamin Blayney, who was the reviser of the 1769 edition of the KJV that is one of the standard KJV texts available today, wrote that he corrected many errors and made frequent recourse to the Hebrew and Greek originals.

What’s wrong with having a “high view” of God’s Word? The opposite of that would be a “low view”. Correct? Is that preferable?

I’m not sure where this question comes from, because I take a high view of God’s Word. I just don’t take a high view of the infallibility of the KJV translation.

I can find many Scriptures validating and verifying the purity and perfection of God’s Word. However, I cannot find a single Scripture that warns me of possible errors and inaccuracies or that any will be found in the future. Can you give me a Scripture like that?

Here’s another oddball question that doesn’t make sense.  So what if there is no single passage that warns me of possible error and inaccuracies in the Bible. How exactly does that affirm the KJVO view of how the Bible was transmitted down through history?

Fred talks a lot about “critical scholars”. When I look up words related to that, I find that “criticize” means “to pass judgment”. I also find that the word “critic” means “a person who judges merit”. How can one judge the “merit” of God’s Word?

I just sit back in my chair and rub my hands down my face. But for the sake of the person who genuinely wants an answer, no one is judging the “merit” of God’s Word. Textual critics judge the quality of the manuscript, not the message of the manuscript.

Fred also said “scholars have to determine” what the author “originally” wrote. And that “a good textual critic” determines the writing “may not be exactly what was originally intended or originally written”. How can we KNOW what was in the author’s mind? How can we KNOW their intentions? And, how can we KNOW their intentions were some other than what they put on paper??

I’ll just remind people that textual criticism evaluates physical manuscripts and has nothing to do with getting inside the head of the author to really know what he was thinking as if some hidden meaning exists. My commenter seem to be unable to differentiate between the two.

Fred said the job of critical text scholars is basically to make the text “sound good to the ear or to the person reading the text”. Wouldn’t that be merely scratching “itching ears”?

Uh… No. If someone takes the time to go back and listen once more to my interview, I said that many variants are caused by copyists attempting to harmonize parallel passages and smoothing out what appears to be difficult readings. The Bible was primarily read to congregations up and until the time of the Reformation when the printing press was invented.  Making the text to be easily read out loud was one of the primary duties of a good copyist. There is nothing nefarious about that.

Where does the job of the Holy Spirit to teach come into play?

Not sure what is being asked with this question. Does the person mean the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers by the Word of God or the Holy Spirit preserving the biblical autographs?

Fred says KJV “onlyists” believe people of other language need to learn 17th Century English. I say critical “scholars” believe people either need to learn Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic OR listen to, or read a book by, someone who does. That seems to be a very popish idea!

biblebabelYes, it is true that many KJVO apologists believe people need to learn English in order to read the Bible and in the case of the KJV, 17th century Elizabethan English. That is, for example, Sam Gipp’s view in his Answer Book.

As is typical with KJVO defenders, my challenger seems to be unaware of church history, because the “popish” response to new translations in English during the Reformation was one of hostility, claiming that only confusion and apostasy will come if people could read the Bible in their own language in an edition that is not the Latin Vulgate.

While it is certainly preferred that people take the time to learn the original languages (I would expect such from an person seeking to teach the Bible to others), it is not necessary, and providing an English translation that people in our time can read and understand is the only viable option. The true popish mindset is found among the KJVO folks who insist that any modern translation is corrupted and will lead to spiritual harm, which is the exact same position the Catholic church took during the Reformation.

When Fred was talking about what “brought him out of King James Onlyism”, he mentioned several men’s names, one woman’s name, his seminary teaching and his newfound (at the time) appreciation for Calvinism. If you were to ask me what “brought me out” of believing that eclectic textual criticism was the correct way to understand the Bible, I would tell you, “I read the Bible”. The Holy Spirit was my Teacher….not a man, woman, a course, or some “ism”.

In my case, the Holy Spirit, in God’s divine providence, used those several men, that one crazy woman, and the full understanding of biblical salvation to teach me. Those people and God’s Word were the means God used to deliver me from error.  So in other words, I read my Bible and the Holy Spirit was my Teacher.

Fred said Calvinists have a “high view of God”. I guess the assumption is that non-Calvinists have a low view of God. Would that be correct?

Yes.

Since Fred likes Calvinism and states that King James “onlyists” DON’T like Calvinism, how much of that belief, in itself, is responsible for Fred’s current view of the King James Bible?

Here my challenger conflates issues. I like the King James Bible. I even believe it was an important translation for the English people. I said as much at the end of the interview. What I don’t like, however, is being lied to about how we got our Bible, something that KJVO defenders regularly do, as well as being lied to about Calvinism. The doctrines of grace alone are not responsible for my views on KJV Onlyism. But my uncovering the fact that Gail Riplinger lied about Westcott and Hort.  KJVO defenders still lie about them, and they lie about historical Calvinists. So my current view is that I like the King James Bible, I don’t like King James Onlyism.

Regarding Westcott and Hort….I have researched their own writings and have information, from their very own words, which tie them to the occult. I will be happy to share links on accurate info regarding W&H with you. And Gail Riplinger didn’t even come across my radar while doing my research..

Really? I doubt that my commenter solely explored the writings of Westcott and Hort apart from the opinions of King James Onlyists. But I’ll bite. Share the links. I would love to take a look at them. References in their printed works would be deeply appreciated. But again, I bet those links have been filtered through the KJVO propaganda machine.

Fred believes we DO have “all the words of God”. Obviously, the King James Bible is not a good enough source for these words. So, where can I, a normal, non-seminarian, find a perfect, error-free, accurate source of God’s Words? Also, along those lines, if nothing has been lost, then where can I find it?

Contrary to the hyped hysteria of KJVO apologists, I certainly believe the King James Bible is an excellent source of God’s Word. I don’t believe, however, that God’s perfect Word is ONLY found in the King James Bible.

I would also add that there are more concise and accurately translated modern editions than what is found in the KJV in certain places. Do each of those modern translations have their own set of difficulties? Well, of course. They are translations from one language into another.

As much as KJVO apologists want to claim the KJV is the only perfect Bible and all other modern translations are really Bible “perversions” rather than “versions,” Christians can rest assured that they will have that exact same “Word” if they choose to read the ESV or the NASB or any conservative, modern translation of the Bible.

Tin-Foil Hat Theology [3]

With this post, I finally wrap up my thoughts about tin-foil hat theology and conspiracy theory driven Christianity. It is my contention that any person obsessively indulging in speculative conspiracy theories is doing great harm to his spiritual health and will stifle personal sanctification. My previous two posts on this subject can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2.

5) A Conspiracy theory mindset often levels sinful accusations against others based upon pure speculation. Because tin-foil hat theology is based largely upon pure speculation, any one supposedly tied to a specific conspiracy is accused of lying or covering up the truth concerning the particular conspiracy theory under consideration.  If the person can at least convince his accuser of not lying about the so-called conspiracy, he is then accused of being deceived, or woefully ignorant, or misinformed as to the facts.

Accusing someone of lying with no tangible evidence based upon personal interpretations of highly speculative and allegedly suspicious scenarios, especially accusations leveled against a fellow Christian, is dreadfully sinful. Accusing someone of lying smacks to the core of a person’s character and is tantamount to gossip and slander. Neither should cross the lips of a God-fearing Christian.

Yet sadly, tin-foil hat theologians engage in those sinful practices when they accuse decent men and women of acting with deception in a conspiracy theory designed to harm others. Even more disappointing is their refusal to be corrected on the nature of their slander. Many of them even believe they are justified in naming other Christians and tying them to all sorts of hidden malfeasance to “protect” the Church or provide a “wake-up call” to the Christian community.

Let me share an example of what I mean.

Back in the mid-to-late 2000s, I  interacted with a guy who made the ludicrous charge that our church has been infiltrated by Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life philosophy. For those interested in reading my extend interaction with this individual, you can go HERE, and scroll through the pages.  One of the primary reasons he believed we were saturated in PDL philosophy was that he claimed our fellowship groups had become hotbeds of Hegelian-Marxist dialect. Our home Bible studies were more like discussion groups that were seeking to determine biblical truth rather than teaching biblical truth, or so said our accuser.

At any rate, probably the biggest issue for this guy was that Al Mohler was regularly invited to our Shepherd’s Conferences.  My conspiracy-driven critic believed Al was the devil incarnate.

He claimed that Dr. Mohler was some undercover change agent for the United Nations who was tasked to infiltrate churches and destroy them. He drew that conclusion based upon the fact that Dr. Mohler was a founding member of some morality organization connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, and that the organization is listed on the U.N.’s group of non-governmental organizations.

Now, just as an aside, I am mystified Christians have tied all sorts of evil plotting to the United Nations.  Among conspiracy theorists, the U.N. is primarily identified with the final, one-world government of the end times.  But the reality is quite the opposite. The U.N. has only demonstrated a general incompetence and impotence in unifying any nation under a so-called “one world government.”  In all honesty, they are only good for eliminating hook worms in 3rd world countries, not organizing a “one world government” with the Anticrhist as its head.

Now granted, I have quibbles with Al Mohler at times. For instance, I am annoyed he hasn’t used his influence and leadership to call out the sinful shenanigans in the SBC like Ergun Caner becoming president of a SBC college in Georgia. That stated, it is nonsense to suggest he is some diabolical change agent sent from the U.N.

But that doesn’t matter for our tin-foil hat wearing theologian. In his mind, it doesn’t matter how theologically sound Dr. Mohler comes across on his daily radio program, or even how anti-U.N. he may be in his various comments when addressing anything happening in the U.N. at times, my tin-foil hat theologian insists it is all a big ploy to deceive and he should be considered a liar.

Additionally, all those people who benefit from his ministry by radio and the Internet, along with all the hundreds of thousands of pastors who listened to him preach at a Shepherd’s Conference, are either blind to the truth, or in agreement with his lying. But, really? Everyone can’t possibly be a liar.

I’d say the same thing about individuals who accuse me of “blindness” in regards to such absurd conspiracies as chemtrails and the 9/11 truthers, which by they way have absolutely no genuine bearing upon anything remotely Christian. I guess the “deception” runs so deep that everyone is effected by it. Except of course the only people telling the truth, who just so happen to be tin-foil hat theologians.

6) A hardcore belief in conspiracy theories deny the sovereignty of God. The Bible is clear that God is sovereign over the affairs of this world. The book of Daniel in chapter 4, for example, clearly teaches that God is sovereignly directing the governments of the world, setting up and taking down kings and world leaders, to bring about His ultimate purposes. Can we not conclude then, that God is using the so-called conspiracy theories?

Let us say for the sake of argument that the U.N. is out to secretly usher in a one-world government ruled by an Antichrist figure. Even if they could pull off such a thing, would it not be God’s purpose in establishing that one-world government? It could very well be that tin-foil hat theologians who decry the U.N., the Illuminati, the big oil syndicates, world bankers, etc., are fighting against the will of God.

Tin-hat theology places way too much ability on men to overturn the decrees and works of God.  It is as if God is powerless to do anything against these nefarious individuals, or that the individuals have all the power to thwart God.  But I guess that should be expected seeing that most of the conspiracy believers rise from the fever swamps of independent fundamentalism and who happen to be Arminian in their overall view of life.

I am sure I could think of some more, but the  6 problems I considered prove to me that tin-foil hat theology only serves to bring a Christian to spiritual ruin. An unhealthy preoccupation with conspiracy theories stunts a person’s growth, takes their attention off of Jesus Christ and the gospel, and causes sinful division with in the Body of Christ. I pray Christian conspiracy chaser would open their eyes to the harm they are causing themselves and the work of the gospel in the local Church.