Podcast Discussion on Apologetic Methodology

I had an enjoyable discussion this afternoon with Adam Tucker and Devin Pellew on the subject of apologetic methodology. We discussed a number of topics related to the distinctions between Classic Apologetics and Presuppositionalism.

There were some good exchanges that took place, many of them worthy of independent comment in a blog article or two, which will be forthcoming.

It’s a little theologically geeky, but worth the time listening. Maybe play it at 1.5X speed so we sound really, really smart.

A Dialog on Apologetic Methodologies

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Debunking Ancient Aliens

aliensI remember as a kid watching an episode of “In Search Of…” that told about how aliens had visited earth thousands of years ago and helped humans build the pyramids and other ancient monuments. I sat transfixed as Leonard Nimoy’s sober narration convinced this 8 year old that aliens used tractor beams and levitation in order to stack giant rocks.

So recently I am driving to work early one morning and I am listening to the replay of Coast to Coast AM, which is like the equivalent of Charisma News or Sid Roth for atheists, New Agers, and UFO enthusiasts. The guy that was being interviewed had put together a documentary that basically debunked the whole ancient aliens idea, with particular focus on the History Channel series. The weekend host was asking him questions that had a tone of sarcastic disbelief, like, “You’re telling me men can move giant, 800 ton stones? Really?” The interviewee patiently explained how ancient societies accomplished such engineering feats and how ancient alien believers tend to exaggerate or outright fabricate the evidence. In other words, they lie.

The guy being interviewed sounded familiar and when the show went to a commercial break, the host says, “we’ll be back with our guest, Chris White, right after this,” I thought, “Yes, I know where I heard him before.” He was once a guest on Echo Zoe radio during which he talked about identifying the Great Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18.

Knowing the guy was a Christian, I immediately knew I wanted to check out his documentary. It’s available for free on YouTube through White’s main website,

Ancient Aliens Debunked

The video is three hours long, so make sure to pack a lunch; or you can break it up into chapters or sections and return to it when it is convenient.

Now some folks may be wondering why I would recommend a 3 hour YouTube documentary on debunking the claims about ancient aliens. That’s a fantastic question.

Well, if you are like me, I would imagine you have encountered various individuals from internet subcultures that assert with much passion the truth of ancient aliens building the pyramids. Sure, those folks are few, but they are there and they can have an influence on the unlearned.  Additionally, they tend to be really hostile toward God and Christianity specifically, claiming that the aliens that visited the earth were the deities worshiped by the civilizations.

So while it may seem silly to many, I guarantee my readers that they either have come across such people or will eventually. Here you have a fabulous online apologetic resources to answer such absurdities.

Also, the audio of White’s Coast to Coast AM episode is currently available at YouTube,

Chris White Coast to Coast AM interview

That discussion is only an hour and a half or so rather than 3 hours, but you’ll miss seeing all the great visuals. Make sure to fast-forward to around the 40 minute mark where the interview begins.

The only criticism I had with his interview is that he avoided talking about being a Christian. If I hadn’t known of him beforehand, I would have concluded he was just another one of those typical skeptic debunker types. I personally think he missed an opportunity with not making it clear to the audience from where he was coming from as a Bible-believing Christian. He also made the assertion that he thinks aliens can fit into his current worldview and I totally disagree with that, and believe it messes up biblical theology.

Those peripherals aside, I highly encourage folks to check out the documentary when you can. My kids and I watched the first section dealing with ancient monuments and they loved it. It will certainly help to shore up their thinking if and when they encounter friends who believe in ancient alien civilizations.

The Hounds of Discernment

uglydogLyndon and I are preparing our chapter reviews of Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire for a possible ebook of our own. The material will be updated a bit and greatly expanded, particularly Lyndon’s stuff. Not sure when it will be available. We have both finished our principle reedit of our posts, and we just recently exchanged our chapters with each other. I am working through Lyndon’s material, offering my insights and suggestions.

One of Michael Brown’s complaints he levels in his book against cessationists is their meanness and vitriol they express when they go after what they perceive is heresy. That attitude is really witnessed among those cessationists who run online “discernment” ministries. I don’t necessarily disagree with Dr. Brown on that point. So-called discernment ministries can be downright nasty at times.

As I was reviewing one of Lyndon’s chapters yesterday, I came across this wonderful rant he offered in response to Dr. Brown’s complaint. I thought it was well stated and worth bringing out for others to consider.

——-

The “conspicuous lack of love” manifest in cessationist circles is something that I both recognize and condemn openly.  I have, and do, urge cessationists to never hound anyone on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media (especially if you’ve never had previous contact with them at all).  Some cessationists are absolutely shameful jerks (and far too frequently are even socially handicapped) and that should not be the case.

What’s more, there’s the “discernment ministry” folks out there who somehow think that it’s the business of a person without any sort of biblical office to “call out” heretics on the internet.   Calling for the repentance of random strangers when they don’t know them, aren’t in any of their circles of contact, and aren’t holding any sort of biblical office (namely, an elder in a church) reveals a profound lack of discernment.

What’s worse is that, in my experience, the “discernment ministry” folks (often the most aggressive of the cessationists) who like to hop on social media or their own websites and “call out” random or infamous charismatics tend to respond to criticism far worse than the charismatics they go after.  When those “discernment ministry” folks are faced with something stupid or sinful that they do, they’re frequently violently resistant to correction and attack those who attempt to confront their foolishness/sin.

Yet, they somehow expect people who likely get wheelbarrows of hate mail (i.e. any popular personality in Christendom) to somehow read a few tweets from a random agitator, and then overthrow what’s likely decades of tradition/commitment to a theological position, and repent.  Even worse, more than a few of the “discernment ministry” folks appear to think their duty is done as long as they’ve pointed to any unbiblical idea that someone has ever been associated with and demanded repentance.  Once heretics have been informed of their error, the “discernment ministry” folks appear to feel like their job is done.  In case I’ve been unclear, too many “discernment ministry” folks do far more harm than good.  On this point, I agree with Michael Brown and wish I had the power to teach a cabal of specific individuals some basic social etiquette.

Discernment is one of the things that they claim to have, but more often than not it’s simply a neurotic fascination with people who are in theological error.  It may seem obvious, but 1 Pet. 5:2 is a commission strictly given to the elders in 1 Pet. 5:1.  Titus 1:9 is a directive given to the overseers who are mentioned in Titus 1:7.  1 Tim. 6:20 is a command specifically addressed to Timothy, as is the command in 2 Tim. 1:14 and 2:2 (and basically all the other go-to texts that “discernment ministry” folks use to justify their existence).  More often than not, the passages that do directly apply to them (i.e. Titus. 2:3-5) are being habitually and systematically disobeyed.

The God of Weights and Measures

philae

Being the geek that I am, I followed with much enthusiasm the European Space Agency’s successful attempt landing the Philae probe on a comet. [Remember when the USA and NASA used to do that kind of cool stuff? Good times]. The entire process took nearly a decade when the Rosetta orbiter was launched, circled the earth three times, took a swing around Mars, and eventually caught up with Comet 67P.

The entire process was really amazing. The photos that are being beamed back are breathtaking. As we look at wonder upon those images, the only way that all happened is that God has created an orderly universe that is governed by His rational laws of logic that give us the ability to mathematically calculate the orbit of an incoming comet from the outer solar system and plan the trajectory of a space vehicle to meet with it and send a lander down to its surface. The whole process is one giant apologetic for the existence of God.

I explained all of that in a post I wrote when the Phoenix surveyor dropped to the surface of Mars back in 2008. I’ve reposted it here for your consideration:

——-

Earlier this week, I believe on Sunday our time here on Earth, the Phoenix surveyor landed in the polar region of Mars.

The picture is its final descent to the surface taken from the MRO imaging satellite in orbit around the planet.

I tend to geek out at these sorts of things.

I saw the article about the picture at the Bad Astronomy website, maintained by Phil Plait. I have read articles where he plays at pretending to be an anti-Creationist activist-watchdog. He claims to be a skeptic, though now-a-days the word “skeptic” is synonymous with “atheist.”

Any how, Phil writes this gushing remark about the image at his site:

Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.

Never, ever forget: we did this. This is what we can do. [emphasis his]

Note his emphasis: we did this. That is important to keep in mind as we place the photograph in perspective.

When I saw the picture of the Phoenix landing on Mars with even the parachute tethers still visibly attached, my mind was turned toward God’s Word, specifically one of the more interesting Proverbs I love.

Honest weights and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. (Prov. 16:11, NKJV)

The point of the proverb is quite simple: you are to deal honestly with your fellow man. If you happen to be a butcher and a person comes to your shop looking to purchase 2 pounds of hamburger meat, when you weigh out the meat, your scale must honestly record 2 pounds. It is not to be rigged in such a way that 1.5 pounds of meat looks to be 2 pounds and the person is thus charged to pay for 2 pounds when really all he has is 1.5 pounds.

The proverb is a summation of Leviticus 19:35,36, which reads,

You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, and honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The command to maintain honest weights and measures in grounded in the holy character of God. The Lord always directs His commands back to Himself. We are to be honest with a fundamental interaction with our fellow man because God’s character is holy and righteous.

Now, what does that have to do with the Phoenix lander on Mars?

I believe there is a secondary application of Proverbs 16:11 that tends to get over looked. That being, in order for there to be a command to be honest with our weights and measures, there must be an ultimate standard by which to determine if and when a weight or measure is dishonest.

Here in the U.S. there is a department in the government for the standard of weights and measures. They have the ultimate weight that weighs one pound exactly, or one kilo, depending upon the system in use. They have the ultimate measuring stick that is one yard exactly, or one meter. All weights claiming to weigh a pound should balance with the ultimate one pound weight. The same with all meter sticks. If we lay them along side the ultimate stick they should all be a meter.

In this proverb, the writer is indirectly describing a principle of scientific knowledge to the Lord: The reason men can have a shared understanding of how to weigh and measure objects is because weight and measures are intimately connected to God’s eternal, immutable nature. Thus, men can use weights and measure for more than determining the price of steak, but can utilize them to construct buildings, engineer bridges, and even send probes into space. That is because weights and measures are a development of basic, universal truths of mathematical principles.

In an important work, The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math and Meaning, a book that should be read by all Christians, John Byl writes concerning math:

The existence of eternal, abstract, mathematical thoughts seems to require the existence of something actual in which they exist. This raises the questions of where and how such mathematical entities exist.

The early theistic philosophers Philo and Augustine placed the ideal world of eternal truths in the mind of God. Augustine argued that the existence of eternal necessary truths implied the existence of an eternal, necessary, infinite mind in which all such truths exist. [pg. 136]

The fact that we can develop scientific know-how to send a probe into space, then land on another planet, and then another probe is able to take a picture of it landing, is because we have fixed mathematical principles to utilize in order to accomplish such a feat. If the principles of math and physics were systems that did not exist outside ourselves as humans the ability to perform the task of landing a probe on Mars would be near impossible, if not unobtainable. We know about how a parachute impacts drag on an object, how much force gravity pulls on it, and how fast it falls, because those are certain, measurable variables that are universal.

So when Phil boasts, we did this, such is true if it were not for the fact God is concerned with just weights. In the side bar of Phil’s blog, there is a picture of him with his comments, “I likes reality the way it is and I aims to keep it that way.” Because a weight in the bag is God’s work, Phil can keep being entertained by the reality he so enjoys, even though he hates God.

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.

Reviewing the Wilson Vs. Atheist Debate at TMC

On Saturday, Feb. 23rd, a couple of friends and I attended the annual creation symposium hosted by Master’s College. Every year in February, TMC invites a lecturer to come and speak on some area of science and a creationist worldview. This year, however, was slightly different. Instead of a lecture, a panel debate/discussion between Doug Wilson and two atheists was presented.

The panel discussion (it wasn’t really a formal “debate) arose out of the 2012 creation symposium when a local group of atheists came to hear the two presentations on textual issues in the Genesis flood narrative and Dr. Andrew Snelling speak on geology and creation.

After the 2012 symposium, some acquaintances were formed between the local atheist-freethinking group and Dr. Joe Francis, who teaches biology at TMC. He began attending the atheist group throughout 2012, and eventually the discussion we witnessed on Saturday materialized after Dr. Francis showed the members of the atheist group Doug Wilson’s and the late Christopher Hitchens’ documentary, Collision.

In his introduction to the audience, Dr. Francis explained how he wanted the evening to come across as a lively discussion between “good neighbors.” In fact, he used the word “neighbor” so much whenever he got up to facilitate the evening that I expected any moment for a little red trolley car to roll through the auditorium. Thus, in a neighborly fashion we had a neighborly discussion on “disagreements” between neighbors. But it wasn’t ecumenical just so everyone knows.

There were two atheists who presented and “discussed” with Doug Wilson. Each participant got a 5 minute opening statement and then the panel “discussion” would begin.

The first atheist, whose name escapes me and I feel bad not having written it down, is a marriage counselor and practicing psychologists in my local area. He opened with his five minutes making exaggerated claims that atheists are one of the most persecuted groups of people in all of the United States if not the world.

He relayed “testimonies” from folks he had counseled over the years who had been ostracized from family and friends to the point of being kicked out of the home, divorced from spouses, and even being fired from their jobs just because they came “out of the closest” as an atheist.  He then implored us, the largely Christian audience, to seriously consider the kind of personal harm we are doing by being opposed to atheists.

The second atheist to give us his opening remarks is a character actor by the name of David Leisure who is most well-known for his “Joe Isuzu” commercials back in the mid-to-late 80s or so and the t.v. show, Empty Nest.

I don’t recall him saying thing particularly profound in his opening 5-minutes except him using the word “ass” before a TMC audience when he talked about how a pastor friend of his described what was in store for him going up against Doug Wilson. Later, during the second part of the evening, he made a passing masturbation innuendo when he did an improve bit about Galileo and the pope looking through a telescope. Between the two atheists, he was the most well-spoken and of course he was highly entertaining with the quips and one-liners.

When Doug Wilson got up to present his opening remarks, he seized upon Dr. Francis’s “good neighbor” comments and explained that foundational differences motivate both the Christian and the atheist to be “good neighbors,” and something must justify one’s neighborly acts, like helping to put out a fire at another neighbor’s house. It was basically the “how does an atheist account for WHY he does what he does given the axioms of an atheist worldview.” Wilson also effectively tossed out his 2 soda cans fizzing illustration.

I am not a huge Wilson fan, though I have appreciated him indirectly introducing me to the writings of P.G. Wodehouse. However, this is a venue where he shines and he did so brightly this evening. As a friend of mine later noted, Wilson demonstrated how Christians can have an exchange with unbelievers while remaining humble and charming, yet while being pointed and direct when challenging their beliefs.

After the three gave their opening remarks, they moved to the panel discussion where we the audience got to listen.  The atheists came prepared with questions that ranged from “how do you deal with Christians becoming atheists” and “why are Christians hostile to atheists.”  David Leisure griped a little bit about the doctrinal statement of TMC that addressed biblical separation from the world and tried to tie that to bad attitudes Christians have against atheists.

One exciting moment happened about midway through their panel discussion when an older guy wearing a cowboy hat walked right up to where the three men were sitting on the platform and began shouting at Wilson that he was a liar. He ranted and raved and cussed about Wilson saying that a number of Christian doubters he had counseled as a pastor were people who had experienced gross hypocrisy in their family.  The guy eventually left the building and security escorted him off the property. I give kudos to the two atheists, who gave the impression that they knew the guy from their “freethinking” group, for telling him to get out if he didn’t like what they were discussing. I was just happy the guy wasn’t a Westboro Baptist type crank.

After a brief break, we came back and David Leisure did his Galileo improve bit I mentioned above.  Then the participants took questions from the floor. I don’t remember any one question that stood out to me, except for a guy who asked about why innocent people who never heard of Jesus are condemned to hell for never having heard of Jesus. It was a like a slow pitch soft ball lobbed to Wilson who knocked it clean out of the park with the answer he provided.

My friend, David Ice, who just so happens to be the youngest son of theologian, Dr. Tommy Ice, attempted to press the atheists to provide a grounding justification for their morals.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure these guys had thought through that challenge because they kept concluding that folks were saying they as atheists had no morals, when in fact they were being asked about the epistemological grounding for their morals.

The psychologist-marrige counselor atheist, whose name escapes me, exclaimed at one point that atheists are not atheists because they hate God, but because they had no compelling reason to believe in God.  He then asked, “Does anyone here doubt that I exist?” I wanted to say no, but it is because he is revealing himself to us by communicating to the audience. God did the same thing with His redeemed people in the past and still does the same today in His Word.

Overall the debate was good. Wilson did a fabulous job presenting the Christian faith, even giving the gospel at a few points during the discussion.  I appreciated that he kept that opportunity in mind as he talked.

The atheists were also commendable.  I  appreciated that they didn’t spiral off into stupid, inane arguments we hear now-a-days from internet, blowhard atheists that say “Jesus never existed” or “Christianity is another borrowed myth from such stories as Mithra” or whatnot.  It was clear to me that they had never debated someone like Wilson who came from a presuppositional perspective.  I took it that most of their interaction with Christians has been with the William Craig/classic evidentialist type apologists, so hopefully they went away with a fresh understanding of the Christian faith.

If and when audio/video is put up, I’ll link it. It is worth the time watching.

The Creationism Road Trip

Though it is longish, this report by Phil Robinson on his adventures with an anti-creationist documentary-making team from the BBC is both entertaining and revealing.

Creationism Road Trip

Christians would be well-served to read it. I commend Phil for his stand for the Lord and truth in the face of overwhelming “academic” hostility and mockery.  Even the Hugh Ross neo-apologists over at the Christian Apologetic Alliance would benefit with reading it.

The basic summary of the article is that last summer the BBC arranged for a team of documentarians to gather together a group of folks who were “doubting the theory of evolution” and believed that science is unable to satisfactory explain how life came to be. The group consisted of 4 Christians and a devout Muslim. A “comedian entertainer” from Ireland was the host. They were brought to the U.S. where they were given the opportunity to encounter top evolutionists like Jerry Coyne and Donald Prothero.

The film makers pitched the project to the participants as an opportunity to meet a variety of individuals who were experts in their fields of study and who could discuss and debate these subjects. The documentary was supposed to be balanced, but as is typical with these sort of things, the film-makers misled the participants, ignored any ID or creationist experts in the same fields of study, and selectively edited important segments. They essentially turned the final product into an anti-creationist propaganda piece.

Most revealing, and entertaining, is Phil’s reporting on the dishonesty of the film-makers, as well as the odd-ball, anti-theistic beliefs of the evolutionary experts.  A number of them are notorious for their strident atheism, and as they presented their case the true nature of their worldview came seeping out.  The most notable one standing out to me was professor Michael Russell and his cosmological mysticism that suggests the universe has a will of its own and intentionally directed the evolution of man.

My suggestion for CMI is to make a similar documentary, but get some atheist-theistic evolutionist antagonists to road trip around and visit with some creationist experts. Take them to the Grand Canyon with Andrew Snelling, or maybe visit with John Sanford or Kurt Wise. There has got to be some who would relish the chance.

Letter to a Jehovah’s Witness

My wife and I recently received an unusual letter.  It was unusual because it was hand-written. Normally, only our friends send us hand-written notes thanking us for supporting their mission trip, or inviting them to dinner, or whatever, but the name on this particular letter wasn’t familiar to us.  My wife took it to open while I scanned through the rest of the mail.  She came back a couple of moments later and said “Here, you need to respond to this.”

The letter was from a young gal who told us how her and her family live in our neighborhood. She went on to explain how she hasn’t had the opportunity to speak with us yet, but wanted to give us a special tract (included with the letter) and tell us how the Bible answers many of the important questions of life like: “Why do I grow old and die?” “What is the purpose of life?” and “How do we find happiness?”  She ended her note encouraging us to read the tract and then contact her at the address provided in the letter if we have questions.

When I looked at the tract, it was obvious by the illustrations of a family gardening in a large, green orchard wearing business casual clothes with the kids playing with lion cubs that it had to be either a Chick tract, or it’s the JWs.  Sure enough, when I turned over the tract, in itty-bitty font I read “The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.” (By the way, are short-pants and a tee-shirt forbidden in the kingdom as proper gardening wear? I digress).

The tract outlined what our letter writer had told us by asking something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world like the picture on the front of the tract?” It went on to talk about how Jesus Christ the Messiah will come to set up this wonderful paradise, from which sickness, and disease, and suffering will be banished.  The last paragraph explains in vague terms that in order for me, the reader, to join in with this “paradise,” I need to read the Old and New Testaments so as to find the specific details. Oh. And of course, my local JWs are happy to provide further information.

I didn’t know what to make of the letter and tract. I thought of two possibilities. Either this was a genuine neighbor who collected all the house address around her and wrote a personal letter to see if anyone would respond, or this was a new way the JWs are evangelizing seeing that the door-to-door method is met with resistance and has become something of a cultural joke these days.

Whatever the case, my wife and I saw it as a divine appointment by God. Nothing happens that our Sovereign God does not orchestrate.  I took the opportunity to write a brief response explaining to this gal how she is being deceived by the JWs and give her a basic outline to the Gospel with Bible passages for her to consider. I then sent along two CDs from GTY and prayed God would move on her heart not to pitch them in the garbage, but listen to them.

I thought I would share the letter for others to consider. Any improvements for future opportunities are welcome.

——-

Dear _________,

I want to thank you on behalf of my wife and family for the lovely hand-written note and tract you sent us. Not a whole lot of people hand-write letters these days, so it was a delightful surprise to receive.

To begin, you need to know my wife and I are born-again, Bible-believing Christians, so any note sent with a tract telling us about eternity and the world to come will grab our attention. The subject of eternal life is one that concerns us both, because we believe the Gospel message we proclaim to others about obtaining that eternal life is vitally important.

In fact, the matters of one’s eternal destiny are so significant all other “earthly” concerns pale in comparison because they pertain to the souls of men. That means the Gospel message we proclaim concerning these matters of eternity must be presented with accuracy, precision, and truth. If we proclaim a false Gospel that presents a false understanding of Jesus Christ or contains deceptive content in our overall message, we risk not only leading these people into eternal error; we the messengers will incur God’s judgment for leading them astray. I’ll be honest with you; I believe the Watchtower Society presents such a false gospel.

Consider the tract you included with your letter.  While it certainly spoke hopefully about a world free of pain, suffering, war, and turmoil, and the like, it doesn’t tell the reader what it is exactly a person must do in order to enter into that blessed place. In other words, it is missing that Gospel message that brings a person into the “New Heaven and the New Earth.” I would think that front end of the message would be much more important that the back end, if you know what I mean.

But let me move to the questions you posed in your letter that asked such things as, “Why do we grow old and die?”, “What is the purpose of life?”, “How can we find real happiness?”  You suggest the Bible gives us those answers and I certainly believe it does, because those questions are hitting at the heart of what that Gospel message tells us.  However, I think the spin the Watchtower places on those subjects will not provide the right answers to those questions and only cause a person to continue in “darkness.”

Allow me to explain.

The Bible says that God created man and woman to worship and fellowship with God (Genesis 1 and 2).  The first man, Adam, however, disobeyed God by eating from a tree God had forbade him to eat (Genesis 3).  That plunged the man and all his progeny (that’s you and me) into a state of total depravity (Romans 5:12).  In other words, man was separated entirely from God, both spiritually and intellectually (Ephesians 2:1-4; 4:17-19).  Additionally, our separation from God causes us to be spiritual rebels (Romans 3:9-18). We stand opposed to, and actively fight against, everything about who God is. Thus, everything that men do is considered sinful and evil before Him.  That is why men grow old and die.  They are under the curse God placed upon the man and all the earth (Romans 5:12-17).

But God is gracious. He did not plan to leave all of mankind in their sinful state (Ephesians 1:4-14).  So God came to dwell among us as the man, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and died a sinless death, so that He could redeem a people He calls out to be with Him forever(Romans 5:6-11, 2 Corinthians 5:17).  Because God is holy, He has to punish all sinners. No one can do anything to earn righteousness before God (Romans 3:21-31). Only an infinite God could pay the infinite debt man owes to Him because of his sin.  That’s why Jesus Christ could not be a created being like an angel. No angel has the ability to pay the penalty for sin owed to God by man. That is because our sin is too great and God’s law too holy for any mere created being to reconcile. Only God Himself can do that.

Because Jesus rose bodily from the dead three days after his death on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), we know God the father was pleased with the sacrifice He made.  Those who put their faith in that accomplished work will be declared righteous before God, meaning his and her sin debt has been paid in full and the wrath of God turned away from that person (Ephesians 2:8-10). God imparts the Holy Spirit to us that we may now begin a life of living righteous before God (Romans 8). In short, this is what it means to find our purpose in life and real happiness.  True purpose and real happiness begin with a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ and enjoying Him forever.

________, my sincere prayer and hope is that you will read this letter and consider what I stated about the Watchtower as well as the passages of Scripture I pointed to.  Also, I have enclosed a couple of preaching CDs I hope you will hear [For those interested, I enclosed two of John’s messages I had on-hand, Two Paths, One Way and  The Call to Repentance].  I know your teachers will probably warn you against them, but I trust God that if He is calling you to Himself in true faith and repentance, you’ll get by yourself and listen to God’s Word taught.

My wife and I serve a great God.  A great God who is a saving God and I know He can save you as well. Please hear the things I wrote in this letter and ponder them deeply in your heart.  Your eternal life depends on them.

Fred Butler

The Reasonable Atheist

This is kind of longish, but may be worth the investment if you anticipate having to haggle this holiday season with a smarty pants community college nephew who thinks he is the most brilliant “free thinker” the world has ever known, or that sour uncle who doesn’t like the fact your aunt attends church.  There are also many excellent hyper links to further articles, so it is chock full of good stuff.

Jonathan Sarfati interacts with a “Reasonable Atheist” over at the Creation.com site.

Answering a Reasonable Atheist on Deep Philosophical Questions?

BTW, why are all “philosophical questions” considered “deep?” Just wondering.

Lil’ Abner Meets the Big City Cultists

lilabnerWith the recent break-up of Scientology poster boy Tom Cruise from Katie Holmes, and Rupert Murdoch’s “Scientologists are creepy” tweets, I was reminded of an encounter I had here in LA some twenty years ago now.

In fact, after searching my blog archives, I’m surprised I haven’t recounted this tale.

I was a hayseed bumpkin that had just bounced off the pulp wood truck smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles to attend seminary. I’d never been to a place like this before. There were cars everywhere. Gazillions of people all over the place. In fact, more people attended my church on Sunday mornings at the time than lived in my hometown back in AR.

My second semester missions-evangelism class gave us a list of assignments to complete which included going out to street evangelize. We were living in LA, a modern, metropolitan Corinth so what better place to “evangelize.”

A buddy of mine, and fellow seminary student from Alabama (we won’t hold that against him), suggested we go to the Hollywood area because we had a friend who lived in the apartments across the street from the gigantic old hospital the Scientologists had purchased and turned into their headquarters and dormitory.

So one, late Saturday afternoon, my friend drives us down to Hollywood for our visit with the Scientologists.

Now. You have to picture us: Two rural Southern boys in our blue jeans and farmer’s flannel shirts. My buddy is carrying a large print Bible (It might’ve been a NASB) and we are in Hollywood, CA, movie capitol of the world.

We are able to find a parking spot right across the street from the main entrance of the Scientology building. As soon as we step out of the car, we’re greeted by a security guy driving a little car with yellow lights on the roof. He rolls down the window and says, “Hey fellas, how are you doing today? You live around here?” We say, “No sir, were just visiting a friend.” “Okay,” he responds, “You two have a splendid evening” or something along those lines.

Our friend told us later that one of the perks with living across from Scientology central was the fact they maintained an active, 24-hour security patrol that had reduced crime on the block down to nil. You could leave your Macbook sitting in an unlocked car with all the windows rolled down and nobody would take it.

Anyways, we visit with our friend a bit and then my buddy and I walk across the street to begin our mission. As I recall, the first thing we see is a boulder-sized bust of L. Ron Hubbard’s head as big as a John Deer tractor sitting on the front lawn. I hunted around the internet to find a picture I could upload with this post, but I couldn’t find any. (Unless I was mistaken). Now there is a boulder-sized statue of a lion the size of a John Deer tractor. I remember the big head and thinking it was a tad pretentious.

There was a sign advertising a book store and it told us the store was open, so we ascended the cyclopean steps leading up to the entrance.

trekkersThe next thing we noticed was how all the Scientology practitioners, nearly all of them young men, were dressed in classic, Star Trek like uniforms. I kid you not. Blue, yellow, and red tops with black trousers. They were darting in and around corners and down long corridors. My friend and I shot each other glances that said “that’s weird.” Of course, we stand there in our jeans and flannels with a big Bible, so I guess the “that’s weird” comment could just as easily apply to us.

The bookstore was to our left in a large area set up in the lobby. We started perusing the shelves. Most of the books were odd and I had absolutely no clue what they were about. What did catch our eye, however, was the price. There was a whole shelf full of kid books that I guess teach Scientology. The indecipherable content was bad enough, but the prices for these things was staggering. One book was like 75 bucks! What!?

We started looking at other books that would be for adults and we saw prices ranging upward from 250 to even 500 dollars for some of the books. Individual books, mind you; not sets. And there wasn’t anything particular “special” about the quality of these books, as if they are printed on gold sheets. It’s the kind you’d find at Barnes and Noble. My copy of Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology was just around 25 dollars. I started to think we had come across a bunch of grifters.

So as were standing there, a nice, clean cut fellow wearing a blue Star Trek shirt comes up and introduces himself to us. I forget his name, so I’ll call him “McCoy.”

He asks us our names and where were from and all and then the conversation is steered toward Scientology matters. We ask “McCoy” to explain the basics to us. He tells us how Scientology is about self-improvement and overcoming the trauma of our difficult pasts and whatnot.

I then ask him to explain how exactly can we overcome our difficult pasts. “McCoy” replies by telling us everyone begins by being “audited by an E-meter” administered by a trained Scientologist. I ask, “E-meter? What’s that?” He directs us over to a table in the bookstore area and he points to this little box with knobs and wires and explains how this is an “E-meter.” I respond with the innocence of a Gomer Pyle rube, “It sort of looks like a battery charger.”

“McCoy” chuckles and says, “I don’t ever think I heard anyone call IT that before.” “Well sir,” I respond, “I can show you one of these in the automotive department at Wal-Mart.”

Blank stare.

My friend then interjects by asking, “So, what do Scientologist think of Christianity?” “McCoy” perks up and says, “A person can be a Christian and be a Scientologist. I know lots of people who are Christians and practice Scientology.”

We both look at each other and respond, “Really?” My friend then asks, “Well, what ‘god’ do Scientologists worship?” “McCoy” says, “Oh. That’s what’s great about Scientology, we don’t promote any specific ‘god’ but we’re all about helping people improve their personal lives.”

It was at that point that three other guys standing in the lobby call “McCoy’s” name and ask him to join them. He holds up his hand and says “Just a minute guys.”

I think I then asked him about if he had attended any church in his life, and “McCoy” said he had been a Catholic. Either my friend or I asked him to explain how he now understands “sinning against God.” “McCoy” replies with the previous line he gave us that all guilt and shame are results of us not dealing with our past difficulties and that Scientology was helping him get over his past.

Once again “McCoy’s” friends call him over to them and he again tells them to wait a minute that he was talking with us.

xenuI had heard about the Scientology concept of “body Thetans” and “Xenu” and so I asked “McCoy” if he knew what “body Thetans” were. He said he did and gave the standard Scientology answer about them being suppressed memories of past trauma. I then asked him if they were spiritual beings, and he said they could be. I then asked, “Could they be what the Bible describes as demonic spirits?”

Right about the time I asked him that question, the three guys who had been calling “McCoy” to join them walked swiftly to where we were standing, one fellow grab one arm and another fellow grab the other, and they physically escorted him down the corridor.

My buddy and I looked at each other and we both got the “willies.” We knew we needed to high-tail it out of there before some goons chloroformed us and took us down into the labyrinths underneath the building and were never seen again.

And thus, that was my one and only encounter I’ve had with the big city cultists of Scientology.