Don’t Waste the Storm

“As we rebuild our city, let us not rebuild the walls that Hurricane Harvey tore down.” – Words from my pastor

Over the past few weeks in southeast Texas, we have endured flooding and catastrophe. We’ve seen the heavens open up and relentlessly saturate our cities. There’s been no rainfall event its equal in the recorded continental U.S. history. The hurricane stalled so long over Houston, one meteorologist described the hurricane as pulling up its own flood waters to dump them back down again. After the storm finally left, we saw devastation everywhere. And we are still flooded in some places.

Just days ago, Hurricane Irma ravaged islands in the Caribbean and continued on a path that devastated the Florida Keys and brought significant flooding and destruction to other large areas of Florida as well. Plus, the Pacific Northwest and parts of California are currently aflame in huge forest fires, some with zero percent containment, threatening lives and filling the air with thick smoke.

So allow me to say again, ““As we rebuild our city, let us not rebuild the walls that ___________ tore down.”

In the midst of calamity, we have risen and will rise above our dividing lines. I’ve heard many words of hope come out of the disaster in Texas. I began to feel a sense of brotherhood with my fellow mankind…a sense of true community based in love for one another. Yet, a gnawing remembrance has already begun to chip away at my hope: these words of love and grace are so easily dismissed once there is recovery. We quickly return to agendas that divide us and to the polarizing language that destroys us. With the Texas flooding, the return began even before the rains ceased.

The kind of love that reaches across division seems to be an unnatural love for us humans. It is the kind of love of which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount when he taught us to love our enemies and do good to those who do not do good to us. He told us that whatever we would have done to us is what we should do for others. (Luke 6:27-31) This practice does not come about easily. I know that there are everyday occurrences of such great love, but on a larger scale, such as a city, it took disaster to see this love demonstrated across all lines.

So my question is: How do we hold onto such great love for each other? Or will we just slip back into our old habits and ways of thinking once we have recovered? “A fool wastes the pain of suffering and goes right back to his former ways, learning nothing”…more words from my pastor. We’ve had a glimpse of what it looks like to live in love and goodness, but the truth of man’s nature is that he will do what is not good. He will return to his former ways. (Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:12) I’ve already seen people using the hurricane as a platform for their own agendas and political statements. The great good of our love for one another already being warped and spoiled for personal and political gain.

This is why we humans need a Savior. We need One who truly knows goodness and love because He is Goodness and Love. We need One who will not spoil any situation, but rather redeem it. We need a reason to love, a reason to hope, a reason to change our ways. We need the goodness of God.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

For some quick ways to dive in deeper on God’s goodness:

How Good is Good Enough for God” Jonty Allcock (20 min.)
Do We Need God in the Good Times?” John Lennox (1 hour)
The Problem of Suffering and the Goodness of God”  Ravi Zacharias (2 hours)

Is It Okay to Question Beliefs?

Part Three

Check out part one and part two if you missed them! 

Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt.

In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. In the previous posts we’ve looked at why we should engage in questioning. In this post, we will look at the doubt itself.

  1. Those engaging in doubt should doubt fairly.

Many people have told me about how doubt (either their own or a loved one) has caused a turning away from faith in God. I rarely hear a person tell me that while they had doubts about God, they had equal doubts about other views they were exploring and/or about their doubts, in general. Paul Copan in A Little Book for New Philosophers suggests that we should not only investigate our beliefs, but also our doubts. He wants us to consider “doubting our doubts.” Why?

For some reason, we seem to take aim at our beliefs and wonder if they are true, but we almost never seem to take aim at the doubt itself and wonder if it has merit. Are we taking doubts more seriously than beliefs? Copan gives us an example: “After all, it’s logically possible that the external world is illusory, the universe isn’t older than fifteen minutes, and that other minds don’t exist. But we never truly contest these things; we rightly take them as properly basic.”

He goes on to say that we rightly trust our rational capacities, even when we are in the midst of doubt. It takes rationality to doubt beliefs. However, why do we not apply our doubt to our rational capacities? Why do doubters rarely ask from where their own rational capacities come? Why should they trust that their own rationality and thinking are working properly?

Copan responds, “Being made in the image of a rational, truthful God makes excellent sense of this fundamental trust we have that our cognitive faculties aren’t systematically deceiving us and thus that we can seek after truth.”

We’ll look at understanding the different kinds of doubt we face in the next post.

Mary Jo Featured on Apologetics Academy Webinar

Mary Jo recently had the privilege of being a featured guest on Jonathan McLatchie’s Apologetics Academy webinar.

She discussed Conversational Apologetics, which focuses on four elements of good dialogue; including how to use common questions to uncover what people really believe and to spark a deeper discussion on belief in God.

Check out the two-hour long webinar below and let us know your thoughts!

 

Is It Okay to Question Beliefs?

Part Two

Missed part one? Read it here

Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt.

In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. Let’s look at a couple more reasons to add to the previous post.

3. The Christian faith offers ample resources and evidence to assist us.

The Christian faith has a two-fold approach in assisting us with answering our doubts. As Copan states, “When God enters our lives, we have the Spirit’s internal confirmation that we are children of God, that we have been accepted before him through Christ and that we can thus approach him with confidence (Rom 8: 14-16; Gal 4: 5-6; Heb 4: 16; 1 Jn 5: 13).”[1]

The internal confirmation relates to the personal and individual salvific experience of God. There is truth we learn through the experience of forgiveness of guilt and relief from shame, as well as from understanding that we have ultimate significance—that not only did God create us, but that he valued his creation as “good” and then gave himself as a sacrifice to reaffirm and redeem the goodness of his creation. However, internal confirmation is not the whole story. There are also external supports for the existence of God such as the historical reliability of the Scriptures, the evidence of the resurrection, the existence of objective moral values, presence of design in the universe, and many more. These two types of support work in concert to assist us in answering our doubt.

While we will not get exhaustive answers, we can begin to get answers. It’s been troubling me that many of the people who talk with me about doubt haven’t tried answering any of their doubts, though these folks have had the same questions or wonderings for years. The doubts don’t just go away on their own, we have to be responsible to use the gift of learning with which God has endowed his creation to seek answers. One of my favorite quotes from Dallas Willard is, “If you’re going to be a doubter, you need to believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts as well as to doubt your beliefs and believe your doubts.”[2] We need to be responsible with our doubts and our beliefs.

4. Fourth, we should reject the false and pernicious idea that knowledge requires 100 percent certainty.

This reason for engaging with doubts has been an idea on which I have been chewing for some years. The belief that one must have 100 percent certainty to have knowledge about a thing seems to be problematic for both those who believe in God and those who do not believe. I’ve heard Christians say things like, “I have no doubt in God. I will not be shaken. I cannot be moved.” While I believe the intention of such statements is from a desire to be obedient to God and trust Him, I think it may send an unrealistic message to others (and to ourselves) about faith. Faith in God doesn’t mean you will never have that trust shaken. I’ve had mine rocked to the core. Faith in God doesn’t mean that there are no more questions to ask. Rather, faith should mean that the questions have begun. After all, God is an infinite being and we are finite beings; this fact alone means there are things about God and the universe He created that we will never know. Yet, there are so many things that we can learn about our reality. When we first place our trust in God, we are beginning the life-long journey of learning the deep things of God.

I also mentioned that this desire for certainty was a problem for those who don’t believe in God. Atheism does not imbue the human being with any more intellectual power to gain certainty of knowledge than does any other worldview. While some people may argue to the contrary, this idea seems to be a misunderstanding of human nature; specifically with regard to our individual abilities in learning. The ability to gain knowledge through different modes of reasoning is not specific to any worldview. Rather, the ability is a human trait. Ultimately, the same problem arises for the atheist as for the Christian in that the universe is vast and we know so little about it, even with all of our current knowledge. The more knowledge we gain, the less ground we understand we have covered in our endeavors (Socrates was famous for stating this understanding of the world). One gain against nature unlocks several more mysteries.

As Copan states, to say that we need 100 percent certainty in order to say we have acquired knowledge is a statement that cannot live up to its own standard. How did we gain the knowledge with 100 percent certainty that we need this level of certainty in order to have acquired knowledge? It is an unattainable goal. Knowledge does not require 100 percent human certainty…not in atheism, and not in Christianity.

What should we do instead?

5. Those engaging in doubt should doubt fairly.

We’ll look over this next reason why Christians should engage with doubts in the next post on questioning.

For further reading, pick up a copy of Copan’s short book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” here.

[1] Copan, Paul (2016-11-19). A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy (Little Books) (Kindle Locations 1143-1144). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] From Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness, as quoted by Copan, Paul (2016-11-19). A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy (Little Books) (Kindle Locations 1086-1087). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Is It Okay to Question Beliefs?

Part One

Over the years, I have talked with a number of people who have been told in response to their questioning about God, “You just don’t have enough faith,” or “You just need to read your Bible.” Some were given such a response in their childhood years; others, in their teenage to young adult years. In every situation described, the result was damaging to the person’s belief in God. I don’t know the mind of the responder, nor the reason why such a response would be given. However, I can say that Christians should thoughtfully engage with questions about doubt. 

In Paul Copan’s book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” he cites several reasons as to why we should engage. Let’s look at a couple reasons.

  1. Doubting is common to the human experience. 

God knows his creation. He is not caught off guard by our questioning, even of his own actions. Copan explains that there are instances of humans questioning God’s seeming silence on the issue of evil in the world (Psalm 13, 73). We even see humans questioning his harsh actions; for example, King David’s anger with God when God struck Uzzah dead for steadying the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:1-10). The Scriptures do not gloss over human doubt, nor treat it with contempt. In the Scriptures there is much “comfort, guidance and direction for doubting saints.”[1] As Jude 22 expresses, “Have mercy on those who doubt.”

  1. Doubts need to be processed, not suppressed.

“Insofar as we are able, doubts should be expressed, sorted out and addressed—and this should be done in Christian community.” Copan describes that we need “godly, thoughtful, and seasoned Christians—philosophers included—to assist us and help strengthen our trust in God along the way.”[2]

Ignoring our doubts, or just getting on with life—in hopes the doubts will work themselves out—can be damaging to our knowledge of God, and therefore to our trust of him. When we doubt God’s existence, we cannot reasonably trust him (Hebrews 11:6). I have found that doubts typically do not just go away. Rather, doubts tend to linger mysteriously in the human mind, affecting many aspects of our life in ways we may not overtly comprehend. So we need to bring our thoughts about God out into the open with those who can aptly and graciously engage those thoughts. 

Therefore, “yes,” it is okay to question beliefs. In reading through the Scriptures, in context, we see that God allows us to wrestle with him in our questioning and even invites us to reason with him. He wants us to use the gift of rationality that he has given to human beings. He is aware that gift will produce difficult questions.

We will look at two more reasons from Paul Copan’s book in our next Questioning blog post.

You can pick up a copy of Copan’s short book, “A Little Book for New Philosophers,” here.

 

[1] Paul Copan. A Little Book for New Philosophers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 105.

[2] Ibid., 106.

Mary Jo to be Featured on Iron Sharpens Iron Radio Program

Tomorrow (Thursday, April 13th, 2017) Mary Jo will be a guest on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program with Chris Arnzen. The show will be live from 4:00-6:00 p.m. EST.

The first hour she will be discussing her personal testimony of abandoning atheism and embracing Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and the second hour she will talk about apologetics in women’s ministry.

If you can’t tune in live, we will post the link to the program after it airs!

Consider Summit Ministries This Summer

Do current trends in society set your teeth on edge? Do you fear for the changes yet to come in the lifetime of your kids? Can I make a recommendation? If you have a 16-21 year old that you know and love, send them to Summit Ministries.

For over 50 years, thousands of families have trusted Summit. Graduates have gone on to be leaders in every facet of society. The Summit 12-day course (in CO, TN, & CA) prepares young adults to stand for truth and gives them opportunities to think deeply about subjects like gender issues, sanctity of life, biblical economics and more.

Now is the time to invest in preparing mature, thoughtful, and focused young leaders. I think Summit is key. That’s why I’m honored to be on their Board of Reference.

Find out more and register your young leader by 5pm MTN on March 31st to receive early-bird discount of $200 off.  Receive an additional $200 off their conferences in California and Tennessee! www.summit.org/student

Responding: When People Call You Judgmental

How do you respond when people call you judgmental?

I first ask, “What do you mean by that?” I want to discover how the person understands his or her own use of the term “judgmental.” I also want to know what they found to be a “judgmental” statement on my behalf.

In the logic course I teach at Houston Baptist University, our text is broken up into the three acts of the mind: understanding, judgment and reasoning. Notice the second act of the mind, judgment. A judgment is when we put two concepts in relation to one another. Typically a judgment is a declarative sentence. For example, “The professor’s 10:30 a.m. logic class is the class with the highest grade average of all the professor’s classes.” This declarative sentence has told the reader something about the professor’s 10:30 a.m. logic class. A judgment has been made in this statement. Does that make the author of the statement a judgmental person? No.

While a person may find my above example tedious, if not out right boring, it has immense value in today’s marketplace of ideas. Human beings are the kind of things that make judgments. We do it all the time. A judgment happens whenever we make a declarative statement. So in some sense, we are actually all judgmental people (which relates to one of the definitions of “judgmental”). Making judgments does not equal being judgmental…even when discussing a hot topic issue.

Mary Jo Sharp on Pearls of Wisdom

A few weeks ago, Mary Jo was privileged to be a guest on Katherine Barner’s radio program, Pearls of Wisdom. They discussed the importance of defending your faith.

Listen below and let us know what you think!