Saturday, November 18th, 2017 was our second How Can You Know Youth Apologetics Conference hosted at Stoney Creek Baptist Church in London, Ontario. Thanks to all who came out, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next year!
On October 19, 1944, under the tyranny of Hitler’s Nazis, Jewish psychologist Victor Frankl’s family was interned at Auschwitz concentration camp. There his mother died in the gas chambers, his brother as a slave labourer and his wife Tilly after being transported to another camp. As his family’s only survivor Frankl reflected on his experience at Auschwitz and the powerful force of ideas that made such horrors a living reality, stating:
“The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment – or as the Nazis liked to say, ‘of blood and soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidenek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
As a thoughtful student of the human mind, Frankl understood that whatever ideas form the foundation of man’s thinking shape the ‘ediface’ of his life. In short, that human life and actions always flow from a worldview Continue reading
After presenting a defence for the historical reliability of the New Testament to a group of university students, I was approached by a young woman who thanked me, and ultimately God, for the timeliness of my talk, saying:
“Just this week in my World Religions class the professor spent a whole lecture talking about the gospels and how everyone knows that they weren’t written by Jesus’ disciples, but by later Christians who wanted to create their own version of Jesus. I was so upset because I didn’t know what to say, and it seemed like the evidence supported what he was saying and not what I had grown up believing about the Bible.”
I left concerned over how typical a story this young woman had. Biblical skepticism has grown in recent years to the point where the average person simply assumes that scholars have proven the Bible unreliable, and Christians find themselves completely unprepared to respond. The results can be devastating Continue reading
“Mr. Prime Minister, my rst words are a prayer. May Almighty God in his in nite wisdom and mercy bless the sacred mission which has been entrusted to me by Her Majesty the Queen and help me to ful ll it in all humility. In exchange for his strength, I offer him my weakness. May he give peace to this beloved land of ours and, to those who live in it, the grace of mutual understanding, respect and love.”
This invocation of God’s grace by a national public servant stands in stark contrast to the installation speech only 46 years later, of Canada’s 27th Governor- General Michaelle Jean who opened with these words:
“It is with tremendous pride and deep emotion that I am responding today to the call of destiny [emphasis mine]”
While Jean’s positive vision for Canada also extolled the values of “respect, tolerance and sharing”, unlike Vanier’s it was completely devoid of reference to any deity. Rather than looking to God, Jean placed the key to our nations success squarely in our hands.
“We [emphasis mine] must give our young people the power and, even more, the desire to realize their full potential.”
With almost lighting speed God has been virtually erased from Canadian public consciousness. How this happened has been discussed by others. Here we wish to reflect upon an important implication of the fact that it has Continue reading
In his defence “Santa’s” lawyer Fred Gailey, passionately clarifies for the jury what is really at stake. He states:
“Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
Persuaded, the jury returns a verdict declaring Santa Claus to indeed be real, and onlookers rejoice in their collective relief that “faith” is still alive and well.
FAITH WITHOUT REASON:
Such is our contemporary culture’s view that divorces faith from reason. Today, “faith” means feelings or opinions concerning personal and private beliefs, whereas reason deals with knolwedge of facts about the “real world”. As Mark Twains puts it: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
This view of faith has wreaked great havoc on our culture which now sees faith as purely irrational. Unfortunately the church, God’s people of “faith”, has not escaped this cultural re-conception and the impact has been more far-reaching than we may wish to know.
THE RISE OF ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM:
The study of history is a vital, albeit too often neglected subject for Christians to understand where we find ourselves. Therefore, at the risk of oversimplifying, a brief historical sketch is in order.
The pilgrims, and particularly Puritan, settlers who established the New England colonies in the early 17th century placed a high priority on education, founding colleges such as Harvard and Yale. Their members were studied in art, science, philosophy, Latin, and typically taught their children to read fluently by age six, all as a means of “loving God with their minds”.
Beginning in the mid 18th century, a series of spiritual revivals that would sew seeds
of dramatic change began with the powerful preaching of George Whitefield. By the mid 19th century, further spiritual revivals which became the birthplace of evangelicalism, occurred. Ironically however, as evangelical historian Mark Noll points out, “The very character of the revival that made evangelical religion into a potent force in North America weakened its intellectual power.” J. P. Moreland summarizes the impact of this unexpected result.
“Much good came from these movements. But their overall effect was to overemphasize immediate personal conversion to Christ instead of a studied period of reflection
and conviction; emotional, simple, popular preaching instead of intellectually careful and doctrinally precise sermons; and personal feelings and relationship to Christ instead of a deep grasp of the nature of Christian teaching and ideas. 
This growing anti-intellectualism would spill over into the 20th century as evangelical leaders, such as E. Y. Mullins, further “personalized” faith by isolating it into it’s own category of knowledge. Historian George M. Marsden observes:
“Religion [Mullins said], was not governed by the principles of science and philosophy, but rather by its own principle of ‘personal relations.’ Such a relation could be confirmed only [emphasis mine] by the ‘immediate experience of God.’”4
While experience of God was seen as essential for true religion, there were those like Princeton’s J. Gresham Machen who believed such an extreme move to be dangerous, since “science, philosophy, and religion all dealt with precisely the same thing—facts.”
Unfortunately, Machen’s views represented a minority opinion among evangelicals. The result was a further retreat toward an overly “personalized” view of Biblical revelation. Moreland summarizes:
“People began to see Scripture reading as personal and so ‘devotionalized’ it, considering it an opportunity for personal experience rather than understanding it in its literary and historical contexts. It came to be believed that only the Holy Spirit was needed to experience the truth of Scripture while no intellectual exercise was needed for spiritual growth.”
THE LOSS OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND:
This historical movement toward an overly internalized “heart” emphasis on faith produced what Mark Noll calls a tragic “loss of a Christian mind.” The result in the 20th century was the disappearance of Christian thinking from public life with secularism stepping in to fill the vacuum. Noll laments:
“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind…. They have nourished millions of believers in the simple verities of the gospel but have largely abandoned the universities, the arts, and other realms of ‘high’ culture…Unlike their spiritual ancestors, modern evangelicals have not pursued comprehensive thinking under God or sought a mind shaped to its furthest reaches by Christian perspectives.”7
Today, the 21st century generation receives its full education devoid of any Christian viewpoint. Unfortunately Christian young people by and large receive this same education and graduate wondering what, if any, relevance their faith in Jesus has to the “real” world. As Christian pollster George Barna reported just three years ago:
“…84% of Christian 18 to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests.”
And why would they if they have never been exposed to a shared body of Christian thinking about whatever field of study or profession they pursue? As Henry Blamires observes, “in contradistinction to the secular mind, no vital Christian mind plays fruitfully, as a coherent and recognizable influence, upon our social, political, or cultural life… there is no contemporary field of discourse in which writers are reflecting Christianly on the modern world and modern man.”9
With such an intellectual void in broader Christian thinking then, is it any wonder that education in general has been downgraded as a priority within our churches, leading to a general decline in biblical literacy itself. Why commit myself to studying basic Christian doctrine, history, textual criticism, apologetics, or even bible memorization for that matter, if faith’s only role is the shaping of my heart? And yet we forget Paul’s instruction that the transformation necessary to become true worshippers of God does not require the devotion of our heart, but “the renewing of [our] mind.” (Romans 12:1-2)
RECOVERING THE CHRISTIAN MIND:
Many Christians believe that what Canada needs is a spiritual revival, where hearts are turned back toward God en masse. But could it be that what our country really needs is an evangelical church undergoing something more akin to a renaissance?
Over 100 years ago Gresham Machen gave this warning that speaks prophetically to our present situation:
“False ideas are the greatest obstacle to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervour of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there,if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root.”
Has our evangelical “zeal” to reach people for Christ been hamstrung by accommodating our cultural perspective that defines faith as mere personal belief, thus consigning it to the category of “harmless delusion”? Have we “shrunk” the gospel by viewing it only as God’s means to meet the personal needs of the individual sinner, forgetting that the power of the gospel is not that it meets our needs but that it is TRUE; and because it is true it necessarily transforms our thinking and therefore our lives in relationship to every living experience? The aforementioned absence of a collective body of Christian knowledge on the broader areas of human experience would seem to bear this out. It would seem that we need to “destroy the obstacle” within the church first through a broad sweeping recovery of the Christian mind?
THE CHURCH AS A LEARNING COMMUNITY…AGAIN!
The Apostle Paul expressed the great danger of possessing spiritual fervour without understanding. Speaking of his fellow Jews he says:
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)
Generating spiritual enthusiasm is no substitute for teaching truth since we can always be “enthusiastically” wrong. As Solomon warned: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge.” (Prov. 19:2) That is because faith is not “belief in spite of knowledge”, but rather the willingness to act upon what we “know” to be true. This is what our fore-fathers of faith were com mended for. (Heb. 11:2) But how can we “willingly act” upon that which we do not know? How can we grow in faith if we are not also growing in knowledge? Hence Peter’s admonition to: “add to you faith… knowledge.” (2 Pet. 1:5)
The kind of corrective needed will not be achieved by anything resembling a “quick fix”. What has been lost over generations may take generations to recover, but recover it we must. God’s instrument to reach the “nations” has always been the local church, so recovering the Christian mind needs to begin there; with pastors, leaders and congregations recapturing a vision of the church as a learning community that fulfills Christ’s commission to make disciples by “teaching them to obey everything” that he commanded and taught. (Matt. 28:20) Teaching and education need to become central activities of disciple- making churches again.
We must guard our motives however, for as Paul warns, “knowledge puffs up while love builds up”. (1 Cor 8:1) Growing our minds out of pride will only destroy, but loving God with our minds is for his glory and our joy, intended for every Christian and not just those “academic types”. As Noll puts it, developing our minds should be viewed as: “an effort to take seriously the sovereignty of God over the world he created, the lordship of Christ over the world he died to redeem, and the power of the Holy Spirit over the world
he sustains each and every moment.” Training up the Christian mind therefore, rightly seen, motivated and enacted is nothing less than our living pursuit to know God.
1. J. P. Moreland, Love Your God With All Your Mind., (Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 1997, 2012), 16.
2. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids, MI, Eerdmans Publishing, 1994), 24.
3. Moreland, Love Your God, 16.
4. George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, (Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press, 2006),
216. 5. Ibid.
6. J. P. Moreland and Mark Matlock, Smart Faith, (Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 2005), 23.
7. Noll, Scandal, 3, 4.
8. www.barna.org, “Top Trends of 2011: Millenials Rethink Christianity”, [Last accessed online June 4, 2014)
9. Henry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should A Christian Think? (London, SPCK, 1963), 4, 7.
10. Noll, Scandal, 3, 4.
In our day of rapid social change Christians find themselves a marginalized minority when it comes to defending biblical sexual ethics which confine all sexual expression to the one man / one woman marriage union. Where this leaves us criticized and labeled, so be it. However, we must ensure that where we are criticized it is for standing for truth, not for being graceless and judgmental toward any individual.
Learning to answer tough questions graciously is hard, but is made easier when you can listen to gracious Christians who do so well. Ravi Zacharias is a gift to the church in this regard. Here is a recent video in which he supplies some intelligent and winsome responses to these difficult cultural issues, clarifying truth with a gracious posture of Christ-like love. Enjoy.
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
– G.K. Chesterton
On June 19, 2012 the Ontario legislature passed Bill 13 (the “anti-bullying” bill) into law, giving legal protection to the teaching and promotion of homosexuality and the newly defined concepts of gender and gender identity in Ontario schools. During open debate on the bill Cabinet Minister Glen Murray, after reading the section of the Catholic Catechism describing homosexuality as sin previously taught in Catholic schools declared: “I say to
you Bishops: ‘You’re not allowed to do that anymore.’” With a single stroke of legislation, the government placed a gag order on Christian beliefs about human sexuality, and did so all in the name of ‘tolerance’.
Faye Sonier of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada observed the irony:
“It’s unfortunate that a bill declared to promote tolerance in schools has been turned into a club of intolerance with which to beat back the lawful and respectful expression of Catholic (i.e. Christian) beliefs.”
How was such a feat accomplished? The short answer is by re-engineering social values through the careful redefinition of words. In this case it was through a redefinition of the word “tolerance”. Continue reading
Christian families, like the rest of society, are scrambling to find clarity in the fog of confusion that has swept our culture when it comes to gender and transgenderism. Especially concerned are parents or family and friends of who find themselves dealing with children experiencing incongruence between their feelings about gender and their biological sex. These are real problems and the church does need to think long and hard about how to encourage, support and guide such families.
While teaching and living out a consistent biblical worldview is vital, we are also helped when those within the medical/scientific community speak up and affirm the gender binary that God established when he created humanity as male and female. It is self-evident for the honest observer and true human flourishing comes when we live according to our God given nature rather than trying to deny it.
In this post I just want to present some useful information that I was recently alerted to surrounding an article and subsequent interview with Dr. Michelle A. Cretella, who is President of the American College of Paediatricians. Here is the link to the College’s own webpage. Continue reading
TRINITARIAN LIVING – EVEN FOR KIDS
Thus, keeping the Trinity as core to faith and worship, how can we in turn lead our own children into ‘Trinitarian living’? That might sound foreign to our ears, but remember that God is the Trinity. What we simply mean is ‘living with God’, but with the recognition of who God is and what he is like. Remember that the ‘eternal life’ that Jesus gives us is not about life in heaven (although it includes that), but about knowing God. As Jesus said:
“Now this is eternal life, that they know you the one true God, and Christ Jesus whom you sent” (Jn. 17:3)
That said, we really can lead our children into a more full and satisfying relationship with God by helping them consciously relate to God according to who he really is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I believe we can do this within the simple framework of gospel living that we are hopefully striving to teach them already. Continue reading
“Keep it practical!” Restoring the Trinity to the core of our faith and worship then is intensely practical because, to quote Packer again, “it requires us to pay equal attention, and give equal honor, to all three persons in the unity of their gracious ministry to us.”4 This isn’t just theory that remains in the abstract, but reality that forms and shapes all true worship. For starters consider this: Continue reading
BEHOLD YOUR GOD!
You’ve probably heard many attempts to explain the ‘oneness’ and ‘three-ness’ of God by analogy. Water is one substance that can exist in three forms; gas, liquid and solid. An egg is one thing made up of three parts: yolk, white and shell. However, all such analogies break down at some point. Continue reading
When I mentioned to my wife the idea of writing an article on the Trinity her response said it all: “Keep it practical!” But can the doctrine of the Trinity really be practical? In this four part post I would like to help you grow in your understanding and appreciation for what most consider to be either a riddle or a blatant contradiction that Christians believe about God. The first three parts are meant to help you grasp more fully this awesome truth about God’s nature and identity, and see how it will deepen and enrich your faith walk with God. The fourth part is for those of you who are raising children, and is meant to give you some practical tools to make a trinitarian view of God foundational to their faith. Continue reading
The Doctrine of the Trinity is such an important thing for kids (and grown ups) to learn about God. It is no exaggeration to say that our understanding of God as Trinity supplies the bedrock for Christian faith and the gospel. J. I. Packer pulled no punches in stressing its importance:
“All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape.”
Teaching your children about God as Trinity therefore should begin at the earliest age possible. In my first The Trinity for Kids post I discussed how to begin teaching the Trinity to young children, emphasizing our need to simply “stick to the facts”, and not giving them more than they can handle. When my kids were very young I just wanted to affirm the truth about God as the Bible presents it. The core affirmations of a biblical view of the Trinity can be summarized as:
1. God is three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2. Each person is fully God.
3. There is one God.
As they grow and begin developing higher critical thinking skills however, I want to help them grapple with the great truth of God’s triune nature, encouraging them to reflect and dwell upon this great mystery that God has revealed to us about himself. At the same time however, I want to help them avoid falling into error and any pitfalls that may distort their view of God. Continue reading
Parents of children who struggle with gender identity face enormous pressure from our culture to affirm their children’s feelings that they are really the opposite gender. Fear is often used as a weapon to discourage any other response, the message being that failure to affirm and assist in gender transition will result in suicide. Continue reading
I recently received an email from a mom looking for an internet filter for the home computer or some mechanism to block inappropriate content. Unfortunately even the best internet filters are only so good, and their benefits are limited to the computers they are loaded onto which is a problem when the majority of kids access the internet through their own personal devices. (iPods, phones, etc.) OpenDNS is a web-based tool that filters your internet signal at your router, effectively covering any device using your wi-fi, but this too is only so good. Continue reading
The BBC has released a new documentary that has raised the ire of transgender activists because it is entertaining the evidential claims of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, former director of the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at Toronto’s CAMH (Centre for Addictions and Mental Health). Zucker was dismissed from his 30 year post at the GIC due to increasing pressure from transgender activists who were labeling the GIC a “conversion therapy” clinic. Continue reading
I’m glad to still see public displays of the Nativity here and there, even if mostly on church properties. Sometimes however the manger scene itself can become a distraction where it merely turns our attention to some serene ideal of personal peace or feelings of ‘goodwill toward men’. The manger after all only receives a passing mention in Luke’s gospel. Let’s face it, the picture that inhabits our carols and adorns our Christmas cards is pure conjecture. Really it is an ideal scene that we have made up, and that fact should give us pause given our propensity toward idolatry. Continue reading
Prepared to Answer is holding a quality day long event for high school students on November 19th at Stoney Creek Baptist Church in London. The How Can You Know? conference is designed to give students a safe place to ask those hard questions about the Christian faith.
Tim Barnett with Stand to Reason is our keynote speaker and is giving two talks entitled: “Does God Exist?” and “Are Science and Faith Compatible?” In the afternoon students can choose from four different break out sessions offered by some dynamic speakers and teachers. We’ll cap off the day with a Panel Q & A where students can ask or text our speakers with any other big questions that might have gotten missed.
The cost is $20.00 per student which includes registration for the day, lunch, refreshment breaks and a Free Book to help them start their own library of resources for defending faith in Jesus.
Students, invite your friends. Parents, send your teens. Pastors, bring your youth to a day designed just for them!
Here’s another little video to help answer a big question for kids.
According to the Kaiser Foundation, a 2010 study showed that 69% of 11-14 year olds and 31% of 8-10 year olds had their own cell phones, while a study by Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) determined that 52% of all children under 8 had access at home to smartphones, iPods, iPads, or other internet ready devices. It is no wonder that studies show that the average age for children to begin looking at internet pornography is between 7 and 12. Continue reading