The Battle For The Bible

On September 15, 1959, George Vanier, Canada’s 19th Governor- General, opened his installation speech with these words.

“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.”[1]

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.[2] 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.”[3]

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

Recovering the Christian Mind

In the Christmas classic “A Miracle on 34th Street”, a department store Santa (Kris Kringle) stands trial to decide once and for all: “Does Santa Claus really exist?”

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”.[1]

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.”[2] 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. [3]

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.”[5]

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.”[6]

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.”[8]

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.”[10] 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.

The New Tolerance

“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.”[1]

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

Where Do Parents With Gender Struggling Children Turn?

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

Wynne’s Sex-Ed Curriculum Wrapped in a Worldview: People Are Starting To Recognize This.

It’s rare to find articles in the media that I agree with on the subject of Ontario’s soon to be released sex-ed curriculum, but I found this one by Dr. Nadine Nyhus in July 8ths Kitchener Record helpful and worthy reading for parents.Kitchener Record Sex-Ed Article Continue reading

Christmas – A Time For…Teaching?

Christmas - Time for Teaching

As I tucked my son in last night his parting words were an utterance of understandable childhood excitement: “Three more days till Christmas dad!”. My response was shamefully pragmatic: “Well, the faster you get to sleep the quicker it will get here!” Admittedly, in my haste to finish bedtime and put my feet up, I realize that once again I missed a teachable moment. (Not the first time and probably not the last). Continue reading

Did Luke Invent Jesus’ Birth?

Jesus Birth Invented

“The story [of Jesus birth] is an invention because there was no empire-wide census and its seems highly unlikely that a Roman official would order people to be counted in cities their ancestors left years before.”
Bob Ripley, Life Beyond Belief, p. 52.

Was Jesus really born in a manger? Did his birth really take place as Matthew and Luke record? The popular skeptical reply is “of course not…everybody knows that!” And so writers like Ripley write Jesus’ birth off as myth, and the popular culture accepts this.

How does the Christian reply? Unfortunately and all too often we simply apply the resolution to continue believing it, no matter what anyone says. But shouldn’t we do better than that? Doesn’t our testimony go beyond just saying “I just believe” to saying “I know this is true”? Well, if Jesus’ birth is a fact of history, then there must necessarily be evidence we can point to to support that fact and counter claims to the contrary. And, there is. Continue reading

Ripley’s “Life Beyond Belief”…Or Not!

Bob Ripley - Life Beyond Belief

The ‘blogosphere’ is buzzing after Bob Ripley’s recent announcement that he has officially moved from the ranks of Christian ministers to convinced atheists. The majority of comment is coming from atheist, secular humanist and free-thinking quarters who celebrate this as yet another example of what inevitably happens when Christians really start ‘thinking’ about their faith.

With the characteristic tone of the New Atheists, (minus the vitriolic edge) Ripley provides an eleven chapter catalogue of his reasons for rejecting God in favour of atheism. He characterizes his move as a “journey from faith to reason.” (p. 28, 120) Using borrowed arguments from his new mentors; Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, Ripley embraces their supposed intellectual oasis of rationalism which rejects belief in God as nothing more than irrational ‘humbug’.

The difference for Ripley however is that his story is one of deconversion; of someone who walked with Christian conviction most of his life only to now reject it as false. I respect Ripley for shunning the hypocrisy of being remembered as a very public Christian leader without making equally public his decision to renounce his Christian convictions. However, what troubles me is how Ripley frames his deconversion as a move from “faith to reason”. What his book actually demonstrates is that he has simply exchanged one set of faith commitments for another. Continue reading

Tending to Your Soul by Reading Books

Tending To Your Soul By Reading Books

Growing up I recall Saturdays where I would literally watch TV all day.  I can still hear my parent’s warnings that always seemed to ring hollow: “All that TV is going to rot your brain!”  Little did they know what a whiz I would become at useless TV trivia games. Kidding aside, it turns out that they were partly right, and partly wrong. Continue reading

Thinking About Proof for God

Think Proof God

One of the most common objections from questioners about God is that belief seems irrational because there is no ‘proof’ that God exists.  Given the cultural influences on our children’s minds, this objection may eventually come to us.  How then as parents should we respond? Continue reading

“Wasn’t God Cruel?”

angry_godRecently, a parent posted this question to our website:

“My son was wondering why God wiped out tribes, including women and children in many stories in the Old Testament.  He thinks this is pretty cruel.  Thanks! Continue reading

Our Greatest Apologetic: Love

Medium Is Message smallCanadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan was made famous for coining the phrase “the medium is the message”.  By it he identified the seemingly indivisible relationship in human communications between ‘messages’ (that which is expressed)

and ‘mediums’ (that by which messages are expressed).  Perhaps a novel idea in the 1960’s as electronic mass media was emerging, his notion was long before passed down through the wisdom of God’s Word. Continue reading

God and Evil Series: A Biblical View of Evil

God and Evil

For most, it is the experience of evil that presents the greatest struggle in reconciling evil with God’s existence.  “A ‘good God’ would never allow ‘_______’ to happen”; and since ‘_______’ happened God gets reasoned away.  And why not, since it is nonsensical to assert a ‘good’ God who is at the same time responsible for evil…isn’t it? Continue reading

Dealing with Objections to the Bible

Bible Objections

“Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:4)

“I’d like to hear you preach a sermon concerning the morality of this story and how we can apply it to modern life”, came the challenge from my anonymous online critic.  The gauntlet had been thrown down.  How could I uphold the Bible as God’s righteous word all the while knowing that it contains so much that is morally repugnant and revolting? Continue reading

Faith and Reason Series: Is Faith the Opposite of Knowledge?

Faith and ReasonIn a lecture given at Biola University in November of 2011, Dallas Willard opened with the following statement:

“The most significant event for human existence in the last 200 years has been the displacement in the common mind of the content of Christian teaching from the domain of knowledge into the domain of faith.” (Willard, Biola University, November 2011) Continue reading

Why Do Bad People Prosper and Good People Suffer? Insights from St. Augustine in The City of God

Saint_AugustineThis week I learned of the tragic loss of a Christian family within my own church community. The automatic response to hearing the news of course was “why”? So is our response to all such events, and while we must turn to God for comfort from his Spirit, (for where else can true comfort come from?) we are also stretched in our faith to reconcile these things with our belief in God’s goodness and love for us; and we do not do so lightly. But I have many times found Christians who in their moments of grief find their faith in God not stretched but completely dismantled, due in large part to the fact that they have not worked through the matter at all in their own minds before hand. Consequently their faith cannot accommodate their present experience of suffering and their grief turns to cognitive dissonance. Needless to say, it is very difficult to comprehend inside of grief what we never took time to understand outside of it. Continue reading

The Christian and Old Testament Law

The Christian and the Old Testament

The world of the Old Testament seems foreign and strange what with the many fantastic stories, odd occurrences and strange rituals, and Christians often struggle with knowing how to relate to it. Even more they face questions or criticisms concerning the relevance or applicability of biblical commands that offend modern ears, and their own inconsistency in espousing biblical authority while failing themselves to obey them. While these issues warrant a much more lengthy discussion, in this brief article I would like to provide some explanation of how Christians relate to the Old Testament, in particular Old Testament Law. Continue reading

Faith and Reason Series: What is Faith?

Faith and ReasonThere are many words in English that have been so overused that they have almost lost all meaning. ‘Love’ is one such word that depending on context can mean sex, lust, selfish desire, selfless giving, emotional ecstasy or mushy sentimentality, and sometimes even context doesn’t make it completely clear what we mean.

‘Faith’ is another such word that has become especially confusing for Christians or those trying to understand them. We use it often, know that we need to have it, but feel puzzled and confused if anyone asks us to nail down what we actually mean by it. So what do we mean? What is faith? Continue reading