Upcoming Future Congress Workshop on Tactics

Tactics For Defending the Faith in a Fallen World

Some might think that an apologetics workshop is a bit out of place at the Future Congress. It may seem so on the surface, but I think upon closer examination not only its relevance but its urgent necessity will come to light. The Gospel has always been an offense to prideful men but lately things have escalated. Spiritual warfare largely takes place in the life of the mind. When Satan enticed Eve to sin he did it by implanting a false idea (Gen 3:1). My workshop Tactics for Defending the Faith in a Fallen World is designed to equip you to engage in the realm of ideas.

What would you say if a friend said, “It’s wrong for missionaries to try to change peoples religious beliefs. We should respect their indigenous culture”?

How about when your neighbor says, “Well you can’t really just accept the Bible it’s been translated so many times that no one can really be sure what it originally said”?

Or how about when your son or daughter comes home from school and tells you that their teacher taught them that, “All religions are equally true and valid for those who believe in in them”?

You do not have to be an expert on every subject to respond to these ideas and promote the truth of the Gospel. There is a simple and effective tactical method that anyone can learn to deal with these and more.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. - John 15:18-19

Biblical Christianity is becoming increasingly marginalized in America. For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other radical anti-Christian groups have been on a mission to eliminate the expression of Christian values in the public square. The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal organization committed to defending religious liberty for Christians that has successfully defended these following cases recently:

  • A then-second-grade student at a public school in New Jersey was told that she could not sing “Awesome God” in an after-school talent show.
  • A pastor of a church in Arizona was ordered to stop holding meetings or Bible studies in his private home.
  • Five Christian men were threatened with arrest for sharing their faith on a public sidewalk in Virginia.
  • A Christian student at a university in Missouri was threatened with having her degree withheld because she refused to write a letter to the state legislature expressing her support for homosexual adoption.
  • A pro-life nurse at a hospital in New York was forced to participate in a late-term abortion, even though her workplace had agreed in writing to honor her religious convictions.

http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/ReligiousFreedom

They report that the persecution and censorship is becoming prevalent especially at the University. Unfortunately, the future promises to become more precarious. All Christians need apologetics skills!

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:3

What is worse are the incoherent beliefs expressed by professing Christians. According to the 2008 Pew survey results:

  • 78% overall say there are “absolute standards of right and wrong,” but only 29% rely on their religion to delineate these standards. The majority (52%) turn to “practical experience and common sense,” with 9% relying on philosophy and reason, and 5% on scientific information.
  • 74% say “there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded,” but far fewer (59%) say there’s a “hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”
  • 70%, including a majority of all major Christian and non-Christian religious groups except Mormons, say “many religions can lead to eternal life.”
  • 68% say “there’s more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-06-23-pew-religions_N.htm

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. -Matthew 10:16

Jesus taught that when you find yourself a sheep amidst wolves, be innocent but shrewd. This teaching calls for a tactical approach. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20). Accordingly, although there is real warfare going on, our engagements should look more like diplomacy than combat. The training offered in this workshop is based on the tried and true techniques I learned myself from master Christian apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. It is my honor and privilege to pass this valuable teaching on to you.In this workshop you will be introduced for techniques to:

  • Initiate conversations effortlessly
  • Stop challengers in their tracks and turn the tables
  • Graciously and effectively expose faulty thinking
  • Maneuver through mine fields
  • Present the truth clearly, cleverly, and persuasively

The workshop will meet for two one hour sessions Friday July 22 at 3:00 and then Saturday at 3:30. I look forward to meeting you in Branson!

Who were the Nephilim? A Response to Herescope & Larry DeBruyn

Pastor Larry DeBruyn has written a reply in response to my defense of  Tom Horn and Chuck Missler which he posted at his own website here and at the herescope site here. I respect him as servant of the Lord, as well as the folks at Herescope who usually seem to be well intended. I have no personal axe to grind but I will call it like I see it. The original article entitled “Doomsday Datesetters 2012” is hyperbolic and inaccurate as both Missler and Horn are outspoken against date setting. I find this unfortunate as I have admired the work of Sarah Leslie in the past.

DeBruyn’s essay is well written and reflects more serious scholarship than the previous offering. While he acknowledges that the ”sons of God” are certainly to be understood as supernatural beings, he advocates an odd non-contingent interpretation of the Nephilim’s relationship to the “sons of God.”  His interpretation lacks force as no ancient commentator nor modern Hebrew scholar I can find agrees with it. Exegesis is about getting to what the original author meant, not simply offering possible readings. This was all addressed thoroughly enough in my original post (refer to the quote form the Word Biblical Commentary).  Scholarship aside, I find his essay objectionable because DeBruyn has quoted me out of context, appropriating the same misleading methodology as Gaylene Goodroad.  DeBruyn writes:

Based upon this interpretation, this critic of the Herescope post cavalierly dismisses Mrs. Goodroad’s alternative interpretation “as an example of very poor exegesis” and that “there really is no valid scholarship to suggest otherwise”?[4] Condescendingly, he asserts that Mrs. Goodroad’s take is “histrionic” (i.e., meaning “excessively emotional or dramatic”).[1]

While it is easy to burn straw men, it doesn’t advance the discussion. This is a demonstrably unfair and inaccurate presentation of my criticism. I certainly did call her exegesis poor and her criticism histrionic but he has taken it out of context. I wrote “she seems histrionic in her assertions:” punctuated with a colon in specific reference to her accusation that the majority opinion amongst scholars (the supernatural offspring view) is a “scheme to downplay the importance of the incarnation…it takes away from Christ’s uniqueness, virgin birth, atonement” and that it “diminishes the Gospel!”[2] I wonder if she will also accuse Francis Schaeffer of “scheming to downplay the incarnation.” It is histrionic and patently absurd. My original criticism is actually quite generous. DeBruyn continues:

In his fine commentary on Genesis, Allen Ross notes “four predominant interpretations of the ‘sons of God’: they are

  1. the line of Seth, the godly line;
  2. fallen angels;
  3. lesser gods; or
  4. despots, powerful men.”[6]

As evidenced by reading both the Horns’ and Goodroad’s interpretations, both fall within the interpretative options Ross lists; the Horns identifying with number two, and Goodroad with number four. Obviously, if Goodroad’s interpretation falls within the fourth category, it is unfair to call her understanding “poor” and “histrionic.”

Again “histrionic” only seems unfair divorced from the context I offered it in. Why does he resort to such misleading antics? It is also important to note that the fact that a commentary lists four views says nothing about their validity. As my original post documented Hebrew Bible scholars are in wide agreement that the text means the Nephilim were the offspring of the fallen angels and human women. The commentary I quoted presented textual and historical evidence. Proper exegesis is to interpret a passage on its own terms interacting with the original languages. The goal is the author’s intent. Neither Goodroad nor DeBruyn are doing that in my opinion. They are relying on English translations and seem to have a preconceived agenda. That her exegesis was poor is also evidenced by her referring to the term “Watchers” as some sort of apocryphal device when it is used by the prophet Daniel in canonical scripture (Dan 4:13, 17, 23). Not to mention, that she argues the Nephilim were simply “big bullies” rather than supernaturally endowed. DeBruyn presents a slightly better argument by G. Charles Aaslders:

It has been correctly pointed out that the text establishes no causal connection between these two historical phenomena. In fact, the text specifically states that the giants were already present when the “sons of God” produced children by the “daughters of men.”[3]

If this is so, I wonder why the vast majority of Hebrew scholars see it otherwise. This is where exegesis comes into play. Using the Hebrew/English reverse interlinear in my logos bible software I quickly see that the Hebrew text of Genesis 6:4 reads:

The key term here אֲשֶׁר, rendered “when” in English also carries the meaning of “because.”

834 אֲשֶׁר, בַּאֲשֶׁר, כַּאֲשֶׁר, מֵאֲשֶׁר [’aher /ash·er/] . A primitive relative pronoun (of every gender and number); TWOT 184; GK 889 and 948 and 3876 and 4424; 111 occurrences; AV translates as “which”, “wherewith”, “because”, “when”, “soon”, “whilst”, “as if”, “as when”, “that”, “until”, “much”, “whosoever”, “whereas”, “wherein”, “whom”, and “whose”. 1 (relative part.). 1a which, who. 1b that which. 2 (conj). 2a that (in obj clause). 2b when. 2c since. 2d as. 2e conditional if. [4]

That definition surely supports a causal relationship.  I will be the first to admit that I am not a Semitic languages scholar but Dr. Michael Heiser, the academic editor for logos bible software, is a recognized authority. I emailed him the above argument by Aaslders that there was no causal connection and that the Nephilim were already present. He wrote back,

“I know of no grammatical possibility for this – ask him to produce it.”

Pastor DeBruyn, that is an invitation from Dr Heiser to mount an argument from the Hebrew grammar that supports a non-causal interpretation.  As far as DeBruyn’s view that there was nothing genetic going on with the Nephilim he contends,

Via the mating process, the “sons of God” appeared to have transgressed the created order of life, terrestrial and extraterrestrial, by infusing the “the daughters of men” with supernatural powers that they in turn, and in an occult way, passed on to the nephilim-gibborim, powers that might be compared unto those that will belong to the “man of sin” at the end of the age,[5]

While this is an interesting theory and likely has truth to it, I don’t understand the pressing need to divorce the account of any space-time material substantiality.  Angels manifest as physical beings in the bible, for instance the “men” that visited Abraham come to mind (Gen 18). The men of Sodom surely had little doubt about their material potential (Gen 19:5). But DeBruyn concludes,

In short, the Genesis record does not support the fantastic construct that the change in the nephilim was physical. When the sons of God took the daughters of men to wife, the nephilim were already giants.[6]

Again a quote from a dated commentary will not suffice. This is not supported by exegesis and it doesn’t make much sense logically. The text connects them firmly to the offspring of the angels (Gen 6:4). While I don’t know if it was genetic or purely supernatural, I suspect it was both. How can anyone say that there was no genetic component?  Giantism is a genetic condition and the biblical text also supports further evidence of mutations,

And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants.(2 Sa 21:20)

That sure sounds physical to me!

 

 


[1] Larry DeBuryn, “Demons, Daughters and DNA,” http://guardinghisflock.com/2011/06/22/demons-daughters-and-dna/ (accessed 6/24/2011).

[2] Gaylene Goodroad, “DOOMSDAY DATESETTERS 2012,” http://herescope.blogspot.com/2011/06/doomsday-datesetters-2012.html (accessed 6/24/2011).

[3] G. Charles Aalders, Genesis: Bible Students Commentary, Volume I, and William Heynen, Translator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981): 156.  [As quoted by Deburyn]

[4] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order., electronic ed. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), H834.

[5] DeBuryn, “Demons, Daughters and DNA”

[6] Ibid.

Evangelical Lutheran Theologian Advocates Transhumanism

I recently read Tom Horn’s article Are Church leaders abdicating the future of man to the Luciferian dead hand of the great planners and conditioners? I’m afraid they are not merely abdicating, some are actually advocating transhumanism!

In my research through scholarly theological literature,  I discovered a Lutheran based journal Dialog: A Journal of Theology which featured and article “The Animal that Aspires to be an Angel: The Challenge of Transhumanism” by Philip Hefner.  In this article, Hefner actually advocates the transhumanist pursuit as a Christian duty. The author is an ordained pastor with the theologically liberal Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA) denomination and retired editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.[1] Accordingly, his writing exhibits a command of science. However, the article’s title referring to man as an animal compounded by his references to the Qur’an as a divine revelation[2] and Genesis as mythology[3] telegraph a freethinking worldview.

His position seems to be driven by a sincere desire to accommodate human progress and eliminate suffering, yet his conclusions are driven by questionable presuppositions. For instance, he holds an oxymoronic metaphysic of “religious naturalism.” He defines this peculiar term as “a set of beliefs and attitudes that there are religious aspects of this world which can be appreciated within a naturalistic framework.”[4] This sounds virtually identical to deism.  He also suggests that God created man deficiently so that we might pursue this techno-enhancement. He asks rhetorically, “Has God created us to be dissatisfied with our birth nature and to seek to enhance it?”[5] I think the scriptural answer to that is an emphatic “No”! One wonders where denial of self in the pursuit of Christ fits into his theology (Lk. 9:23, Rom 12:1). A Christian worldview entails the acceptance of some suffering (2 Cor. 1:5). John the Baptist understood that, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30)

So how can a pastor maintain a straight face and advocate transhumanism?

To rationalize his endorsement, he proposes a caveat in the way of a distinction he deems “uppercase and lowercase” transhumanism. While it is somewhat arbitrary, the former entails enhancement to the extent of becoming post human (a new species), while the latter comprises a gray area which includes things like assistive medical technologies, cosmetic enhancement and life extension therapy. The author builds sympathy for the concept by offering his own pitiable medical history. The pursuit of healing is not the same as enhancement.  It seems wrong not to advocate the elimination of debilitating conditions or assistance for the handicapped.  However, the author’s emphasis on what he deems “lowercase” transhumanism avoids the more disturbing ramifications.

A major weakness in his argument is that although he acknowledges human sin, he doesn’t account for it adequately. He evades discussion of the potential for augmented human depravity via a post-human result. It seems that the majority of those promoting this endeavor are atheist/agnostic secular humanists.[6] If secular humanism is a religion, then transhumanism amounts to its eschatology. It is certainly not seen by them as co-creation with God. The implications are staggering. He identifies a central issue as, “the insistence that our original nature, received in conception and birth, is open to alteration at our own hands.”[7] Insistence is  never a wise posture to take with God.

What about gratitude?  How about, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:14)?  Nevertheless, Hefner contends that to object on theological grounds imposes an unwarranted normative anthropology. He views it as the next step in human evolution. His theological justification is that transhumanism is a natural out working of man’s status as a co-creator with God. In other words, it is theistic evolution through human agency. In his theological conclusions, he goes so far as to claim:

To discredit this aspect of human nature is in itself an anti-human move, in my opinion. In a theological perspective, we have been given this nature so that we can participate in God’s own work of making all things new and fulfilling the creation. To discredit our God-given nature is itself a rebellion against God. [8]

This is astounding. Hefner identifies important questions like “what constitutes alteration—appropriate or inappropriate—of human nature?” and “where is the boundary between healing and improvement?” Yet he does not attempt to answer them. I shudder to consider the potential social implications between the haves (posthumans) and the have-nots (humans). There is much at stake and the consequences have not been fully explored or even imagined. There is too much equivocation in his argumentation. Assistive technology seems justified but it is entirely another matter to argue for what amounts to techno-Darwinism. Christians are supposed to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) not a transhuman Übermensch.  It seems to me that what he advocates as co-creating with God is actually closer to the delusion of apotheosis (Gen 3:5).


[1] “Rev. Philip Hefner, M.Div., Ph.D. .” Metanexus Institute. 2010. http://www.metanexus.net/AcademicBoard.asp?45 (accessed 11 04, 2010).

[2]Hefner. The Animal that Aspires to be an Angel: The Challenge of Transhumanism.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology, 2009; 164.

[3] Hefner. “The Animal,” 163.

[4] PhilipHefner. “Zygon at 40: the times, they are a’changing—or not?” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. 2010. http://www.zygonjournal.org/40.html (accessed 11 04, 2010).

[5] Hefner. “The Animal, 162.

[6] Christopher Hook. “Transhumainism and Posthumanism.” In Encyclopedia of Bioethics (3rd ed.), by Stephen G. Post, 2517-2520. New York: MacMillan, 2007.

[7] Philip Hefner. ” The Animal,”  161.

[8] Hefner. “The Animal,” 166.

Fact One : Jesus Died by Crucifixion

A few skeptics like ReligionFreeDeist on YT have questioned why Fact 1 is part of the 5 fact argument. They are missing the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions. While not sufficient, Jesus death by crucifixion is a necessary precondition to the resurrection. It is only denied by a few fringe skeptics. This video unpacks the historical data from various sources, assessment by medical professionals and establishes that the most plausible hypothesis is that Jesus did indeed die an excruciating death by crucifixion.

Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case For the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids MI: Kregel Publications, 2004.

The Resurrection Challenge

If you do not believe in the resurrection then the challenge is to provide an alternate explanation that accounts for all 5 facts. If you are a believer, the challenge is to submit arguments and evidence that support the 5 facts or additional facts you feel support the historicity of the resurrection. Submit your video responses via YouTube and let’s see where the evidence leads. Now pay attention to my channel as I will be releasing videos that support my 5 lines of evidence.  The first one, History 101, is just a brief overview of some general principles historians use in evaluating evidence. I will post a video supporting each point. I will do my best to respond personally to the most challenging alternate explanations. I will not respond to videos are overly vulgar or disrespectful. 

I will make a decision at the end of September and mail prizes, (2 new hard backs, The Case for the Real Jesus by Strobel and prodigious atheist turned deist Anthony Flew’s, There is not/a God) to the winners. I will be posting videos all through the month with my research supporting the resurrection. I hope you will follow the evidence where it leads! So how do you explain the evidence?