Friday, October 21, 2016

Learning to the Glory of God

This article is courtesy of

The average person is familiar with C. S. Lewis as the creator of the land of Narnia. BreakPoint readers are probably acquainted as well with “Mere Christianity,” his most famous non-fiction work, and also with “The Screwtape Letters,” which made him a household name in the U.S.

But did you know that Lewis also preached at least a dozen times during his lifetime? Seventy-five years ago today, on October 22, 1939, he gave his debut sermon. Do you know the name of it? Or can you name any of his sermons?

“None Other Gods: Culture in War-Time” is the name of Lewis’s premier effort as a preacher. It was delivered at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford (this was the University church that most students attended). It’s important to recall the historical context of this message from 1939. Besides occurring before “The Screwtape Letters” was published serially, it even happened prior to the release of his initial apologetic work, The Problem of Pain (1940). Yet it is even more important to recall that England had just declared war on Germany the month before this first sermon. Knowing this context makes it easier to understand the beginning of the essay version we have today.
The vicar of St. Mary’s, the Reverend Theodore Milford, was aware that Lewis was a WWI veteran, but this was not the only reason he was asked to address the congregation. The vicar had read Lewis’s “The Pilgrim’s Regress and was impressed by it. Both these factors made Lewis a logical choice to address the parishioners. This last influence is somewhat ironic, because of all the books penned by Lewis, this one from 1933 is one of his least popular books and is considered a very difficult read.
Even if you are a serious reader of Lewis’s shorter works, it is unlikely that you recognized the title of this debut sermon. That is because the essay version—available in the sermon collection “The Weight of Glory”—is better known today as “Learning in War-time.” To make matters even more confusing, that is actually the third title it had within the decade after it was preached. The following year it was included in “Famous English Sermons” as “The Christian in Danger.” This book, edited by Ashley Sampson, collected landmark messages from famous preachers. Sampson felt compelled to add Lewis’s debut effort because even then it was obvious that the message would speak to people for many years to come.
While most people today are not affected by war in the same way they were at the time Lewis preached his sermon, we can still relate to many of the questions of those who first heard this message. Although Lewis did tailor his address to students (the majority of those who were in attendance), he made many points that we need to hear today. One in particular still resonates, and offers a good reason to read the work.
Lewis began by acknowledging the anxieties faced by a majority of his audience. They were young adults fearing being called to service and debating whether they should continue their pursuit of higher learning. Lewis was familiar with their situation because he was initially a new student at Oxford during the First World War. At that time his brother, Warren, was already on active duty, and Lewis himself would eventually spend his 19th birthday in the trenches in France. If anyone could relate to the predicament of these undergraduates, Lewis could. It was now over 20 years later and Lewis had the chance to share wisdom he probably wished had been imparted to him.
Lewis used the fact that most students were doubting whether they should continue their schooling in the context of a war, to ask why even in times of peace a person should get an education. Certainly the future was uncertain, but even in so-called “normal life” (which Lewis reminded his listeners is nonexistent) there are always challenges. So, in good times or bad “plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities.”
Why, in fact (Lewis asked), should a Christian should ever consider a temporal pursuit such as education? After all, when you consider the importance of the eternal destiny of souls, why focus on “such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology”? Of course, Lewis did not consider that perspective to be a valid argument and he gave reasons why, while making passing reference to the false dichotomy of “sacred” vs. “secular.” However, he also underscored the paradox that life cannot be “exclusively and explicitly religious,” and yet, “our whole life can, and indeed must, become religious.”
Near the end of his explanation Lewis delivered the now-familiar line: “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” But before that proclamation, Lewis gave examples to clarify why our lives cannot always be religious in the narrowest sense.
First, he recalls that, before he served in WWI he believed his “life in the trenches would, in some mysterious sense, be all war.” This wasn’t the case at all. He found his view (and also most people’s opinion) of active service to be completely wrong. Next, he pointed out that if you lived near a dangerous body of water, it would be important to learn some life-saving skills to help someone drowning. Yet, it would be foolish for someone to devote themselves completely to saving drowning people, to the exclusion of anything else. As Lewis said, it is “a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for.”
In short, a life may be permeated and guided by an ideal without explicitly focusing on it every single moment.
When considering what to do, or not do, even beyond the question of furthering one’s education, he offers: “The solution of this paradox is, of course, well known to you. ‘Whether ye eat or drink or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is why, he says, “there is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities as such.” As long as one keeps the admonition to do all for God’s glory, nearly any pursuit (in peace or war) is permitted.
Lewis’s sermon of 1939 is truly a timeless message. In it, he showed the ability to expound timeless biblical truths in a fresh and illuminating way that would shape his career and make him one of our most beloved Christian writers.

Image courtesy of Real Clear Religion.
William O'Flaherty created and maintains, where a variety of Lewis-related resources can be found, including a weekly podcast called "All About Jack."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

God in the Pews

Why isn’t God more obvious? This question is often asked in many ways and in many contexts, by people of all levels of faith. When prayers go unanswered, why is God silent? When suffering or tragedy strikes, why would God allow this to happen? Why wouldn’t God want more people to know God’s good news? When all the “evidence” seems to counter the biblical narrative, why doesn’t God just give the world a sign? If God was revealed through many wondrous signs and miracles throughout the Bible, why doesn’t God act that way today? All of these examples get at the same issue: the seeming “hiddenness” of God.
Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God. Russell replied that he would say: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While many who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s audacity, a similar struggle ensued between the psalmist and his hidden God. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being asleep in these plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?”(2)
In fact, belief in a God who can be easily found, a God who has acted in time and space, makes the hiddenness of God all the more poignant and perplexing. Theologians have offered many explanations for God’s hiddenness: because God seeks to grow our faith, because our sins and disobedience hide us from God and keep us from seeing God properly, or because God loves us and knows how muchand how often we need to “find” God. If we are honest, we are just as likely to hide ourselves from God just as the first humans did in the Garden when God sought after them. Even so we cry out just like Job did and wonder why God stays hidden away in unanswered prayers and difficult circumstances: “Why do you hide your face, and consider me the enemy?”
The hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. And Christians often take for granted the narrative of Scripture which gives witness to God’s revelation. We have the benefit of a book full of God’s speech. God speaks in the wonder and mystery of creation; God speaks through the history of the nation of Israel; God speaks through the very Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ. His life reveals the exact nature of God, and places God’s glory on full display.
But still we may wonder if we must always and only look to the past to hear God’s voice, while we wonder why God isn’t more “talkative” today? Is there any other source for God’s presence and activity in the world today?
In fact, God is often found in one of the last places many might guess: the church. At its best, the church re-tells the story of God speaking across the ages and definitively in Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel. But the church can also create community where God may be encountered in the faces of others as a result of the empowering Holy Spirit. Such a community is to be the symbol of God’s presence among us and with us as “God-found,” not “God-hidden.” It is to be the arms of God around us when we are hurting, or the voice of God speaking when we feel we haven’t heard from God in years. Such a community can be God’s voice, God’s hands and feet going towards the broken places of the world to bring healing, help, and comfort. Through worship and liturgy, prayer and communion, service and sacrifice the church can reveal the God who spoke and is still speaking.
God is not often revealed in the roar of the hurricane or the loud-clap of thunder, but in a “still, small voice”—a voice that is barely audible except to the most patient and still. But when the Church, broken and human as it is, seeks through the power of the Spirit to be who it is, we see God and hear God, and find God beautifully obvious.
For those who long to see God, who long to find God in the darkest hour, we may not find God in the dramatic or the victorious, the miraculous or the stupendous. Instead, we may yet hope to find him in the pew, at the table of the Lord’s Supper, in a simple hymn, or in the gift of fellow seekers longing to find God too.
Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.
(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet, Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000), 1.
(2) Psalm 10:1, Psalm 44:23-24.

Published on October 18, 2016 in A Slice of Infinity.  “Our gift and invitation to you, that you might further examine your beliefs, your culture, and the unique message of Jesus Christ.”

To learn more about Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, go here.

To receive A Slice of Infinity in your daily email, go here.

Have a little hope on me,

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What is Philosophy of Religion?

In his excellent book, Philosophy of Religion: Thinking about Faith, C. Stephen Evans gives a helpful definition:

"Religion is an important force in human life and human history.  This remains the case despite periodic announcements by 'secularists' thinkers that humanity has finally come of age and has no more use for religion.  Most human beings are still vitally concerned with such questions as 'Is there a God?' 'Why does God allow suffering?' and 'What happens to a person at death?'  These and other questions posed by great religious of the world are grounded in some of the deepest human hopes and fears.

The philosophy of religion can perhaps be best defined in a preliminary way as the attempt to think hard and deeply about such fundamental questions as these.  In saying that philosophy of religions focuses on these questions, I mean, of course, to say that the answers given by religions are also to be the object of attention.  Philosophy of religion is therefore critical reflection on religious beliefs."1

Courage and Godspeed,

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Racism and Abortion: Part 2

Previously we posted Part 1 of the Human Coalition's subject series in which the racist roots of abortion were discussed by Brian Fisher and Bishop Vincent Matthews Jr. 

Fisher co-wrote Part 2 with Benjamin Watson of the Baltimore Ravens. In it they discuss that in order for racism to end in America abortion needs to end. They then provide their thoughts on how this happens.

You can read Part 2 here and Part 1 can be found here

Stand firm in Christ and stand firm for the pre-born,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Common Objection #31- "Intelligent Design is not Science!"

As speaker and author Frank Turek explains on his useful Cross Examined App, this objection depends on what you mean by "science:"

"What do you mean by science?

Are archaeologists doing science when they inter that there was an intelligent cause for an inscription or a piece of pottery?

Are homicide detectives doing science when they engage in a forensic investigation and discover that an intelligent being committed a murder?

If Intelligent Design (ID) isn't science, then neither is evolution.  ID theorists are using the same forensic/historical scientific method that Darwin himself used.  That's all that can be used.  Since these are historical questions, a scientist can't go into the lab to repeat and observe the origin and history of life.

Scientists must evaluate the clues left behind and then make an inference to the best explanation.

Does our repeated experience tell us that natural mechanisms have the power to create the effects in question or is intelligence required?

Who defines the limits and rules of science?  If certain self-appointed priests of science say that a particular theory is outside the bounds of their own scientific dogma, that doesn't mean that the theory is false.  The issue is truth-not whether something fits a materialistic definition of science (which begs the question)."

So, is ID science?  That depends on your definition of science.  As a theist, I am free to follow the evidence wherever it leads because my philosophical convictions don't box me in. Admittedly, one should always consider natural explanations first; however, if detectable design is present, one should be at liberty to conclude that a designer is the best explanation of the phenomenon being observed.

To check out our "Common Objections" series, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Movie Trailer: Revolutionary

About the Film

Revolutionary tells the story of biochemist Michael Behe and the revolution he helped spark with his book Darwin’s Black Box, inspiring a new generation of scientists and thinkers who are challenging Darwinian evolution and exploring evidence in nature of intelligent design. 

Learn about Behe’s journey, how those opposed to his ideas tried to kill intelligent design in federal court, and how recent scientific discoveries have vindicated and extended his work.

You can learn more about the film here.

You can purchase your copy here.

To learn more about Michael Behe, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Physics Professor Michael Strauss on the Origin of the Universe

"The prediction of general relativity is that the Big Bang itself is the origin of everything we know: space, time, matter and energy, so the Big Bang is kind of a misnomer. A Big Bang brings up the idea that something exploded, but the Big Bang itself is not an explosion … it’s the origin of everything we know in this universe. If everything in the universe came into being, then the cause of the universe must be transcendent, not a part of this universe. Science kind of stumbled onto something that the Bible declared long ago … that the universe had a beginning."

Courage and Godspeed,

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Article: Apologetics as Conversation by Tim Muehlhoff

Last spring, we had the opportunity to review the book A New Kind of Apologistedited by Sean McDowell.  You can find our review here.

One of the many excellent chapters included in this book is Chapter 1- Christians in the Argument Culture: Apologetics as Conversation by Tim Muehlhoff.

In this chapter, Muehlhoff explains how he was able to find principles of communication in the book of Proverbs that anyone can implement in their own conversations to transform them into apologetics opportunities.

The author writes:

"I found the communication principles I needed in the book of Proverbs. This unique book is the collective counsel of teachers to their students. Israel's teachers were watching their best and brightest leave to take leadership positions in Jerusalem. This move put young Israelite men in touch with non-Israelites who did not share the sacred beliefs of the Jewish community. The writers of Proverbs faced the same challenge we do: How do we prepare individuals to meet and engage people whose beliefs are radically different from our own? These wise teachers knew they could not write a script for every interpersonal situation their pupils would encounter. People then were too diverse, just as they are now. Instead, they carefully crafted broad principles and sayings, which we can use today.

These proverbial principles are expressed in four essential questions that we must ask during a conversation with someone whose beliefs are different from our own."

The four essential questions are:

1. What does this person believe?

2. Why does this person believe?

3. Where do we agree?

4. Based on this knowledge, how should I proceed?

Now, you can read this entire chapter online for free.  You can check it out here.

Further, I highly recommend A New Kind of Apologist, edited by Sean McDowell.

Courage and Godspeed,

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