Featured

Welcome to Answers To Tough Questions

ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS (ATTQ) orbits around and is stirred by the great commandment (Mathew 22: 34-36) and the great commission (Mathew 28:18-20).  It’s these twin pillars which have birthed my vision.  Answers to Tough Questions exists to strengthen and come alongside the local Christian church in its mission to make disciples of the nations.  This is accomplished in the following ways: Through Seminars, Preaching engagements, Theology courses, Apologetics courses, Ethics courses, Comparative Religion courses, and online resources which focus on: apologetics, theology, philosophy, and culture.

I’m often asked why I focus on these areas.  Here are the following reasons: Apologetics strengthens the Christians’ ability to evangelize winsomely and boldly. Theology strengthens the Believers’ capacity to grasp the Bible’s core ideas. Philosophy strengthens the Disciples’ facility to think critically. Culture challenges Christ’s Followers to live authentically in its milieu. I’m glad you have stopped by.  Take some time to look around the site and the resources that are available to you and your church.  Please let me know how I can serve you.

Advertisements

Who Do you Listen to For Life Guidance?

man-listening-hand-to-ear

Too often I’m perplexed at the lack of reflection that has swallowed up Western civilization.  This is evidenced, among other things, by our “absent presence” at family gatherings, social events, and even at work.  We gaze into our i-phones like a bunch of drunk zombies.  This has happened to many of us.

Douglas Groothuis has an article worth contemplating if you’re interested in not being controlled by mindless rhetoric and populace opinion.

See https://douglasgroothuis.com/2017/12/28/how-christians-can-take-back-their-minds/

 

Reflections From 1 Corinthians Chapter 4:6-21__ “WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF OUR PRIDE AND HOW DO WE REMEDY IT?”

1-corinthians

Paul continues his thought from verses 1-5 and explains the previous clause in verse 6:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.

To what is Paul figuratively applying to himself and Apollos?  Not to make any judgements?  I think not since he’s calling out their arrogance and thus making a judgment.  Is it that Paul is ignorant of his own sin and doesn’t judge himself?  Again, I think not since partaking of the Lord’s Table requires self-examination and he exhorts believers to judge themselves in 1 Corinthians 11.

Could it be that the Corinthians judgment of Paul is insignificant to him or that of any human court concerning the value of his apostleship?  Perhaps but, why figuratively, why not speak plainly?  Could it be to confound their alleged “wisdom”?  More likely it’s that he’s a steward and servant of Christ.  But how can one possibly be the servant and steward of Christ and God’s mysteries since the deity is the source of all life and is self-existent?  He clues us in and says, “…stewards must be found trustworthy”.

I take that to mean that that if one is trustworthy, it’s based on Christ’s work on their behalf in election or being chosen by Him (see chapters 1:30-31; 3:6-10), rather than by any human autonomous ultimate choice.  I think that’s what Paul is driving home, the purpose here is to take the Corinthians back to God’s word which is foolishness to the world of men, but is actually God’s power and wisdom.

Paul is exhorting these believers to be God-centered in their thoughts by being Word-centered, the fruit of which is humility, not arrogance.  That is, when our standard of wisdom and knowledge is based on the creature, not the Creator’s revelation to us, arrogance will follow.  This arrogance is plain when we compare ourselves among ourselves and Paul says that that’s foolish, unbiblical and results from this fallen evil age.  It’s stupid thinking!

That was a problem then, and remains until today.  Which “superstar” pastor do you enjoy hearing friend?  And who do you disparage even if they are faithful to Christ’s word?  We have a human weakness that is ever present and raises it’s despicable head when we make much of the creature and little of the Creator because His word is not the ultimate source we turn to for wisdom and knowledge.

Paul is now going to first ask the Corinthians a question that concerns the source of their thought life and points out first that their gifts were not earned, but given, thus boasting here is immoral.  And secondly, Paul seems to ridicule their refrain and opinion of him:

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”   

Again here we essentially see the marks of true discipleship in Paul where according to this world’s wisdom the apostle’s life is ultimately unattractive, unsophisticated, and unbearable (v.9) “men condemned to death”, (v.10) “fools for Christ’s sake…we are weak…we are without honor”, (v.11) “we are both hungry and thirsty…poorly clothed…roughly treated…homeless;”, (v.13) “…we are slandered…the scum of the world…dregs of all things,

These descriptions of Paul the world loathes in its wisdom and the Corinthians have drunk deep from its’ well.  Thus, not only does Paul explain from where their gifts come, and ridicules their view of him, but thirdly he explains his motive for said descriptions and his argument from verse 1:

14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”   

Paul does not want to shame but rather exhort them to follow his example as a father would to his children.  He can say this because he’s following Christ and by doing so, unlike the Corinthians, he’s living in light of the Gospel which is producing hardships that from a worldly perspective looks to be a wasted life.

So Paul not only wants them to imitate his faithfulness to Christ, but fourthly he goes on to explain that his motive in sending Timothy was for them to see what a real disciple looks like:

17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. 18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power. 21 What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Note how Paul compares Timothy’s faithfulness to the Corinthians unfaithfulness by his disclosure of Timothy as “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord”.  Here we see Paul’s prior rebuke and necessary exhortation (vv. 17-18) to children in the Lord who are filled with pride and are losing their way because they heed worldly wisdom.

Timothy is a faithful man of God because he’s grounded in the apostolic teaching which issues from the Lord Himself (Mt.7:28-29).  Thus, a pattern of teaching obtains from Paul which Timothy replicates in every place he teaches.  He’s telling the Corinthians to heed Timothy’s teaching because it’s like Paul’s.

Finally, Paul addresses those who are arrogant and calls them out: “You can talk for sure, but can you walk it out?”  That’s what I see Paul doing by asking them to see their, “power” and not their “words” (vv.19-20).  What we know is that this power is from the Spirit which produces new birth in dead souls (1 Cor.2), not mere words, but as it were, “God breathed life giving powerful words”.

Paul is calling the Corinthians out on their ignorance to which their arrogance so swiftly blinds them.  We must remember that this pride still blinds people today from seeing and delighting in the Gospel of Christ, and is thus ready to damn the prideful into a Christ-less eternity where God’s just wrath awaits the ungodly.  That’s pride’s danger, but it’s remedy is a God-centered, Word-centered, Gospel oriented life.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians 4: IS THEIR EVER A TIME TO JUDGE ANOTHER’S WORK IN THE GOSPEL? (Vvs.1-5)

1-corinthians

Paul continues his thought from chapter three and exhorts the believers to think biblically, truthfully, when they regard the apostle’s status:

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”

Like the Corinthians, many of us tend to label and decipher a person’s value based on their status in life.  To assist them in their view of the apostle, Paul says; “regard us as servants of Christ…stewards of God’s mysteries.”  Note the gravity and humility of this statement.

On the one hand, the gravity of being put in charge to steward, care for and appropriately handle the mysteries of God (i.e., to unfold the meaning of the incarnation and work of Christ on Calvary’s cross) as revealed to the apostle by Christ himself.

On the other hand, consider Paul’s humility recognizing that he’s Christ’s servant not a “superstar apostle” celebrity.  Contrary to the Corinthian blunder of comparing themselves among each other, Paul compares himself to no mere man, but recognizes his status before the risen Lord as a servant.  All who are in ministerial work are just that, servants and nothing more.

They are servants who have received mercy and God’s kindnesses.  That’s why any boasting that’s not Christ centered is truly in vain.  The Creator has given all things which the creature enjoys (i.e., salvation and gifts which accompany God’s people) freely, these are not earned.  Thus, to boast in that which you have not accomplished and posing as if you did is indeed delusional.

After describing his position as servant and steward, Paul accentuates that not just anyone can be a steward, only he who is “trustworthy” which implies that many are not and as a result, can’t be stewards (i.e., the Corinthians).  This is emphasized because the Corinthian’s seem to have questioned Paul’s legitimacy as an authority to heed.

Paul explains to these believers that their view of him and especially his apostleship is insignificant because he knows that God the Judge will have the last word on such matters and will rightly approve or disapprove of his work on the final day.  Do we realize the weight of this understanding?  Can we appreciate the profundity of this reality that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and be rewarded for our service and receive our praise from God?

Paul thus commands these believers to withhold their judgment because the day approaches when our works and motives fueling said works will be exposed by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-wise God who perfectly and without bias judges.

We all long for praise, it seems, especially when we do something well because of our skill set.  This brings a measure of satisfaction, nevertheless, longing for the creatures praise is too short sighted, since they too only see our actions through the “key-hole” of life.  Paul is wisely pointing the Corinthians and us to look for God’s approval, praise and reward for its’ worth has an infinite texture to it that our creaturely praise can’t compare.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 2: WHAT IS ECONOMICS? by Ronald Nash

51i-aB7ZPIL._SL500_SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

In chapter two, What is Economics?, Ron Nash argues that economics studies the choices people make with regard to scarce resources which is an unavoidable feature of human existence.  Economic choices often have nothing to do with money, but with what people value most (e.g., goods, plus time, plus priorities=choices presented).   “Stand in line for a ticket or pay someone to do it for me?” the former option may cost less money, but the latter one reveals that my time is more important.  Hence, the two main ingredients in any economic study are scarcity and choice.

When we are talking about Micro and Macroeconomics the former concerns smaller individual persons, households and businesses, whereas the latter examines the aggregate of the micro economic choices, it studies a nation’s economy as a whole.  Here, to best understand how the whole functions, one must understand how the particular human choices are made.  When considering Positive and Normative economics we must understand that each has its place.  The former is descriptive, it tells us what is, the latter is prescriptive, it tells us what ought to be.  When policies intended to help the poor—again define?—actually hurt them, it’s time to re-consider the positive/normative angle being used.

Economics as a Way of Thinking considers the issue of incentives.  The key to economic growth are the incentives people have presented.  The critical factor here is whether or not the incentives given actually empower or enslave people.

Involved here is the benefit to cost ratio (e.g., are unemployment programs more lucrative than getting a job?).  The greater the benefits people expect to receive from the alternatives the more people are likely to choose that option.  The greater the costs expected from an alternative, the fewer people are likely to select it.

Moreover, everything has a price.  Scarcity demands cost for everything.  Again, scarcity, choice and personal value are reflected in people’s decisions where the need to make choices and the relative value placed on given options is seen (i.e., one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure). Perhaps the most alarming issue is that of antipoverty programs that don’t work and remain intact which perpetuate the poverty.  When long-range impact is not considered in any given policy, it’s merely putting a bandage over a cancer.  See quote pg. 21 second  paragraph.

1 Corinthians Chapter 3: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BOAST IN GOD ALONE? (Vvs.9-23)

1-corinthians

After correcting the Corinthians on the erroneous bent to make much of men and by default little of God (Vvs.1-8), Paul gives the reason for why they are to boast in God for gospel fruit and not their favorite ministers:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Paul first accentuates that the players are the apostles (the builders) and the Corinthians (the building, the field, the tabernacle of God by the Spirit’s indwelling).  Both are needy, both comprise the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and both have differing tasks according to the wisdom and knowledge of God.

If these believers were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then Paul could not affirm that they are the building of God.  That is, the fact these believers are the temple of God points to the divinity of the Spirit who is God and who is also the author of the gospel message preached by Paul and the other ministers.

Paul continues to explain that this building’s foundation is Christ (the foundation which has been laid down by the apostle) and like a wise master builder was built through Paul because of the grace of God.  Building upon the foundation which is Christ requires great care (a metaphor for edifying and growing people on and in the gospel message).  Here’s where some obscurity arises.

When the work of ministry is performed in accordance to the gospel message, lasting fruit will be borne and its genuineness will be revealed by the All-wise God’s furnace of truth: determining what is acceptable to Him and what is not, purifying what is acceptable and destroying what is not (vv.10-15).  Reward and the loss thereof are at stake here for the workers on God’s field/house, not salvation (as I understand it).  Paul now turns his focus off the workers and onto God’s building, His temple and exclaims to the Corinthians:

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.  18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.”

The apostle Paul pricks the Corinthians pride (their “altar of knowledge”) and finds it desperately wanting.  Their boasting in men reveals the ineptness of their capacity to judge righteously (something Jesus commanded his followers to enact) that they are in fact “God’s temple” by the Spirit’s indwelling.  Now Paul warns the perpetrator that “to destroy God’s temple”, will result in their own destruction.  How is God’s temple destroyed in the context?

It’s not destroyed by food, drink, illicit sex or a host of other sins.  Contextually, what destroys God’s temple (His people, His church) is pride revealed through their boasting in the creature (e.g., Paul, Cephas, Apollos, etc.) instead of the Creator (i.e., the source of all the good gifts they enjoy and derive tremendous benefit from).  When we make much of the creature, we tend to make little of the Creator and when this occurs, deception is occurring, demonic activity is raging and we are the tools being used.

Remember that the comparison between this world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom in the cross of Christ is made so that those who fancy themselves to be clever will humble themselves to accept the foolishness of the cross.  Paul’s warning the Corinthians who claim to know God, that if they are operating under the world’s wisdom (see chapter 1-2) then they can’t belong to Christ.  And if they in fact do belong to Christ, then their boasting is not based on God’s wisdom and knowledge, a knowledge that is simple yet profound, easily understood yet incapable of being fully grasped.

So Paul concludes this thought by commanding the Corinthians never to boast in men because they belong to God who is their greatest treasure, supreme good and delight.  To boast in the creature is an act in futility (this is not addressing the command elsewhere to give honor to whom honor is due) because we are finite, needy and utterly dependent on God who is infinite, self-existent and kind to us through the foolishness of the cross of Christ.

To boast in God alone then means to make much of God, and little of man.  It means that our praise is properly placed according to the worth of our object.  It means that we are rightly appraising what is true, beautiful and good.  It means here that we recognize that any gospel fruit is sourced in God alone, never in the minister.

(SDG)

Chapter 3: WESTERN “IGNORANCE” VERSUS EASTERN “CULTURE” (Pgs.55-76)

9780061582615_p0_v1_s550x406

            Contra current notions, Stark insists that Arab elites learned and acquired their sophisticated culture by those they vanquished.  When empires were conquered their particular crafts were learned by Arabs (E.g., Science, Medicine and Mathematics were learned from Nestorians, Persians and Hindus pgs.58-61).  The Arab mindset was one that learning was not required if it did not help one better understand the Quran and said learning is not to be desired if it contradicts the Quran.

Stark also shows that the term “Dark Ages” is a myth not a fact, and shows the many inventions that were created during this period were not grounded in Arab Muslim culture but came from European Christian influence.  See conclusion pg.76 for summary of details.

 Summary of Chapter 1: The Christian War Against Economics from “POVERTY and WEALTH: THE CHRISTIAN DEBATE OVER CAPITALISM” by Ron Nash

51i-aB7ZPIL._SL500_SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The topic of economics is both fascinating and often confusing for the average person.  All of us have a position on what economics is and how wealth is to be used even if we are not immediately aware of it.

In this book, Ron Nash offers some insight into what economics is, how it can be either used or misused, and how a Christian worldview ought to shape minimally professing Christians.

In chapter one, The Christian War Against Economics, Nash shows that to truly help the poor—which he has not yet defined—believers must use good intentions with guided insight concerning economics and what makes for a good or bad economic strategy.  To be in the dark concerning these twin pillars only perpetuates the unwitting darkness being embraced by well-intentioned people.  Moreover, believers must understand that Scripture is often used to propagate a Godless position (i.e., liberation theologians use the Bible to show that God is a Marxist).  Nash purports that “Evangelical publishers like Eerdmans and InterVarsity produce a steady stream of books recommending socialism as the only economic system that is consistent with the Bible.” [pg.11] It seems that at the time of said writing the facts argued contrary to the aforesaid view.

Summary of Chapter 2: CHRISTENDOM STRIKES BACK (Pgs.36-54)

9780061582615_p0_v1_s550x406

In this chapter Stark notes that the defeat in 672 of Muslim attacers on Constantinople occurred for two reasons.  First, Byzantium had made tools sophisticated enough to best Muslim forces.  The Western technology of impenetrable fortifications, along with natural sea barriers contributed to Muslim defeat.  Second, “Greek fire” a catapult with pumps acting as flame throwers could not be matched by Muslim armies.

The Battle of Tours/Poitiers was a fierce engagement where Muslim troops drove deep into Gaul not far from Paris and advanced to victory over the city of Bordeaux and plundered it.  Again, a small Christian army could not stay their own slaughter by the Muslim army at the Battle of the River Garonne.  It wasn’t until the Muslim army met Charles Martel, the ruler of Gaul, that the tables began to turn against the Muslim’s conquest of Europe.

Here, Martel the powerful battle hardened leader led his troops in battle and conquered the Muslims for several reasons according to Stark, the following of which are notable; the Gaul’s were heavily geared as opposed to Arabs lightly geared, the Frankish soldiers were disciplined, Arabs fled because they sensed they were outmatched.

Many historians see this battle as monumental between having an Arab vs. a Western civilization.  Others make little of this battle and Arabs see it as no big deal (Pg.43).  What is certain is that Spanish Muslims understood that their defeat by Charles Martel was had through an empire building people, not mercenaries or a barbarian horde.  The countries of Spain, Italy and Sicily had to also be reconquered.

All these victories preceded the First Crusade.  This means that when the armies and knights of Western Europe marched or navigated to the Holy Land, they were very familiar with their Muslim opponents and knew they could take them.

Now Available in Summary Form: “A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF THE CHURCH” by Francis Schaeffer

IMG_20170911_104955

In  Volume 4_A Christian View of the Church, Schaeffer considers many difficult issues Christendom needs to address if it is going to be salt and light in this world.  Among the issues is orthodox Christian doctrine, which too often is dispersed for peripheral doctrines that don’t hold up the structure of historical Christianity.   We major on the minor issues and ignore the major ones like “the perpetuity of spiritual gifts vs. the Trinity”.  This occurs when we do our theology from a man centered base, not from the God who is there and grounds all absolute truth.

Another issue is that the watching world longs for a love that is real and true.  Believers have an opportunity to demonstrate this love only when God’s truth is their passion and the Lord Jesus is their model.  Too often that’s not the case and God’s name ends up being profaned.   Then there’s the departure from our Reformation roots as evangelicals which has resulted in a loss of confidence in the Scriptures inerrancy and authority, and subsequent promises of blessing and cursing.  This has made the gospel a sham and many of our churches have become tombs for the living dead.  Lastly, if the aforesaid is not reversed, we will be remembered as that generation who talked the talk but did not walk the walk.  To such people Jesus says, “Depart from me I never knew you, you workers of iniquity .”

Summary of Chapter 1: MUSLIM INVADERS by Rodney Stark

9780061582615_p0_v1_s550x406

In this chapter Muslim Invaders, Stark points out that Muslim invaders got their orders from Muhammed who until his death fought, raided and plundered previous Christian lands in accordance with the Quran (Sura 9:5), such that 80 years after Muhammed’s death the Middle East, North Africa, Cyprus and most of Spain became part of the Muslim empire after conquering Christians.

Many historians hold that the Conquest of lands for Muslims was purely economic and also due to a population explosion that never occurred (Pg.14).  Moreover, rather than the hordes of Muslims believed to have invaded, the conquests were won through small, well organized and led Arab armies committed to the spread of Islam (Pg.15).  An example is the conquest of Syria that occurred, among other reasons, because the Arabs were considered liberators to those under Byzantium’s oppressive empire they were welcomed, and when the Byzantine (Greek) armies were overrun, the Arabs soldiers mutinied and fled.

Persia, the Holy Land and Egypt (among others) were also conquered for the following reasons: First, “civilized” empires had no disciplined armies and thus mostly employed foreign soldiers for hire.  The guards who stood inside the fortified cities were merely window dressing not real soldiers.

Second, there was a chronic shortage of troops.  Because Byzantium was so vast, they could not possibly control their borders.  Third, Byzantium’s cavalry were mostly Arabs who sympathized with the Muslim cause and thus would join forces with the Arabs.  Fourth, Muslim soldiers trained since childhood from the same tribes, villages and families.  This created social pressure to never retreat in battle but rather to show their mettle.

Fifth, camels were a superior form of transportation compared to the cavalry of Byzantium.  The desert is the perfect place for the former to last and the latter to perish and thus geography proved to favor the Arabs over against Byzantium if they needed to retreat.

Sixth, smaller Muslim ranks favored rapidly moving in stealth as opposed to the time it took to muster large troops.  Couple this with the Imperial forces lacking tactics when vulnerable and their end was disastrous.

Seventh, Arabs were led by elite warriors who advanced in rank through their own merits, not via birth rite.  Thus, these leaders were battle hardened and more able to succeed in battle compared to the nobles.

Conquered Subjects

            The conquered peoples of the lands were not treated well contrary to popular demand.  Instead the intolerance Islam showed the conquered manifested in the: excessive taxation compared to Muslims; outlawing Jewish or Christians to build sanctuaries of worship, not permitting them to read or pray aloud either publicly or privately; their nobles were burned; their Jewish males beheaded; there was major bloodshed.  The point here is that Jewish and Christians were not the only intolerant peoples, the Muslims were also contrary to popular notions.

Conversions

            A small number of elites governed the non-Muslim (mostly Christian) newly conquered lands.  This means that there were no mass conversions contra to popular notions.  Conversions were either “treaty conversions” or “personal beliefs and practices conversions.”  This means that sometimes tribes (E.g., the Berger Tribe) would convert for weapons, but not really believe the teachings of Muhammed.  Others would convert for fear of their personal safety.  Conversions of conquered people were slow, never quick.