Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the Origin of Respectability

In the beginning God created the heauen and the earth. And the earth was without forme and voide, and darkenesse was vpon the deepe, and the Spirit of God moued vpon ye waters. Then God saide, Let there be light: And there was light. And God sawe the light that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkenes. And God called the light, Day, and the darkenes, he called Night. So the euening and the morning were the first day.
Genesis 1.1-5 (Geneva)

Or, to say it another way: בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהֹום וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּֽיִם׃ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אֹור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃ וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאֹור כִּי־טֹוב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאֹור וּבֵין הַחֹֽשֶׁךְ׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים ׀ לָאֹור יֹום וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַֽיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַֽיְהִי־בֹקֶר יֹום אֶחָֽד׃ פ (WLC, but someone with real knowledge of Hebrew will have to tell me if this copied and pasted correctly.)

Today is 12 February, 2011. It is failed theology student Charles Darwin's birthday. On February 13, many churches will disgrace themselves by promoting evolutionism from the pulpit.

Since the primary thrust of this Weblog is theological and not scientific, I will let you check some resources on your own. But I will give you some suggestions: Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Ministries International. If those are not enough, I have many more apologetics links here. What, you're bothered because I am not giving equal time to evolution? We are constantly exposed to biases, skewed reports, tendentious interpretations of the facts and outright ridicule of our viewpoints. This is equal time!

There are church people who simply do not believe that the Bible is true (including having historical value), so they have no problem giving the appearance of scientific respectability to their churches. Some people believe in "theistic evolution", where God used evolution to cause his creation. Or they have God start the whole works and then he stepped back and let nature take its course.

Naturally, there are compromisers who do not want to take a stand or who have not bothered to examine the evidence for Creation. Nor have they examined the implications of their compromise with evolution. However, there are honest, intelligent people who have looked at some of the evidence and insist that the Earth is ancient, disagreeing with Creationism. 

I want to give you a few things to think about, from the perspective of someone who believes that the Bible is true, evidence for an ancient Earth is dubious, and that evolution is a lie:
  • Which of the gradually evolving primates was Adam, and which was Eve?
  • When did Adam and Eve sin?
  • If they are simply stories or archetypes, we are being lied to throughout the Bible because Adam is spoken of as a real man. This becomes much worse because Adam is in the lineage of Jesus (Luke 3.28), Jesus referred to Adam and Eve as real created people (Matt. 19.4). Paul refers to Adam as a literal person, by whom sin entered the world (Rom. 5.12-14). Paul also referred to Jesus as "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15.45). Jude referred to Enoch and Adam as real people (Jude 1.14).
  • As I have said before, the word יוֹם translated "day" means "indefinite period of time" (as well as assorted other meanings, like part of a day, the darkness part of a day and so on), or as an indefinite period of time, but Genesis has strong qualifiers to make it a literal day: "Evening and morning, the (number) day". Also, this is the way it works throughout the Old Testament. Why should the early chapters of Genesis be the exceptions?
  • People will refer to Psalm 90.4 and 2 Peter 3.8, taking "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" to support their belief that the days of Genesis were not literal. How about a logical extension, then? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall labor six days, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your livestock, nor your stranger who is within your gates; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day, and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11, WEB) Look at the text again. God worked for six days and rested for one day as an example for us to follow in the Fourth Commandment. Those who compromise with the Bible have two problems here: Did God work for six thousand years and then rest for one thousand years? Or did he work for six indefinite periods of time and rest for an indefinite period of time?
  • If God used evolution, then why do we need God at all?
As for me, I am not willing to let science interpret Scripture. After all, science is man-made. God's Word is eternal (Isaiah 40.8 NASB). If we changed our understanding of God and the Bible with every scientific "discovery", we would be a mess and Christianity itself would have collapsed long ago.
I am not going to go the other way, however, and say that we must believe no matter what science says. Perhaps our understandings of Scripture need to be adjusted on occasion. But carefully, with the bigger picture in mind.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sgian Dubh

"The sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God..."
— Ephesians 6.17

If you have no objections, I am going to indulge in some speculative fiction. (If you do have objections, it will be here if you change your mind.)

My eschatological beliefs are pretty much the most common view, where Jesus will come back at any moment for his people in what is commonly referred to as the "Rapture", followed by the rise of the Antichrist, the seven-year Tribulation period (you definitely do not want to be left behind at the Rapture — are you sure you're ready?), the triumphal Second Coming of Christ and his people and so on. But I will not defend or debate my position, I am just letting you know what I think the Bible teaches on the subject.
So, this speculative fiction, which could be considered "science fiction", as it has future-based elements, involves those left behind to face the Tribulation and deal with the Antichrist. (If I have believed the wrong teachers, Christians will endure all or part of the Tribulation. Or you can skip the Tribulation aspect and insert some sort of persecuting, totalitarian government.) Are you with me on this? It will be a time of unprecedented intense persecution for people who become followers of Jesus after the Rapture. Anyone who has read accounts of the persecution of Christians in former Soviet-controlled countries, as well as what is happening even now, will know that persecution is relentless. Add to this some of the end times Tribulation movies ("Left Behind" series, "A Thief in the Night" et al) and you can get a good mental picture of what will probably be coming along.

Also, secrecy is essential. People are skilled at hiding things all through history, but even more so in this electronic age. Obviously, Bibles will be confiscated. Where can you hide yours if you're still here? Hiding methods are good (check a "spy supplies" catalog sometime), but so are search methods.

As you know, I am rather excited about theWord Bible Software. One of the features that grabbed my attention is that you can put theWord, with all of its Bibles, dictionaries, commentaries, maps and books onto a flash drive. And some of those flash drives are very small.
"What's the funny title, Cowboy Bob?"
It's Gaelic, pronounced skeen doo. It means "black knife". Not always because of the color, but because of the use. A kilted Scot puts it into the top of his stocking... I remember an episode of "Doctor Who" where Jamie McCrimmon was held from behind in a choke hold. He reached down into his stocking, pulled out the sgian dubh, and knifed his attacker in the knee.

So anyway, this comes from the Ministry of Dreadful Analogies. Putting the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, onto a flash drive, SD card, memory stick or whatever. What would you call a very small sword? A dagger. Daggers can be hidden for later use. Our electronic daggers can be stashed carefully to be retrieved later by us or by someone the Lord directs to it after the Rapture.

In a more practical sense, not only can these Bibles get smuggled easier (especially on an SD card or memory stick), but having theWord on a flash drive could be a very interesting gift or evangelism tool. Depending on your intentions, you may want to spend more money on a durable flash drive. But always look for reviews before you spend a great deal of money.

Consider putting a foreign language Bible on the flash drive if invading soldiers find it. I selected Chinese.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giving Good Service Part 2

"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."
Ephesians 5.8-10 ESV

This article is a sequel of sorts to "Giving Good Service", but this one is not about our employment. In that article, I discussed how followers of Jesus should be bringing him honor by remembering that he is the one we are ultimately working for and not just Mr. Greedyfingers that signs our paychecks. So, we should do our best in our jobs to bring glory to God.

One additional note that may have belonged in that original article is that some Christians wear it on their sleeves, so to speak. They get showy and announce, "Hey, you're going to be glad you hired me, I'm a Christian!", and then they proceed to do lousy work. In some cases, the employer begins to wonder if it is a bad idea to hire Christians! If we consistently gave good work, then it would be true, the employer could very well become glad to hire Christians. Unfortunately, it is not the case.

It is not just in employment that believers are lacking. So often, Christian products and services leave a great deal to be desired. Recently, I gave a CD of Christian music to a friend. She was hesitant, because she had heard Christian music before, and the quality was absent. Well, that was true in many cases of early "Contemporary Christian Music", which had good intentions and enthusiasm but not very many skilled producers and engineers; secular experts were often needed. Today, yes, there is definitely quality in the field.

When I read reviews of Christian movies, many of them are panned because the acting, the writing and the production values are lackluster at best. (However, some of the critics are atheists who want to bring down the total scores by giving one-star reviews, so watch out for the extremes, which are suspect.) Some of the criticisms are justified, others are from people who have preconceptions of what comprises a "good" movie. I can tell you of several that I have seen that seemed to be a good ideas at the time, but had poor execution.

The first two examples, music and movies, involve having the money to make a good product in the first place. Sometimes, you just have to do the best with what you have, including a low budget. Some movies are genuinely good, despite bad reviews. Other times, you want to ask, "Did you seek God's will before you made that dreadful product?"

I listen to radio shows that are podcast. Some of them are very badly done. I know that they exist to spread their message and not dazzle me with entertainment, but how about a bit of basic radio engineering skill? One microphone is too hot and distorted, the other is too low. Things like that.

Christians are sloppy in business practices, especially in dealing with the public. There are major ministries that I have corresponded with, and they failed miserably. One had a discussion board, and the "unsubscribe" button did not work. Someone promised to fix it for me, but instead, I had to block it from my e-mail account! Another one replied to my e-mail, said they would forward my question to someone else — and I never heard about it again. But I did get an appeal for money. In other instances, I have asked questions or given information, but received no reply. What would have happened with someone who was not a well-grounded believer, or a seeker? That opportunity may have been lost because of carelessness, and the person may have felt pushed away.

What about "us regular people"? We should be giving excellence in all areas. I have received too much garbage from well-meaning religious people in my e-mail that is nothing more than making wishes on fairies, angels and "saints" (I put that in quotes because all Christians are saints according to the Bible). Also, I have had some gullible things sent to me, such as the "atheist professor drops chalk that does not break" tale and so on. (Readers of my other Weblog know how I feel about forwarded e-mail that contains sentiment and sensationalistic rubbish.)

In crusades against the evils of rock music, I have heard some rather startling things: Ozzy Osbourne insisted that people stomp puppies to death (but not real ones), he bit the head off a dove (no, it was a bat, and he thought it was one of his rubber props), Black Sabbath did Satanic altar calls &c. Listen, if you want to talk about the evils of rock music, get the facts and not the rumors or urban legends. There is plenty of documented evidence from the raunchy lifestyles of the performers. More importantly, simply use the lyrics. While you're at it, add to your anti-rock lecture something about the alcoholic promiscuity of country music lyrics. But those have cleaned up and become substantially better in recent years, I must admit.

One problem I see with the enthusiasm for spreading the sensational in an effort to shock people into getting right with God is that many Christians seem credulous. We should take a cue from the "skeptics": Pause and say, "Substantiate this assertion" instead of spreading rumors.

By the way, this may seem out of place, but it has to be said: Christians can be downright cheap. For people who claim to love the Lord, we sure to like to hang onto our money (Matt. 6.24). Waiters and waitresses complain that they do not like to wait on church groups because they work very hard but get very little by way of a tip. We're driving people away by our selfishness (Luke 6.9)! I waited on tables for a while, and I believe that I only received one tract. And that was in lieu of a tip, if I recall correctly.

I could go on with examples, but I want to say that we need to use discernment. Pay attention, check your facts, don't run off at the mouth with something "big" unless you can back it up. Avoid stinginess, and trust God to meet your needs so you do not tightly cling to your money. Do your work wholeheartedly. Some people believe in "lifestyle evangelism", where people will see how different we are and come up to us and ask, "What must I do to be saved?" It does not happen to me much, I hate to admit. OK, it does not happen to me at all. I know full well that the things I am writing to you are written to me as well.

Remember 2 Peter 3.15? I like the NET Bible's wording: "But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess." While I think this verse is a foundational verse for apologists (remember, "give an answer" is based on apologia, apologetic, a reasoned defense), this part had to be pointed out to me: " anyone who asks about the hope you possess." Here is your lifestyle evangelism, Horatio! Be a sensible, discerning, generous, knowledgeable Christian. Be strong in the Word and prayer and full of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23 NASB), then maybe people will come up to you and ask what is different about you.

But since Jesus said to go (Matt. 28.18-20 NASB), we need to be presenting more than we need to be waiting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giving Good Service

Servants, be obedient to those who according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; not in the way of service only when eyes are on you, as men pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatever good thing each one does, he will receive the same again from the Lord, whether he is bound or free.
 — Ephesians 6.5-8 World English Bible

I do not want to write this. Not very much. But it is a teaching I have learned, and it is a conviction that the Lord has given me.

"Why don't you want to write about this, Cowboy Bob?"

Because I have to change my evil ways. Lemme 'splain, Loocy.

Although this was written about slaves (and the next verses regarding masters), it also applies to employees and employers. Most people who were slaves did not exactly wish to be slaves. And most people I know do not wish to be doing the jobs they are performing, but they have to make a living.

It is easy to take on a bad attitude when the work conditions are not optimal. Even more so when the boss is a jerk(ette). (I dare not tell you the things that anger me in my current employment!) The problem is that we feel justified much of the time. I was cheated, the boss owes me, "give and take" means I give and they take, all the work I do gets unappreciated. And so on.

Several teachings have come to mind for me. Some were heard, others watched on TV or video, a few were read. It's all a blur, frankly. What does come into sharp focus is that being a follower of Jesus involves your attitude as well as your actions. While we all know about the need to control our unjust anger or lustful thoughts, the workplace is extremely important.

Remember, we are to be armed and ready soldiers for Christ. Our primary mission is to be witnesses, to seek and save the lost. While I am not a great fan of "lifestyle evangelism" (hoping our lives will be such a witness that people will come up to us and say, "What must I do to be saved?"), we are witnesses with our lives, our words, our actions and our attitudes.

Where can any of this be more evident than at the workplace?

People are watching you, especially if you are not an "undercover Christian" (Rom. 1.16), and you do talk about Christian matters. You're on the spot, so you'd better live it. I know people who detest Christians because of the "showy" types they work with, all mouth and no actions, those so-called Christians are reputed thieves, gossips and liars. But that does not apply to you, of course. Or me (sigh). Yes, yes it does. I am not as bad as some I have heard about, but I grumble and complain about unfair things. Perhaps I may feel justified in stealing some extra break time because "I deserve it". Not that I would ever admit to such a thing, of course.

Again, we are to be witnesses. People are watching us, and we can have good attitudes and work ethics. Sure, the earthly employer may be a clown. But ultimately, we are working for Jesus. If we — I — keep that in mind, and know that we are working to please and glorify him ("do all to the glory of God"). He sees, he understands, he hears, he helps us.

God has put us there for a reason. In his time, he'll move us on into something better. But for now, let's give our work our best, because The Company is not our ultimate employer. With that in mind, check and see if things seem so bad after all.

I have to come back and read this myself, again.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fundamentalist and Literalist

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 
Edited September 13, 2016

 "Be a clone and kiss conviction good night.
Cloneliness is next to Godliness. Right! . . .If you want to be one of his, gotta act like one of us!"
— Steve Taylor, from "I Want to be a Clone"

What is a Fundamentalist? If you ask around, you will probably receive several different kinds of answers. In the most basic sense, it is someone who believes in the fundamentals of the faith. In that way, most people who call themselves "Christian" are "Fundamentalists". One definition said, "Of or relating to or tending toward Fundamentalism". Thanks, that's very helpful, old son.

I like this one: "Christian fundamentalism refers to a set of religious beliefs within the Protestant community which emphasizes strict adherence to Christian beliefs, including a belief in the literal truth of the Bible." I agree with that definition for the most part.

As you probably know, "Fundamentalism" is another word with a great deal of connotations and emotional baggage, often used as a pejorative. People may think of the late (and often unfairly maligned) Jerry Falwell. Or that generic dour church where nobody seems happy. "Fundamentalist" implies ultra-strict, narrow minded views on Scripture. In the definition that I liked, it mentioned "the literal truth of the Bible". When someone asks if I take the Bible literally, I cringe. That is another loaded term, often a set-up for mockery. "Hey! This Fundie jerk takes the Bible literally. I bet you believe in all fairy stories, haw haw haw!" I don't cotton to owlhoots using labels to manipulate the emotions of others.

Someone said a useful phrase that I remembered for many years (unfortunately, I forgot who said it): I take the Bible seriously. People who want to mock us for believing the Bible use extremes and caricatures, and have a double standard for themselves (they will not complain about the use of the word "sunrise" for instance, because the sun does not actually "rise"). You see, in many ways, you can read the Bible as you would read a newspaper. When the text is using poetry, speaking authoritatively, describing real events, narrating history — read it accordingly.

Back to the Fundamentalist bit, now.
People use the word "Fundamentalist" a great deal. Unfortunately, they do not really understand its meaning, only their emotional reactions to it.
Image credit: morgueFile / ArielleJay
My father, a United Methodist Pastor, did not like Fundamentalists very much. One time, he referred to them as "fun-damn-mentalists" (I think this was because of their emphasis on the fires of Hell). I have found through experience and reading that Fundamentalists are very strict. Although well-intentioned, they are often legalistic, expecting adherence to extra-Biblical rules of conduct and so forth. From that springs judgmental attitudes towards other Christians:
  • He's not a true Christian, his hair is too long
  • They're not Christians, that music is rock and roll
  • She's obviously a false Christian, she's exposing too much skin
  • And she's wearing make up
  • No, brotherrrrrr, going to movies is a sin
  • A deck of cards has 52 soldiers in the Devil's army — but we can play the game of "Rook"
  • [Whatever] is not allowed here, it's worldly

If you've been reading this weblog, you know full well that I am downright enthusiastic about defending and presenting the faith. Man-made traditions, rules and regulations, I don't cotton to defending those. Do we judge people because they do not look or act in a way that we want them to look or act? Are we presuming to know the hearts of others (1 Sam. 16.7)? Do we use scriptural principles? Do we exercise righteous judgment (John 7.24, Matt. 7.20 NASB)? Are we walking in love (Eph. 5.2 ESV)?

I believe the fundamentals of the faith. And I take the Bible seriously — literally, when applicable (see this article on that subject). But I do not identify myself as a "Fundamentalist" because of confused definitions and connotations, savvy? I probably am a Fundamentalist according to some definitions.

You may want to see my follow-up article, "Christian Fundamentalism and Anti-Intellectualism".

ADDENDUM 4-23-2016: There is an outstanding lecture by Phil Johnson called "Dead Right — the Failure of Fundamentalism". Don't let the title throw you, he's not anti-fundamentalism per se, but there are problems with the Fundamentalist movement itself. He echoes some of the things I've said (interestingly, he came from a United Methodist background as well), but naturally goes much deeper. It's definitely worth your time. To download the MP3, go to this link and click on the tiny "Media Links: MP3" on the lower left. The PDF is available here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

You Should Know Part 2: Cult Busters

"And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him;
for false Christs and false prophets will arise,
and will show signs and wonders,
in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance."
Mark 13:21-23 NASB

In the previous article, I was ranting that Christians need to know what and why we believe the way we do. 1 Peter 3.15 tells us to "be ready" to explain the hope that is within us.

Learning our doctrines and the basics of our faith can be a bit of a daunting challenge. It takes time and perseverance, plus a great deal of reading and listening to good, solid, Bible-based teachings.

One thing that made learning the basics of the faith more interesting for me was studying the cults as well as aberrant teachings. Again, I want to clarify that honest people disagree on certain nonessentials. We must walk in love as well as truth. Disagreements on nonessentials does not mean that someone is a heretic or a cultist. It has been rightly said that the Word of God is a sword, not a club; we do not beat people over the head with the truth. Stop looking at me like that...

Many people have been drawn away from the faith because they were not grounded in the Word of God. Cults recruit church people away from their church. Those nice, clean, pleasant people at the door want to offer something that many people are not getting from their churches. Often, it is because so many churches today are simply religious social clubs and have very little to offer. However, it is also because too many church people (I am reluctant to call them "Christians" or "Followers of Jesus" because their commitment is so nominal) do not know what the Bible teaches. (And not only cults that claim to be Christian, but other religions entirely.)

Helen Hulse, from the Mormon Missions Midwest Outreach, said:
Sadly some are converted into the LDS Church and are members today because they did not read nor study their Bibles for themselves. People as Rocky has stated over and over in our seminars around the country "Run to your Bible"; if you know... what is between the pages you'll be prepared when a knock comes at your door selling a false religion. If you meet your nice neighbors or co-workers and they invite you to their church, you'll know false teaching when you hear it. You must know what you stand for or you'll fall for anything that sounds and looks good...Cowboy Bob, thanks much. It's important to remember Rocky's advice of "Run to your Bible" it's what he does and has always advised others to do when we are speaking in churches. How is it possible to just sit in any church and be told what to believe? We all need to know what we believe and why we believe it, in order to share the hope that is within us.
When someone tells you that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostal, Christian Science and others are cults, that should stir your interest. When you hear that someone is going to present a "different" or "better" religion, that theirs is the "one true church", you had better be prepared. As Rocky and Helen say, "Run to your Bible". (Quick tip: If you are in a discussion and they show you a verse that is a proof text, read the verses aloud in context. That bothers them.) As always, "speaking the truth in love". These people are lost and on their way to Hell, and God does not take it lightly when another gospel is preached (Gal. 1.8 NKJV, Rev. 22.18-19 NIV).  They sincerely believe that they represent the One True Church and are doing you a favor by having you read their special books and magazines, without which you cannot understand the Bible properly. That is something that should set off an alarm bell in your spirit!

I learned quite a bit about my own beliefs when studying cults. By far, one of the best possible references is Dr. Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults. Also, there are many resources available online, and I have given you a few links. If you were checking the links I gave, one of my favorites kept recurring: The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. There is a wealth of material there on cults and false teachings. At the top of this page, I have "Resources for Christians" that can keep you busy and informed for quite a long time.

Let me add that "Answers in Genesis" can not only give you a good basis on refuting evolutionism and compromise with evolution, but they have other good teachings as well.

It is my recommendation that you avoid letting the cultists into your home until you are well prepared in knowing what and why you believe. Then, you can witness to the cultist, the believer in false doctrines and others. But never buy their materials or give them money!

Friday, January 14, 2011

You Should Know

"I might believe in the Redeemer
if His followers looked more Redeemed."
— Fredrick Nietzsche
"But in your hearts honor
Christ the Lord as holy,
always being prepared to
make a defense [apologia]
to anyone who asks you
for a reason
for the hope that is in you;
yet do it with
gentleness and respect
1 Peter 3.15 (ESV)
I have a bit of a rant for you. Hopefully, it will motivate people. A few months ago on Stormbringer's Thunder, I wrote a piece about areas in which atheists are right about Christians. Not surprisingly, it drew no comments from either atheists or Christians. (My guess is that it took the wind out of the sails of the atheists, and that Christians were embarrassed.) I will probably rework it and present it here sometime.

Still, I have to talk about two things tie into the quote at the top and what I just mentioned: Know what and why you believe. This is where the atheists are right, that too many Christians are ignorant of the Bible that they claim to believe. Not only what it says, but background as well.

I have been listening to and reading apologetics materials, something which has long had appeal to me. An associate of Ravi Zacharias mentioned that today is the most important time for apologetics because people are looking for explanations and meanings.

Suppose you are doing your part and being obedient to Jesus (Matt. 28-18-20) by sharing the gospel message. Then, you are stopped cold by a question. Looks like you were not "ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you".

I should mention that the Greek word apologia is the basis for apologetics. No, it has nothing to do with the modern use of "apology", which has become, "I'm sorry" (often followed by an excuse). The real use of "apology" is "an orderly explanation", or a "defense" in a legal sense.

It was pointed out that it says, "anyone who asks you", followed by a very good question: What is there about you that would prompt someone to ask in the first place? Are you living in the Spirit, obedient to God's will, walking in love and kindness? Are you acting "redeemed"?
(Wait right there for a minute. I need to go back and read that for myself!)

In addition to "being ready to make a defense" (or plead your case), which is important in itself, are you ready? Can you explain why you believe the Bible's teachings?

One time I was in an apostate United Methodist Church and making a similar appeal. A woman said to me, "We can't all be Bible scholars like you!" Well, I am not a Bible scholar. But I do know some things, and I make a point to get a bit more involved in learning apologetics than some people. That is fine, we all have our niche, as well as various spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12.4, 11). However, we should have not only a working knowledge of what the Bible actually says, but why we believe the Bible in the first place.

You are not going to be much good to God if you do not spend time in his Word and in prayer, as well as putting into practice good teachings that you have heard. I am not talking about specialized information about the history of Christianity or traditions. First, learn what the Bible clearly teaches.

Yes, there are differences of opinion on interpretations. But for the most part, we must be knowledgeable about the basics of the faith; most Christians are in agreement about those. We have all sinned (Rom. 3.23) and deserve death, but God offers us eternal life as a gift (Rom. 6.23). Jesus died for our sins and was bodily raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15.3-5). Salvation is by faith alone (sola fide, Rom. 11.6, Eph. 2.8-9). We cannot earn our salvation (Eph. 2.8-9), or maintain it, by our own efforts (Rom. 4.5, 2 Cor. 5.17); it is only through faith in the atoning work of Christ (1 John 4.10). When we are in Christ, we are born again (John 3.3) and have become new creations (2 Cor. 5.17), and the Holy Spirit lives in us (2 Cor. 1.21-22 ESV). (By the way, I know that there are sincere people who believe that you can lose your salvation. I will not debate that here, but will say that I have found much stronger Scriptural support for the security of the believer than for the idea that you can undo what God has done, Phil. 4.6).

I am not going to do all of your work for you. This is to begin laying out the basics for you, and I gave you some links at the beginning of the last paragraph so you can continue. As for the apologetics aspect, I have many links available to you here, as well as resources and Weblogs in the right-hand column.

Let me caution you with one important thing. In the scenario above, I mentioned being stopped cold by a question. Don't fake it! If you do not know the answer, admit it. "That's a good question, and I do not have an answer for you." Of course, if you have an idea, you can say, "I think the answer could be..." or something similar, making it clear that you are offering possibilities.

Again, we are not all required to be experts. But there is no good reason to be completely lacking in skills and wisdom (James 1.5 NASB). There are good books available, and the Internet is a powerful tool for equipping the believer.

By the way, Fredrick Nietzsche, quoted above, promoted the "God is dead" belief. He died in a madhouse, and we have a pretty good idea about his eternal destination. Do you care about where your friends and family will end up?

I just had to continue this here, with "Cult Busters".