2016 Confident Christianity Ministry Recap

As 2016 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on all the ministry opportunities Confident Christianity had this year.

We began the year with Mary Jo teaching a logic fast term class at Houston Baptist University. It was in that class that one of her students came up to her after the first day and said thank you for talking with him about his Islamic faith and his view of God. He had left Islam and become a Christian. He said he was now attending a local church.

MJ then took two trips out to California. One of those trips was for a conference sponsored by the Christian Apologetics Ministry, Reasons to Believe. At the conference, there was a wide array of apologetics topics from how to have good conversation to science and faith to MJ’s topic on the problem of evil.

In March, MJ and Roger went up to Canada for the “Faith Beyond Belief” conference. MJ spoke at the conference, at a Bible college, at a private Christian school, and on a Canadian television program.

Throughout the spring, CC was ministering in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In the summer, MJ took two trips out to Colorado for Summit Ministries Worldview Camps and for a newer apologetics event in Manitou Springs called “Every Thought Captive.” At this event, she met a Sufi Muslim who came to hear her speak on Islam! She was also able to do some speaking in Sunday School classes at her home church on the subject of Islam.

When fall rolled around, MJ and Roger went back up to Canada for an event with Ravi Zacharias and Andy Bannister. The three apologists spoke in Vancouver and Victoria, with Andy and MJ speaking in Comox, as well. We had great turn-outs for each event and fielded a lot of one-on-one questions. We also had a special event to minister to local pastors in the Victoria area (Andy Bannister spoke). It was a special time of encouraging one another in ministry.

As the year wrapped up, MJ spoke in California once again, Georgia, and Nashville at the LifeWay Women’s Leadership Forum. She also attended the Evangelical Theological Society conference finishing her three-year stint as the first woman to serve on the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (an organization established in 1974). MJ has also been teaching an online course with Houston Baptist University which will end in mid-December.

There are so many good things going on with Confident Christianity! We are planning much more for 2017 so stay tuned. If you’d like to invite Mary Jo to speak at an event, click here.

Discontent and Thankfulness

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been born in God’s thought, and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” – David Elginbrod, George MacDonald, page 77

One of the most difficult aspects of the Thanksgiving season for me is one of the most fundamental reasons for giving thanks: that God has made me. photo-1456404823214-a69ef7a1fae5

I daily live with my past and my thoughts. These two cohorts work together in me to accuse and tear down, especially when I finally have a moment to breathe and to reflect. They build in me a remorse for life, a deep sadness over my own state of sinfulness, robbing me of the joy for which I was made. I imagine many have difficulty during the holidays. It is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but the years have hardened us trampling the childlike wonder and trust. I often think, “This cannot be what God had in mind.”

Doctor Strange and the Lesson of Surrender (SPOILERS!)

It has been awhile since I’ve seen a movie in the theater. With the prices continuing to rise and the material often disappointing me on multiple levels, I haven’t been so interested in going; that is until I heard about Doctor Strange. Several of my Facebook friends have posted that the movie was directed by a Biola University alum, Scott Derrickson. As you’ve probably already guessed, he’s a Christian. As you may not have guessed, however, he’s a Christian who benedict_cumberbatch_as_doctor_strangedirects horror films. Now there’s a twist! He believes that the horror genre allows him to explore the questions about the supernatural, as well as good and evil, in a profound way. You can read more about his work on Doctor Strange in this great article, The Complex Faith of “Doctor Strange” Director Scott Derrickson.

I’m already a Benedict Cumberbatch fan from his work in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. When you add in that a fellow Biolan directed the film, I’ve got to go see it in the theater. While the film has great acting, CGI, effects and cinematography, what really caught my attention was the unapologetic handling of atheistic materialist philosophy, as well as of the “science is the only way to know truth” dogma. This film didn’t try to contextualize the Doctor Strange story with these current cultural ideas. Rather, in the movie, the main character discovers that his human knowledge, while at the top of his scientific field, is limited by his atheistic materialism. He discovers the power beyond human control to which humans must surrender if they really want to do great things. Human existence isn’t as much about gaining knowledge as it is about letting go of control and of egocentric self-preservation.

(HUGE SPOILERS forthcoming!)

In one stunning moment of the film, Doctor Strange must die over and over in order to live for something greater than himself. In the struggle against evil, he literally has to surrender the very life he’s trying so hard to restore so that he may truly live. It’s a powerful reflection of the words of Jesus calling us to deny ourselves, carry our cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23-25). Whether this imagery was intentional or not, the scene carries a powerful depiction of self-denial and surrender. Strengthening this imagery is another poignant moment in which The Ancient One tells Doctor Strange that life is not “about you.” It’s a powerful lesson to live for the sake of others; that our lives should not be so focused on ourselves. Our current society stresses the autonomy of the individual as one of the greatest moral values. We’ve been on this path of subjectivism for some time, so it’s refreshing to see a film that overtly denies this culturally normalized view.

If you’ve ignored my spoiler alerts and read the article in full, I recommend seeing this film and discussing it with the family. While the content is too mature for young kids, preteens and up should be fine. The film will provide plenty of material to discuss within a Christian spiritual context; especially that of conforming of our lives to Christ.

Loss of Objective Morality, Politics and the EPS

Fifth Week Ramblings

Disclaimer: My Fifth Week Ramblings are a series of posts that reflect my current musings. While the other four weeks offer training in conversation and apologetics, this week is reserved for more of my expressive side. Therefore, you will not see footnotes and references. Rather, as can be seen in this week, I offer the interplay of the experiential, affective, and propositional as seen through my eyes.

Every once in awhile, I lament the situation of the decreasingly thoughtful high-profile leadership I see in our society. This week, for me, will mark a historic moment in the part of U.S. history to which I belong. It is a moment that has photo-1466780446965-2072a3de8a43culminated over years of slow anticipation. We now see the effects of which Lewis warned in The Abolition of Man: we have to come to the point of creating men without chests. We’ve removed moral objectivity from the marketplace of ideas. We have driven moral relativism into the heart and soul of our society through education, manipulation, consumerism, lobbying and artistic appeal. Yet, we still demand of our leadership that they have virtue and honor. One problem with our demand: they are us. We are the relativists. We are the ones who have bred these morally ambiguous humans. We are the ones who constantly question how a person can claim anything is true at all. Where there can be no objective morality, there can be no moral reasoning in the choice for leadership. Where there is no authority, no one can be trusted. Further, there is no plumb line, nor standard, by which we must check our thoughts and actions. And those words ring out hopelessness.

But perhaps all is not lost…

When I come to the point of such despair about my people, it is time for me to lift my head and look around. There is a remnant who has never given up on finding the good, true and the beautiful. There are thinkers who care about the fundamental issues that cut at the souls of our people. Yes, I must lift my head, and spirit, to be reminded and encouraged. There is still hope.

One such remnant is found in the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Founded in 1974, the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS) is an organization of professional scholars devoted to pursuing philosophical excellence in both the church and the academy. What’s a philosophical society got to do with anything? Have you noticed the trend towards systematically removing philosophy from…well, everything? Sure, but it doesn’t really matter, does it? Aren’t cfb224b56b3953d895726ba7a4e83db6philosophy degrees pointless? After all, they do not offer anything tangible for our culture. To the contrary, philosophy is of utmost importance. Through the study of philosophy, we learn to think critically and to think well; a valuable asset in the war against the manipulation of our minds (which eventually leads to our votes). Through the study of philosophy, we learn to analyze and critique worldviews, including ones that incorporate relativism. I’ve heard much illogical gibberish from people who claim to use “evidence and reason” in this political season. It’s past time for the larger body of Christ to return to our Christian tradition of loving wisdom; ie. philo (love) sophia (wisdom). We must train ourselves in the knowledge of God so as not to be swept up by the deceitful philosophies of men (Col 2:8).

At www.epsociety.org there is a wealth of knowledge from some of the world’s greatest thinkers…and those thinkers are Christians! Please check out EPS today to see where you can begin to fight the battle for your own mind.

Membership
If you are interested in becoming a society member, you can join as full, associate, or student members. Information here.

Journal
If you’d like to receive the EPS Journal, Philosophia Christi, you can get started here.

Social Media
Facebook: Evangelical Philosophical Society

Twitter: EPSOCIETY.ORG

 

Responding: A New Apologetics Resource for Kids!

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

At speaking engagements, I am frequently asked about apologetics materials for children. The great news is that there is a growing body of work for teaching children how to engage thoughtfully with the truth claims of Christianity. One of the newest resources is by the Cold-Case Christianity author, J. Warner Wallace, and his wife, Susie Wallace!51qib5depwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Cold-Case Christianity for Kids places the reader right in the middle of detective cadet academy training. As a student cadet, the reader is trained by Wallace’s mentor, Detective Jeffries, to become a critical investigator of the facts. Alongside the criminal investigation, Detective Jeffries helps skeptical-minded students to investigate Christianity and the claims made about Jesus Christ.

The students learn to investigate with a critical eye, but also learn when to trust the conclusion of a body of evidence; including how to examine eye-witness testimony, such as found in the Gospels. These skills are vital to students who are growing up in a society in which, as G.K. Chesterton once lamented, is so open-minded that their brains fall out. Our battle today is with teaching actual logic and reason in a society that uses reason as pretense to hide behind poor thinking skills and uncritical commitments to beliefs.

Questioning: Jesus Invited People to Examine Their Beliefs

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

Excerpted from Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study. Lifeway Christian Resources, 2012.
QuestioningOut of a great love for people, Jesus invited them to examine their beliefs and their way of thinking to uncover truth out of great love for them.  An instructive example of Jesus’ concern for truth is the story of the rich young man.

Read Mark 10:17-27

What did the young man ask Jesus?

How did Jesus reply?

Even though Jesus hasn’t directly addressed the man’s point of how to inherit eternal life yet, Jesus has already questioned one faulty view–that Jesus is simply a “good teacher.”  People today continue to make this common mistake about the person of Jesus–that he could have been a good teacher, but not God.  Jesus replies to the man’s flattery by saying that there is none that is good except God.  Jesus is indirectly teaching the man the nature of his identity as the God, who is the source and standard of goodness.[i]

After Jesus’ response that the young man must keep all the commandments, how does the young man reply?

Listening: Being Heard with Confidence

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

From the title of my blog, Confident Christianity, a person may think that my ultimate desire is to be right or correct in my view when talking with those who disagree with me. However, I am the kind of person that cares much more about being heard in a conversation than I am about being right. I know, some of you are thinking, “Danger, Will Robinson!” I understand your concern; so walk with me a bit on this matter.

I am a believer in objective truth as well as in an external reality that is to be discovered. Yet, I’m also a believer in God and in the fallen state of mankind within His creation. So I know that my reasoning, while it can match external reality, can often go astray due to my own perversion of thought, the idols of the mind (hat tip to Francis Bacon). ListeningI can rationalize nearly anything I want to be true. So I must be cautious to not become intellectually arrogant, or puffed up in my thinking…especially about my thinking. I see this very attitude a lot on the Internet from all different kinds of people.

Rather, my desire is to be on a life-long journey of learning with other people. In that regard, my concern is to aptly communicate my own view and to have my view understood as closely to the truth of it as possible. There is a story to my view and reasons for why I hold to it. If we can openly discuss our views, you might hear that story. If we cannot openly discuss our views, you will probably pass by me as one passes by flowers in the fields on an open highway, rarely seen nor enjoyed.

Knowing: Shaking Up a Familiar Life Route

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

 

This post has been excerpted from Living In Truth: Confident Conversation in a Conflicted Culture, Lifeway Christian Resources.

“‘This—is now MY way,—where is yours?’ Thus did I answer those who asked me ‘the way’. For THE way—it doth not exist!”
                                    –Friederich Nietzsche
                                   Thus Spake Zarathustra, Third Part, Chapter LV.
                                   “Of the Spirit of Gravity”. Trans. Thomas Common.

Friederich Nietzsche, an atheist philosopher, remarked that there is no “way” to go in this life. Every one of us creates their own way and lives their life in accordance with whatever it is they believe. His statement is more familiar to us today in the form of “Whatever you believe is true for you, and whatever I believe is true for me. So don’t shove your religious morals/ideas/truth on me!” Ultimately, this view destroys the basic ideas that: 1) there is any truth to be found, and 2) finding truth actually matters. Further, Nietzsche’s view is ultimately unlivable, because we run smack dab into truth every day of our lives.

The late Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard, said, “Reality is what we run into when we are wrong.” Though sometimes I try to create my own way, I can assure you that I regularly “run into” reality.

Knowing

Think of how truth affects your daily life; specifically think of a time when you found out you were wrong on a matter.

What was it that was wrong?

Did you have to adjust your thinking? Why or why not?

What was the consequence of the wrong thinking?

Back when I still drove a truck, I was going along a familiar route to work when out of the blue, I hit the curb. One of the tires squealed as it grated against the side of the curb. The jolt and noise of the impact shook me out of ‘autopilot’ making me pay more close attention.  Apparently, though, this first hit didn’t focus my thought enough to keep me out of trouble very long. Later in the day, I was again driving a very familiar route and drove right into a piece of curb protruding from a construction zone: up, over, and back down again. This time, the entire vehicle was shaken. I was shaken. Now I had a healthy fear of my inattentiveness to my surroundings.  I was on guard.

Responding: Atheistic Physicalism and Letting Go of Too Much

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

A person might say to you, “The physical universe is all there is, was, or ever will be.” Or they may say, “There is nothing supernatural or spiritual or immaterial.” These statements may express the views known as atheistic materialism, or physicalism, or naturalism (all related beliefs). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines physicalism as, “the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on the physical.” [1] All these views adhere to a belief that material, or physical, matter is all that exists. In responding to this view, I see an inconsistency of thought (pun intended): the inconsistency of atheistic physicalism and free will, aka “free thought.” [2]

In an atheistic physicalist view of the world, there cannot exist anything that is not made of physical
matter. Therefore, “thoughts” are a huge problem, because they are not made of “stuff.” Further,responding reducing our consciousness, and thoughts (the immaterial), to simply a program run by the brain (the material matter) has the unintended consequence of destroying the basis for human free will. Neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, in his book refuting the idea that consciousness is reducible to neural activity in the brain, Aping Mankind, states, “The distinctive features of human beings–self-hood, freewill, that collective space called the human world, the sense that we lead our lives rather than simply live them as organisms do–are being discarded as illusions by many, even by philosophers, who should think a little bit harder and question the glamour of science rather than succumbing to it.” [3] If thoughts can essentially have no existence in your own worldview, you cannot then be a “freethinker.” For some, this may seem a trivial matter, but for me, it tells of a greater disturbance.

Questioning: Christians Should Question Beliefs

The Four Elements of Effective Communication

Excerpted from “Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study, LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012.

“Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for people is gently shake up their presuppositions and invite them to think.” – Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries

In 2007, I spoke at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, on the topic of “Can Truth Be Known About God?” Some of the main points included that Questioningwe have a responsibility to find what is true, that it is not intolerant to say you think you have truth, and that there is truth to be known. At the end of
my talk, several students asked me questions, including one gentleman who sat down with me for nearly half an hour. He was a follower of Eckhart Tolle, the main religious instructor in Oprah Winfrey’s life at that time. His main question was how I could claim to know truth at all through my thinking abilities. He said that I couldn’t know the truth about God until I got beyond my thinking abilities to the point where I experienced God as feeling; not as believing.

I said, “Can I ask you a question?” He affirmed that I could. I asked, “How do you know that you have the truth about God?” He replied, “Because I can feel it.” I asked, “But how do you know that feeling represents the truth about God?” He thought for a moment and replied, “Because it is a good feeling.” I asked, “How did you decide that good feelings are equivalent to the truth about God?” He said, “I don’t know, but it’s not something you decide by thinking about it.” I further asked, “How do you decide something if you aren’t thinking about it” and “Did you think about Eckhart Tolle’s ideas before you accepted them as true?”