Author Archives: zensfamily

Apologetics–What is it and why do we do it?

By Kelly Zens

Douglas Groothuis defines apologetics as, “the rational defense of the Christian worldview as objectively true, rationally compelling and existentially or subjectively engaging.”[1]   Apologetics is part of the Christian’s role in being Christ’s ambassador. Christians represent Jesus to the world. That role necessarily includes rationally defending Christianity against critics, respectfully responding to specific accusations, demonstrating and arguing for the truth of Christian claims and doing all of this with grace.   James Beilby sums up apologetics by stating it is the action of “defending and commending” the truthfulness of the essentials of the Christian faith.[2] It is important that apologetics deals with the essentials of the historic Christian faith rather than every doctrinal dispute among different Christian denominations.   While doctrinal discussions are important, they are not apologetics.

Christians engage in apologetics because our faith is the most precious thing that we have, and we believe that it adds immensely to the quality of our life. We want everyone we know and even complete strangers to be able to experience this life changing relationship with Jesus Christ. In addition, we are concerned with the eternal destiny of the unbeliever’s soul. No one wants even the biggest jerk to end up in hell.   Accepting Jesus gift of salvation through his atoning sacrifice is the only way for a person to obtain freedom from their sin (in this life) and eternal salvation (in the next one).

Additionally, Scripture commands us to engage in apologetics (I Peter 3:15-16). Jesus set an example of evangelistic outreach using apologetic argument throughout the gospels. Christian Apologetics mentions Jesus silencing the Sadducees in Matthew 22:33-34. The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 has a very apologetic flavor as well. As in the previous passage, he answers Nicodemus’ questions by giving him truth that changes his preconceptions. Paul also engages in apologetics as part of his evangelistic outreach (Acts 17). So having a direct command plus the examples of Jesus and Paul is sufficient reason to engage in apologetics.

The goals of an apologetic discourse are to remove barriers to belief and challenge assumptions that deny the truth of the Christian worldview. That is why is it such an important part of evangelism. Groothuis calls it “pre-evangelism.”[3] Addressing doubts or misunderstanding and providing clarity for believers is called internal apologetics. This is a very important function often seen in small groups or youth groups.   Responding to challenges brought by unbelievers can remove intellectual barriers and misunderstandings they have that are keeping them from faith in Jesus. This is external apologetics. Both believers and unbelievers can be the audience for apologetics. Both groups benefit from it. Acts 18:27-28 (NIV), where Apollos takes on the Jews, shows how Christians are encouraged by public external apologetics. “On arriving, he was a great help to those who by faith had believed.   For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”   Apologetics provides believers with an important tool to both strengthen the faith of fellow believers and challenge unbelief in the unsaved and thereby hopefully bring them one step closer to a saving faith in Jesus.

[1] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), loc. 153, Kindle.

[2] James K. Beilby, Thinking About Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academics, 2011), 14,19, & 21.

[3]  Groothuis,  loc. 199, Kindle.

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Audiobook Nook

Are you excited about the Super Bowl game on February 5th or is it a dreaded time where all males in the household are dreaded for their football mania? If you avoid the Super Bowl for whatever reason, you can still learn from Football Psychology which has lessons that we all need to learn in life.

The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is designed to protect you the consumer, but powerful interests exist which are trying to undermine the provisions in this federal legislation. If you think or have reason to suspect that you credit score may have been illegally accessed by a banking or other institution or if some institution have wrongfully reported inaccurate information on your credit score, you need to know your rights and that institutions need a “permissible purpose” by law before they accessed private information from your credit score. What are My Rightsexplores some of those legal issues with guidelines on how consumers can better protect themselves (due to be released on audio in late February 2017).

Jeffrey Dahmer became very well-known in American history as a serial killer, but less is known about the religious influence of his grandmother who tried to steer him toward a different path. What was the role of religion in Dahmer’s upbringing that may have influenced his personal direction and did he genuinely convert to Christianity in his waning, prison days?  Find out in Adam’s new e-book  (see link above) and soon to be released in audio book format.

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Money-changers in the Temple

By Adam Zens

“The Bible is dangerously sharp and hits us where it hurts the most, pulling us out of our comfort zone and dissecting our conscience like a living scalpel.”—Paraphrase of Hebrews 4:12.

When it comes to banking and money-lending, the Bible will simply not leave well enough alone. It challenges us, and our beloved economic systems, to their core. Just like Jesus did not let up when he approached the money-changers in the house of the Lord, chasing out those religious infidels “who were selling and buying in the temple” and who were making that place “a den of robbers,” (Mat. 21) so the Bible itself presents a wary picture of those who would use the banking system to charge people interest (what the Bible calls “usury”).

 

But don’t we need to charge interest on loans simply because of the threat that the economic system would become unsound, or, worse yet, collapse? Any type of globalizing, general question designed to inspire fear of the economic unknown can easily manipulate people. That is how the masses form their opinions. We have to pose the questions beneath the questions, the ones that discerning Christians ought to find out the answers to with all assiduity. Questions like, “How do we apply this really difficult command, like “Give to everyone who begs of you…” (Matt. 5:42; NRSV) within our given time and culture?” have to nag a bit in the back of our mind along with observations like, “Why is the full-length Sermon on the Mount with all of its challenging doctrines only found in the gospel of Matthew? Was Matthew some kind of Social Justice Warrior?”

 

Jesus is not the only biblical character who was preoccupied with justice for the poor. In Nehemiah 5, it is reported how Nehemiah reacts to the news that his own people, the Israelites, have been oppressing each other, charging interest on loans to their brothers and sisters in the Lord so that insurmountable debts were accumulating and leading to human trafficking. Nehemiah grieves the situation and demands accountability:

 

I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After thinking it over, I brought charges against the nobles and the officials; I said to them, “You are all taking interest from your own people.” (Nehemiah 5:6-7; NRSV).

 

 

Oh, of course it is easier to maintain the status-quo. But as usual, Jesus and the Bible do not leave well enough alone. They keep fighting for justice for the poor, long after we have given up on the poor as conforming to whatever stereotype we have of someone who makes bad life-choices.

 

Start a revolution in personal giving this New Year. Don’t contribute your savings and investments to banking corporations who exploit the poor with excessive usury. Stay away from the banking “biggies” like JP Morgan and Chase which try to turn your credit score into a reason to oppress and burden people with hidden fees and costs that they cannot bear. Let’s live for Jesus and separate ourselves (when feasible) from an exploitative economic program that not only oppresses the already over-burdened, but blesses it as “good business practice.”

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Audiobook Nook

Have you ever thought about assertions which must be true in a formal sense, such as “This sentence cannot be understood unless the reader understands English” or something comparable? Philosophers of language call such sentences “necessarily true” and their truth seems to be deniable only with strict conditions in place. Not every philosopher grants that such is the case. Quine was one of them.

Quine on the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction covers the groundwork for why Quine objected to analyticity or self-evident truth and why his hyper-empiricism may have steered him wrong. Additionally, you can pick up The Problem of Induction by the same author-narrator team.

Do you want to increase your working vocabulary? If so, why not make another New Year’s resolution to go through the Boost your Word Power program with theaudio version performed by Disney’s Cheryl Texiera. The ebook version is fully interactive and allows you to review your progress as you learn new words every day.

Cartoon by toonpool.com.

 

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The Discovery and Preservation of the Canon Part II

Last week, we discussed how one of the criteria for discovering the canon was use by the early church. Did the early church read and use the letter? If those who were eye witnesses and had personal relationships with Jesus reread these letters, that is significant.

While early Christians may have been content to keep much of their doctrine undefined, heresy required that both doctrine and the canon become more developed. Marcion (144 C.E.) is credited more than any other for pressuring the Church to formalize its canon. While this was not his intention, by creating his own   (heretical) canon consisting of ¾ of Luke, and edited versions of Galatians, Corinthians, Romans, Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon, he forced the Church to respond. The Edict of Diocletian in 303 C.E. declared the destruction of the sacred books of Christianity and declared penalties for owning them.[1] This put further pressure on the Church to define what those books were so that people were not risking death for a book that was merely devotional.

The Church Fathers (bishops) as well as laity (Tertullian, Muratorian Fragment, Justin Martyr, Scillitan martyrs) made lists of recognized books. We have their lists. These lists show what the whole Church and not just the person accepted these books.  This is derived from the fact that they are passing down tradition and not coming up with their own innovations.[1]

Although the churches were dispersed across the Roman Empire, they agreed easily and universally on twenty of the twenty-seven New Testament books.[2] We begin to see their thought processes and what was important to them in identifying the canon.   They appear to have asked five questions when debating the canonicity of books.   1) Was the book written by an apostle or a close companion of an apostle?[3] (Did it have apostolic authority?) 2) Was it authentic? Is there evidence showing that the person it is attributed to actually wrote it? Was it true? Origin rejected the book the Preaching of Peter because it was not written by Peter. The Apocrypha was rejected by Church Fathers because of their historical inaccuracies and moral incongruities. In short, they were not true as Scripture must be. 3) Did it follow the rule of faith? Did it agree with already recognized Scripture? 4) Was it dynamic? Heretical and non-canonical literature was rejected because it did not have the power to transform lives. Finally, was it received, collected, read and used by the people of God?[4]

In the Eastern Roman Empire, Clement of Alexandria quotes all the New Testament books as authoritative except Philemon, James, 2 Peter, and 2nd and 3rd John.[5] We do not know why he did not quote these. It may be simply because they are short and he had no reason to quote them.   Origin (185-250 C.E.) was the first to use the name “New Testament.” He recognized the Gospels and the works of the Apostles as divine Scripture.[7] He did not recognize James or Jude, but he did accept the Shepherd of Hermas.

In the Western Roman Empire, Tertullian (195 C.E.) cites every current New Testament book except 2 Peter, James, and 2nd and 3rd John. Esebius’ list shows that 22 New Testament books were universally accepted. Five books were “disputed but familiar to the people of the Church.”  Revelations was rejected with the phrase, “if it seems proper,” following it.  Athanasius of Alexandria (367 C.E.) mad e list that includes all the current books of the New Testament.[12] The Councils at Hippo (393 C.E.) and Carthage (397 C.E.) confirmed this list.[13] Clearly they were confirming an already established list rather than establishing it for the first time. In sum, the accretion of the books forming the canon occurred through a slow deliberate and spiritually grounded process. It was not an arbitrary or dictatorial process, but rather a reflection of the identity of the Church in Christ.

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Audiobook Nook

The New Year is here! Why not start it right by learning the Names of God? Author Chris Adkins explores the many ways by which God identifies Himself through the Old and New Testaments in the Names of God. Over 50 copies of the audio book have already been purchased through Audible.com and you can even obtain this audio book (slightly over five hours in length) entirely for free with a new membership to Audible.

Are you a “radical Christian”? No? Thank goodness! Who even knows what that phrase even means anymore? The way that it is bandied about by amateur theologians, Christ followers rejecting the institutional church, and anyone else who’d like to toss their hat in to sound like they are “radical” or “sold out” for Jesus (there’s another loaded term) is simply out-of-control. The phrase has lost all meaning except that some Christian author will come along to try to sound more “radical” than the last person who used the term in his book on discipleship. Years ago, Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship and Christians have been trying to figure out ever since if he got it right. One thing is indisputable. Regardless of how he interpreted the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer lived out his faith in obedience to King Jesus. Our audio book entitled Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Inspirational Life Story (Peace Activist, Preacher, and WWII War Hero) is available on Audible and, while it does not cover the disputes over Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of discipleship, it does cover some important basics of his life- and faith-journey. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. was a committed Christian, whether or not he was “radical” by some people’s standards. Leaving compromise behind, he knew that cooperation with Nazis and their “state-approved” churches was not even an option.

Public school education has a long tradition in America. But is its very existence now in question? Some are speculating that now that Trump has become president, all hope is lost for the public funding given to the public school system. The short ebook (soon to be audio book), Public School Debate, takes a look at one blogger’s dire warning about the future of American public school funding.

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The Discovery and Preservation of the Biblical Canon Part I

When discussing how the Biblical canon was formed, it is important to define what a canon is. A canon is a collection of the most important and foundational truths of a particular belief system. This can be in oral or written form. For example, the British Constitution is not in written form. It consists of customs, traditions, principles and some written laws of differing dates. Though it is not written, it is real and firmly established. This unwritten Constitution is the foundation of the British system of law as well as an important influence upon our American system of law.

So what is in a canon? The American “canon” would contain the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and letters by the Founding Fathers.[3] These documents represent what America stands for and who we are. These documents were produced by authoritative eyewitnesses and participants in the founding of our country and yet reflect the whole country. In the same way, the biblical canon is the authoritative collection of the biblical texts that serve as a foundation of Christianity.  Christianity is built on the canon.

The idea of canon was not new to the Early Church. They had grown up using the Hebrew canon of Old Testament Scripture. According to F.F. Bruce, the Old Testament canon was settled before 70 C.E.[1] The Council of Jamnia, informal discussions/debates that took place after the Fall of Jerusalem among the rabbis, firmly acknowledges the Old Testament canon.[2] The Hebrew canon had three basic divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.  Jesus’ words in Luke 11:51, 24:44, and John 10:31-36 serve as evidence that these three divisions were well established and had long been considered Holy Scripture. It is also important to note that Jesus refers to the Old Testament as Scripture (John 10:35).

It would be a mistake to speak of the formation of the New Testament canon as if it is something that human beings decided. Wilber Dayton says it this way, “The New Testament is an authoritative offer of salvation.” It was revealed by God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus appointed his apostles as witnesses on which to found the Church. The canon then was already established by the work of Christ. The question is not how the Church discovered or confirmed the Canon, but how the Canon, established by Christ, survived through the history of the Church.

The Early Church recited and sang Scripture in their participatory meetings (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, I Corinthians 14:26).  Justin Martyr gives a similar account of Christian worship. He describes reading “from the memoirs of the apostles.”[9] We know that Paul instructs the churches to read his letters aloud and share them with their sister churches. The Apostle John expected Revelation to be read in the churches as well. From 50 through 70 C.E., the Apostolic Fathers quoted the four gospels, Acts, all of Paul’s letters, Hebrews, I John and Revelation.[10] So we see the Canon unfold through the practice and use of Christians including laity.

[1] James Patrick Holding, “The Formation of the New Testament Canon,” in Trusting the New Testament (xulonpress.com, 2009), 249-263.

[2] “What is the Difference Between Written and Unwritten Constitution?” Preserve Articles (2012). Accessed   September 13, 2015 at preservearticles.com.

[3] Holding, pg. 251.

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Audiobook Nook

The New Year is here! Why not start it right by learning the Names of God? Author Chris Adkins explores the many ways by which God identifies Himself through the Old and New Testaments in the Names of God. Over 50 copies of the audio book have already been purchased through Audible.com and you can even obtain this audio book (slightly over five hours in length) entirely for free with a new membership to Audible.

“Counting the cost” is a key element in determining whether people have fully recognized the responsibilities that attend a particular verbal commitment that they have made. Why would someone shy away from commitment unless they know what they are getting themselves into? While it is true that discipleship entails “counting the cost,” it is also very true that followers of Christ often do not understand the full implications of that pursuit and that passion until their spiritual journey is well underway. One committed follower of Christ who wrote about this journey is the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He did not compromise, even though he was given many “escape hatches” whereby he could have avoided persecution for his Christian faith and commitment to follow Christ unswervingly.

Following the dictates of your conscience and your faith may land you in trouble with the “powers-that-be” as Reverend Bern points out in his book on Occupying America. He reminds those who would separate faith and politics that they are, in fact, interrelated.

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The Problem with Snopes.com

By Adam Zens

There appears to be another dubious debunking from Snopes.com recently regarding the president’s speaking schedule. It sounds like “hair-splitting” when you call it “false” that the president’s cancellation of speeches on behalf of Hillary are necessarily related to her recent FBI probe. Snopes really has to do a better job than this when their own credibility as a debunker of popular mythology is at stake.

Here is the “snopes” story about the president canceling all speaking appearances for Hillary:

http://www.snopes.com/white-house-cancels-all-obama-appearances/

Yes, Snopes has done its homework with regard to the alarmist statement that was issued by Hal Leonard. However, they could not simply leave the clarification at a factual nature. No, they had to throw a “sucker punch” and try to discredit Leonard’s character through an ad hominem attack. This man is a crazed lunatic, they tell us, a deranged threatener of judges who feeds off conspiracy theories. How could we possibly given any credence to that source?

Problem is that this source which snopes is refuting is putting two and two together. Snopes isolates the FBI announcement that they are reinvestigating Clinton’s emails from the cancellation that Obama makes in his speaking schedule. Note: Obama did not cancel *all* of his speaking engagements on behalf of Hillary Clinton which technically falsifies Leonard’s claim. Yet snopes acknowledges that Obama is changing his speaking tour and that cancellations have been made. Thus, when the issue is dissected and the investigation of Hillary is understood in total isolation, of course, Obama’s cancellations are entirely without significance. But the fact that Obama’s speaking schedule quietly changes about the time that the Director of the FBI issues a memo that Hillary’s insecure emails are now being reopened in connection with another matter would certainly cause one to wonder if the two should be taken as entirely separate from each other.  Whether Obama believes that she would make a fit candidate for office or whether he is recommending her as a “lesser evil” than Trump remains to be seen. But why would he change his schedule about the time that Wikileaks exposed Comey’s new letter requesting a fresh investigation to sort through new emails sent in connection with the Clinton campaign.

The problem with Snopes.com is not confined to partisan or ideological boundaries, either. Recently, they attempted to expose the progressive cause of expanding ballot access for voters in Wisconsin by challenging the contention of magazine, The Nation. Reporter Ari Berman wrote a piece linking the limitation of ballot access to University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students during the April primary this year with the suggestion made by a city clerk that placing an early voting location on or near the campus might favor the Democratic vote. The less than helpful response from Snopes is to rate the claim “false” that there is proof that voter suppression was directed along partisan lines. In fact, the other concerns, such as the budgetary feasibility of installing a new early voting location, could have played a role as well as the state law requiring that one party not be favored over another. In this case, Snopes seems to avoid the relevant evidence reported by the Nation that an observed relationship existed in April when students at UW-GB were denied voter access due to long lines. Additionally, it is committing the “straw man” fallacy by acting as though there is “proof” of partisan voter suppression. That is not the claim being made. Scott Ross, of OneWisconsinNow, explains in an email that the real advocacy is about
[C]alling on Green Bay to do the right thing and take steps to make sure voters on campus aren’t left out in the cold 

– or standing in long lines on Election Day like they were this past April.

It’s truly difficult to debunk a claim that does not exist. Whether it is engaging in ad hominem attacks to make certain claims about the Clinton email scandal seem even more outrageous or exaggerated or whether it is mischaracterizing the claims being made by progressive organizations, Snopes needs to combine sound, logical reasoning with its fact-checking.

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Audiobook Nook

Speaking of voter suppression, whether real or merely presumed, have the new Voter ID laws really prevented voter fraud? Or have they merely placed one more barrier between the U.S. citizen and the voting booth? Without taking sides for or against Voter ID laws, Professor Eric Kasper explains what’s going on with the status of the Wisconsin law since it has been contested in the court system. Eric is a great guy and professor and has several published works including Don’t Stop Thinking about the Music which analyzes the impact of popular music used upon presidential campaigns.

Philosophical author, J.M. Kuczynski, has recently published another audio book and this one has to do with the Theory of Measurement. Along with presenting a defense of comparable unit lengths as standards of measurement, the author discusses conventionalism and alternative theories which have made their way into the literature. J.M.’s work on Quine’s assessment of the Analytic-Synthetic distinction raises several points of contention against the implications of hyper-empiricism which are self-defeating.

How does Yahweh define Himself in the Old Testament? Find out more in the Names of God written by Chris Adkins.

 

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Scooters, Keurigs & Consumerism

By Adam Zens

It dawned on me recently that I’ve made quite a few rather impulsive purchases over the years which turned out to be not so useful in hindsight. A great example was that all-electric scooter which I thought that I would use on a short commute to work and back. It would replace the expense of maintaining and insuring an automobile and would be perfect for that distance. What I hadn’t thought of is where I would park the scooter at work, let alone how I would recharge it so that it would carry me back home at the end of the day. Another problem that I should have anticipated is that the scooter, on a single electric charge, would barely cover the distance. I remember on a few occasions having to walk the last mile or two of the commute which wasn’t bad except for time constraints.

 

But I had been forewarned by my brother-in-law that a better option would be a hybrid scooter which runs on gas and electric. These scooters go much faster than pure electric ones and don’t need to be recharged nearly so often. This would have been a bigger investment, but would have cut the commute time in half (or less) and wouldn’t have left me stranded before I reached my destination. I told myself that this was too much money; an all-electric scooter was cheaper and didn’t use fossil fuels. In short, it was perfect. The main problem was that, as expected, I never really used it as a serious commuting vehicle. It was more of a plaything than anything else. My brother-in-law was right.

 

What is so attractive about purchases like this, around the time that we make them, is the “idea” of a product or service. The mere idea of having something useful is enough justification for purchasing it. Who cares if we ever use it? In fact, the “idea” of what we could do with the product is so inspiring that it will motivate us to make the tool useful despite how impractical it may really be.

 

In the bigger picture, I now see that marketers are not only selling products; they are selling ideas that certain products might become useful someday.

 

The electric scooter is not the only item in this category. Many people, in my opinion, have been a bit too quick to jump on the Keurig coffee bandwagon. Have you noticed how expensive the coffee cups are for this contraption? You can probably buy two or three times the amount of ground coffee for the same price as Keurig “cupped” coffee. It does not really make sense from a pragmatic, economic standpoint, but it is a new gizmo. A selling point might be that it makes single cups of coffee really quickly. We like the “idea” of a tailor-made cup of coffee rather than a pot of coffee of the same blend. But I know someone who bought a Keurig coffee machine on a whim and who uses it much less frequently than the family’s general coffee maker.

 

Whether it’s the notion of commuting with a scooter or having the convenience of a tailored cup of java, we sometimes want a useful idea more than we want a useful item.

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Makes a great fall lawn ornament.

Audiobook Nook

Civil unrest seems to be the order of the day. Community relations between citizens and law enforcement seems strained, particularly in those areas where people of color have been prejudicially affected. Rather than call for more “law and order” as a solution to this deteriorating relationship, author Paul Bern tackles the problem from a different angle in his book,Occupying America. There, he points out that modern flare-ups between law enforcement and other civil servants and the citizens of these United States has more to do with how the upper economic echelon (the “1%” controlling a majority of wealth) has militarized law enforcement and caused them to play the role of “wealth protectors” for the ultra-wealthy. This is no where more palpably visible than in the recent observation by author and presidential candidate, Jill Stein, who pointed recently that, not only has policing of minorities been disproportionate, but the greatest criminals on Wall Street were given a free pass when law enforcement was laid off before the economic collapse caused by Wall Street speculation.

Abraham had something “reckoned” to his spiritual account and it wasn’t his own good works or excellent lineage. In בַּיהוָה וְהֶאְֶמִן “And he [Abraham] believed in Yahweh” the distinctive of the Christian doctrine of not working for righteousness in order to receive it from Yahweh is worked out in light of some Qur’anic suras which reflect Christian doctrine, such as the prophecy of Isa (Jesus) and the virgin birth of Mary.

If you are new to computer hacking or maybe just want to learn a few introductory concepts, the recently released audiobook, Hacking may be for you. While it is impossible to guarantee your privacy online, you can do a great deal to provide greater anonymity and privacy to your browsing experience.

 

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A Text without a Context is a Pretext for a Proof-text

By Kelly Zens

It is easy to read the Bible without considering the context of a verse.   I know that I have been guilty of this more than once. Apparently my son also learned from my example. When he was about 6 years old, I overheard my son explaining his memory verse to his little sister. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. You see Melanie, that is why Uncle Joel is short, because he sinned.”

My son had not only misunderstood the passage, but like many adults had read his own experience into the passage. He also committed the fallacy of affirming the consequent.[1] In his mind the text read, if you sin (p), than you are short (q). He saw that his uncle was short and affirmed the consequent. Uncle Joel must have sinned.

            It is humorous when children make these mistakes; it is not as funny when adults do so. When I was growing up, my Bible teacher’s favorite passage was Isaiah 28:10.   “ For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little…” (KJV). He used this to exemplify how God taught us and how we were to teach others.   Imagine my surprise when I looked at the context. This chapter is a warning of the judgment that is coming because the leaders rejected God’s message to them. Verses 9-10 are actually showing how the leaders mocked Isaiah for teaching with such simplicity.[2] Isaiah repeats their mockery and shows what the Lord’s message will become to them because of their rejection in verse 13. In other words this passage is a warning of judgment, not a model of good teaching. Context is very important in properly understanding a passage.

[1] Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2009), 74.

[2] J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 79.

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Audiobook Nook

Have you ever wondered if there are certain statements which must be true in themselves? Philosophers call such sentences “necessarily true” and they are self-evidently accurate without any outside support or observation. However, not all philosophers grant that such statements exist. This week, the audiobook version of Quine on the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction has been released by JM Kuczynski and narrator, A. Zens. You can also listen to an excerpt along with a special introduction by the author in podcast format as well as a similar excerpt on their previous production of The Problem of Induction. Additionally, there are free listening codes available for any Audible listeners who would like to try out either of these publications in exchange for offering a review.

If you are new to computer hacking or maybe just want to explore a few simple tools for hacking, then you may enjoy the recently released audiobook, Hacking: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the World of Hacking. While it is practically impossible to guarantee that you are not being watched while you browse online, you can still greatly reduce your chances of others spying on you and enhance your privacy while conducting your errands online.

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The Baby Who Wouldn’t Be Aborted

by Adam Zens (picture by Dotty Zens)

Luke from Star Wars needs to recognize God’s hand in bringing new life into the world. Luke’s grandson just refused to be aborted. From all appearances, this baby had a lot of people trying to abort him.

It seems that Mark Hamill has been applying pressure to his son’s girlfriend to have his grandchild aborted. Thatis sad news. So much for the girlfriend’s “choice” in the matter. She aborted her first child which left her scarred and depressed. Initially, she went along with the family wishes and agreed to havea second abortion against her better judgment. But it was just not meant to be.

Her appointment for a surgical abortion was cancelled and she tried a medical abortion by taking abortifacient pills.  These pills caused bleeding but did not effectively abort the child. After this latter attempt, she decided that this child was supposed to live. What’s so crazy about this story is that it doesn’t end there! Her “choice” apparently did not carry much weight with the prospective father or grandparents who began harassing her and threatening that their son would abandon her and leave her alone as a single parent if she
kept the child. The plot further thickens when they scheduled another abortion surgery for her without her consent. This family does not give up easily. The reason that the grandparents gave for having the abortion is that theirson, Nathan, was not ready to be a father. What soon-to-be father really thinks that he is ready to be a father and since
when does a man have to use his parents to speak for him to his girlfriend?

Even though this is morally tragic display for grandparents who are attempting to shield their son from the consequences of his own reproductive actions, it is instructive on some level. Mark and Marilou Hamill are right that it is very difficult to bear and rear a
child without a mother and father.

I am all for two parents. It takes a mother and father to bring a child into the world and it takes the duo to rear that child. Any disruption in that pattern results in social and emotional chaos. There is a significant relationship between the act of procreation
and the responsibility for taking care of that child when it later enters the world. Even for those who believe that abortion is (or should be) a more normative experience can know the harrowing experience of being without the support of the father during the decision to abort, as Laurie Abraham reports about her first abortion.

In our society, parents, and especially mothers, are strongly encouraged to abort their child when there is a prenatal diagnosis that suggests a Down Syndrome child is in the womb. Statistically, you are likely to never take a breath if your mother receives this sort of diagnosis.

As to the negative publicity that this situation will bring on the Hamill family, it’s tragic, but it can be overcome by one person taking responsibility for his actions. Who knows if the baby who would not be aborted will ever be loved, or even acknowledged, by
his paternal grandparents or his biological father?

Talk about having to grab a kicking and screaming man-boy and to drag him into the world of becoming a new father! Sheesh!

Who’s up for a Star Wars movie boycott?

mother-and-child-2

Audiobook Nook

Our worldview has a lot of influence on how we see our fellow human beings. They can either be precious and made in the image of God or they can be the result of a blind, evolutionary process which does not see any inherent value in perpetuating human life and flourishing. In Worldview Apologetics (Amazon ebook/audio), Christian apologist, Pradeep Tilak goes from apologetics theory to tackling the engagement of others who have a non-Christian outlook and may not even comprehend the basic value of human life in a world fashioned by God. Obviously, the abortion industry has a vested interest in promoting a world-view where one human life can easily be sacrificed to not inconvenience another human life. The author offers some ways that worldview proponents and opponents might graciously challenge each other while learning about their philosophy of life in the process. One great talking point between abortion proponents and opponents is the historical tendency for abortion propaganda and access to be aimed at one particular minority, such as African-Americans.

One fictional TV character who had an abortion in order to further her and her husband’s careers is Claire Underwood of the Netflix production, House of Cards. The director of HoC is fairly honest about portraying how the loss of that child may have irreparably hurt the bond between Frank and Claire and has caused them both pain in perhaps undefinable ways. Another fictional TV character who did not abort her first child, even though her conception resulted from the rape of a sibling, is Norma Bates of Bates Motel fame. This story does develop, to some extent, how emotionally damaged her son became without knowing who his true father was or why his mother was so emotionally distant from him.

 

 

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The Nakedness of Noah

So, why do we call this passage “the sin of Ham” when it seems to be, based on frequency of word usage, all about the nakedness of Noah? That seems rather puzzling to me. Well, the short answer is that Ham’s son, Canaan, is cursed so severely that we put all of our attention on what Ham did rather than on Noah and how he got drunk, passed out, and wasn’t aware that he was exposed in his tent as he passed out. The text is in Genesis chapter 9, right after the big flood had settled down and the Lord promised never to judge the earth with a world-wide flood.

 

Apparently, the narrative is just too abbreviated. When dealing with Noah’s nakedness, the author wanted to move quickly from Ham’s treatment of his father – he was highly dishonoring of his father by leaving him uncovered and sharing his amusement at this fact with his brothers – to the sudden cursing of Ham’s progeny, the Canaanites.

 

Now, the proposals as to what the “sin of Ham” really was range from the perverted to the, well…even more perverted. Was Ham looking at and enjoying sexually his father’s nudity – the voyeuristic option. Or, perhaps due to repressed anger, did he commit a sexually violent act and castrate his father? Or did he rape his father while the latter was passed out. That’s door #3, better known as the “paternal incest” theory. Finally, a new interpretive door being opened, did Ham rape his mother, what is called the “maternal incest” theory?

 

Well, either Freud has tremendous explanatory power over this text or our culture has become so imbued with Freudianism that we are willing to read the text just about however we can to make it fit. I’m not going to cite all of the sources who maintain this sort of exegetical response as reasonable. Trust me, they are out there. It’s sad and strange, but through much of church history it would seem that commentators are so focused on the “sin of Ham” that they nearly forget about the “nakedness of Noah” and how he reacted harshly against the shame of his nakedness. Hey, a patriarch having to admit that he depended on his sons to prop him up after a bit too much drinking the night before was a big deal in that culture. Even today in our “enlightened” culture, I can easily see a father overreacting to try to protect his pride around his boys.

 

I certainly do not want to give the impression that figurative and symbolic meanings cannot legitimately be drawn from this text. They can. But isn’t deriving the idea that Ham was becoming sexually gratified by viewing his father’s nakedness a bit more than this text would support?

 

As to the ultimate spiritual meaning of this text, we may be only able to venture educated or plausible guesses. Which is fine. I’m cool with that. But let’s focus on what the text indicates – that Noah’s nakedness was dealt with dishonorably by one son and honorably by two sons – rather than putting so much emphasis upon what the text does not indicate – what sort of sexual fetish Ham might have had in order to provoke the cursing of so many generations. When it comes right down to it, Noah may have made a rash move by cursing Ham’s progeny, just as Saul had made a rash vow that nearly cost him his own son (I Sam. 14:24-46).

 

Here’s the full text of this narrative in the English Standard Version:

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said:

     Cursed be Canaan;

        A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers. (Gen. 9:20-25; ESV).
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Audiobook Nook

Have you ever wondered how you can safely browse on the Internet without any outsiders spying on your Internet or web browser data? Is there a simple and cost-effective way to protecting your online privacy? How about “ethical hacking,” is that a contradiction in terms or an oxymoron? Recently released on audio, Hacking: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the World ofHacking explores these concepts and offers some “how-to” advice for “noobs.”

Scottish philosopher and empiricist, David Hume, really opened the proverbial “can of worms” with his insightful reflections on inductive reasoning and how it often leads us astray, particularly in false believing that future events will resemble past events. Is there a solid justification for this intuitive belief or must it remain a passionate but unreliable guide for our future observations? JM Kuczynski explores one possible response to the “riddle of induction” with his release of The Problem of Induction (audible link here). In related news, a forthcoming release of this author’s book, Quine on the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, on audio book is imminent.

How many names and titles does Yahweh assign to Himself in the Christian Bible? Find out more in the Names of God written by Chris Adkins.

 

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Tozer’s Legacy

What is so striking about Tozer’s, The Knowledge of the Holy, is not so much that the author sees theoretical theology linked closely with practical sanctification, but how he clarifies this link. He argues that an insufficient view of God leads to the deterioration of one’s own faith and walk with God. Behind that argument is the notion that ideas are inextricably bound up with practices. One cannot actually praise and worship an unworthy God without making oneself unworthy in the process. Humans degrade themselves by believing in a petty god who cannot really accomplish anything in their life.

At first, this thesis seems counter-intuitive. Doesn’t it happen that doctrinally unsound positions are fervently held by people who can still live out their lives for God? At first blush, that seems right. Yet we know that Paul taught that one can perform amazing acts and be sold out to God and still lack love. That lack of love can vitiate the entire point of good works: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3; ESV). Paul hints that even all the knowledge in the world cannot really help you when it comes to a lack of love.

Abstract Calla Lillies

God can reveal Himself to the most uneducated and illiterate of souls; and when they turn to pursue God, they will soon have a working knowledge of His grandeur, even though they may not obtain a college or seminary degree.  This distinction is not necessarily upheld or sustained by author, Tozer, but in my reflections, it seems evident that he is not excluding simplicity of worship of God; only that our view of God must be lofty enough to buoy up our spirits when we are engaged in worship of that most high Being.

Within American culture, the “12-Step Recovery” programs have become fairly popular with their sense of “higher power.” People who have experienced an extreme dependency upon alcohol or some chemical agent as a psychological or emotional recourse for defeat in their personal lives are encouraged to acknowledge their dependence upon this vague “higher power.” For Tozer, this is fundamentally misguided. We should not start with some inferior, worthless conception of man in a dependent state and construct our image of God on that basis. We should first acknowledge the transcendence of God grounded in His self-revelation and recognize that our experiences of dependency and deficiency may actually reflect how we have attempted to fashion our idea of God out of our personal experiences of success or failure. In other words, a high view of God is not maintained by reducing His nature of holiness to the lowest common denominator of human seekers who have experienced the travails of dependency.

It is not because mankind is utterly helpless in the face of a dependency upon some physical addiction that he must turn to a “higher power.” It is rather, to the contrary, that the “higher power” is already defined as an Absolute Sovereign who declares that all of mankind’s efforts to be independent of Him must lead to personal and spiritual failure.

Tozer’s point is that we cannot enter the act of worship of a God who is not the self-revealing and self-disclosing God of Scripture. That would be, in effect, to worship ourselves since this God would be fashioned like one of His creatures. As Paul affirms in Romans 1, humankind, even though created in the image of God, can rebel against Him and His will and worship something self-made: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (1:24-25; ESV).

“Before that burning bush we ask not to understand, but only that we may fitly adore thee, One God in Persons Three. Amen.”–Knowledge of the Holy.

Abstract Pointsetta

Audiobook Nook

One of the best ways to learn about the character of the God we worship is by studying His names for it is through the revelation of His names and by observation of His holy acts that we can learn and grow in His character.

Do you enjoy vocabulary-building exercises? If so, you might like to try out this quiz to help Boost your Word Power with the audio version performed by Disney’s Cheryl Texiera. The ebook version is fully interactive and allows you to review your progress.

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