Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Grandma

This past November, my grandmother passed away. I had the opportunity to share some words about her at her funeral. I've decided to post them here on my blog...

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share a few words about my grandmother, Effie Dureno. As I was trying to think about what to say about my grandma, the question kept nagging at me: how do you say a few short words about someone who has been in your life from the time you were born? I guess the best thing to do is to say who she was to me, and the impact she had on my life.

Who She Was?
My grandma loved to play around and be silly. I’m not sure if she was like this all the time, but I can’t remember a time that I was with her when we weren’t laughing. She had incredible strength, and was a great competitor. I used to sit and play croquinot with her for hours. She eventually couldn’t play with me anymore because her fingers hurt too much from her arthritis. In her later years, she learned how to use the computer and played various computer games. We used to try and beat games together when we were together, sharing frustration and laughter at how silly it all was. Finally, we tended to enter into impromptu staring contests, the most recent round having come this past summer. My grandmother whooped me at these, and I have to admit dejectedly that I couldn’t outstare my 93 year old grandma.
Aside from her playfulness, my grandma was a wonderful lady who impacted many, many people. For those of you who knew her well, you know that she was an accepting person who made everyone feel welcome. She became a grandmother to many people that she had contact with. There was a lot of love in her heart, and she spread that love around on a daily basis. She was faithful to the Lord, and was an example of what faith looks like in day to day life. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t know that I would have come to know the Lord to the depths that I have so far. Not only was she a huge example of practical faith, but she taught her children well to love the Lord, and they in turn taught others.

The Impact She Had
Not only did she show me by her life how to live properly as a Christian, but she taught me through our conversations the important things in life. I’ve wrestled with some pretty big questions in my life, but where others were afraid to dialogue with me, my grandma engaged in conversation with me, and really tried to know who I am and guide me according to my personality. I’ll never forget during a time of particular difficulty that I had, talking with her as I was driving her back home. She told me that even though I was wrestling with some issues, she wasn’t worried about me because she knew that in my heart I loved the Lord and was always seeking to follow Him. Even though she didn’t know the answer to the questions I was asking, she was able to see to the heart of the matter and encourage me to continue thinking through issues, but to remain rooted in the Lord, seeking Him first in everything, assuring me that I was right in the attitude of my heart.
Her advice meant something to me, because it was personal, and because I saw the truth of it in her own life. My grandmother was devoted to Jesus, and she passed the importance of that basic world view to me. She tried to please Him in everything that she did, and now she’s praising Him face to face. Her hope is fulfilled. Her expectations have been met. She’s lived a faithful life, and I’m sure that were she here today in body, she would exhort us all to follow her example. Our hope is future, and she would encourage us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, be faithful and expect to praise Him with her sometime in the future.

Session 2 - The Moral Argument

In the first session, we talked about our need to interact with our culture, and the role of apologetics in evangelism. We discussed the situation we find ourselves in today and talked about how it is somewhat necessary today to engage in a sort of pre-evangelism. I also said that the goal of this weekend is to provide us with a few simple arguments in defense of the Faith. In this session, we’ll look at how to defend the first major tenet of the Christian faith - the existence of God.
There are historically 4 main lines of argument for the existence of God. These 4 are known as the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the axiological argument, and the ontological argument.

Cosmological Argument
The cosmological argument basically states that the best answer for the question ’why is there something rather than nothing,’ is that God exists. If you ask the question why are we here, the cosmological argument states with significant force that the best answer to that question is because God exists. The argument can be made in 3 simple points:
1) Things that begin to exist have a cause
2) The universe began to exist
Therefore 3) The universe had a cause

The first premise seems to be self-evident. When we look at the things around us, we assume that something caused them. I, for example, had a cause. The clothes you’re wearing had a cause - someone made them. The chair you’re sitting on had a cause - someone made it. It would be very difficult for us to believe that a BMW would pop out of thin air in front of us. We in fact call into question the honesty of such people who try to convince us that they got something out of thin air. This point seems to be self-evident.
The second premise is that the universe began to exist. This point which was usually argued against in the past, is now almost universally accepted by modern thinkers. Breakthroughs over the last century have shown without a shadow of a doubt that the universe did indeed begin to exist. So it would seem that we have a solid argument for the existence of God. Yet what one finds today is that atheists who have been forced to accept premise 2 based on the scientific evidence recently gathered, are now making an illogical leap and denying premise 1, that things that begin to exist have a cause. William Lane Craig tells of his colleague Quentin Smith who says the best explanation of the universe is that the universe came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing. And this just seems terribly illogical, denying the basic truth which we all know to be true: out of nothing, nothing comes. This is the cosmological argument.

Teleological Argument
The second argument I mentioned was the teleological argument. The word teleological is derived from the Greek word τελοσ, which means end, or goal. The argument is built off of the apparent design of the universe. You may have heard it stated in this fashion: looking at the things we find in nature, the intricacies of flowers, plants, animals and even ourselves, it would seem likely that in order for these things to be built the way they are, they must have been designed and built by someone. A common example given is the illustration of a pocketwatch. When you open up a watch, all of the parts inside working so well together indicate to us that there was a watchmaker. An example we could use here in 거제 is that when you see a ship, it is generally a good assumption that someone designed and built that ship. It would be thought quite illogical to presume that the ship just apeared out of nothing. This argument which seems to be so convincing of an argument, helps us to understand a little more clearly how the Psalmist can say ‘the fool has said in his heart, there is no God.’ From these first 2 arguments we have briefly looked at, it seems very clear that the atheist is forced to make illogical assumptions, and therefore we can safely say that it is foolish to be an atheist. C.S. Lewis has said that Atheism is the philosophy of schoolboys. His point is exactly this: there are too many illogical assumptions that must be made for Atheism to be true. Atheism is simply an utterly inferior worldview, and we don’t need to be afraid of it.

Ontological Argument
Skipping the axiological argument for now, let’s briefly discuss the ontological argument. This is a highly debated argument and we will discuss it only in passing, partly because of the difficulty of its formulation. The ontological argument appeals to the idea of contingent and necessary beings. What we mean by a contingent being is a being whose non-existence is a possibility. Rabbits dogs, you and I are all contingent beings. Our existence is dependent on something else. But if God were to exist, He would have to exist in and of Himself, therefore He would be a Necessary being. Since a Necessary being is a being which must exist in every possible world by definition, and we can conceive of a world which a Necessary being does exist, it follows that a Necessary being must exist in every possible world imaginable, by definition.
This argument is one which is very difficult to wrap our brains around, since it is such an abstract argument. It is very difficult to comprehend, and so is very difficult to use evangelistically, because we have to be able to formulate it perfectly. Because this argument is so difficult to use in an evangelistic setting, we will spend no more time discussing it.
These 3 arguments, then, plus the argument we’re about to discuss are the 4 main lines of argument used by Christians starting only a century or so since Christianity’s beginning.

Moral Argument
The final argument which has generally been used as one of the main lines of reasoning for the existence of God, is known historically as the axiological argument. A more common and understandable way to title this argument is the moral argument or argument from morality. I have chosen to spend this session primarily on the moral argument because of the relative ease with which we can transition from this argument to an appeal to the gospel. If we can show that there is an objective moral standard, then we can appeal to that standard to show the need for our salvation from sin. We’ll discuss this transition in greater detail a little later.

Argument Stated
For now, let’s formulate the argument. There are 2 main premises to this argument followed by a conclusion based on those premises. The argument is this:
1) Objective moral values cannot exist without God
2) Objective moral values do exist
Therefore 3) God exists

The conclusion God exists is inescapable if we grant the first 2 premises. So when we present this argument to unbelievers, we need to emphasize the point that they need to prove either one of the premises to be false. This may be very difficult to do, because most people today give lip service to the philosophy that there are no objective values, but they live as though objective moral values do exist. We’ll come back to this.

Examining the Premises
First, let’s examine the premises. Premise 1: Objective moral values cannot exist without God. This really appears to be a point which is unarguable. What this premise is saying that with the absence of an objective standard, there is just no basis to make meaningful statements about right and wrong. For example, to say that love is good, is really a statement without meaning, because goodness is arbitrary. There is nothing outside of myself that I can appeal to to say love is good. This is an area where we can appeal to the writings of prominent atheists themselves to validate our point. Michael Ruse has stated:

The position of the modern that humans have an awareness of morality...because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than are hands and feet and teeth.... Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, [ethics] is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves…. Nevertheless…such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction and…any deeper meaning is illusory…

If we look closely at what he is saying, we can see this first point demonstrated very clearly. He says that when somebody says, ‘love thy neighbour as thyself, they think they are referring above and beyond themselves... nevertheless such reference is truly without foundation.’
What he is saying is that without an objective standard, a standard that exists independently of my perception of it... without this standard, there is no foundation for moral statements. Moral statements are without meaning, because there just is no such thing as real moral values... he calls them illusory.
Demonstrating this point further, Richard Taylor has said:

The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well.... Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things as war...or the violation of human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.

And what Mr. Taylor is saying is that without God, there just simply is no right or wrong. Morality is just a convention of society, and is ultimately meaningless.

Premise 2

And so we see that our first premise seems to be pretty solid. But what about premise 2?
I mentioned earlier that most people today give lipservice to this worldview of no objective moral standard, but they live as though there is an objective standard. This becomes important when we begin to discuss our 2nd premise. Premise 2 states that objective moral values do exist. If we remember the conclusion we drew from premise 1 that without an objective moral standard, right and wrong, good and evil are meaningless? Premise 2 is an appeal to our sense of right and wrong.
When illustrating this point, I like to use very far-fetched graphic illustrations. One such illustration is that we know that there is a real moral difference between a father who picks up a child in his arms and lovingly cares for it, and a deviant who takes that child and slashes his face with a knife and rapes it. When we give an example like this, it is very hard for a person to say that there is no real difference between the 2 scenarios. We know that there is a difference because God has given us the capacity to understand the difference between good and evil.
And so it would seem that by reflecting on our moral experience, we have a pretty solid point in premise 2. What we find may happen when using this line of reasoning, is that the person will deny the first premise, but when we show that the first premise is sound, they will deny the second premise. But when we show that the second premise is sound they go back and deny the first premise again.
Or another situation may arise, which has happened to me recently when sharing this argument with a friend. In an e-mail dialogue we were having concerning the idea of objective morality, the point was pretty powerfully demonstrated that without an objective standard of morality, there is no morality. His response to this inescapable argument was this:

You seem to find the argument against a moral objectivity and against morality itself identical, and even self-evidently so. I see your point on this, and although I’m not sure I can come up with a convincing rebuttal, I’m not convinced that this is the case.

So in the end we see that the philosophy espoused by atheists is truly an unliveable one. The majority of people who say that they don’t believe in a morally objective standard still try to appeal to one. This is evident by our society’s hatred of intolerance, and a conservative mindset. People make moral judgements every day, and they live in such a way that shows that statements of morality really do have meaning.

Transition to the Gospel
As we bring this session to an end, there is one final point that I would like to make. Earlier I had mentioned my reasoning for discussing the moral argument today, that it is somewhat easy to transition from the argument to an appeal to the gospel. What I meant is this: that by establishing an actual right and wrong which is found outside of ourselves, we can appeal to the Scriptures to show the wickedness of the human heart and mankind’s need of salvation. It is impossible to convince someone of their need for salvation, when they don’t believe there is anything they need saving from. So when we establish an objective standard of right and wrong, not only do we give good evidence for the existence of God, but we provide the non-believer with a point of reference to begin to understand the gospel.
This is why I feel this argument has so much importance... because it enables us to have real communication with the person we’re talking with concerning sin and the human heart. And that is a good starting point for sharing the gospel. When a person understands that when we speak of sin, we’re speaking of something more than a merely historical concept of things deemed not good for society, only then can we really discuss the condition of the human heart.
Last century we saw the freedom of man from moral responsibility. We also saw more bloodshed than has been witnesses in any of the previous 19 centuries, and some would even say more than all of them put together. We saw the rise of such political systems as Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. We saw the attempted extermination of several races. We saw the loss of humanity itself, human beings becoming nothing more than beasts, tools existing for the purpose of governments t maintain power. As C.S. Lewis would say, we have created ‘me without chests.’ Emotions became merely the effect of chemical reactions, and so the heart of man was cut out. We exist only as pure matter, nothing more. There is no ghost in the machine, becasue ghosts are not made of matter.
Chesterton speaks of this attempt to escape objectivity by saying this:

My friend wants to believe what he believes in spite of who he himself knows he is. And it’s true that our society is trying to escape our humanity, but cannot. Nietschze stated that God is dead, but that it would take us some time to realize what this means. We are now living in an age where we understand what it really meant when the 19th and early 20th century thinkers killed the God idea. We have lost ourselves, and have no answer to speak to the wickedness we see in our own hearts.

The band Autopilot Off uses this metaphor: Some will find their way back by looking towards the sky, some will leave their fate up to these ocean tides.

The Christian worldview provides the answer for modern man’s dilemma. The reason why wickedness seems so awful is because it is so awful. The reason we don’t trust ourselves is because we need a regeneration of our hearts. Chesterton describes the modern man this way...
Every man is that man… (who) walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is.

This lostness we feel is not unique to our time however, but it is our inability to perceive that lostness which is unique.

Apologetics / Evangelism Series...

During the middle of November, our church held a retreat which was focused on apologetics and evangelism. I've decided to post the transcripts for three of these messages here on my blog. Comments are more than welcome.

Session 1 - Apologetics/Evangelism

In preparing for this weekend’s messages, I was challenged with thinking of a topic which holds relevant to our church today and which fits into a broader scheme of the way we think. I’ve chosen to focus this weekend on providing us with some thoughts on our evangelistic methods/outlooks, as well as providing us with some tools to defend our faith and show the superiority of the Christian worldview among other systems of thought.

To begin this series, I’d like to give a brief outline of the sessions to come. In this first session we’ll be talking about Apologetics & Evangelism. Session 2 will deal with the moral argument for the existence of God. Session 3 will be about the Resurrection of Christ. In session 4, we’ll be discussing the validity of our experience with God in evangelism. Finally in session 5 we’ll talk about what this all means to us in our practical lives.

Let’s begin with a word of prayer.


This morning’s message is entitled ‘Apologetics & Evangelism.’ Before we begin, I feel it would be of considerable worth to define a few terms you may be unfamiliar with, and some that maybe you know but aren’t too clear on. The list of terms we’ll define is worldview, objective, subjective, apologetics, postmodernism, point of reference, Empiricism and Evidentialism.
Let’s begin with the term worldview. A worldview is simply someone’s outlook on life. It’s the way we see the world. Everyone has a worldview, whether they know it or not. As C.S. Lewis has said ‘Everyone has a philosophy. It’s just a question of whether it’s a good one or not.’ In our evangelism of unbeliever’s, we are trying to show them the supremacy of the Christian worldview in opposition to others. In our own lives, of course, we are trying to conform our minds to the Christian worldview, as laid out in the Bible.
The term objective means something that holds true whether anyone believes it or not. In other words, it is something which is true independent of the created order.
The term subjective on the other hand, means that which holds true from a given perspective. For example the statement ‘it’s raining outside’ is only true from the perspective of a person in a rainstorm, but not to someone who is out golfing on a sunny day.
Postmodernism is a philosophical worldview which has become predominant during the latter half of the 20th century. It rejects the idea of a knowable truth, and also rejects that there are objective things in the world. Because of this rejection of both knowable truth as well as objectives, the philosophy remains hard to define. These 2 things, however, serve as the main ingredients in postmodern philosophy. Most people today look at life through a postmodern framework, and this has a real effect on their ability to understand the gospel.
A point of reference is a point of common ground in our conversations with unbelievers. When we speak of the cross, for example, we have certain ideas and concepts such as the atonement for sin, the propitiation of sins, and the salvation of man included in the word ‘cross’ itself. When an unbeliever hears the word cross, they generally think we are speaking of a religious icon used in the past to symbolize the Christian religion. We need to establish a point of reference in certain issues in order to have communication with unbelievers.
Empiricism is a worldview which relies heavily on empirical knowledge. When we say empirical we mean it can be known through at least 1 of the 5 senses. Things like love, goodness, and reason simply do not exist to Empiricists because they cannot be known by seeing, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting.
Evidentialism is a worldview which demands hard facts in order to make truth claims. It is very closely linked to Empiricism. A statement like ‘it is raining,’ can be known to be true because we can see or feel the rain, and therefore have good evidence to make the claim ‘it is raining.’
When I speak about arguments and arguing, I’d just like to point out that I’m not saying that we quarrel with people, but rather that we give them reasons for believing. This is what I mean by argue. We’re never to quarrel with someone over the gospel. Additionally, when I speak of proving something, I’m not speaking of giving a 100% foolproof argument for what we’re trying to prove. When I speak of a proof, and of proving something, I’m using the term as it’s used philosophically, that we are trying to give good reasons to believe something is true.

Evangelism in our Current Situation
Before we define our last term, apologetics, I’d like to take some time to discuss the situation we find ourselves in currently, and the way we go about evangelizing our world. Prior to the 20th century, the predominant framework of thought was one of Theism. In other words most people believed in a God of some sort, and even the skeptics of the age were making arguments against God from a worldview which assumed God. This meant that things such as objective moral values, the meaning of right and wrong, and the ability to know things were assumed. You wouldn’t find people arguing against right and wrong, because it was just assumed that right and wrong really do exist. What happened was the at the worldviews of some of the predominant philosophers of the 19th and 20th century began to trickle down into the thinking of the general public. So around the middle of the 20th century we began to see a shift in the basic framework of thinking into a postmodern framework. The plunge into postmodern thought has happened at different rates and to different degrees around the world. Europe, for example is fully postmodern, ans so to talk with them about God is meaningless, since they have no point of reference to understand what we mean by God. They would assume we are talking about the mythical stories about God, once believed upon in the past. Asking them to believe in Jesus is about the same as asking them to believe in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. America has not yet fully embraced post-modern thinking and so has retained a point of reference for evangelism. It is, however, rapidly losing its heritage and is becoming more and more postmodern every day.
My country, Canada, is somewhere in the middle between Europe and America. We are predominantly postmodern but still have relics of the old way of thinking.

Our Church
What does this mean to us here in 거제 (Geoje)? We live on an island that has a cross-section of people from all over the world. Because we’re from different parts of the world, we all come from different frameworks of thought. This really becomes important to us in our attempts to share the gospel with people. We need to know where people are coming from in order to present the gospel in a way they can understand. In a conversation with Noel a few weeks ago, I asked him about the situation in the Philippines. He told me that there is still a basic belief in God and morality in that country. This has a real effect on my ability to share the gospel with people from the Philippines. For someone who has understanding that some things are right and some things wrong, we can show them the gospel through Scripture by appealing to passages that speak of the wickedness of the human heart and mankind’s need for salvation. If I’m speaking to someone from Norway, however, this approach just simply will not work, barring a miracle from God. In speaking to people with a post-modern mindset, it’s often necessary to do a sort of ‘pre-evangelism’ to establish a point of reference from which to share the gospel.

What is it?
Which brings us to our final term to define: apologetics. Apologetics is simply a defense of Christianity. William Lane Craig defines apologetics as ‘that branch of Christian theology which tries to answer the question “What is the rational warrant for Christian truth claims?”’
When we speak of apologetics, we’re not talking about apologizing for our faith or being sorry that we’re Christian. Instead apologetics is the term we use for a defense of the Christian faith. The importance of apologetics for us as Christians is that it enables us to answer questions about the Christian faith rationally.
A lot of us as Christians are timid about sharing our faith because we’re not confident abouth our ability to answer people’s questions, or else we’re not sure that there are good reasons for being a Christian. When we do share our faith we tend to get upset when we don’t know the answer to skeptics’ questions, and so we don’t answer well and get angry at people. This is where apologetics really becomes a practical help to us. When we know the answer to people’s questions, it’s easier for us to react calmly, because we don’t feel threatened by their questions. It makes sharing our faith enjoyable, and gives us confidence when we’re talking with unbelievers.

Scriptural Basis
We see examples of apologetics throughout Scripture. While there is only one direct reference to apologetics in the Scriptures, there are a few examples where we see people engaging in it. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read: sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. The Greek word for defense is απολογια, which is where the term apologetics is derived from. We are told to give a defense when people ask us about our faith. This is our goal for the weekend; to provide a defense for some common questions by appealing to different methods.
Notice the role of apologetics in 1 Peter 3:15. It is to be used in answer to people’s questions. We are not to focus ourselves on studying apologetics alone. It does not stand superior to Scripture and theology. The first part of the verse says to sanctify Christ in your hearts. It is important for us to be applying Christian truth in our everyday lives. We need to live a very practical Christian life, focusing on Christ and seeking to be conformed to His image on a daily basis. Apologetics is a kind of appendix to our faith. It is to be used in service of our faith. It is something that we are to engage in with our minds, preparing ourselves for the questions of unbelievers.
Not only is apologetics to be done while sanctifying Christ in our hearts, but when we engage in giving a defense to people we are to do it with gentleness and reverence. As we talked about before, when we are unprepared for the questions, we tend to get upset, and it is hard to keep a spirit of gentleness. Studying apologetics helps us to be loving when we answer unbelievers questions. To answer with reverence, I think, is a key part of the way we approach unbelievers’ questions. For us to quote 2 Timothy 3:16 when someone has doubts about the validity of the Bible is just disrespectful, and isn’t giving reverence to to their questions. We should be able to show through some other means that the Scriptures are reliable. We should remember that it’s okay for us to not know the answers to peoples’ questions. We don’t have to and aren’t expected to know everything. When we don’t know the answers, however, it’s a good thing to admit we don’t know, but to show that we care about people and their questions by trying to find the answer to their questions either by researching it ourselves or asking other people who do know.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 ‘I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.’ This is an important principal that we need to apply to our dealings with unbelievers. We need to tailor our evangelism to the type of person we’re talking to. If I’m talking to someone who believes you have to throw out your brain to believe in the gospel, I should be able to give good intellectual reasons for believing. If someone is troubled by lack of evidence, we should be able to give evidence. If someone is stumbling over the seeming deadness and hypocrisy of Christians, we need to be able to appeal to our experience of Christianity.
When Paul makes this statement, he doesn’t just expect people to know how to do this on their own. We have numerous examples of Paul implementing this philosophy while evangelizing. In Acts 17 for example, he appeals to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers by appealing to their own poets. He appeals to their own material to support the truth of the gospel. This is an important practice when answering peoples’ questions. Being able to appeal to people on the basis of what they appeal to as authority has tremendous sway in our conversations.
We also read of Paul’s method of evangelism in passages such as Acts 18:4, that he would go to the synagogues and argue the gospel. He would give reasons for believing that the gospel is true. Jesus Himself used varying methods in dealing with people. On the Emmaus road He made an appeal to Scripture, while to Thomas who is doubtful He appeals to the physical evidence of His wounds. He answered the questions of Nicodemus patiently in John 3, but answered the questions of the Pharisees sarcastically and often came back at them with His own questions. It is important to recognize the position that people are in, and adjust our evangelism to their specific need. This is another way apologetics serves us in our evangelism. By studying the lines of defense that have been developed in answer to big questions, we gain the ability to give people answers according to their specific needs and questions. In my own life, I’ve noticed the effectiveness of being able to address people specifically where they’re at. I can recall one time when I was in Japan, where I was actually talking to a magician, and somehow we got onto the topic of Christianity. He gave me his reasons why he believed Christianity was not a good system of thought. His basic problem was the classic problem of evil, that God cannot exist because of all the suffering in the world. He questioned me thoroughly about things, but when he finished giving his reasons I asked him a question. I asked him ‘What is the purpose of life?’ He said without hesitation that happiness is the purpose of life. I responded him by telling him that in the Christian view, the purpose of life is to bring glory to God, and with this as our starting point, the complications of life appears much differently. He was somewhat surprised to hear that the purpose of life was not our happiness, it was just something that he assumed. He responded that he would be thinking about this, and that he thought that he needed to start reading his bible again. I could have given this man an intellectual answer to the problem of evil, but that is not what he needed, and so recognizing that fact, I listened to where he was coming from and gained an understanding of his spirit and the real problem he had with Christianity and answered him accordingly. I didn’t do any follow-up on this man, and so I don’t know what happened to him, but I pray for him still on occasion. The Lord only knows the effect our conversation had on him.

Reasons for Apologetics
Which brings us to a common objection that some people have given in the past, and perhaps some of you may have right now. The objection is that we cannot argue anyone into the kingdom of God. It’s important for us to recognize that we’re not saying we’re supposed to try and argue people into heaven. We recognize the fact that the Holy Spirit draws and convicts people of their sin and need for Christ. What we’re seeking to do in apologetics is to give intellectual permission for a person to hear the gospel. Earlier we discussed how asking a European to believe in Christ is like asking him to believe in the Tooth Fairy. In order for them to hear the gospel with consideration, we have to first show them that the gospel is an acceptable position to hold. So we’re not really seeking to save people through our arguments, but we’re trying by our arguments to provide an intellectual arena in which the gospel can be heard.
Finally, our study of apologetics has a real positive effect on us. The first and most obvious way in which apologetics helps us, as mentioned before, is that it builds our confidence in the gospel. We begin to see the gospel as a consistent worldview. We can see how the answers provided from Christianity affect every area of life. The answers we find in Christianity are satisfying to all tests of truth, and to all the big questions.
Not only does it build our confidence, though, but I believe it’s also part of our spiritual development. The Scripture continually speaks of us growing in knowledge and developing our minds. We are to develop our minds to think Christianly, and apologetics is one way to help us do that. We’re to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, and minds. Unfortunately there are a lot of Christians who come to know the Lord but continue to think unChristianly. There is a movement now called the Emergent church, and the basis of the movement is to redefine the church in postmodern terms. These people may truly be Christians, but to try and live Christianity in this way is to only love God partially. They are not developing their minds to be conformed to Christ, and so can never have a complete Christian experience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back in Korea

Well, it's been a while, and a lot has happened in my life. I've come back from a great summer at home with family and friends, to a situation I wasn't expecting back in Geoje. My life has changed a lot here in Geoje. This place is no longer the sanctuary and refuge that it once was for me. I had used this place previously to escape into myself; to relax and avoid the pressure and pace of living a responsible adult life. Now that I'm back here, God has impressed on my heart that I need to snap out of my laziness and quit making excuses for a lack of constantly being focused on Christ, and constantly working to understand His mind.

The truth is that I know I have to work, but have always desired entertainment. My fight against myself has always been a somewhat lethargic fight. I've generally given in to the momentary desires which I have contrary to the deep desires of my heart. What is life but Christ? What should my focus be on if not Christ? Why is it that to be a Christian seems so easy, but I find myself lacking in the practice? Perhaps my belief is not really what I thought it once was. Being a Christian means sacrificing ALL of my desires and dreams to the will of God. My life is no longer mine - yet I still have hopes and desires. I still maintain a portion of the things that I want and just blindly believe that God is going to give them to me because I'm a Christian. Is this really a biblical belief? Of course not, and so now my prayer is that I will simply submit my will FULLY to Christ's.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The End of an Era

May 19th, 2007

I sit here on what looks to be one of 4 final weekends here in Geoje-do. I sit here knowing that I made a good first (last) weekend of it. At first when it really hit me that I might really be finished here, I grew pretty sad. I love it here. The island is beautiful, the church is great, the alone time is wonderful, and the job is more than I can ever expect to have again. It really does make me sad to think that I'll no longer be living here. I feel like my time isn't yet over here, and yet I also feel that I could grow stale living here any longer. It's a strange feeling.
Not being able to have the slightest clue of what God has in store for me, I decided being sad wasn't the proper response. Instead, I decided that I would just be thankful to the Lord, as I am every day, that He gave me the chance to live here and experience the things I have. Although I had sometimes hoped that this would never end, I've always known that at some point my experience here would have to come to an end.
Being highly reflective this weekend and following the Spirit's prompting, I was able to experience things fresh as well as have good times with friends, and reminisce over past experiences. Something that God has really impressed on my heart this weekend is that I truly need to trust Him in everything.
Not many people live in such a way that their life is uncertain' that the next year can hold a thousand different possibilities. That seems to be my lot in life, however. Living a life of constant change and shifting. I only pray that as the scenery changes, the soul changes as well, growing ever more like the humble life of my Lord Jesus Christ, the outcast.
I'm not sure what the next step is, but I'm sure of this; I will be happy. I thank God for the places I've gone and the things I've done. My experiences are my own, and I find satisfaction in that. When I was younger, I had hoped to do something great, be famous, and be remembered. Now I realize that that sort of thinking is foolishness and can only bring sadness. Now I realize that life is about living. Enjoying the things that God has granted me the joy of experiencing and remaining close to Him, bringing glory to Him in any way I can. I envy those who have been granted the pleasure of living a 'normal' life. To be surrounded by friends and family every day, able to enjoy the things God has blessed them with. Having a wife and children to love, and doing what God has provided for him to do in order to provide his basic needs.

The key to an enjoyable life is not going to exotic places and doing incredible things, but rather being able to see God in every moment of my life. Do I recognize the blesing that everything that happens in my life is meant for me and me alone? God has blessed me with the experience of life from my perspective, and although I'm coming to the end of an era, what's coming next is just for me...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Old Age

I went to Seoul 2 weeks ago, and saw some old friends. Had a good time skating with Evan and Johnny T, and was able to catch up with some friends that I hadn't seen in a year or more. I could relate a dozen different stories about the trip, but I won't. Instead I'll share with you one observation that I had on my bus ride there...

On the bus ride into seoul, there was an older couple sitting in the row across from me. It’s always hard to gauge how people view you as a foreigner; what kind of biases they hold against you. It’s bad enough dealing with that in the west, but the judgment is much more discernable here in Korea. The man’s face was one which spoke volumes of an experienced and trial-filled life. One of his eyes didn’t seem to work properly, and I think he was probably blind in one eye - maybe a scar received in the war. When I look at an older man now, I always wonder to myself if he had been to war, and how that experience would bear on his present worldview.
I wasn’t really sure how the couple across from me felt about me until after we stopped at a rest area 2 hours into the trip. Getting back on the bus, they gave me some roasted potatoes and a glass of fruit juice to drink. After seeing them giving me gifts, the lady diagonally behind me tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a banana. I was grateful to them all, and we had a short conversation. They seemed very warm-hearted and free from prejudice, which is an attractive yet isolate characteristic. I would hope that when I reach their age, I can have the same warm-heartedness that these people evinced.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Surprise, There's Still New Things to be Done

After being in Korea for more than 2 years now, I would have thought that there was not a whole lot left to experience. The past few months have shown me to be incredibly wrong. Although I could write about several different things, the past weekend should suffice.
The weekend was full of friends. Friends are a good thing to have. They make the experiences we have that much better. Eunji came to visit me on Friday, and we had a great time together, just enjoying each other's company. Over the last 7 months we've really grown close. She's taught me a lot about what it takes to be in a relationship, and she's really opened my eyes to what it really means to love someone.

On Saturday, my friend Billy came down from Bundang. I met Billy at Swaton, the first job I worked at. He came to Korea almost 2 years ago, and we've kept in touch throughout our time in and out of Korea. He's a great friend, and I really appreciate his attitude towards life. I've been trying to get Billy to come down here pretty much since I first moved here. When he came down he understood why I had been trying to get him to come.
He got into Gohyeon at about noon on Saturday. I met him at the bus terminal, and then we drove down to a couple of spots on the island that I love. The thing I've noticed is that no matter how many times I go to these places, the mystery and emotion of them never diminishes. They inspire reverential appreciation for the creative genius of God. The first place we went was to the 'ol' swimmin' hole' that Aussie Jon and I found last summer, and I had swam at during a typhoon. It was an overcast day, and absolutely gorgeous. We started climbing down towards the rocks, but Billy just got this wide-eyed look on his face and sat crouching over the precipice. He just kind of muttered that he was okay staying where he was. Just then I got a call from Jaynie about what groceries I wanted from Costco in Daegu. Billy got a kick out of the fact that I was just standing at the edge of a cliff talking on my cell phone like nothing was out of the ordinary.

The next spot we went to was Haegeumgang. This place is probably my favorite spot on the island. I first found it with Craig and Ashton when they visited me, and have taken almost everyone I know to this place since then. Eunji decided to wait in the car, because she wasn't feeling very well. She has such a great disposition; she wasn't complaining or whining, but simply enjoying the time she could spend with me, and allowing me to have fun without her. I'm grateful for her attitude towards me, and for her enjoyment of life.
Billy was taken aback at the beauty of the place.

He took a lot of pics and videos.

After that we left for Jangseungpo to pick up my best friend Will, and drop off Eunji. He had just arrived in Korea the previous Tuesday, and I was excited to have him here. We met him at the ferry terminal, said hi to him and bye to Eunji. After meeting him, we picked up my friend B (of the swimming incident) and went to an Indian restaurant in Okpo which I hadn't yet tried. The food was incredible, and the conversation was light-hearted. It was a great time. We ate like slobs, and at the end of the meal the table was covered with all sorts of Indian delicacies.

After dinner we headed back to my place to have some wine and conversation. Chris and Joshua met us there. It was a lot of fun just to be able to unwind and laugh and just forget about anything that might be weighing on our minds. As much of a hermit as I've been in the last 2 years or so, I have come to really appreciate my friends and I cherish any opportunity that I'm able to just sit and talk with people.

The next day I woke up early to get ready for church. I got the boys situated and arranged a ride for Will to meet me later at church, because I had to go early to set up and practice music. It was a good turnout, and a really good service. Joshua spoke and did a fantastic job. It's been great to see him grow in his aptitude for speaking. After the service we had our first communion in the fellowship room. We're trying an open form communion, and the first one was quite moving, although only about 10 minutes long. WIll commented after that he was really moved by the whole service, the music, message and fellowship.

After church we grabbed Billy and headed out to my favorite coffee shop on an island called chilcheondo. Unfortunately, it was closed.

This was unprecedented. I came here every Sunday after church and it had never been closed. We were in the middle of a crisis. 3 men hungry and in the middle of nowhere. Since we had Indian food the night before, our stomachs could only handle a certain type of food that day. We drove towards the north side of the island and stopped at a restaurant called blue sky. The place was really fancy. After grabbing a menu the lady told us that they didn't have any food, only drinks. Absolutely incredible! Why would you say you're a restaurant if you don't have any food? We left, continuing our search for a meal. We made it into Jangmok, which is a small one-road town that kind of reminded me of Harrow. Seeing a restaurant, we parked the car and boldly went where no waykook (foreigner) had gone before. The place was a shack. It was so ugly and bare, it looked like it could've been a giant outhouse. Looking at the menu on the wall, I saw what said 'ga ori jjim.' Recognizing the word 'ori,' which is duck, I ordered it for us along with a kimbap. They said they didn't have any, which immediately illicited the reaction of amazement by Billy as to why they would have it posted on the wall, and yet not have any. I decided to text Eunji and ask her what it was that i had ordered. She texted me back that it was ray fish. Sure enough when they brought out the dish, we saw that we weren't eating duck, but sting ray stew. Incredible! It was actually really good, and I was glad to see Billy mowing down because he's usually not a very adventurous person when it comes to food.

After lunch we drove around a little more on the north side of the island. We stopped for coffee at a little fishing village. We sat at some plastic tables outside of a shoopa (convenience store) overlooking the ocean. There was a puppy in the middle of the road taking a squat. Billy called him over, and he immediately came. He was so cute and friendly. Usually the animals are afraid of humans, but this one just came right over to us. He started licking my hands, and posing for Billy's camera.

After the coffee we just kept driving and looking at the scenery. Running out of time, we couldn't go to some of the spots I love, but we could take some nice pictures. After taking some pics we headed back to Gohyeon to drop Billy off at the bus terminal. We made it there about 5 minutes before the bus took off. Perfect timing. We said goodbye, and then went to meet my friend Hyeon Jin at Samsung Centre. We were going to skate together, and Will was just gonna hang out with us.

An adventure to find some bearings ensued, and once that task was completed, we headed back to Okpo for WIll to grab his things, and then on to Jangseungpo to skate, and drop Will off at the ferry terminal. It was a great day, a great weekend, and it's a great life.

The Birth of Understanding

Here it is... finally. I've taken a long hiatus from writing, taking the opportunity to establish myself somewhat in my daily life. Taking the opportunity to sort out all of my previous hang-ups about church while working to establish a church here in Okpo. It's been a time for quiet reflection, and hectic activity. Since my last written post, I've gone back to Canada to visit with my family and friends, seen students come and go, begun working on living healthier, started a Bible study, done a music showcase, started Korean lessons, and much, much more. It's been a time for me to begin working on what I'll call the practical side of my life.

The last few years or so, I've been concentrating heavily on developing my thought life, trying to work out in my head a consistent worldview that's in sync with the Word of God. It's been an unbelievable journey, and although I sometimes found myself in corners of contradiction, God walked me through some of those and I believe I have a much more consistent philosophy of life now. What God has come to shown me in the past 6 months or so, is that the practical side of life is just as important as the thinking side. I've seen and felt the hand of God in my life, and it has gripped my heart and mind.
God has shown me that the remedy for hypocrisy is practice. What I mean by that is that the best way to stop doing things that are out of sync with your philosophy of life, is to become active in things that are consistent with it. For me this meant going to church, and taking on an active role in the church. Church was never meant to be something where people just go and sit; it was meant to be a place where people can serve each other, and encourage each other. I have been so encouraged by the people who gather together with me here in Okpo. It's been an amazing thing to serve them here, and I've appreciated their great desire to follow the Lord closely. It has truly helped to step up my practice in Christianity. The other thing that I needed was prayer. Not only did I begin to pray more sincerely and honestly, but I also began having more people pray for me. This has really been the steadying hand in my life - that people have always been praying for me. I've felt the power of their prayers, and God has answered their prayers. I am deeply grateful for those people who have taken the time to love me by praying sincerely for me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Seemingly Inconsequential

This is just a little tribute to my friends and family. The seemingly inconsequential things that we do every day are the really important things that we ought to cherish and not take for granted. Every smile, every motion of the hand, every loving word should be taken in and remembered. Thanks to those who make my life so special.