Seeing as it’s Easter time, I wanted to put together a list of resurrection resources for anyone who is interested in studying the topic. I will also be updating this entry from time to time, so feel free to come by periodically to see if there is anything new. Enjoy!
Interesting entry over at the Cadre blog. Just wanted to pass it along:
I was thinking this morning about something that has been on my mind some over the last couple of months concerning skepticism. It’s the question of the quality and/or quantity of evidence many of today’s skeptics would need to believe in God. I have often wondered about the answer to this question. But something hit me in particular this morning as I was contemplating such an answer.
What is the greatest evidence a person could have that God exists? I believe this would be a personal encounter with God. That is, a personal, direct encounter, such as Paul experienced on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, or like Moses experienced on the mountain in Exodus 33. In such an encounter, one would get some type of sensory experience of God. It would not be a logical argument, indeed one might not even call such a thing evidence – we may be willing to call such an encounter proof, at least to the person who experienced it.
Now, imagine one of today’s extreme skeptics were to have such an encounter. I can really only think of two possible outcomes. In one scenario, the skeptic would see such an encounter as veridical, and would accept that they had an encounter with God. In the second scenario, the skeptic would attempt to explain the encounter by naturalistic means – a hallucination, or something of that nature. It is possible that the skeptic could accept that some kind of encounter occurred, but not believe that it was an encounter with God, but ultimately there are still two options – either they accept that there is something they cannot explain in any natural way, or they find some naturalistic response to the encounter. What I want to show is that neither of these responses allows the naturalistic worldview any benefit.
The first option quite obviously works against any sort of naturalistic skepticism. If one were to accept such an encounter as supernatural, then clearly they would have a defeater for strict naturalism. They would have to start opening their mind to different possibilities and even consider more closely other supernatural claims. The second option is also a problem for naturalism however. If, despite the greatest possible evidence – indeed, proof – that can be given, the person still decides to reject the possibility of the supernatural, what evidence would ever convince them that they are wrong? There could be no such evidence. There is literally nothing even God could do, shy of thwarting their free-will, that would cause them to believe. They will dwell in skepticism, regardless of the evidence. This latter option is the one I am convinced many modern skeptics would take.
But isn’t this a problem for that type of skepticism? Doesn’t this show such skepticism to be thoroughly unreasonable? If no evidence will ever be good enough, then what you really have is a denial of rationality. You have a blind acceptance of a worldview. Skeptics today like to talk so much about how odd faith is, but they are so blissfully unaware of the extremes of their own faith.
At this point, some skeptics might say that if God were to give them such an encounter, then they would believe. But in that case, they have already accepted the supernatural as possible, in which case they must take more seriously the claims of those who say they have encountered the supernatural. But this is exactly the point – the same skeptic who says they would accept a personal encounter with God as proof will quickly determine supposed naturalistic causes for the encounters of everyone else! So why should I believe them when they say they would accept a personal encounter as evidence? The double standard here is staggering, but this is the unfortunate two-faced nature of the logic behind much of today’s skepticism.
This is just one of many reasons that the extreme skepticism of today needs to be cast aside. Unfortunately, when I say this, many skeptics automatically assume I am saying it should be exchanged for gullibility. This is just another example of the absurd mentality they hold. I am not endorsing the idea that we simply accept everything everyone in the world claims. I’m saying to do just what the Bible calls for us to do – take on a reasonable skepticism – or perhaps better said, let us take on an open mind and thus search for the truth. The oft-used verses of Acts 17 are powerful here.
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (ESV, emphasis mine)
The Bereans were considered more noble, but for what reason? Because they studied to see if what was being taught was true. They didn’t just hear the gospel and say “sounds great! let’s go!” They studied, not just once but many times, and through this found faith.
As it happens, this is where the skeptic prides himself today. Many take pride, even haughtiness, in their ability to rise above everyone else, to cast off the shackles of religion, to ascend to the highest of intellectual heights! But this is only a self-deluded facade. Since when is stubborn mindedness a virtue of knowledge? When did intellectual double standards become praise worthy? The extreme skeptic of today is no more intellectual than any of us, and if there is any real shackle in religion, they have only exchanged it for the stockades of foolish, inflexible thinking.
So ultimately, what will convince this extreme skeptics we encounter today? I’m not sure anything can. There must first be a paradigm change in their thinking before any evidence can be compelling. But whether we can compel them or not, we should not be concerned with their attacks. It only needs to be remembered what Jesus himself said of this way of thinking:
“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘ They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (ESV)
Surprise, surprise – Jesus was right.
House church (or “home church”) is an informal term for an independent assembly of Christians intentionally gathering in a home or on other grounds not normally used for worship services, as opposed to a church building, due to specific beliefs. They may meet in homes because they prefer to meet informally, because they believe it is an effective way of creating “community” and engaging in outreach, or because they believe small family-sized churches were a deliberate apostolic pattern in the first century and intended by Christ.
The U.S. has one of the world’s smallest number of house churches. Why? I believe it’s because of the perceived need continue the tradition to have some sort of corporate worship in official buildings. One could say that since the U.S. is so developed, and since we can afford creating official structures for worship, and that it’s a convenient practice, then there is nothing wrong with meeting in a church building. Correct, there is nothing inherently wrong with meeting in a church building, unless of course it interferes with God’s plan to get out amongst his people and spread the Gospel.
There’s a great deal of history behind the meeting of Christians in their homes. Sometimes, those reason for meeting were bad (e.g. hiding from persecution), and sometimes those reasons were good (e.g. building a community). I’d like to examine the positive and negative affects of “house churches”.
There is an abundant history of the early church thriving while meeting at each others houses. When the early first Century church began, the Apostles themselves met in an upper room in order to pray together, with both men and women in attendance (Acts 1). There are also many more inferences we can make about the 1st Century church about them meeting in their homes. It was regarded as common practice.
Negative vs Positive aspects of having a “house church”.
Having a “house church” takes away the opportunity for visitors to come to a well known public place and be welcomed. There are many programs that churches institute that facilitate the welcoming of visitors and current members. Programs range from door greeters, using name tags, and designating people to meet at least 1 visitor and invite them to lunch.
In contrast, having a “house church” would enhance the opportunities meet new people. This opens the door to allow visitors, who previously have been nervous about stepping into an actual “church”, to feel welcome in a non-threatening environment. Christians can then invite their friends, or their coworkers in order to evangelize. The programs that churches use to help welcome visitors are a symptom of a larger problem. That problem is that the church seems too large to be able to immediately recognize visitors and at the same time provide a welcoming environment for them.
A “house church” is not equipped well enough to conduct an adequate worship service. The restroom facilities, seats, and even the general acoustics are just some of the things under concern. This denotes that a feeling of “official corporate worship” is important to some in the congregation.
Sometimes we get so used to the amenities that the church building offers that we forget that the 1st Century church, as well as some of today’s churches, have thrived without such conveniences. When physical contraptions such as microphones, water fountains, or even the number of toilets get in the way of building personal relationships in a close community, then something is wrong with our mindset.
Establishing a “house church” ensures division in the congregation. As the number of house churches grow, the number of people still meeting at a building shrinks, and then you’ll have dozens of smaller congregations, instead of one big united congregation.
While unity is something we should strive for, having “house churches” doesn’t necessarily mean division occurs. If a large congregation decides to start meeting in their homes, then one might see where shear numbers might show division. We all know that church splits occur way too frequently! However, all of the “house churches” are united in one purpose: To strive to share the Good News about God. And along the lines of my earlier thoughts, “house churches” provide an excellent evangelism tool for sharing and showing God.
The congregation is already used to meeting at a particular building, it’s a tradition and changing that will offend someone. There is no sense in giving up something that is convenient for most people.
There will always be opposition to change. And change for change’s sake isn’t necessarily good. But the biggest hurdle face in the house church movement is having to change the mindset of those resistant to change. People must been convinced that change needs to occur. The argument for house churches is that is provides a better means of evangelism, and is a better tool for building communities. However, if meeting in a church building is absolutely necessary for some, then please allow those that want to meet at the homes to do so.
I’m currently trying to spur interest in starting a house church instead of meeting at the build on Wednesday night. So far, I’ve only been to peak the interest of young adults. It would be actually MORE convenient to meet in our homes on that night, than to drive to the building. I also hope to encourage others to start their own house church. The format of the assembly doesn’t have to mirror the corporate version; it doesn’t necessarily have to include singing, preaching, etc. In fact, singing would be discouraged because of the probability that it would make a new comer uncomfortable. “Church” is just a assembling of Christians, so lets try to make a non-threatening environment in which we can invite our friends and co-workers into our home!
Just read a pretty awesome article over at the Christian CADRE blog, critiquing Richard Carrier’s thoughts on the end of the world as we see in NT Scriptures. Even aside from the fact that it critiques Carrier, I think it’s a great read for Christians in general as we think about the future God has in store for those who are in Christ.
I recently was browsing the YouTube to waste some time and I came across this video of Penn expressing his opinion about parenting.
Some of the key thoughts that I saw from the video are these:
- Parenting isn’t a determining factor for how good the child will turn out.
- A person should do good for goodness sake, and not for the sake of avoiding punishment.
That’s why he concludes that Atheism, or the belief that there is no God watching over us and judging whats good or bad, is beautiful. Site note: He of course doesn’t define what is “good” and what is “bad”…and his conclusion implies that theism is ugly.
Do we as Christians do good things just to avoid the punishment of everlasting Hell? Paul tells us in Galatians 6 that bad things will reap destruction and good things will reap eternal life. So what is our motivation for helping a stranger or doing good to someone?
Please watch this video (about 10.5 minutes). I never been so impressed with a video about the basic types of government in such simple terms. From the video, three questions come to my mind. Please consider each of them before and after you watch the video.
1) What are the different basic types of government?
2) What type of government are we in?
3) Is our government going the way of Rome?
Now I ask an open-ended question: Which kind of government has God set up for Christianity today?