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E-Book Review of William Lane Craig’s “Does God Exist?”

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E-Book Review By David P. Craig

Just because this e-book is short (approximately 60 pages) does not mean that it is simplistic or not weighty. This treatment by Craig packs a wallop. At the outset Craig lays out the outline or skeleton for his cogent articulation and reasoning for the existence of God thus: “A good argument must obey the rules of logic; express true premises; and have premises more plausible than their opposites.” Put simply, a good argument for the existence (or non-existence) of God must meet three conditions: (1) obey the rules of logic; (2) its premises must be true (correspond with reality); (3) have premises that are more plausible than their opposites.

Craig begins with the Cosmological argument for the existence of God in by developing the following formulation: (1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause. (2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. (3) The universe exists. (4) Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God. He then gives philosophical and scientific evidence demonstrating that the existence of a God that is a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universes makes more logical sense than the plausibility of His non-existence given by atheistic philosophers and scientists.

The second argument unfolded by Craig is called the Kalam Cosmological argument and is set out in this simple formulation: (1) Everything that begins to exists has a cause. (2) The universe began to exist. (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. Craig delves into some complicated mathematical arguments in this section to show the amazing cogency of the Kalam argument. He also gives some compelling evidences from astronomy via studies by Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin. He also appeals to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and thus concludes: “On the basis of both philosophical and scientific evidence, we have good grounds for believing that the universe began to exist. Since whatever begins to exist has a cause, it follows that the universe has a cause.”

The third argument developed by Craig is the Teleological or Fine-tuning formulation: (1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design. (2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance. (3) Therefore, it is due to design. Here Craig tackles Richard Dawkins central argument from his book “The God Delusion” head on and proceeds to tackle his seven objections one at a time. Craig carefully dismantles Dawkins objections and gives a very plausible defense of the argument of design as a reasonable explanation for God’s existence.

The Moral argument is simply stated by Craig in the following manner: (1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist. (2) Objective moral values and duties do exist. (3) Therefore, God exists. Craig concludes his ethical defense for God’s existence in this way: “The moral argument complements the cosmological and design arguments by telling us about the moral nature of the Creator of the universe. It gives us a personal, necessarily existent being who is not only perfectly good, but whose commands constitute our moral dues.”

Craig’s last argument is based on the classic Ontological argument as espoused by St. Anselm in the 11th century and in the modern era by the great theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga: (1) It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists. (2) If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world. (3) It a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world. (4) If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world. (5) Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world. (6) Therefore, a maximally great being exists. (7) Therefore, God exists.

Taken together the five arguments developed by Craig make a compelling case for the existence of God – especially when compared with the counter arguments atheists give in their own apologetic of plausibility for God’s non-existence. I highly recommend this clear and intellectually sound defense of the cogency of God’s existence as the best plausible argument for our own existence which brings purpose and meaning to one’s life through the culmination of God revelation in sending His Son Jesus so that through Him we can be reconciled and restored in a right relationship with Him by His grace and for His glory.

Craig concludes why the defense of God’s existence continues to such an important window to the Gospel in our day stating, “Christians who depreciate theistic arguments because ‘no one comes to faith through intellectual arguments’ are therefore tragically shortsighted. For the value of natural theology extends far beyond one’s immediate evangelistic contact. It is the broader task of Christian apologetics, including natural theology, to help create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the Gospel can be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women. It thereby gives people the intellectual permission to believe when their hearts are moved. As we progress further into the 21st century, I anticipate that natural theology will be an increasingly relevant and vital preparation for the reception of the Gospel by thinking people.”

 

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Preaching to Power: An Interview with Lloyd John Ogilvie

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(The Interview conducted with Michael Duduit below is adapted from http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11565834/ – Lloyd John Ogilvie recently wrote a book on preaching [pictured above] published by Harvest House Publishers in 2014 entitled A Passionate Calling: Recapturing Preaching That Enriches the Spirit and Moves the Heart)

Preaching to Power: An Interview with Lloyd John Ogilvie with Michael Duduit

Lloyd John Ogilvie has served since 1995 as Chaplain of the United States Senate, a role in which he opens each Senate session in prayer and leads an active schedule of Bible studies and counseling for Senators and their staffs. He came to Washington from Hollywood, California, where he had served as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church and hosted a national television ministry. He is author of nearly 50 books and continues to be a popular speaker and preacher. He was interviewed in his Senate office this spring by Preaching editor Michael Duduit.

Preaching: As we conduct this interview, we are sitting in the U.S. Capitol building, a place that is a symbol of political power. As you have made the transition from the pastorate of a local church to chaplain of the Senate, how has it influenced your approach to ministry?

Ogilvie: It has had an influence. I’ve had to discover ways to help people who have immense secular power learn how to find the power of God for their work. The transition that must be made is to help persons realize that the river bed is the flow of God’s power, not the river — to help them be recipients of supernatural power, instead of simply the power of talents. For instance, any Senator to be elected must have talents of articulation, clear thinking, organization, a lodestar kind of leadership that attracts others. However, once in office, a person needs the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be the kind of leader the nation needs — gifts of wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prophetic vision, and then empowered articulation that’s really the result of knowing God personally and yielding the role of leadership to him to receive the empowerment for the task. So our work here is around the motto, “Without God, we can’t; without us, He won’t.” And when we get that into perspective, great leaders can be born and nurtured to recognize that apart from the Lord’s power we can’t move at a supernatural level. God has so created the way He moves providentially in history that He works through people. Where He wants to be He invests a person; when He wants something to occur in a particular society, He puts His people to discover and do His will. And to get leaders to be open to that call is the important thing.

Preaching: You use your ministry of preaching and teaching not only to lead but to build leaders. How would you translate that into the local church setting for the pastor who is trying to build leaders among the laity?

Ogilvie: I think there has to be a fundamental reevaluation of the biblical idea of the meaning of the laity. To be in Christ is to be in the ministry, so every member of a congregation is a minister. The question is: what kind of a ministry does he or she have? So I think our task is to be a coach of the ministers, which puts preaching and teaching, counseling and administration in an entirely different focus:

I used to ask four basic questions in a church:

(1) What kind of people do we want to put into the world?

(2) What kind of church will make that quality of person possible?

(3) What kind of church officer will make that kind of church possible?

(4) And lastly, what kind of pastor will be an enabler of that quality of laity?

Once we make the basic decision that we don’t do ministry on behalf of the congregation but we equip them to do their ministry, then everything else falls into place. If, however, we think that we do ministry for people, and as professional clergy accomplish the work of the church, then our people are simply observers of the game we play as leaders. I like to picture a big stadium with all the seats filled, and two teams seated on both sides of the field, with blankets huddling in the cold. Then the coaches of both teams are running up and down the field, playing the game for everyone to see. That’s the picture of the contemporary church: the clergy — highly trained and honed in their skills — doing ministry on behalf of the people rather than equipping them. Once you get an understanding that our task is equipping the saints for the work of ministry, then preaching with power becomes the task of inciting enthusiasm and excitement for ministry of the laity and the adventure of following Christ in the secular realm. Then you can reevaluate the nature of the church’s program: is it accomplishing the task of putting the people into the world to accomplish that work?

Preaching: As a pastor, what kind of preaching did you find best accomplished that purpose of equipping the congregation for ministry?

Ogilvie: I think there’s a great hunger in our time for biblically-rooted, Christ-centered, Holy-Spirit empowered preaching. Great preaching comes from exposition. An understanding of the original languages is very important, so that the messenger has a message that arises out of a study of the text. Then the whole question is application to the contemporary scene — the explanation of the text, the illustration of the text, and the application of the text becomes the task of the pastor. If you live in the text eventually it will grip you to the place where it becomes like a banked fire, just waiting for the bellows of the Holy Spirit to be placed on it, to set it aflame to warm the minds and hearts of the people. If it happens to us it then can happen through us, so the text must become very real to us.Then I think we’ve got to have Richard Baxter’s rule, “I preach as a dying man to dying men, as if never to preach again.”

So every sermon ought to be preached with vigor as if we will never have another chance. That kind of enthusiasm and passion is what is needed in the church in America today — and all over the world, for that matter. I call it preaching with passion, and that kind of preaching is an understanding, an appreciation and an acceptance of the passion of Christ, the suffering of Christ for us, and then an identification with the suffering of human beings, so that we really feel what is going on inside of people. We want to bring the two together in an enthusiastic, heartfelt but intellectually healthy presentation.

Preaching: You talk about living with a text. I recall that as a pastor you would live with a text for more than a year before preaching it. Tell me about that process.

Ogilvie: I would use a three-year process. I would spend a year with a portion of Scripture as a devotional exercise. If I was going to plan to preach from the book of James, I would use that book as my devotional literature for the first year. The next year I would do an in-depth expositional study, and a reading of the great minds — to study the expositors, the great preachers through the ages. In the actual year of the preaching, I would take the time in my study leave to outline the presentation for a whole period of time, a portion of the year, then prepare a manila folder for each Sunday of that series, then publish a preaching guide for that period of time. I would do 45 Sundays a year in the parish, and I would come out of my study leave with 45 outlines of sermons, 45 manila folders, ready to receive the illustrative material that would go into each of them as I read, gathering illustrative materials from everyday life, and as I talked with people. Then, as I got to the week of actually preaching a sermon, there was the devotional year’s resource, the intensive study scholarship, then the practical gathering of material. Then the actual writing of the sermon — it is very important that the writing of the sermon be fresh, not dependent on well-worn phrases and hackneyed language. After the sermon is written it takes about a day of memorization, repeating it until it becomes a part of the preacher, then preaching it with as few notes as possible.

Preaching: What was the nature of the preaching guide you published?

Ogilvie: There would be a single page for each week. I would list out the title, the text, and the development. I would actually write three clear, concise, distilled paragraphs explaining what it is that I wanted to do with that particular text. That would be sent to the director of music, and he would take that and prepare all of the music to fit with the particular theme of that Sunday. So from the beginning note of the prelude to the last note of the postlude, one central theme in all of the hymns, Scripture readings, responses — all would augment that one central theme. Often I would add another page actually outlining the sermon as I envisioned it. Once I got to the week of the preaching of that sermon, the folder would be full of illustrative material that I had gathered through the year.

Preaching: Was most of your preaching in the form of series?

Ogilvie: Yes, I would take books of the Scripture for themes. The book of James I did a series on Making Stress Work for You. I did a book on the “He is able” statements of the epistles; that became the book Lord of the Loose Ends. Then I did one on the book of Acts that was entitled The Bush is Still Burning. I did one on the “I am” statements of Christ.

Preaching: How long was a typical series for you?

Ogilvie: Usually three months, so I’d do three major series in a year. I found that brought continuity and unity to the preaching. I tried to vary them so we would cover the whole of Scripture.

Preaching: I recall sitting in your congregation and marveling that you communicated so effectively with apparently no notes at all. Many preachers struggle with that.

Ogilvie: I learned that from James Stewart, my professor at New College (in Edinburgh). His method was to outline clearly, then to memorize the outline as you worked with it, then to write the sermon from that outline. Then that outline would be clearly focused in your mind so that you could move through it without hesitation. So the outlining becomes very important. Actually the church in Hollywood had a round balcony, and I would often picture the title of the separate sections of the sermon around the balcony, and I would picture them in my mind. I often used alliteration to help me remember the development of the text. All of those things would help me to retain eye contact. However I found that in lecturing or in giving long messages, we ought to be able to use notes unashamedly. But the sermon itself is a different article.

Preaching: And you spent a full day getting it into your memory?

Ogilvie: Yes, I would speak it aloud ten times and then it would be in me and could be communicated without total dependence on notes.

Preaching: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about preaching over the years?

Ogilvie: Nothing can happen through you that hasn’t happened to you. I feel a person’s relationship with the living Lord is the most important aspect of preaching, and a growing relationship with the Lord is essential to powerful preaching. When we realize that we have been given the privilege of communicating the love, peace, power of the living Lord, then it’s very important to maintain a growing relationship with the Lord so that we have something fresh to share with the people.

Preaching: Clearly James Stewart was a great influence in your life. In what way did he influence your ministry?

Ogilvie: He was a great expositor and loved the Scriptures. He was an intense preacher — he had hurricane force. I’ve written a great deal about him and given lectures on him. To me, he was the greatest preacher of the twentieth century. The chance to study with him meant a great deal to me. He was a good friend long after I finished my theological education. I would go back in the summers and renew our friendship. We would often review what I was going to preach on in the coming year, and he would always have new insights. He was the most thorough scholar-preacher I have ever met.

Preaching: If you were starting over, is there anything you’d do differently as a preacher?

Ogilvie: I came to the commitment of a schedule that allowed for intensive study each week later in my ministry. I would start earlier allowing for two full days for study and preparation of the sermon. The commitment of one hour in the study for each minute in the pulpit is one I would apply sooner in my ministry. I think the temptation when you are starting in ministry is to say, “When I move to a larger church I’ll really concentrate on study.” I think you move to the larger church because you have concentrated on study. So the commitment of time to study and prepare is to me the most important aspect. Then the pastor’s own prayer life and commitment to an honest and growing relationship with the Lord, and his accountability to a small group is very important. I would meet with a group of elders every Sunday prior to preaching, and usually one was elected to say, “Are you ready to preach? Is there anything we can pray for?” The renewal of the church will rise or fall on the quality of its preaching, and I think it will depend on preachers who make preaching the central priority in their allocation of time and energy. To do that we will need an understanding of the officers of the church and the membership — to allow their pastor to take the time to be ready to preach is absolutely essential. It’s been a great adventure. It still is.

 
 

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What is R.C. Sproul’s View on Creation?

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(Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s, Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith [Volume 1]. In other settings, Dr. Sproul has also made a point of highlighting Dr. Douglas Kelly’s book, Creation and Change, as formative in his position on the subject of Creation).

We (Ligonier Ministries – see http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-rc-sprouls-position-creation/) are commonly asked for a clarification of R.C. Sproul’s position on Creation. Here is his commentary on the Westminster Confession’s phrase “…in the space of six days.”

In the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good. In the Genesis account of creation, we read; “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5). This narrative proceeds from the first day to the sixth, each time referring to “the evening and the morning” and numbering the day. On the seventh day, God rested (Gen. 2:2). 

In our time a considerable number of theories have arisen denying that the creation, as we know it, took place in twenty-four hour days. Common to these theories is the acceptance of the dominant scientific view that the earth and life on it are very old. Many consider the biblical account to be primitive, mythological, and untenable in light of modern scientific knowledge.

This crisis has resulted in several attempts to reinterpret the Genesis account of creation. We are reminded of the sixteenth century, when Copernicus and his followers repudiated the old Ptolemaic view of astronomy. They argued that the center of the solar system is not the earth (geocentricity), but the sun (heliocentricity). It was a sad chapter in the history of the church, which had believed for more than fifteen hundred years that the Bible teaches geocentricity, when it condemned Galileo for believing and teaching heliocentricity. Both Luther and Calvin opposed Copernicus’s views, believing them to undermine Scripture’s authority.

Actually the Bible does not explicitly teach geocentricity anywhere. Scripture describes the movements of the heavens from the perspective of someone standing on earth: the sun moves across the sky, rising in the east and setting in the west. We use that same language today. The church thought that because the Bible uses this kind of descriptive language, it was therefore teaching something about the relationship between the sun and the earth. This is a clear case of scientific knowledge correcting the church’s interpretation of the Bible.

There are two spheres of revelation; the Bible (special revelation) and nature (general revelation). In the latter, God manifests himself through the created order. What God reveals in nature can never contradict what he reveals in Scripture, and what he reveals in Scripture can never contradict what he reveals in nature. He is the author of both forms of revelation, and God does not contradict himself.

The church has always taken the position that all truth meets at the top, and that science should never contradict Scripture. Scientific discoveries, however, can correct the theologian’s faulty understanding of Scripture, just as biblical revelation can correct faulty speculations drawn from the natural order. When the scientific consensus on a particular point is on a collision course with the unmistakable teaching of Scripture, I trust Scripture before I trust the speculations and inferences of scientists. That is consistent with the history of the church and Christianity. We believe that sacred Scripture is nothing less than the Creator’s truth revealed.

We have a problem not only with a six-day creation, but also with the age of the earth. Is the earth a few thousand years old or billions of years old (as scientists today insist)? Although the Bible clearly says that the world was created in six days, it gives no date for the beginning of that work. It would be a mistake to become embroiled in too much controversy about the date of creation.

In a Massachusetts college I taught Introduction to the Old Testament to two hundred and fifty students. Because the class was so large, we met in the chapel. Once I opened the old pulpit Bible to Genesis 1, and at the top of the page I read “4004 B.C.” I did some research to see how that date had been determined. In the seventeenth century an archbishop, James Ussher, made some calculations based on the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 and other chronological clues in the Old Testament. He even pinned down the day of the week and the time of day when creation occurred. I hasten to tell my students that we must be very careful to distinguish between the text of Scripture and additions to the text. In defending the biblical authority, we are not obligated to defend a theory based on the speculations of a bishop in times past.

If we take the genealogies that go back to Adam, however, and if we make allowances for certain gaps in them (which could certainly be there), it remains a big stretch from 4004 B.C. to 4.6 billion years ago. We also have the problem of the antiquity of the human race. It seems as if every time a new skeleton or skull is discovered, scientists push back the date of man’s origin another million years.

Scholars have proposed four basic theories to explain the time from of Genesis 1–2:

- the gap theory,

- the day-age theory,

- the framework hypothesis, and

- six-day creation.

Gap Theory

The gap theory was made popular by the Scofield Reference Bible (1909), which more than any other single edition of Scripture swept through this country and informed the theology of an entire generation of evangelicals. It became the principal instrument for propagating dispensational theology throughout America. In this Bible, Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and verse 2 reads, “And the earth became without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Other Bibles read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Verse 2 describes what most scholars consider to be the as-yet-unordered, basic structure of the universe—darkness, emptiness. Then the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters (v.2) and God says, “Let there be light” (v.3). Thus came the light and then the creation of the heavens, fish, birds, animals, and so on.

The Hebrew word in verse 2 translated “was” is the very common verb hayah,which ordinarily means “to be.” Hayah means “to become” only in special circumstances, which are not present here. The Scofield Reference Bible translates verse 2 as “became” instead of “was” in order to facilitate the gap theory. As a result, only verse 1 refers to the original creation. Verse 2 then refers to a cosmic catastrophe in which the originally good and properly ordered creation became chaotic, dark, and fallen. After this period of darkness (the “gap”), God recreates the universe which could have been created billions of years ago, followed by a gap of billions of years (including the “geologic column” of immense ages), after which God returned to his distorted creation and renovated or reconstituted it relatively recently. The gap theory has also been called the restitution hypothesis, meaning that the creation narrative in Genesis is not about the original creation, but about the restitution of a fallen creation.

An entire generation was fed this theory through the Scofield Reference Bible. However, Scripture nowhere explicitly teaches that the original creation was marred and then after many years reconstituted. The broader context of the whole of Scripture militates against the gap theory.

Day-Age Theory

According to the second approach, the day-age theory, each “day” of Genesis 1 may be an age. After all, one day in the Lord’s sight is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). Also, expressions like “in the days of Noah” and “in Abraham’s day” can refer to open-ended periods. The Hebrew word yom, translated “day” in Genesis, can mean something other than a twenty-four-hour period, as it must in Genesis 2:4, which refers to “the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Accordingly, each “day” in Genesis 1 may refer to a thousand years, and perhaps even to millions of years. This will at least ameliorate some of the difficulties we have with those who argue for a gradual evolution of life-forms on this earth.

However, the day-age theory, like the gap theory, ignores the immediate context as well as the large biblical context. It ignores the fact that each of the six days of creation consists of an evening and a morning. If yom here means something like ten million years, then we need to give the words evening and morning the same kind of metaphorical meaning. From a literary, exegetical, and linguistic perspective, the day-age theory is weak. As a Christian apologist, I would not want to defend it.

The day-age theory tends to accommodate a theory of biological macroevolution that is incompatible with the Bible and purposive creation—the creation of all living things by the immediate agency of the sovereign God. Macroevolution teaches that all life has developed from a single, original cell, and that this happened through a somewhat fortuitous, chance collision of atoms, without an intelligent planner or Creator orchestrating the emergence of these species. Those who favor the day-age theory often link themselves with a position called theistic evolution, which grants the basic premises of biological evolution, but says that God, not chance, guided the process of evolution.

Macroevolution differs from microevolution. While the former teaches that all living things have developed from one original cell, the latter teaches that, over period of time, species undergo slight changes in order to adapt to their environment. Microevolution is not in dispute, either biblically or scientifically. Macroevolution has never been substantiated by observation or experiment, and it places its faith in an endless string of extremely improbable, yet beneficial chance mutations.

A frequent argument for macroevolution is the principle of common structure. All forms of life are made up of the same basic substances: amino acids, proteins, DNA, and that sort of thing. Because all living things have similar constituent parts, the argument goes, they must have developed from common ancestors. A common substance or structure, however, does not necessarily imply a common source. The fact that all forms of life are made of the same basic building blocks neither negates the possibility of evolution nor substantiates it. One would expect an intelligent Creator to have made all life-forms with a similar design—one that works on this earth.

When teaching a university course to thirty upper-level philosophy students, I asked who believed in macroevolution. Almost all the students raised their hands. I then asked them to explain why they believed in it. Their only argument was “common substance, therefore common source.” Most said they believed it because they had been taught in school, and they assumed their teachers knew what they were talking about.

Macroevolution, in the final analysis, is not a question of biology or natural science, which rely upon experimented verification, but of history, which tries to interpret evidence left from the past in a coherent fashion. The discipline of paleontology, which studies the fossil record, claims to put evolution on a scientific footing, but it performs no experiments to substantiate evolutionary processes. It simply lines up similar fossils and infers that one creature must be related to another by common decent.

In the recent past in Russia, leading international scholars who favor macroevolution met. While comparing notes, they found that the weakest evidence for their theories is the fossil record. I remember reading the Royal Society’s bulletin at that time and thinking, “What other source matters?” The fossil record is the one that counts, and yet that is the one that militates against their theory. I read an essay recently in which a professor argued for macroevolution on the basis of certain geological formations. He argued for an old earth on the ground that stratifications in the rocks contain fossils, which indicates a uniformitarian process that took millions of years to produce the whole formation. He then determined the age of each stratum by determining the kinds of fossils contained in each. This is a blatant example of what logicians call begging the question. It is circular reasoning to date the fossils by the rocks, and then date the rocks by the fossils. That just will not work.

We now have good evidence that stratification of rocks proves the antiquity of nothing. Within days after the Mount St. Helens explosion had subsided, scientists discovered that the cataclysmic upheaval of that volcanic explosion had laid down exactly the same rock stratification that had been assumed would take millions of years to develop. In other words, Mount St. Helens proved that catastrophic upheavals can produce the same empirical data as twenty million years of gradual deposition. We will not get into uniformitarianism or catastrophism here, except to say that they have been attempts to accommodate macroevolution. This tends to support and popularize the theory of theistic evolution, and it also uses the day-age theory of Genesis—a dangerous thing to do.

Framework Hypothesis

The third approach, called the framework hypothesis, was originally developed by the Dutch scholar Nicholas Ridderbos. He argued that the literary form of the book’s first few chapters differs from that of its later chapters. Certain basic characteristics found in poetry are missing from historical narrative, and certain characteristics found in historical narrative are missing from poetry. For example, the book of Exodus, with its account of the Jewish captivity in Egypt, has genealogies, family names, real historical places, and an unmetered literary style (i.e., lacking a particular rhythm), making it clearly prose and historical narrative. After the account of the exodus, the book’s author inserts the song of Miriam, which is in metered rhythm and is therefore clearly poetry. The literary structure before the song manifests all the characteristics of historical narrative, as does the structure following the poem.

Therefore, it is usually not difficult to distinguish between poetry and historical narrative in the Old Testament. But the opening chapters of Genesis, according to Ridderbos, exhibit a strange combination of literary forms. On the one hand is a discussion of the creation of a man and a woman who are given names that thereafter appear in genealogical accounts. In Hebrew literature this clearly signals historicity. The Garden of Eden is said to be set among four rivers, two of which we know were real rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The style of writing is not metered or rhythmic, as Hebrew poetry normally is. All this indicates that the opening chapters of Genesis are historical narrative.

There are some anomalies, however. We find trees in this garden with strange names: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and “the tree of life” (Gen. 2:9). Had they been apple or pear trees, there would have been no problem. But what does a tree of life look like? Is the author of Genesis telling us that a real tree was off limits, giving it a metaphorical meaning as the tree of life? We are also introduced to a serpent who speaks. Because of these two features, some have argued that the literary structure of the opening chapters of Genesis was self consciously and intentionally mythological, or at least filled with legend and saga.

Ridderbos contended that the beginning chapters of Genesis are a mixture of historical narrative and poetry, with part of the poetic structure being the repeated refrain, “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:5), and so on. Ridderbos concluded that Genesis gives us not a historical narrative of the when or the how of divine creation, but a drama in seven acts. The first act ends with the statement, “So the evening and the morning were the first day.” The author of Genesis, then, is trying to show that God’s work of creation took place in seven distinct stages, which incidentally fit remarkably well into the stages identified by the modern theories of cosmic evolution.

Therefore, the framework hypothesis allows one to step into a Big Bang cosmology while maintaining the credibility and inspiration of Genesis 1-2. This is not history, but drama. The days are simply artistic literary devices to create a framework for a lengthy period of development.

In America Ridderbos’s work was widely disseminated by Meredith Kline, who for many years taught Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, then at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and then at Westminster Seminary California. Because Kline endorsed the framework hypothesis, many people, particularly in the Reformed community, have embraced it, provoking a serious crisis in some circles. Some Reformed pastors today hold to a literal six-day creation, while others hold to the framework hypothesis, and yet they otherwise hold to the same system of orthodox theology.

ONE MUST DO A GREAT DEAL OF HERMENEUTICAL GYMNASTICS TO ESCAPE THE PLAIN MEANING OF GENESIS 1-2.

Six-Day Creation

For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four-hour periods. According to the Reformation hermeneutic, the first option is to follow the plain sense of the text. One must do a great deal of hermeneutical gymnastics to escape the plain meaning of Genesis 1-2. The confession makes it a point of faith that God created the world in the space of six days.

 

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in R.C. Sproul, Worldview

 

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Matt Mantry on Evangelism and The Church of Darwin

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Evangelizing the Church of Darwin

Neo-Darwinian materialism [1] prevails as the orthodoxy of science and secularism that reigns supreme. Neo-Darwinian materialists tend to believe that the miracle of consciousness and subjectivity can simply be explained by material causes that arose during the evolutionary processes without any divine intervention. Physical matter is all that there is. Scientific naturalism is seen as Sacred Doctrine that cannot be challenged. If you even dare to utter anything that contradicts current neo-Darwin materialism, be prepared to face excommunication from the Church of Darwin. Prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel once dared to question Darwinian papal authority, and he was declared to be a heretic, blasphemer, and shoddy reasoner. Questioning the Church of Darwin can lead you down a one-way street to becoming an apostate. It is clear that Darwinian dogma promotes a worldview that makes much of materialism, humanism, and free-thought.

With this in mind, Christians must now ask themselves:

- How can we infiltrate the walls of the Church of Darwin and establish a voice in promoting the gospel of Jesus?

- How can Christians evangelize to those who are neo-Darwinian materialists?

- Is there a common ground that needs to be found?

- Or does each side need to double-down on their beliefs, and get comfortable in their doctrinal trenches?

In this article, I am going to try and give a few suggestions to Christians on how to evangelize to those who attend the Church of Darwin.

1. OPENLY DISCUSS THE CONFLICTING WORLDVIEW

There is no doubt that Christians and neo-Darwinians do not see eye-to-eye on the origin of species. However, there are also a number of other conflicting beliefs that need to be discussed. For example, Christians believe in a material and spiritual world, while neo-Darwinists only believe in the material world. According to neo-Darwinists everything that exists has come to be through a mindless process, whereas Christians believe that God has created everything that we see in the world. Neo-Darwinists believe that the chief goal of man is to create his own purpose and find his meaning through human autonomy, while Christians believe that the chief goal of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The list could go on and on. However, the main point is simply the fact that the way that Christians and neo-Darwinians see the world is extremely different. With that in mind, it is clear that Christians must try to begin building bridges with neo-Darwin materialists by openly discussing their different worldview. This will encourage helpful dialogue, and perhaps open the door for the gospel message to be proclaimed.

2. POINT OUT THE FATAL FLAW IN THE NEO-DARWINIST DOCTRINE

I want to distill a brilliant argument by philosopher Alvin Plantinga and make it accessible to laymen. His evolutionary argument against naturalism is cogent and effective argument. It is a philosophically rigorous argument and it points out a fatal flaw in the reasoning of neo-Darwinians.

It is important to understand evolution. What does evolution entail? Philosopher Patricia Churchland once said:

“A nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. . . . A fancier style of representing [the external world] is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”

What I want Christians to take away is that the evolutionary process is not concerned with forming true beliefs. It is only concerned with survival. Therefore, why should  neo-Darwinists expect (if human beings are the product of a mindless evolutionary process) their cognitive faculties to produce true beliefs? Our minds have simply developed through an accidental process. Why should a Christian believe anything that a neo-Darwinian claims to know? What Plantinga demonstrates is that believing in both evolution and materialism is simply irrational. Christians must remember to always point out this chink in the neo-Darwinian’s armor.

3. PUTTING DARWIN ON TRIAL

Perhaps one of the most important things Christians can do when evangelizing neo-Darwinists is to simply conduct a trial and place Darwin on the stand. Here’s what I mean. Does evolutionary naturalism answer the most important questions about life? Why are we here? Where did we come from? What is my purpose? Can a neo-Darwinist explain why human beings have such longings for transcendence?

Asking pointed questions demonstrates to the Darwinist the inadequacy of his views. Of course, you can also give reasons as to why Christianity is the supreme philosophy during your interactions as well. Tell the irrefutable story of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Explain what it looks like to live a gospel-centered life. Go into detail about how God brought you from death to life. Above all, make sure that you make much of Christ, and trust the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to say. Do not let Darwin off the stand without first conducting a thorough examination of his presuppositions and failures at answering the big questions.

CONCLUSION

It is important for Christians to have a game plan when evangelizing the Church of Darwin, and I hope I’ve provided a few launching points to utilize when conversing with neo-Darwinians. Evangelism must always be contextualized to fit the particular individual and situation. However, there is a certain foundation that all evangelists must have before entering into discussion with neo-Darwinists. My hope is that the Lord will continue to open up the eyes of Christians to the need of evangelizing at the Church of Darwin and remove the fear in pursuing disciples in this context.

[1] Neo-Darwinian materialism can be defined as a belief that all species evolved by natural selection acting on random genetic mutation. Everything that exists can be explained by material manifestations and there is nothing immaterial that exists.

About the Author: Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He also works on the editorial team for Credo Magazine and Gospel-Centered Discipleship. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net. This article was adapted from: http://gcdiscipleship.com/evangelizing-the-church-of-darwin/

 

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Dr. Ray Pritchard on 15 Skills Great Preachers Utilize

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15 Skills of Great Preachers

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes a “great” preacher. The answer must necessarily be subjective. After listening to hundreds of sermons by hundreds of preachers (some famous, most not) in various settings for 45 years, I’ve come to some conclusions about “great” sermons and “great” preachers. I remember when I was in high school getting up very early one Easter Sunday morning and driving an hour and a half to a country church to hear a man give a talk on the Resurrection. He took a little piece of paper and rolled it up to show us what it was like for Christ to be wrapped up in the tomb. Simple, so simple, but it electrified me and for the first time in my life, I was overwhelmed with the thought that Jesus had risen from the dead. That man never went on to any great earthly fame, but I walked away changed by his message. He was a great preacher to me.

Some years ago Keith Drury wrote a column about things he had learned from preachers he had heard. When I read it recently, it started me down this line of thinking. As I ponder the variety of preachers I’ve heard over the last 45 years, I see many differences in style, technique and personality. But there are some commonalities. I pass them along for your consideration.

What can we learn from listening to the best preachers? 

1. They use humor effectively.

Humor is like salt. A little is good, too much spoils the soup. Great preachers know the difference. Some preachers tell humorous stories to defuse tension. Others use puns and one-liners to get a point across. I’ve never a great sermon from a comedian in the pulpit, but I’ve watched quite a few gifted preachers use natural humor to their advantage.

2. They live where you live.

This is hard to quantify, but it means something like, “That man understands my problems. He knows what I’m going through.” Sometimes this is done through references to current events. Other times it is done by a personal illustration.

3. They have solid biblical content.

I don’t necessarily mean that they do only verse-by-verse exposition. But if they take a pressing question or a moral issue or a contemporary topic, they do their homework so you can see the biblical basis of their message. They aren’t preaching their opinion with a few verses tacked on. Great preachers ground their messages in God’s Word.

4. They understand the value of a good story.

Nothing wakes people up like these six words: “Let me tell you a story.” John Stott said that a good illustration opens a window in a sermon to let light shine on the truth. A story can be a brief or long. But great preachers know when to use a story to help a congregation understand and apply biblical truth.

5. They preach with passion. 

Not to be confused with volume, length, shouting, or wild gestures. It has nothing to do with temperament or preaching style. Spurgeon called it earnestness. It’s what happens when the audience realizes, “This man really believes what he is preaching.” It’s encompassed in the Old Testament description of a prophet who had a “burden” from the Lord.

6. They preach with relaxed intensity.

Sometimes I listen to preachers who are “trying too hard,” and it shows. That may be a sign of lack of preparation. Younger preachers often haven’t preached enough to be comfortable in their own skin. The best preachers can be quite intense-like Billy Graham at a crusade-and yet relaxed at the same time.

7. They use memorable phrases.

I’m thinking of aphorisms and pithy sayings. Jesus did this often in his teaching. “Cast not your pearls before swine” creates a vivid mental picture. One good turn of a phrase can lift a sermon from ordinary to memorable.

8. They preach one message at a time.

Young preachers often cram everything they know into a sermon, making it difficult to follow or turning it into a seminary lecture. Great preachers focus on one main idea and bring it home in various ways. They don’t feel a need to tell people everything they know.

9. They vary their pace, pitch, and volume.

Usually they start slow, pick up the pace, raise and lower their voice, all according to the need of the moment. Often they use a pause in their sermon to focus attention on a key point. Their preaching sounds like a lively conversation, not like a lecture or a finger-pointing scolding from the pulpit.

10. They keep it simple.

J. Vernon McGee told his listeners that “Jesus didn’t say, ‘Feed my giraffes.’ He said, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Put the hay on the lower shelf so God’s sheep can get to it.” Simple doesn’t mean simplistic. Simple means you don’t show off your education. Simple means you are secure enough in who you are that you can take profound truth and make them understandable to those who lack your specialized training.

11. They keep good eye contact with the congregation. 

Sometimes they preach without notes, sometimes with notes, sometimes with a manuscript. Yet in all cases, they are looking at you as they preach.

12. They are clear and easy to follow.

This may mean they take a question and answer it, or they take a proposition and unfold it, or they tell a story and apply it. However they do it, you can easily follow the message. When they finish, you say, “Now I understand!”

13. They start quickly.

Rookies preachers often make the mistake of taking too long to get into their topic. The best preachers tell you up front what they’re talking about. They grab the congregation with the very first sentence and never let go.

14. They preach for decision.

A sermon is not a lecture. The best preachers never end without bringing people face to face with God in one way or another.

15. They land the plane on the first try. 

When the time comes to end, great preachers don’t circle the field or do a series of “touch and go” landings. They land the plane on the first try.

What about you? What would you add to this list?

Pritchard Ray image

Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 29 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The ABCs of Christmas, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 39 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law–Leah and Vanessa, and four grandchildren grandsons: Knox, Eli, Penny and Violet. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Preaching, Sermon Preparation

 

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John Piper on “What is The Christian Gospel?”

What Is the Christian Gospel?

Piper J famous quote

The gospel is not just a sequence of steps (say, the “Four Laws” of Campus Crusade or the “Six Biblical Truths” of Quest For Joy).Those are essential. But what makes the gospel “good news” is that it connects a person with the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”

There is nothing in itself that makes “forgiveness of sins” good news. Whether being forgiven is good news depends on what it leads to. You could walk out of a courtroom innocent of a crime and get killed on the street. Forgiveness may or may not lead to joy. Even escaping hell is not in itself the good news we long for – not if we find heaven to be massively boring.

Nor is justification in itself good news. Where does it lead? That is the question. Whether justification will be good news, depends on the award we receive because of our imputed righteousness. What do we receive because we are counted righteous in Christ? The answer is fellowship with Jesus.

Forgiveness of sins and justification are good news because they remove obstacles to the only lasting, all-satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not merely the means of our rescue from damnation; he is the goal of our salvation. If he is not satisfying to be with, there is no salvation. He is not merely the rope that pulls us from the threatening waves; he is the solid beach under our feet, and the air in our lungs, and the beat of our heart, and the warm sun on our skin, and the song in our ears, and the arms of our beloved.

This is why the New Testament often defines the gospel as, simply, Christ. The gospel is the “gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:191 Corinthians 9:122 Corinthians 2:129:1310:14Galatians 1:7Philippians 1:27; etc.). Or, more specifically, the gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And even more wonderfully, perhaps, Paul says that the preaching of the gospel is the preaching of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

Therefore to believe the gospel is not only to accept the awesome truths that 1) God is holy, 2) we are hopeless sinners, 3) Christ died and rose again for sinners, and 4) this great salvation is enjoyed by faith in Christ-but believing the gospel is also to treasure Jesus Christ as your unsearchable riches. What makes the gospel Gospel is that it brings a person into the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of Jesus Christ.

The words Jesus will speak when we come to heaven are: “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:21). The prayer he prayed for us ended on this note: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). The glory he wants us to see is the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” It is “the immeasurable riches of [God's] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

The superlatives “unsearchable” and “immeasurable” mean that there will be no end to our discovery and enjoyment. There will be no boredom. Every day will bring forth new and stunning things about Christ which will cause yesterday’s wonder to be seen in new light, so that not only will there be new sights of glory everyday, but the accumulated glory will become more glorious with every new revelation.

The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.

May God give you “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Savoring and waiting,

Pastor John

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in physical form, in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For posting online, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. For videos, please embed from the original source. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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Book Review: Kevin DeYoung’s “Just Do Something”

Doing What God Has Revealed In The Bible

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A Book Review by David P. Craig

When I was in my teens I read a great book (still in print) called Decision Making and the Will of God by Gary Friesen and Robin Maxon. It was a watershed book for me in helping me with how to make biblically informed decisions. Over the years I’ve recommended the book to many who have have sought my counsel on the question “How can I know the will of God for my life?”. The problem with the book by Friesen and Maxon is it’s length (It was based on Friesen’s doctoral dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary). It’s a great book, but it’s length is prohibitive for many. Here’s the distinct advantage of DeYoung’s book – essentially the same principles and content – in 300 pages less!

DeYoung focuses on the facts of what God has revealed in the Scriptures so that we can best discern wisely what he wants from us. He makes a good case that God never intends for us to know “specifically” what He wants us to do (vocation), where He wants us to live, or who to marry (among many other questions we ask); however, DeYoung shows what God wants us to be like (Jesus) and how this purpose (sanctification) informs our decision-making. In the final analysis DeYoung writes: “Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God…the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: Be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.”

The author does a wonderful job of using practical illustrations to show how we worry, procrastinate, and flat-out sin by not doing what we know to do, as we put out fleeces, wait for signs, and pray as we wait for God’s discernment. He shows that oftentimes we are paralyzed by the fear of making a wrong decision or being out of God’s will, when what we really need to do is focus on what God has revealed in the Scriptures clearly that we are to do (principles, commands, and boundaries). Just Do Something is biblical, practical, theologically astute, and can be read in a few hours. I highly recommend it for any Christian of any age whose chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. This will now be my new “go-to” book when people ask me: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”

 

 

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