Archive for March, 2011

I Brake for Genres

Posted: March 30, 2011 by Alan Shlemon in Events, God Has Spoken

Think a blog post about biblical interpretation is as irrelevant to you as the latest Britney Spears tabloid story?

Think again.

Few things will affect your spiritual health during your life than how you interpret the Bible.

I’ll admit that it doesn’t sound as sexy as discussing the latest Christopher Hitchens debate, but it will give you a foundation for how to respond to hundreds of challenges to your faith.

Here’s an example. Recently I spoke at a maximum security state prison to about 60 felons who are Christians. When the prisoner came into the room I was speaking at in their prison yard, several Muslims followed them in because they heard I was teaching about apologetics to Muslims (you can read about another part of the story here). One of the challenges that a Muslim raised was an argument, from the original Greek language of the Bible, that Mohammed is predicted in the Bible. Now, I don’t know Greek, but I was able to respond decisively to his argument because I knew some basic principles of biblical interpretation. That’s how powerful this stuff is.

This video is just a short clip of a recent class I taught on how to interpret the Bible. It’s only a teaser.


See my other post about the role of context in biblical interpretation here.


Challenge: Give Us Your Challenge Questions

Posted: March 29, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in Weekly Challenge

Every Tuesday, we post a challenge to Christianity and ask you to weigh in.  Then we share our response in a Thursday video.

Well this week, we’re taking a break from the “Weekly Challenge” but we still REALLY want to hear from you.  We want your ideas for future challenge questions.  Has a classmate stumped you with an objection to God?  Has your teacher bashed some aspect of Christianity, leaving you tongue-tied and without an answer?  Have you seen a news report about some difficult ethical question that you couldn’t answer?  Tell us about it!

In the comments section below, write a challenge question that you want us to answer in a future post.  Here are a few guidelines:

  • Don’t be too broad. For example, don’t ask “Can you defend Christianity?”  You would need to be more specific
  • Don’t be too narrow. For example, don’t ask “What’s the influence of 1st century acclamations on the praise utterances in Revelation 4:8?”  Maybe you and your dog are interested in that question, but not a whole lot of other people are.
  • Give us more than one. You’re not limited to one challenge.  List them all!
  • Make it concise. Don’t write 50 paragraphs.  Keep it short and sweet — maybe 3 to 5 sentences.
  • Give us your info. This is optional but if you do give us your name, city & state, we’ll find some way to give you some credit on the blog or even in our video response.

Atheist Role Play

Posted: March 28, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real, Truth Matters

Last week I role-played an atheist with Christian high school students.  Here’s what happened:

Free Audiobook Download

Posted: March 28, 2011 by Amy Hall in Jesus Changes Everything

Because of all the controversy over Rob Bell’s new book (Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived–see here for a review), is offering a free audio version of John Piper’s Jesus: The Only Way to God.

If the evangelical church at large was ever too confrontational in its evangelism, those days are gone. In our shrinking, pluralistic world, the belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation is increasingly called arrogant and even hateful. In the face of this criticism, many shrink back from affirming the global necessity of knowing and believing in Jesus. In Jesus, the Only Way to God, John Piper offers a timely plea for the evangelical church to consider what is at stake in surrendering the unique, universal place of Jesus in salvation.

This deal is only good until the end of March, so don’t miss it!

Friday Fun: The Bible in a Minute

Posted: March 25, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in Just for Fun

Here’s my response to this week’s challenge:

17 Points of the True Church

Posted: March 24, 2011 by Amy Hall in Choosing My Religion

I created this list of 17 points to help people respond to the LDS “17 Points of the True Church.” Some of the points are direct responses to their numerical counterparts on the LDS list, and some bring in ideas not mentioned on the LDS list that are unique to Christianity and not shared by Mormons. Since each list includes aspects of the unique theology of its group, by going through their list and ours and examining the context of the verses cited, you can quickly move into deep and meaningful conversations with your Mormon friends.

  1. The true church must base its doctrine on what the Bible teaches. 2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Pet 1:21, Ps 12:6
  2. The true church must teach there is only one God. Isa 43:10, Isa 44:6, Isa 44:8
  3. The true church must teach that God has been God from all eternity. Ps 90:2, Mal 3:6, Jas 1:17
  4. The true church must worship only one God (the LORD, Jehovah). Ex 34:14
  5. The true church must teach that God does not have a physical body. John 4:24, Luke 24:39, 1 Kings 8:27, John 1:18, 1 Tim 1:17
  6. The church must teach that within the one being of God there are three persons. Matt 3:16-17, Matt 28:19-20
  7. The true church must teach that the eternal, fully divine person of Jesus took on a human nature when He came to Earth. Phil 2:5-8, John 1:14
  8. The true church must worship Jesus and teach that one can pray to Him. Matt 28:9, Matt 2:11, Acts 7:59
  9. The true church teaches that the Gospel is: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. 1 Cor 15:1-4
  10. The true church teaches that when you believe the Gospel, you receive the Holy Spirit, you are born again, and He makes you into a new creation. Acts 10:36-45, John 3:1-8, 2 Cor 5:17
  11. The true church teaches that a trusting belief in Christ is all one needs to be saved to eternal life with God. Acts 16:30-31, John 6:28-29, 1 John 5:11-12
  12. The true church must not teach that eternal life with the Father can be reached only after doing certain works. Eph 2:8-9, Rom 11:6, Gal 3:2-3
  13. The true church must not make the issue of what we eat or drink a requirement of the Gospel. Mark 7:18-20, Rom 14:14-18, Col 2:13-17
  14. The true chruch must teach that we are forgiven of our sins when we confess them. 1 John 1:9, Heb 10:10, 14-18
  15. The LORD commands his people to financially support those devoted to ministry. Num 18:8-24, Luke 10:2-7, 1 Cor 9:7-14, 1 Tim 5:17-18
  16. The true Church was established by Jesus, has never been overcome, but has existed on the earth throughout all generations since Jesus. Matt 16:18, Eph 3:21
  17. The true church must compare all new revelation with the Bible and reject whatever disagrees. Deut 13:1-3, Gal 1:8, Isa 8:19-20, 1 Thes 5:21, Acts 17:11

For a thorough discussion of all 17 of the LDS points, see Alpha and Omega Ministries and Mormonism Research Ministry.

Why Should We Talk to Mormons?

Posted: March 24, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in Choosing My Religion

Every year I take groups of students to Utah for mission work amongst the Mormon people.  Sometimes we take some heat from parents and church members because of the kind of evangelistic work we do. The substance of their objections is this: we should not be telling Mormons they are wrong and trying to take away their faith.

My first response is “Why not?” Most answers to this follow-up question will be based on a false view of tolerance (dealt with here and here) or in an indefensible view of religious pluralism (dealt with here). Besides, if they are putting their faith in a false god, wouldn’t we want to “take” that kind of faith away from them and replace it with faith in the one true God?

My second response is to point to Jesus and the Apostles. Guess what? They told quite a few people they were wrong about their religious beliefs. Just peruse the Gospels and the book of Acts to see this fact.  On the contemporary view of tolerance, Jesus was very intolerant!

My third response is to point out that this is an unfair characterization of what we are actually doing. We do not run around the streets of Salt Lake City pointing our fingers in people’s face and yelling “You’re wrong! You’re wrong!” And we will not be forcibly taking away the faith of Mormons.  That’s something they’ll have to give up on their own.

The context surrounding 2 Corinthians 5:20, STR’s Ambassador theme verse, accurately portrays our message and our motivation. “The love of Christ compels us” (v. 14) to “implore [others] on Christ’s behalf [to] be reconciled to God” (v. 20), “who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (v. 18). We proclaim the truth of the gospel to Mormons because of our love for them and because they believe a false gospel and will be lost for eternity. Sometimes, telling someone they are wrong is the most loving thing you can do for them.

However, in an age of postmodern “sensibilities” many of our churches have lost the courage to stand for the truth. Indeed, Christian parents will even keep their kids from taking the gospel to a lost and dying people to be politically correct.

The Impossible Gospel of Mormonism

Posted: March 23, 2011 by Brett Kunkle in Choosing My Religion

Mormonism demands perfection.  Okay, maybe your Mormon friend won’t say that but according to the Mormon scriptures (LDS have four scriptures:  the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), it’s required.  The ultimate goal of every Mormon is exaltation with the God, their heavenly father.  But at minimum, exaltation is only available to those who have repented:

  • “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence…” (Moses 6:57)

But what is repentance according to the LDS Scriptures?

  • “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (Doctrine & Covenants 58:43)
  • “…go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 82:7)

According to LDS Scripture, true repentance is confessing sin and forsaking it or never returning to it again.  As former LDS prophet Spencer Kimball has said, “The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one.  True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again.”  If you repeat a sin, all of your “former sins return.”  Therefore, on the LDS view it is not enough to try your best.  Rather, you must stop sinning.  Period.

Given the clear teaching of the LDS scriptures, it’s very interesting to talk to Mormons who appeal to God’s grace in addition to their own works.  And certainly we see this in their own Scriptures too:

  • “…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

But what does “after all we can do” mean?

  • “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (Moroni 10:32)

So when does God’s grace kick in?  Notice the “if/then” phrase.  Grace comes only if you “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.”  In other words, the LDS gospel is a gospel of perfection.  But what are to make of grace on an LDS view?  Either grace is redefined and looks nothing like the biblical view of grace exemplified in Ephesians 2:8-9 or the LDS scriptures are contradictory in their view of salvation.  Either way, this is a very troublesome problem for LDS.

Thankfully, God does offer true grace:

  • “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)
  • “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.'” (Romans 4:1-8)

And this is the message of hope we have to offer our LDS friends and family.

If you’ve ever spent time speaking with a Mormon missionary before, you may have been handed a card listing the “17 Points of the True Church.” Here are the points many Mormons think ought to determine for us which church is the true one:

  1. Christ organized the Church (Eph 4:11-14)
  2. The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23)
  3. The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets (Eph 2:19-20)
  4. The true church must have the same organization as Christ’s Church (Eph 4:11-14)
  5. The true church must claim divine authority (Heb 5:4-10)
  6. The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
  7. The true church must baptize by immersion (Matt 3:13-16)
  8. The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17)
  9. The true church must practice divine healing (Mark 3:14-15)
  10. The true church must teach that God and Jesus are separate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17)
  11. The true church must teach that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone (Luke 23:36-39; Acts 1:9-11; Heb 1:1-3)
  12. The officers must be called by God (Heb 4:4; Ex 28:1; 40:13-16)
  13. The true church must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7)
  14. The true church must be a missionary church (Matt 28:19-20)
  15. The true church must be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20)
  16. The true church must practice baptism for the dead (1Cor 15:16&29)
  17. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:20)

First, tell us what your overall response to this list would be if an LDS friend were to discuss it with you. Then choose a couple of these points and respond to them specifically. On Thursday, Brett will also pick a few of these points to cover in his video, and I’ll post a list I created in response to the LDS “17 Points” to help Mormons think through the theology revealed in the Bible.