Christian Apologetics Alliance

Christian Apologetics Alliance
Member: Christian Apologetics Alliance

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Controversy (and confusion) that is Christmas

Inevitably, as I drive through bumper to bumper traffic that comes with every December evening, I start muttering: "It's the most horrible time of the year...."

Lest I be misconstrued, I also enjoy the season. But I draw the line when the circumstances border on the absurd - the traffic on the roads are practically unbearable. Everything comes to a standstill, simply because everyone is either holding a Christmas party or attending one.  And the pressures to prepare, purchase and plan for what's supposed to be a holiday become obnoxiously exasperating.

No wonder Ebenezer Scrooge "bah, humbug!"-ed his way through that time of the year.

Despite all that, it does become a great opportunity for finding clarity in all the chaos and confusion.  It's the time of year when good friends draw near and start asking those pointed questions about Christmas.  And as they seek, they find, and as they ask, they are given answers - sometimes not the ones they are looking for.

For instance - my recent discovery that the symbolic representative of the season, Santa Clause - St. Nicholas in a previous understanding -was a prominent Christian apologist who actually was present in the Council of Nicea widens quite a few eyes.  Not only do they get shocked that I believe that Santa exists, but I knew what he did, and how we thought in a similar fashion.  Of course, Rudolph had to fly out the window, but St. NIck deserves his place - never mind if he  didn't really wear that red costume to deliver gifts better than FEDEX.

Another pointed issue that gets taken up is the matter of the date approximating the birth of our Lord Jesus - presumably because it's supposed to be the real reason for the season, right?

Wrong again. (Buzzer sound.)

Take a cue from the nativity narrative.  The shepherds were watching their flocks by night.

In Bethlehem, where the paschal lambs were being raised by Levitical priest/shepherds, the herds were often gathered into small structures with mangers where they were kept warm during winter nights.  When they were brought out in the fields at night, it was clearly a different time of the year - and it was also the time of the year, when they were lambing, or the ewes were delivering their young lambs.  Traditionally, this is during the summertime, making the birth of the Lord Jesus much, much earlier than that of the traditional December.

Furthermore, as Joseph and Mary were travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census declared by Quirinius, it would be much more difficult to travel in the winter time, as opposed to the summer, which would be more a more accomodating time of the year for a very pregnant teenage mother to be - on her way to her in laws to be (remember, they were yet betrothed, not married) and in their cramped residence, delivered her child in the only place they could be accommodated, as the house was packed with family that also arrived for the census.

While everyone now frowns because that time of the year that everyone holds so dear is the wrong one - they miss the most crucial point of the timing of the Lord Jesus' birth.

The Lord Jesus arrives in Bethlehem - the town where the paschal lambs for the passover sacrifice are raised - during lambing season, when the lambs are born.

Thirty three years later, He is killed on a crucifix during the Passover week, and dies at exactly the time when the passover lambs began being slaughtered.

Truly, the Lamb of God.

Which brings me to the point of what makes this all significant, and how we all missed it in a big way.

The Lord Jesus, we know, came to die for our sins to reconcile us with His Heavenly Father.

But we fail to see that He literally came to fulfill the promises that the Almighty God made.

These promises we also refer to as prophecies.  There are approximately over 300 prophecies that the Lord Jesus fulfilled.  Some scholars have narrowed them down to fourty four that directly relate to Him.

But what are the chances of that happening?  That someone would be born of a maiden (alma in Hebrew) in Bethlehem, of the House of David, at the exact moment in history as written down in the book of Daniel some six hundred years before it was projected to happen - in Daniel 9:25 - where the exact timeline is defined, and so many others.

Mathematical calculations cited in “The Case for Christ: The Fingerprint evidence” point to a probability of even just eight of the forty four prophecies confirmed fulfilled would be one chance in one hundred million billion. That would be just for eight!

For one man to arrive at a moment in history in order to fulfill all of those things written in a compilation of books known today as the Old Testament - the Hebrew Tanakh - over a period of several thousand years - the odds are mind boggling. But they were fulfilled - in the person of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

For all of the business that is Christmas, and no matter how trivial the understanding is of most people of the significance what’s supposed to be the season is that it’s not just about the birth of a child in Bethlehem.

It’s the strongest confirmation that the God of the universe, who has made it His project to reveal Himself to His creation, has confirmed that He did what He promised, and provided a way out for humanity, where humanity would never be able to meet Him at His level.

He came down through His Son, and met humanity at humanity’s level.

And kept His promise.

And because of that, we can believe that the rest of the promises/prophecies that were also written down WILL be kept. If we know what these are, we can count on them as well to be kept. Unlike the learned religious leaders at that time, who apparently did not know what to expect - completely missed it and unwittingly played a big part of fulfilling some of those prophecies as well, in the event of the Messiah’s atoning death.

Enjoy the gatherings, the gift giving, the music, and the change of pace.

But don’t miss out on the promises. Because they will be kept.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Defending which faith?

Discussions involving religion are never that easy to navigate, which is why I don't initiate them. That being said, when they do occur, and an unsubstantiated remark comes out of nowhere, I find it absolutely necessary to respond - though in the most gracious and considerate way possible, without taking away from the truth that has to be made clear.

In Cebu City, in the Philippines, where I live - the default position is that of a theist position. Though a lot of it is predominantly flawed, at least there's not much to refute with regard to believing in the diety we recognize as God - though these days there happen to be more who think that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob masquerades as Allah, and quite a few also mistake Him to be Buddha as well.  If we have time for a few cups of coffee, outside of the reason why we gathered, a brief look at comparative theologies is a pretty good starting point for clarity but it usually doesn't end up where we want it to go.

Though most people here have a genuine belief that God does exist, it's a resultant of a fear that if they don't, there's going to be a supernatural penalty if they express otherwise.  And this is quite dominant among the different social classes. More so with the masses, who tend to mix folk superstition quite liberally with their beliefs.

However, when they inevitably get to the point - usually, "Why are you so insistent on posting all those things about God on Facebook??", I oblige them.  And strangely, the responses vary from very receptive to very strange.

Considering that here in Cebu City, we have a heritage of a strict, devout (?) - more like obligatory - and severely condescending practice of a Hispanic form of Roman Catholicism, it isn't too difficult to come to terms with believing in the God that the Lord Jesus referred to as "Our Father".

The difficulty begins when those who've experienced a "born again" incident in their past start to try and "right" the "wrongs" in their theology. And that's when the sparks fly, the misunderstandings ensue and nothing ever gets resolved. And worse, you begin to realize that though the basics of understanding salvation through faith is intact, it ends right there and all sorts of defective theological worldviews start to come into play.

Mind you, I have less problems explaining these things to my nominal Catholic friends.  I've had a great many who began reading the Bible on their own and begin rethinking their positions about what they believe in. I myself came to faith reading the defective King James translation and understood the matter of salvation almost immediately.

However, when working through these issues with those that came to faith in Jesus during the last ten years or so, it seems that quite a lot of them were left to fend for themselves after they were led to pray "THE PRAYER" of salvation and they began absorbing all sorts of things that consequently led to all the wrong ideas about what we can believe about what we are supposed to believe in.

It almost feels like we need to start all over again. (Football coach to losing team: "Men, this is a football...")

Why is this so?  I can think of a few good reasons and they all lead to what the people on the pulpit have been propagating for quite some time. Everything else, EXCEPT the scriptures.

Clearly, there is a need to return to the sources. Ad fontes. And understand them as they were meant to be understood.  Not because Joel Osteen or Rick Warren say so.  Or even my favorites, Dr. William Lane Craig and Mike Licona say so. (Mind you, I admire their orthodoxy, but we have to struggle on our own when we do our exegesis and let the Holy Spirit do His work.)

And this is the reason why we have to do this. It's not enough that we study to defend our faith. We need to know what faith we actually should defend - and it's that legacy of promises made by the Living God which the Lord Jesus came to fulfill, explain further and leave with those who started getting it out in the first century.

I like what Dr. Dan Wallace said in one of his lectures: "Without the scriptures, the God you worship is nothing more than the God of your imagination".

May we come to learn more about the truths of the Living God - and know Him in the process. So that the world will know that He alone is Adonai.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mismatching Scriptures or Where is it actually said?

(Some supposed contradictions in the Bible)

Being a member of the Apologetics Bloggers Alliance has some benefits for it's challenges.  Being compelled to write more makes you have to read more and more substantively.

I've always come across portions of scripture that skeptics love to point out as parts that are errouneous and hence, you cannot trust the Bible.

Well really, if the most part corresponds properly with other areas that are cited and are corroborated by archaeological evidence, possibly beyond 90 percent, the scriptures can be counted on to be generally reliable and trustworthy.

However, it didn't stop me trom trying to continue to ferret out the reasons for the supposed incompatibility with some New Testament accounts with their counterparts in the old testament, namely these:

1. The shewbread incident involving David and the High Priest in Mark 2:26 - the names don't correspond to the OT accounts

2. Matthew 2:23 - he would be called a Nazarene. 

3. Matthew 23:35 - where there's another name mismatch again

4. And finally the matter of "springs of living water" - in John 7:38, as there is no direct scripture in the OT that is quoted.

Fortunately, being a part of the same group has the benefit of being able to connect with learned scholars such as Dr. Tim McGrew, who was generous enough and gracious to provide possible explanations to these problems.

Dr. Tim answered:

As for your particular questions:

1. Probably "Abiathar the high priest" is mentioned in Mark 2:26 because (a) he is more prominent than his father Ahimelech (1 Sam. 23:6), who was the high priest at the time referred to (1 Sam. 21:1), and (b) he is associated with David, whose side he took when David and Saul were at war. 

As for the designation "Abiathar the high priest," he did become high priest subsequently, but the phrase "the days of" may be taken merely to indicate that this was within his adult lifetime. It is a manner of speech used commonly enough in secular historical writings. For instance, Herodian (Roman History 1.2) says that “to Marcus the emperor were born several daughters and two sons,” though some of these children were born before Marcus became emperor.

2. Probably "Nazarene" here is a play on the word "netzer," i.e. "root." 

3. As Alfred Barnes notes in his commentary on Matthew, some have thought that it was the Zecharias whose death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, where he is called the son of Jehoiada. But it was common among the Jews to have two names: as Matthew is called Levi; Lebbeus is called Thaddeus; and Simon is called both Cephas and Peter. Another possibility is that Jesus referred to Zecharias the prophet, who might have been massacred by the Jews, though no account of his death is recorded. If so, Jesus was referring to a tradition that has not come down to us in writing.

4. Again, Barnes has a useful note here, which I will simply quote: 

Jesus probably intended to say, not that there was any particular place in the Old Testament that affirmed this in so many words, but that this was the substance of what the Scriptures taught, or this was the spirit of their declarations. Hence, the Syriac translates it in the plural - the Scriptures. Probably there is a reference more particularly to Isaiah 58:11, than to any other single passage: "Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not." See also Isaiah 44:3-4; Joel 3:18.

He also said: "some objections are curious and difficult to answer with certainty, but we have a great mass of evidence for the substantial historicity of the Scriptures. So there is no reason to be "thrown" by a few minor difficult passages that we cannot be certain of explaining satisfactorily."

Another explanation for number 4 was provided by my good friend and pastor Earl Opinion, of Doxo Dunamis, a small congregation where my family and I attend worship gatherings. Earl specializes in exegesis - a subject that he's mastered and teaches very well, and I must admit, I've developed a love for as well.

Earl gave me this possible explanation some time ago:

"But it appears that another passage about living water was also associated with Tabernacles, if rabbinic material may be relied on for this conclusion.20 This passage was Ezekiel 47:1–11. According to this text, Ezekiel reports, “Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar” (Ezek. 47:1).

It is surprising that there has not been a much stronger tendency in the literature to settle on this passage as the one cited in John 7:37–39. Most commentators are well aware of the water ceremonies which marked the Jewish observance of Tabernacles and which seem obviously to furnish the backdrop for Jesus’ words. The ritual is well described by Morris.

On each of the seven days of the feast a priest drew water from the pool of Siloam in a golden flagon and brought it in procession to the temple with the joyful sounding of the trumpet. There the water was poured into a bowl beside the altar from which a tube took it to the base of the altar. Simultaneously wine was poured through a similar bowl on the other side of the altar.21 To be carefully observed here is the link between the altar and the water ceremony which quite readily evokes a recollection of Ezekiel 47 in which the waters issue forth at the right side of the altar of the millennial Temple!

Since, moreover, the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have vivifying properties—“every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezek. 47:9)—those waters are properly described as living waters! Additionally, in the Septuagint text of this passage the Greek word ποταμός (“river”) is found five times (vv. 6, 7, 9 twice, 12) as a rendering of the Hebrew ַנַחל. Obviously this furnishes an additional link with John 7:38 in view of the use of נןפבלן there.22

But of special importance is the suitability of Ezekiel’s vision in the light of John’s explanatory comment in verse 39. According to the Fourth Evangelist the real significance of Jesus’ words lay in their reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit which believers had not yet received.23 It is precisely this post-Pentecostal gift from a glorified Savior that transforms the believer into a “temple” of God! As Paul described it, “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).

20 20.     Dodd observes: “It may be recalled that among the scriptures most frequently quoted in rabbinic authorities with reference to the libations at Sukkoth [Tabernacles] are Is. xii. 3, Ezek. xlvii. 1 sqq., Zech. xiv. 8” (Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, p. 349). Cf. the rabbinic tractate Sukkah iii as cited by Guilding (The Fourth Gospel and Jewish Worship, pp. 105–6).

21 21.     Morris, The Gospel according to John, p. 420. Cf. also George W. MacRae, “The Meaning and Evolution of the Feast of Tabernacles,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 22 (1960):273; and J. Blenkinsopp, “The Quenching of Thirst: Reflections on the Utterance in the Temple, John 7:37–9,” Scripture 12 (1960):45–46.

22 22.     It may be worth noting that once (in Ezek. 47:9), the Hebrew dual ַנֲחַלִים is used. Could the Greek נןפבלן of John 7:38 reflect this?

23 23.     On the ostensibly difficult expression in verse 39, ןὔנש דὰס ἠ̂ם ׀םוץ̂לב¢̔דיןם (modern editors usually omit ἅדיןם), Barrett’s statement is good: “John does not mean to deny the earlier existence of the Spirit, nor indeed that he was active in the prophets; and he says expressly that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus himself at the beginning of his ministry (1:21). He means rather that the Holy Spirit was not given in the characteristically Christian manner and measure until the close of the ministry. ƒ He himself recognizes clearly the dependence of the gift of the Spirit upon the completed work of Jesus (The Gospel according to John, p. 272). Cf. also the study by S. H. Hooke, “ ‘The Spirit Was Not Yet,’ ” New Testament Studies 9 (1962–63): 372–80, esp. 378–80.

Bibliotheca Sacra : A quarterly published by Dallas Theological Seminary. 1996, c1955-1995 (248). Dallas TX: Dallas Theological Seminary.

Earl concluded with this: "The quote from the O.T. fits rightly but only as an epo [(eipen = said) Scripture "said"] because John does not say "it is written."  When Jesus is quoted as saying it is written it is more specific unlike when he just says (epo) it is from Scripture."

In any case, I've become more confident in addressing these issues when they arise - as these are often cited by skeptics, atheists and agnostics influenced largely by what they read on the internet, and are motivated mostly by anger and other mixed emotions against God that they do their best to discredit the Living God that we've come to know as our Father, the way the Lord Jesus has told us to refer to Him.

It doesn't mean that they are persuaded by the argument, but those that are monitoring our conversations inevitably see the validity of the propositions that I hold to and come closer to the knowledge of the saving grace of the atonement made by the Risen Jesus.

While I do acknowledge that this kind of knowledge requires more than the usual approach of study, it is available, and with dedication, resolve and persistence, anyone can find the answers that ARE available and the God who skeptics accuse of being invisible, reveals Himself in a magnificent way.

The King James version of the bible challenges the reader to find God in a vivid way in Jeremiah 29:13. But when I saw the translation in the NET bible, I was floored - the challenge is different: When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul.

Findong God is not just a matter of poring over the books and resources. Prayer and worship is involved. And the Lord God will be found. He will be there. If you seek Him with ALL of your heart and soul, or the inner man, as the Hebrew word "lebab" implies.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mentoring a mathethes

Nothing beats the feeling of fulfillment in seeing a mathethes (disciple in greek) performing beyond his own expectations.

I have the rare privilege of mentoring a college sophomore son of a very good friend. Part of his subject requirement for his engineering degree are subjects in Religious Education, or Re Ed.  Nothing to be alarmed about, except that the setting is a traditional Roman Catholic university, run by priests of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and the Re Ed teacher is a theology graduate from Princeton University in the US, and is a practicing agnostic.

Interesting combination.

If you happen to be a nominal Catholic attending that college, and if you didn't know your scriptures and theology, you'd be fair game for the practicing atheists and agnostics wanting to convince you that there is no God.

However, that was not the case for this particular class, involving my friend's son.

Previously, we had already begun discussing the objective truths of our faith and for a little over a year, we were regularly working through the various subjects often discussed in this branch of theology that we know and love - Christian apologetics.

Little did we know that it was going to be necessary beginning last June, when he enrolled for his second year in engineering.

During his first class in Re Ed, his teacher began lecturing the class on the environment and surroundings of first century Palestine, when Jesus was growing up.  To her surprise, she found that one of her students was very well versed on the subject.  ( He should be - I gifted him with a book by Dr. Ben Witherington "What have they done with Jesus?", and he read and reread through it a lot.)

After a spirited discussion, his teacher decided to exempt him from the class and write book reports on the books which she was going to furnish him with.

His first book was "The Revolutionary Jesus" by John Dominic Crossan.

With that, he called to ask for help - and we went through a few books together, as we reviewed the allegations by JD Crossan in most of his books.  True enough, they were practically the same, lame arguments.

And with that, he wrote his reports and showed the drafts to me, and we reworked them to a point where an apologist would find the paper at least, defensible.

He got two perfect scores for those reports.

And another JD Crossan reading assignment.

At least, his teacher was objective enough to recognize that his work was well researched and his arguments were good.  (Of course, they were good - I had the works of Mike Licona to back me up! LOL!)

We have a few more reports to do for the rest of the semester, but the remainder of the sem already looks interesting.

Being able to impart the stuff that we read, and eventually get to master is a great thing. But being able to see your mathethes perform well with what you imparted over a period of time is priceless.

I'm not saying that we should undertake as many of these as soon as possible.

I've fallen flat on my face offering my time to people, inviting them to learn these subjects, only to get a polite smile and a promise to consider my offer.  Beyond coffee, we never got to even discuss what Christian apologetics is and why it's necessary.

Until we got to vacation with my friend, his family and my mathethes (not yet, at that time) and my own family - and there, I learned of his interest in my favorite subject.  And it was enriching for both of us from there on.

Sometimes, in our quest to gather as many students to attend an apologetics discussion group, we miss out on the enriching experience of mentoring a mathethes.  Little do we realize that equipping one very interested follower of the Lord Jesus produces such explosive results.  Now, his classmates are asking him questions. (Good thing he's got answers!)

Making mathethes out of many ethnos doesn't necessarily mean sending out missionaries to other peoples with different cultures.  It literally just means "learning in order to be able to teach" many people of many nations.  And that can mean any person within reach of a phone or an email for as long as the interest is there, and you can provide the reading matter and the reasons for the answers. And it can be just one, very interested kid in college instead of a whole group that we look to teach inside a coffee shop one evening a week.

Rethink or renew your minds on this matter. It's very enriching and rewarding.  And it brings pleasure to our King.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Outsourced Thoughts

I live in Cebu City. A city that Tholons (a business processes outsourcing consulting group) has dubbed the most viable place to set up and operate Business Process and Knowledge Process Outsourcing enterprises.

It’s still another way of saying you can get it done cheaper here than where you live. That is, if you live in the developed world that’s being crippled financially.

No matter. There are more job opportunities for the 25,000 or so college graduates that finish a four or five year degree course only to find themselves awake at night, making or receiving calls overseas in behalf of clients that need to keep their CRM costs down. Way down.

That way, they are still able to maintain a certain degree of good customer relations and the otherwise potentially unemployed have jobs, except that their nightlife is ruined forever. (While they are still working there, anyway.)

Now what has this got to do with renovating our minds?

Well, a group of friends from an old school got together just recently and gave us the chance to catch up, as some of us hadn’t seen each other for almost 33 (?) years.  One became a pastor, after a profound career change from being Army officer.

The inevitable question had to be asked: “So…how do you…make a living??” or something similar to that was brought up.

I wasn’t quite prepared for his answer, but somehow it made sense. “There are certain people who appreciate our efforts to provide spiritual direction in the lives of people, and they decide to invest in our ministry.”  Very tactful, gracious and a sufficient answer.  Never mind if there are other justifications for it.  Other people would have quoted irrelevant scriptures or cite practices that are somehow inconsistent already, given the covenant of Grace which we are already subject to. ( Read  Obligations and Contracts, and study the matter of contract novation to understand it better.)

In the congregation where we gather to worship, we are studying the matter of shepherding – sheep behavior and what is involved in the process of shepherding.  As it is – shepherding, the way our King expressed His wish for Peter, was not a paid job, but a calling and a response to our King’s wish: to care for His sheep.

And in so doing, we do what we do to shepherd His people. Not for money or anything else, but to fulfill His call to make mathethes of every ethnos. The difference between a career and a call.

Throughout this time, my good friend and teacher exegeted the scriptures well enough to allow us to see that making mathethes is not a job that can be quantified and bill for later on, on a per hour or per lesson basis.  Freely we receive, therefore we must give freely.

BUT – though we are under no compulsion to support those that provide this knowledge in order that we can eventually shepherd our own flocks, we receive when we do give freely and generously to them – as we invest in their efforts and benefit from their care and prayer support as well.

It makes sense when you realize that we no longer depend on priests, as the new covenant has eliminated the need for the necessity of intermediaries.

True, we are a priesthood of believers. But the stark, sad reality is that the overwhelming majority of the new priesthood do not do their homework.  Which is why many either fall astray or get lost altogether.

No wonder the Good Shepherd is always out looking for lost sheep.

And this, to my understanding is where the matter of Outsourcing the Defense is necessary.

In all of the blogs I’ve come across, ministry sites I’ve visited and lettered apologists, scholars and theologians I’ve communicated with, I find that there are less than 1% of followers of Jesus that engage in the life of the mind.  For whatever reason.  And another common factor is that, when they are faced with the challenges that they don’t have answers for – then, they call: the MYTHBUSTERS!! ( Lousy joke, I know. I was just kidding!)

It seems to be easier to call a friend who knows the answers to meet the challengers head on and call on them to find answers instead of reading a book, listening to a podcast, or (God help us!) thinking it through.  It seems like a dreadful chore, but since it’s got to be done, let’s call the specialists.

While I continue to sigh inwardly at the current inclinations of those of my generation to depend on me to help them defend what they believe, I’m also honored because they feel that they can trust me enough to help them out in providing the justification to what the more critical and less thoughtful would refer to as a reasonless faith.

I am glad that I am able already (or so I think). And also, for the work that I do that allows me to read, study, think and hammer out my own worldview so that others can form their own, with a bit of my guidance.

This is where I think our roles as Knowledge Process Outsources become relevant. Because we CAN provide better explanations, a formidable defense and a strong, evidential justification for what we believe and articulate it for those who haven’t bothered to try.  If we are able to get them interested enough to want to do the same, we take it to a higher level – to the level that our King would so desire, and make more mathethes in the process.

And mostly, we as apologists, provide Clarity to our faith. And in that sense, we qualify as providers.

And what about the enterprise of it? 

I’m not holding my breath. 

Of all the disciplines in the field of theology and Christian philosophy, I find that the most difficult to get financial rewards from is this path that is least trod. And not just because it’s a challenging one.  Christianity, by itself, is the narrow road.  This trail requires more tracking skills so you don’t get lost.  So, should we be surprised if there are less that take the path towards a more rational righteousness?

Paul was a tentmaker.  I am a media producer and a sweat equity investor in a friend’s growing business.

And at the same time, a freelance philosopher, armchair theologian and an apologetics coach.

(By the way, that’s a nice development from being an erstwhile apologist.)

And thankful for the gift of reasoning skills, being able to use them and working through the tough questions myself.

So someday, I can assist more who think that they can't.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Principal Advantage of Socially Networking among Apologists

I have to thank Greg West of the Poached Egg blogsite ( for admitting me into the Apologetics Bloggers Alliance on Facebook.

Being able to access more information that's already been validated is a really good thing - not having to cross check everything all the time, considering that the pages that are being referred to are being written by scholars.

Just like other informal groupings of apologists, theologians and Christian scholars, the group is also a mixture of people with varying theological orientations and preferences, and well considered opinions that they can very well defend.  But that doesn't matter so much as the fact that they all are unanimous on taking their faith seriously enough to want to learn more about it and talk sensibly about it to anyone who'd care enough to listen.

The sad thing is, the majority of those who say that they follow the Lord Jesus think that they know enough about the faith that they profess that they feel that investigating these matters thoroughly is the equivalent of theological nitpicking.  And they predictibly lapse into the usual contention to suggest that "Why don't you just be practical and teach things like improving your marriage, learning to live responsibly and helping the less privileged so we can have a better world? Go out and serve!"

The fact is there is no shortage of these well meaning people, but the only thing is that they completely miss the point as their immediate objective, it seems, is to repair the world that we live in, as if it was the domain that we are going to inhabit for all eternity.

When we inevitably get diverted to the matter of discussing what the Lord Jesus first proclaimed about the "Kingdom of the Heavens" that had "come near", we finally get the glimpse of the true message that God's Kingdom seeks to "retake territory" and that we should inform everyone else that this is so. And that the Lord Jesus is now the ruler of this invisible territory that must be asserted over the fallen domain that's long been "grabbed" by the evil deceiver.

It is facets of this message that becomes available when you get the glimpses of insight when reading the work of these individuals that have thought these things through and made them available for everyone to consider for integration into their worldview.

And that, by itself is a good thing.

We no longer have to content ourselves with the popularized "Christian" message writers that continue to be sold in bookstores and now become aware of the more credible material that's available and have become resources to draw on by most of these gifted writers.

What it also does is make your reading wish list grow even longer.  

I am privileged to have been included among these rigorous thinkers and prolific writers and my only regret is that we live too far away, to be able to meet up for coffee and a long chat to discuss and compare views.  The consolation is that we are able to do so in snippets when we are able to post our views on matters that we consider worthwhile to "like" or present another viewpoint that would not have been raised altogether.

My thanks to Greg West for putting that Facebook group together. And for according me the privilege of being counted among you great thinkers.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The iPod - a tool to study Apologetics

If there's one thing I've learned from my stint in radio, is that the audible message, repeated constantly, becomes an indelible part of your memory.

Why do you think that a thirty second radio ad, hammered into the subconscious of so many listeners, at least six times a day for at least six months, is committed to their memory in such a way that they can even repeat it verbatim - knowingly or unknowingly?

There's something to what Joshua was told in the book of Joshua, in verse 1:8.  "This law scroll must not leave your lips! 1  You must memorize it 2  day and night so you can carefully obey 3  all that is written in it. Then you will prosper 4  and be successful. 5 " - from

I first started to listen to podcasts after finding out that there were lessons to be learned from the great divinity schools in the US through iTunes U and other great websites.  At that time, it was just good to listen online because I could choose to stop listening at any time.

After starting my studies in apologetics, downloading the podcasts became mandatory.  It was difficult already to wrap your head around the concepts, much more grasp them completely after reading through the pages of the book just a few times.  Add to that, my failing eyesight, reading became quite a challenge after going through at least five pages.

Downloading podcasts by Dr. William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Mike Licona and Gary Habermas to work through the issues of the resurrection account helped me understand the propositions and the arguments better. After realizing that I could take the lectures with me while waiting in line at banks, walking from place to place, I began to load the podcasts on my old iPod.  Who cared if I couldn't upload video? I didn't need visual aids.  I needed to remember these things.

Uploading the lectures and interviews by Dr. Mike Licona helped my understanding of historiography and how valuable it was in making the case for the validity of the resurrection accounts.

Downloading, and listening to Reasonable Faith podcasts brought me up to speed on the absurdity of life without God, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the problem of evil and a great many other issues that are taken up by most apologists.

With the lectures by Dr. Doug Groothuis, I learned to appreciate Francis Schaeffer, Soren Kirkegaard, Blaise Pascal and cultural apologetics.

Listening with the iPod is the next best thing to being with these esteemed scholars and listening to them in real time. It's even better, because you can get to rewind and really commit what they say to memory.

Many other people have become enamored with tablet PCs and other gadgets. 

I value my old iPod - and plan to get another one with larger memory space when it finally conks out. It has served me well since 2006. And continues to do so up to now - in my quest to study the hope that we have and why it's the most viable system of thought to believe in.

Battling the invisible Evil Supernatural forces

In the course of my work in serving the tribal people of the highlands of Mindanao, we are exposed to many different situations quite uncommon to city dwellers.

Among these are what most ministry folk refer to as “power encounters” – or the kind involving the supernatural dark forces that the less educated of these people pander to, in order to gain some unusual “favors”.

I had long known that these kinds of forces existed and had read about them, but it never occurred to me that these happen to people in a different reality.

I met Pastor Edgar Aleo of the Titik, Zamboanga del Norte Tribal Gospel Fellowship in a pastor’s conference sometime in January, 2012. He attended the conference with his brother in law, Pastor Albert Tinda, of the Mount Moriah Training School in Guintolan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

We were there to enlighten them and quite a few other pastors on the projects of Remember the Poor/Village Health ( that would benefit them as colleagues in the ministry of MCN. (

It was during the course of that conference that I came to talk to them and learn of these significant encounters with the dark forces that truly exist in their areas and wield such a strong influence on the people that they are hoping to win over to the Kingdom of God.

I happen to adhere to the view that miracles still do occur in this day and age, and we who walk with our King will do “greater things” as He had said we would. We can save that discussion for another post and focus on these two that strengthened my view that we as followers of the Way, must do battle with “principalities and powers” that exist in this world and use the authority that He gave us to overcome them.

Pastor Edgar is a Subanen and comes from a family of Baylans (shamans). His father, Alake Aleo was a Baylan before him and they had both become followers of the Lord Jesus one after another.

A Baylan is a local spiritual figure among these tribesmen, who go to them for healing, through appealing to the spirits and appeasing them with sacrifices – some done on a yearly basis, to renew their spiritual “powers”.  Some of them are also suspected of causing sicknesses to enemy tribal groups.  Tribal villagers have been known to have given a total value of 150,000 Philippine pesos worth of offerings for sacrifices to these baylans.

After Edgar committed to follow Jesus, his father did not immediately follow, and continued in his way as a local shaman.  However, after noticing that Edgar became completely different and much better, he sought to follow suit and asked his son to help him do the same.

In the Subanen setting, this is not as simple as we think it should be.

By doing so, the Subanen baylan concedes that there is a far more superior power than his own and submits to this power and has to concede this in public. And Edgar and his father did so in the Tribal Gospel Fellowship church altar sometime in 1998.

The ritual involved the public relinquishment of these powers by turning over the plates and other instruments used in making these sacrifices to the spirits and putting them before God the Father as a way of acknowledging that He is Lord and the superior power over them.

It was during the public acknowledgement and denouncing of these forces in the altar that what looked like a flame leaped out of these implements and left the church building.  This was witnessed by Pastor Edgar and many in the congregation, strengthening their belief in the God of the Bible, the one referred to by the Lord Jesus as “our Father”.

The second time this occurred was with a far more prominent baylan, the uncle of Pastor Edgar and Albert Tinda – a man known to the villagers as Singkat Tinda.  He had been a baylan to the tribal villagers for a much longer time and his “powers” were legend.  There were many reports of bedridden people being revived and could walk again after consulting with this baylan offering sacrifices to the “spirits” in their behalf, as well as other stories of people being “healed” or recovering from other illnesses.

Pastor Edgar knew this uncle well and continually talked with him to dissuade him from continuing in his ways as he knew of the dangerous implications of what he was doing. For quite some time, his uncle did not pay attention.  Sometime in September, 2011, his uncle had a change of heart and wanted to be baptized.

And in a very public manner, Pastor Edgar and many other friends of the congregation brought the baylan to a river for a public baptism.  The event was witnessed by many, including a great number of followers of the baylan.

It was during this encounter, when the pastor attempted to immerse the baylan, and it was just the baylan’s head that had to be submerged under water, a strong force resisted their attempts to put him under the water and complete the process.

The pastor and other attending friends began praying and attempting to do this for at least one hour – and each time they tried to put his head under water, a great strength would arise, preventing them from doing so.

Finally, after an hour of attempting to do so, the entire process of baptism was completed and the people witnessing the event saw what appeared to be a “black shadow” arising from the water and flying away fast from the scene.

The baylan has since become a believer and attends church services, and bible studies and proclaims that the Lord Jesus is his savior. And so with the followers that saw what had happened.

Incidents such as these are few and far between in an urban setting, where most modern day “Christians” think that these are mere superstitions and are not real occurrences.  I write of these incidents to give credence to the real situations that are faced by these modern day spiritual warriors in the field, in the tribal upland areas of Mindanao – where they battle poverty, lack and the delivery of basic services, yet win great battles in the invisible supernatural world, where they gain much territory in the Kingdom that the King had tasked each one of us who claim to follow Him, to proclaim and expand.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Long Overdue post (and hello 2012!)

It's been ages since I uploaded my last post, and I don't want to say I have good reasons for not gathering my thoughts to publish them, however I must say I really do.

Not that I hope to be excused. I know I've been remiss. But I am banking on the goodness of the hearts of my friends to allow me this lapse. And for future ones as well.

These past few months have been devoted to helping a real, working ministry (, and and doing what we can to help prop up their efforts to help the tribal people in Mindanao so that they can do better in influencing their communities to receive the message of the Kingdom of the Heavens better.

And alongside that, selecting the books and podcasts that would best help me construct a more viable and workable worldview regarding the Kingdom (read: what does work, and what doesn't) to be able to proclaim it better.

It doesn't help that a great many don't share the view and the passion, and would rather prefer to "keep it simple", for a variety of reasons - and most of them are actually excuses disguised as "new and better ways" to proclaim the King that has come and will come again.

I really don't mind that, but my eyebrows go up when I'm chided for embarking on "uncharted waters" because it really isn't necessary.  The Gospel is simple - let's keep it that way.  

Or so most would like to think. 

Or do they actually think at all.

Lest I become "puffed up", we're better off exploring those things that have interrupted the free flow of thought that must be typed down and posted online.

The three most significant developments I've come across is first, the matter of God's Kingdom "recovering territory" through the continuing work that the Lord Jesus began in the first century and how we should continue it in the manner by which He demonstrated during his three and a half year ministry.

The second, the way that we "lost it" along the way because of the events that transpired and the developments in Christian thought throughout history, and why we hold to certain beliefs that aren't necessarily true, but are held simply because they were passed on by those who were percieved to be "Godly", however erroneous in their thinking.

And finally, through the advent of the technologies made possible with the new internet and networking, we are now able to access the necessary resources in order to be able to work through all the available material, and through careful thought and reasoning, we can arrive at what something that we can truly believe in and make a better case of it.

I have been fortunate to have found the great and careful work of Dr. Douglas Groothuis ( - a philosophy professor at Denver Seminary, who wrote a great book "Christian Apologetics" (among so many other great books) and did some great lectures, which I downloaded and listen to, over and over again.

His philosophical orientations exposed me more to the works of the late Francis Schaeffer (an author already introduced to me by my ministry mentor,  and dear friend John Ricards) and other philosophers. These have helped me greatly in understanding why the Western Christian church continues in the way it does, proclaiming an emasculated Gospel and focusing on the things of this life (though not necessarily of this world), which are considerably temporary in light of the eternity that we are destined to enter.

For instance, I don't see how "Fireproofing" a  marriage will help in an eternal Kingdom when marriages are no longer viable. And the Lord Jesus taught mostly about fixing our gaze on the eternal Kingdom that has "drawn near" and will be put in place when He returns as the conquering King.

Because of these inputs, I was convinced to acquire a classic, by Schaeffer - "The God Who Is There". And as a bonus, my good friend and ministry buddy, Byron Gary lent me his old copy of "How Then Should We Live". Powerful tomes on the way culture influences thought, and the way we then live.

To complete the next few months of reading is a two-volume work by Dr. Craig Keener on Miracles.  A great work detailing the historical evidence to show that miracles did not die out after the last apostle (John) passed away, and thousands of documented supernatural events of healing, exorcisms and revivifications occuring in various parts of the world, including the Philippines. This, I believe to be very, very important.

In one instance in the book, Dr. Keener vividly describes a healing of someone that was bound to a wheelchair for years, yet crawled to the front of a church congregation to pray for healing. And got it. And a whole new congregation was brought forth because of that miracle.  To say that these things don't happen simply because it's not the "uniform human experience" as propounded by David Hume or because your previous church background is your mental baggage is simply unreasonable, in the light of the evidence that does exist. 

And if you look hard enough by yourself, you'll be surprised at what you'll find.

Question: would you be brave enough to actually pray for a miracle to take place - regardless of whether the Lord God would or wouldn't instantaneously intervene because of your appeal to Him in behalf of that person desperately seeking that divine response?

This, I find quite significant, as I have started to put together my own documentation of these supernatural occurrences which validate the truths about the Judeo Christian God we believe in, and the reality of the eternal future that we all face - with or without the God who is there.

I  never quite thought that the study of Christian apologetics, church history, the history of the translations of the scriptures, New Testament criticism and philosophy, from a Christian perspective would ever be one of my passions.  But it is. And in a really big way.

And what's amazing is that it has truly changed my perspectives, priorities and desires in such a radical fashion that if I had to reveal them to close friends and family that don't share my worldview, I'd be percieved to be as quite bizarre or just plain nuts.

Well, the Roman ruler said the same thing of Paul in the book of Acts. So I'm in good company.

Renovating my mind - or, in the KJV tradition "renewing" my mind - has taken on quite a different meaning and direction already and still challenges me to press on - though I must admit that it's not exactly something I relish simply because I realize that it will definitely entail losing out on more of what I would want or desire, as I must put in place what is desired by the God who is there.

The time for the eternal kingdom to be installed in the history of humanity draws near, and then the judgement - before eternity in it's final, perfect form will be restored in completion.

We must restore it first, where it must be firmly in place: In our minds.