Written by J. Warner Wallace |
Friday, September 22, 2023
For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others.
Last week while talking on the phone with my friend and fellow Christian Case Maker, Rice Broocks (author of God’s Not Dead), the topic of evidence was raised. Both of us present the case for Christianity on university campuses around the country and we’ve discovered a great deal of cultural confusion related to what qualifies as evidence when trying to make a case. Many people simply don’t understand the basic categories of evidence and mistakenly think prosecutors need a particular kind of evidence to be successful. As it turns out, evidence falls into one of two categories: direct and indirect. Direct evidence is simply eyewitness testimony. Indirect evidence (also known as circumstantial evidence) is everything else. When I say “everything else” I mean precisely that: everything has the potential to be considered as evidence. In the many years I’ve been making criminal cases in the State of California, I’ve presented physical objects, statements, behaviors and much more to make my case. Take a look at the variety of evidences typically presented in criminal jury trials:
Forensic physical evidence
Non-forensic physical evidence
Where the victim was attacked
Where the victim wasn’t attacked
Items discovered at the crime scene
Items missing from the crime scene
Words the suspect said
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By R. Scott Clark — 1 year ago
Written by R. Scott Clark |
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
When we think about film we should ask, “is this a good piece of filmmaking? What is the nature of film? What makes a good film (e.g., screen writing, cinematography, directing, editing, acting etc)? These are the sorts of questions that Christian film critics ought to be asking and answering about film
I love a good film. I took three courses in film criticism as an undergraduate. They were more difficult than one might think. First, taking notes in the dark is challenging and reading them afterward is even more difficult. Second, I had to watch a lot of hard-to-watch films, which I would not recommend. Still, I got to watch a number of great films and got to learn a bit about how films are written, shot, and edited. I learned that the really great thing about Citizen Kane is not the banal script or even Orson Welles (1915–85)—the best performance in the film is Joseph Cotton’s—but the cinematography of Gregg Toland (1904–48). The opening shot amazes me still, even after CGI, etc. By the way, the best way to experience Orson Welles is to listen to him. If you enjoy podcasts go to archive.org and search for “Orson Welles old time radio.”
There is an approach to film criticism popular among evangelicals that seeks to find some aspect of a film, e.g., a theme, a story arc, or a character that somehow connects to the Christian faith. This is a mistake driven by a confusion over nature and grace. Evangelicals have long had trouble with the category of nature. For the most part they do not have that category in their intellectual toolbox. Things are thought to be valuable only insofar as they relate to grace (e.g., the new life).
When I became a Christian in the mid-70s, one of the fist things I learned informally, from other Christians, was that once a Christian has been redeemed he should no longer be interested even in the ordinary things that interested him when he was a pagan. Thus, an interest in sports must be replaced by an interest in what they called “spiritual things.” What they were saying is that Christians need to abandon nature for grace.
The Three Ways of Relating Nature and Grace
My new evangelical friends did not realize it but they were repeating an Anabaptist way of thinking about nature (creation) and grace (e.g., redemption). There are broadly three ways of relating nature and grace. The Anabaptist view is, as the Reformed complained, that “grace destroys nature.” The way I explain it to my students is to say that, in the Anabaptist view (which has greatly influenced American evangelicalism since 1800), grace obliterates (i.e., paints over) nature. They think this way because they have an over-realized eschatology, they expect too much of heaven and the future state now. This over-realized eschatology iReas a leaven throughout their theology. It leavens their theology, their ecclesiology, their view of the sacraments, their ethics, and their rejection of nature as a category of thought. In the Anabaptist/evangelical system, nature is thought mainly in terms of fallen nature and thus there is a quasi-Manichaean quality to the way they relate nature and grace.
By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
We know that heaven will be a wonder for all who are admitted, a place of perfect peace and perfect satisfaction for all who enter its gates. But surely heaven will be a greater wonder still for those whose joys were fewest, whose sorrows were deepest, whose earth was most distant from heaven.
The man who lives in the Swiss Alps is probably not terribly impressed when he visits North America and strolls through the Adirondacks or the Smokies. The woman who has spent her life snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef is probably not too enthusiastic about snorkeling off the East Coast of Canada. The person who has grown up on the beaches of Maui is probably not going to break the bank to vacation on the beaches of Lake Superior. There is nothing wrong with the Adirondacks or the Smokies, nothing wrong with the East Coast of Canada or the beaches of the Great Lakes. It’s just that they are not nearly as good, not nearly as impressive, not nearly as awe-inspiring as the alternatives.
It does us good at times to ponder heaven, to ponder the future God has promised to those who love him. He has promised that we will be with him forever in a new heaven and a new earth—a re-creation of this world in which all sin and sorrow, all pain and danger will have been removed. Here we will live out the purpose for which God created us—to spread out over the earth and enjoy it with him and for him.
As we make the pilgrimage from here to there, as we endure this long journey, we expect that it will be difficult. We expect that we will experience the consequences that have come with mankind’s fall into sin. We expect that we will endure sickness, bereavement, persecution, chastisements, and so many other forms of suffering. This is all inevitable in a world like this one.
While we do not wish to suffer, we must be confident that God always has purposes in it.
By Joe Gibbons — 1 year ago
We know that the sacraments have a teaching function. They exist to encourage and edify the body of the faithful. By maintaining a standard of the appropriate mode (and therefore appropriate symbolism) for baptizing, we are shepherding our people. We are teaching them about the Lord’s nature of interacting with His people and the way He saves and revives us.
The sacrament of baptism is perhaps the most widely debated topic in the Protestant church world. There is no shortage of fraternal disagreements on this topic, especially within the Reformed evangelical setting. However, debates around baptism often focus around who should be baptized. Is baptism reserved for believers alone? Or are the children of Christians to be baptized as well? Comparatively less ink is spilled debating about the mode of baptism, or how people are to be baptized. The nature of the debate over whether biblical baptism should be administered to families of believers can often distract from this all too important topic. This can lead to misunderstandings about why certain traditions hold the practices they do, or assumptions that one’s own practice is right, without prompting any further investigation into the matter. It has even led to some considering this issue of no consequence at all.
What do the scriptures teach about the mode of baptism? How are believers to be baptized? Unfortunately, there is no “gotcha” passage in the New Testament that points us to a quick resolution of this, but as we tread beyond the usual stomping ground of whether baptizo means to immerse (and only to immerse), we should find a deeper meaning for baptism. Just as what we do with the bread and wine matters for observing communion, what we do with the waters of baptism matters as well.
Signs and Wonders
The Westminster Confession of faith opens its 28th chapter by defining baptism as a sacrament, and listing its many benefits:
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.—WCF 28.1
So what is baptism all about? Well, it is a sign (or a symbol) of the Christian’s regeneration and the remission of their sins. Baptism displays, in symbolic visual form, the new birth that is experienced by the believer and wrought by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). For once we were dead in our tresspasses and sins, but God “made us alive, together with Christ–” (Eph. 2:5) God has given His church baptism to show us that in Christ we are made alive.
This baptism verifies the promises of the Gospel in scripture. God promised to revive, and so he showers us with the water of life through His Spirit. God promised to cleanse, and so he washes us of our sin & iniquity. It is the Gospel in picture, for the person being baptized and for all who witness the event and consider the sign. More than an empty ceremony, it gives testimony to the promise of redemption; it shows God as he holds out a righteousness that can be had by faith. In this way, baptism is similar to circumcision in that it preaches to those who receive it, although baptism does this more than circumcision ever could. Circumcision as a sign showed Christians in the Old Testament that they, by their sin, were fundamentally broken as creatures and needed their wickedness removed in order to stand in the light of a holy God. Baptism shows us more, as the washing with water pictures our Savior who was covered by our sin and cleansed as he rose again on the third day.
And yet, baptism does even more. It shows us, as Chad van Dixhoorn writes, not only redemption promised and redemption accomplished, but redemption applied.1 Baptism points us to something real, something that happened. This sign represents to us the way in which we were brought into the house of God, and the relationship between our spiritual baptism and our righteous standing with Christ before God. Paul says as much in Galatians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27) Just as Christians are joined to the visible church at their baptism, so they are ushered into Christ’s arms when they are resurrected through spiritual baptism.
Problems With Immersion
The question then becomes, what does this symbolism have to do with the mode of baptism? This particular moment is where many well-meaning Baptists ride down the hill as the cavalry coming to the rescue, declaring with every fiber of their being that immersion (or dipping) is the appropriate mode, and in fact, the only biblical mode. They are not without reason to have such confidence in immersion, as it conveys much through its symbolism. They derive their meaning from the language of being buried with Christ from places in scripture like Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12. The Baptist connects these passages with what he sees as the “burial” in water during an immersion baptism, or the “watery grave” as the prominent preacher Adrian Rogers called it, and there consider the matter to be ended.