Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.


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Why I Don’t Collect Comic Books Anymore

I love comic books, superheroes and all the things that go with them. I have been enjoying the superhero movies and look forward to each one of them.

But I no longer collect comics and haven’t for many years.

I was once an avid collector and really enjoyed it. I focused almost completely on DC Comics.

I especially like the idea of continuity, that is that the comics belonged to a shared universe and that future stories had to take into account that which happened in the past.

I was happy with the way things were working out. And then in the mid-1980s, Crisis on Infinite Earths came out. This was an attempt to clean up the continuity, to simplify things and to fix some of the issues that arose from many years of comic book publishing.

I really enjoyed that series and I liked the new universe that came out of it. But things got complicated again. So there have been numerous reboots since then. Every time there was a problem, they started over.

I was fine with Crisis as one major reboot but the continued attempts to fix things have turned me off. There is no sense of we have what we have and we build on what’s there. If something is complicated, just wipe away the continuity and start again.

I realize that many people enjoy stories just for the sake of the stories. There is part of that in me but the comic publishers have worked too hard to have the major events.

Perhaps that is the problem. The original Crisis was to fix things. The later reboots seem like publicity stunts attempting to attract new readers. But once you have restarted the universe a number of times, how can you do something bigger.

I will hold onto the few classic comics books I have kept and enjoy the movies but I won’t become a collector again.

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The High Definition Leader – Review

High-Definition LeaderThe High-Definition Leader has been on my radar for some time. I held off because I misunderstood the title, By “High-Definition,” I assumed it was another leadership book making the reader guilty for not being more intense in their leadership. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

By “High-Definition” Derwin Gray is making reference to high definition televisions by which you can see every shade of colour. In the same way, churches should reflect every colour of skin.

Some may argue that calling for multi-ethnic congregations is part of the latest politically correct trend. But Gray demonstrates that this is the original plan for the church. The first major struggle for the early church was to move from Jewish to Jewish and Gentile (which included many ethnic groups). Multi-ethnic congregations are part of our biblical DNA.

The High-Definition Leader appealed to me on two levels. Unlike many leadership books, this book includes extensive biblical research and goes beyond surface interpretation. Gray spends a lot of time in Ephesians, demonstrating that a diverse Christian community is not a fringe part of the faith but is core of the gospel.

The other reason that this book grabbed me was that I am a pastor of a multi-ethnic congregation and what Gray preaches is exactly what I’m passionate about. Although our church is doing well, I learned so much about how to be more intentional in celebrating and promoting diversity.

I realize that some pastors and churches are in communities that are not multicultural. They should not pass on The High-Definition Leader, as there are principles that are applicable for ministry in every context.

I can honestly say that The High-Definition Leader is one of the best books I have read that is aimed at Christian leaders. The vision of the church Gray offers is one that is solidly biblical and extremely relative. I kept wanting to shout “amen!”

Every pastor and church leader needs to read this book. Highly recommended!


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Facts You Didn’t Know About Bernard Montgomery

One of the most influential Allied generals during the Second World War was Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery. But how much do you know about him? This short video shares some interesting facts about Montgomery.

Make sure to listen to my Second World War podcast.


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Good News: A Double Blessing at Church

I had a fantastic time at church this morning. And it was for two reasons.

The first was that our congregation recognized pastor appreciation Sunday. While they gave me a nice gift, more than that, I felt their encouragement. Queen Street Baptist Church is such a great church and they work hard to support the leadership. I feel so blessed to be their pastor.

The second was that my wife Amanda preached the message this morning. She did a fantastic job, preaching biblically on the nature of anxiety. I so appreciated the honesty and vulnerability that she brought to it.

Interestingly, we have one of our biggest turnouts for church, with lots of visitors. I can imagine that helped Amanda to feel increased anxiety to her only second time preaching at QSBC. But if it did, she seemed calm and in control. I am so enjoying working with her in ministry.

This was a great Sunday and I’m looking forward to more of the same. This is my Good News.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts I came across this week. Go and check them out.

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Should Christians Practice Yoga?

I wrote an article about Christians and yoga for the CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students. I understand that this a controversial subject for some Christians but this is my perspective. Here is my article.


If you were to do an internet search with the words “Yoga” and “Church,” you would discover a wide variety of results. You would find everything from churches offering yoga classes to claims that yoga is participation in the worship of false gods. How should Christians navigate these differences of opinion?

It is important to understand what yoga is and where it came from. Yoga is a program of exercises and controlled breathing that helps to relieve stress and other health concerns. However, yoga did not originate simply for the purposes of benefiting mental and physical health. Yoga emerged as a spiritual discipline within Hinduism. Any judgment of yoga must take these origins into account.

A connection to Hinduism does not necessarily make yoga wrong for Christians. Christians would not abandon charitable giving just because it is one of the five pillars of Islam. There must be something specifically against Christian beliefs for there to be a firm rejection.

However yoga began centuries ago within Hinduism, it must be acknowledged that popular versions of yoga take different forms. There are yoga classes that include Hindu and other spiritual teachings but there are others that focus on the exercises and breathing.

While the Bible does not discuss yoga, there are principles that can give Christians guidance. In 1 Corinthians 8, the Apostle Paul teaches on a comparable situation. Some of the Corinthians were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul tells the Corinthians that these false gods do not exist and so the meat is just meat and appropriate for Christians to eat. At the same time, Paul warns the Corinthians to not abuse their freedom by causing those who take the pagan gods seriously to stumble in their faith in Jesus. In the same letter (1 Corinthians 10:28), Paul also teaches that if an unbeliever informs a Christian that some food was sacrificed to an idol, then the Christian should refuse it. What is most important is the impact of one’s actions on others with little or no faith.

This has a direct application to Christian participation in yoga. There is nothing sinful about exercises, stretching and controlled breathing. Even though these particular exercises may have risen within Hinduism, it must be remembered that Hindu gods do not exist. The exercises are no more harmful than the meat that the Corinthian Christians were eating.

At the same time, Christians should be asking questions before practising yoga. What is the goal of the yoga instructor for the class? Will any of the other religious aspects of yoga be included along with the exercises? Will your participation in yoga cause other Christians to stumble?

Should Christians practice yoga? If a Christian feels it is wrong to be involved in yoga, they should definitely avoid it. If the instructor and the participant are clear that the goal is only for stress and health reasons and if it is not a stumbling block, it may be permissible.

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.


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An Autistic Thanksgiving

AutisticI suspect that most families have unexpected situations and uncontrollable factors when it comes to family dinners and holidays. This is definitely true when the family includes autism.

This past weekend was the Canadian Thanksgiving, which should be a time for family to get together. Autism makes things less than simple. Here are some random thoughts about what Thanksgiving was like.

Our two children with autism live in a group home about 1.5 hours away. This is not ideal. First, I would prefer they not be in a group home and secondly, I would prefer they live closer.

The plan was for both of them to come down to spend Thanksgiving with us. The dinner was to be at my in-laws, a home that neither Logan nor Abby have been to before. However, their home is not autism-proof and Abby is a food-seeker, constantly grabbing at whatever food is within her reach. We were anxious as to how that would go.

We got a call yesterday morning from the group home and we could hear Abby screaming in the background. Her meltdowns also set off Logan. There was no bringing Abby but they were willing to try Logan.

Logan arrived and we were happy to see him. But we were sad to not have Abby. And to add to that, there was also a sense of relief that Abby wasn’t there. Logan is much less maintenance than Abby. However, that sense of relief also brings feelings of guilt.

We didn’t know how Logan would transition from our house to my in-laws. He sometimes struggles with those transitions. Not only did he do fine with the transition, he did very well at the in-laws. It went far better than we expected.

I did get to see Abby that night as I brought Logan back to his group home. She was feeling much better.

This is not a complaint about our Thanksgiving. It was a good and fun time. But I am also aware of how much autism shapes what our family events look like.

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Alternate Versions Of Venom

I can’t say that I’m a huge Venom fan but I know he is quite popular. His first movie did very well. You might be interested in some additional information.


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Good News: Thankful For Everything

Every day should be Thanksgiving and yet it is good that there is an actual Thanksgiving weekend. It is appropriate to take time to be intentional in giving thanks.

There is so much that I’m thankful. I have an amazing family. We are not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but we love each other. And I am so excited to be working with Amanda in ministry.

I have an incredible church and I love my job. I am so thankful to be able to do what I do.

I am thankful for my health. It was just five years ago that I was very sick and thought I was dying. I have had a few rough years since then but right now I am the healthiest I have been in years.

There are so many blessings that I have experienced. I am not just thankful, I am thankful to God. I have seen God working in our lives in the good and bad times. All I have is because of God.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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One of My Favourite WordPress Plugins

I have played around a lot with WordPress plugins. Some of them are more useful than others. We have to be careful with how many plugins we use as they can slow down our site. We must choose wisely.

One of my favourite is Revive Old Posts.

I used to use it but for some technical reasons, I had to strip all the plugins from my site. It took me a while to reinstall Revive Old Posts but I’m so glad that I did. I have seen a noticeable jump in the hits on my blog.

What does Revive Old Posts do? It grabs old posts from your archives and reposts them on social media. You can decide how many posts, how often to share and what categories to share from.

One of the reasons I like Revive Old Posts is that reminds me of older posts that I had totally forgotten about. I truly believe that our archives are one of our greatest resources. But how do we keep track of them? This plugin will bring these to light.

Another good thing is that it gives me the chance to check out those old posts so I can see if I need to edit them. I may want to change the graphic or I may need to fix a link. This is a great way to find out.

Finally, it reminds me of posts that need to be deleted from my blog. There have been times something is posted on Twitter and I use that as the opportunity to delete it if the information in the post is out of date.

I find it to be a great resource. Go ahead and install it and try it out. You can always uninstall it if you don’t like it.


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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.

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What to Do When Your Child Says They No Longer Believe

Of all the roles that I have, the one I feel the most pressure for is that of a parent, especially a Christian parent. I want my children to grow up to be good and emotionally healthy adults. But I also want them to become followers of Jesus.

The scary part of being a Christian parent is that there is a real possibility that one of our children will tell us that they no longer believe in God. What do we do then? Here are some thought I have on this subject.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t get mad at them for being honest. Better they tell you this than keeping it to themselves.
  • Don’t panic. Panicking is not going to help you or them.
  • Don’t try to scare them back to faith. Detailed descriptions of hell are not likely to bring them to faith.
  • Don’t assume they will be become a Richard Dawkins style atheist. You have no idea what this will look like or how long it will take.
  • Don’t lecture them. Sharing accurate information is important but they need more than a theology lecture.

What to Do

  • Listen. Don’t be quick to fix the problem. Let them explain what they are going through.
  • Seek out the reasons. Is it because of intellectual reasons? Prayers that were not answered? Bad experiences at the church? Peer pressure?
  • Be available. Have conversations with them as they are open. Don’t force it. And consider sharing your own faith struggles.
  • Pray for them. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Don’t leave it to just prayer but definitely include prayer.
  • Take time to learn. They may have questions and you should be prepared to answer. If you don’t know the answers, do the research and find out what you can.
  • Love unconditionally. The Bible says that God is love. When we love our children unconditionally, God is present. Their belief or unbelief should not be a factor in how much you love them.

The faith of my children is very important. That is why, among other things, I have written a short booklet called, Letters to My Children on Faith. You may find it helpful with your own conversations.

 

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week.


 

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White Picket Fences – Review

White Picket FencesThe concept of privilege, especially white male privilege has been prominent in the media and elsewhere. I will confess that I have struggled with how to respond to the concept.

Many of the discussions have stated explicitly or implicitly that white males are bad people because our privilege has led to the lack of opportunities for others. When we are told to own our privilege, it is meant that we are to feel shame for having privilege.

My instinct is to push back. I have never sought to hold onto power based on my gender or ethnicity. I also notice that privilege as it manifests in the United States may look somewhat different in other countries, including my home in Canada.

And yet I still am the product of privilege. Things haven been easier for me by being a white male, even if I have not sought that advantage.

This brings me to Amy Julia Becker’s White Picket Fences. This is the book on privilege that I have been waiting for.

Becker doesn’t attempt to beat people over the head with the accusation of privilege. She identifies privilege and owns it as a part of her own experience. She shares story after story of how her own privilege has given her a different experience than others.

I appreciated the way that she shows the subtle ways in which privilege appears. It is about the books on our shelves and the “innocent” assumptions we make. Privilege is a reality, no matter how well-meaning or openminded we may be.

Another thing that I appreciated is that she includes disability in the discussion. Too often privilege is limited to categories of gender, ethnicity, economic status and sexual orientation. Somehow, disability is left out, even though it can easily shape the experience of the person. Becker, as a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, brings disabilities back into the conversation.

Most of all, Becker helped me to become more aware of privilege without making me ashamed of who I am. There are things I can do to be sensitive to concepts of privilege without hating myself for my gender or ethnicity.

Although White Picket Fences is about the things that divide us, it has the potential to help bring us back together. I’m thankful to Amy Julia Becker for talking about this in away that draws people in rather than driving them away.

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C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children

C.S. LewisC.S. Lewis is by far one of my favourite authors and thinkers. His writings were instrumental in my early development as a Christian and they continue to impact me.

When people think of C.S Lewis, they often think of his complex works such as Mere Christianity and Miracles. They are two of my favourites but they don’t give a full picture of who Lewis was.

I have had the chance to read a number of collections of his letters and have really come to appreciate the insight they give us as to who Lewis was. This is especially true of the short little book, C.S. Lewis: Letters to Children.

First, it is amazing that Lewis cared enough to write back to all of these (and this is just a small sample) children who had written to him. You can tell that their letters meant a lot to him and he took it seriously.

But I also find it interesting that he doesn’t just answer their questions, but makes himself vulnerable. Not only does he offer to pray for them, he asks them to pray for him.

The final letter in this collection was typed the day before C.S. Lewis died.

I have met many Christians who long to be an apologist like C.S. Lewis. But what kind of apologist is that? It is not just the kind that could write Mere Christianity and Miracles. It is the kind that could write Letters to Children.

If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis, I encourage you to read this short book. It will only take you an hour or two but it will give you valuable insight into this influential Christian thinker.


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Good News: Ministering With My Wife

Stephen and Amanda BedardAmanda recently began her studies at McMaster Divinity College. A part of her requirements is doing a field placement and she is doing that at our church, Queen Street Baptist Church.

This week was Amanda’s first week doing the placement. We had the opportunity to do a couple of hospital visits together. This morning Amanda led our congregation in an amazing prayer. She has some great ideas about how to improve our ministry at QSBC.

It has felt so natural for us to be ministering together. Some traditions require spouses to co-pastor and I can see the wisdom in it. Amanda and I complement each other in ministry gifts.

I’m looking forward to this year of placement and what the future holds for us.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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The Foundation For Most Atheist Arguments

I have listened to many arguments from atheists, both as a participants and as an observer. I have noticed a common theme.

Much of what atheists say is not evidence for God’s non-existence or even real arguments against Christian claims of evidence for God. What I see as the core of most atheistic arguments is this:

If God actually existed, I completely disagree with how that God has done things.

When confronted with the cosmological argument, they respond by saying they wouldn’t have created such a large universe.

When confronted with the design argument, they respond by saying that God didn’t do a very good job (implying they could have done better).

Looking at the Bible, they will point out examples of acts of God that they disagree with.

I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard atheists say something like, “Even if there was a God…” or “If God really existed, why did he…?”.

None of this really weakens the evidence of God. It is very possible that there is a God and that God has chosen to do things very unlike the way we would.

This doesn’t mean that atheists are wrong but theists should be aware of this principle at work behind the conversation.

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

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3 Major Reasons People Resist Change

ChangeDuring my time as a pastor, I have often encountered people who resist change. They are not the majority but they are a vocal minority.

Why do people resist change? While there are people in churches who are nasty and who want to sabotage the efforts of leadership, I have not really encountered that. Even if it may be frustrating at the time, the people who are against change mostly have innocent reasons.

These are the three most common reasons that I have seen for people resisting change.

Comfort

Some people do not want change because the way things are is comfortable and they don’t want to give it up. Pastors are often critical of this attitude, but I can actually identify.

I once attended a church which had services that included 45 minutes of worship and 45 minutes of preaching. For some people that would be a lot. The pastor had a conviction that this was not giving God our all. So he doubled both parts, moving to 1.5 hours of worship and 1.5 hours of preaching. That made me uncomfortable and I was not sorry to leave that church.

For many people, church is a place of comfort. Even the most contemporary churches have tradition and tradition creates comfort. Changing things, small or great, threatens that comfort. We need to be aware of this and how people feel.

Belief

For some people, the way things are is not just comfortable but is correct. The way we do worship or pastoral care or outreach ministry is the right way. It worked in the past and if we continue with the proven ways, we will see success again.

This isn’t just pure stubbornness. There is a conviction that keeping things the way they are is the best for the organization or church.

Fear

Perhaps the way things have been done are not as effective as they once were. But that doesn’t mean that changing things will make things better. The current way may be leading to a 10% decrease but a changed way may lead to a 50% decrease.

This fear should be taken seriously. While I believe that change is necessary for survival, not all change will benefit. There are changes that do make things worse. The potential ramifications need to be taken into account when change is being considered.

Change is important, essential and inevitable for the continued success of a church. However, we have to remember that there are real people having a real reaction to change. That doesn’t mean that we stop the change, but we need to try and understand their perspective.

A book that I recommend for bringing change in the church is:
Who Moved My Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.

 

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Becoming a Welcoming Church – Review

Becoming a Welcoming ChurchI have spent the past year focusing on how to make our church more of a welcoming church. For that reason, I was happy to discover Thom Rainer had written Becoming a Welcoming Church.

This is an excellent book that is extremely practical and based on good research. I was not surprised by anything in the book, but only because I’m a regular listener to his podcast, Rainer on Leadership. But that doesn’t make this book a waste. It is so nice to have all of his research and conclusions compiled in one place.

There are some great nuggets of wisdom in Becoming a Welcoming Church. I will confess that I struggle with his criticism of the welcoming time in a service. Our church is not fake about this and does actively seek out visitors to welcome. But that doesn’t mean Rainer is wrong. He challenges us to look at what we do, not just from how the congregation sees it, but from the perspective of visitors.

One other action item from this book is creating a welcome centre. Rainer gives ideas that even the smallest church can act on. I intend to get something together for our church.

There are plenty of takeaways from this book but the most important things is that it gets congregations and leaders to take how they welcome (or don’t) new people. This is something that we can’t leave to chance. I intend to pass this little book on to my deacons as we seek to become a more welcoming church.

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People With Autism Become Adults

Stephen BedardI have been doing some informal research into how many people with autism are in churches. I had a very interesting comment that I think reflects common thinking on autism.

One pastor responded by saying, “We don’t have many children in our church.” The funny thing is that I never mentioned children in my question. I was asking about “people with autism.”

It is a common attitude to equate people with autism with children with autism. Much of the conversation I hear about including people with autism in churches is in the context of children’s ministry.

I’m not pointing any fingers. When our son was diagnosed with autism, I asked the developmental pediatrician about adults with autism. I could picture children with autism but had trouble imagining adults with autism.

However, if all goes well, children with autism develop into adults with autism. In fact, in about six months, my son will officially be an adult with autism.

I think it is great that churches are active in looking at how to integrate children with autism. But please don’t forget the adults!

These adults with autism may be nonverbal and live in a group home or may be quirky people who are socially awkward. Everyone on the spectrum deserves a place within the church.

Be autism aware but be aware of all stages of life from babies to seniors.

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Good News: How I Was Introduced to Tolkien

This past week was Tolkien Week. You may not even be aware that something like this existed. This week included Hobbit Day, which I blogged about here.

Good News

My Mom and 2 of My Hobbits

How is this Good News?

It all goes back to how I first got interested in Tolkien. While I did watch the original Hobbit movie, my real introduction came when my mother gave me Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for Christmas many years ago. I read the whole trilogy during that Christmas break.

That was typical of my mom. She often bought me books, including ones by H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and others. My love for books, including ones by Tolkien, are all due to my mom.

There is something special about Tolkien’s writing and read everything I can get my hands on. But even more, it brings back memories of mom and the legacy she left for me. This is my Good News.


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What We Can Learn From Hobbits

HobbitsI am writing this on September 22, which is Hobbit Day. That is because September 22 is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo. These two are the most well known of the hobbits, a race that exist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

Tolkien created some extremely powerful beings for his world, everything from dragons to wizards, balrogs to elves. Even the humans are mighty warriors.

But it is the Hobbits that are main characters of Tolkien’s most popular books, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Is it a coincidence that Tolkien’s others stories without hobbits, as amazing as they are, are not near as popular. Is there something about hobbits that we connect with on a deeper level?

At first glance, they seem to be a bit of a joke. They are barefoot and fat. They prefer to eat and drink rather than to seek adventure.

Yet Tolkien saw something very important within the hobbits. He claimed to be a hobbit himself, in all but size. In the Hobbit, Bilbo fights to gain the respect of the dwarves and overtime gets it. In the Lord of the Rings, the fate of all of Middle-earth is placed in the hands of two hobbits, Frodo and Sam. Even Gollum, who plays a role in the destruction of the ring, is a former hobbit-like creature,

The message of hobbits in Tolkien’s world is that value is not dependent on size, reputation or personal strength. There is something deeper, a strength of character within the hobbits that make them special.

One of the things that bothered me about Tolkien’s Silmarillion, is that the origins of the different races including elves, dwarves, humans, dragons, ents and balrogs are provided. we even see the trolls and orcs as corruptions of the ents and elves. But nothing is said about the origins of hobbits. They just suddenly appear.

I wonder if this is just an omission by Tolkien or something deliberate? Perhaps Tolkien wants us to see that we don’t need impressive origins to make a difference in this world.


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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts I came across this week. Go and check them out.

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Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist – Review

NietzscheOne of the most influential philosophers of the 19th century (although not during his lifetime) was Friedrich Nietzsche. I have read a number of his books, and while he has an interesting style, I struggled to get his full meaning.

What I have found helpful is reading Nietzsche: Philosopher, Antichrist by Walter Kaufmann. I felt like I finally had a sense of what Nietzsche was trying to say.

One of the problems with trying to understand Nietzsche was that near the end of his life, his sister took control over his publishing. She had her own agenda and was not gifted enough to understand what her brother was doing. Very often we read Nietzsche through the lens of his sister and this leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.

Kaufmann provides a helpful summary of Nietzsche’s life and thought. He breaks down the major themes and demonstrates what Nietzsche really believed. As a Christian, I especially appreciated the chapter on Christianity and Nietzsche’s complex attitude toward Jesus.

If you are interested in Nietzsche at all, I definitely recommend Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann as your starting point.


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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that you should check out.


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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Review

Five Dysfunctions of a TeamI had a copy of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. What delayed me in reading it was the subtitle, A Leadership Fable. I pictured talking animals discussing leadership but it was nothing like that.

While it is a fictional story featuring people who do not exist, it tells the story of a situation and people who could exist. If you were not told upfront that it was a fable, you would assume that the author was telling a true story.

I suppose it is a true story in the way that matters. It tells the story of a new CEO of an organization that has everything it needs to succeed but is sabotaged by a horribly dysfunctional team.

The book is not so much about elaborating the details of the five dysfunctions but is more about presenting a case study of confronting an unhealthy team culture. Even if you immediately forgot the specific five items, you would benefit by being reminded of the need of addressing a poor team environment.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team was not written specifically for a church context. However, it is incredibly relevant. I have been part of some dysfunctional church leadership teams and will admit that I have contributed to the dysfunctions. This book will be a benefit to any pastor or church leader who is seeking to improve the effectiveness of their team.


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Nietzsche’s Influence on Hitler and Nazism

It is common to hear that Adolf Hitler was influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche and that Nazism was inspired by his philosophy. But how true is this?

It is true that Hitler gave Mussolini a set of the works of Nietzsche for his birthday. It is also true that Hitler’s speeches and Nazi propaganda were peppered with catchphrase from Nietzsche. But how deep was the influence?

Walter Kaufmann provides an excellent introduction to Nietzsche in his Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. I highly recommend it.

NietzscheIn his chapter on “The Master Race” Kaufmann shares some quotes that might surprise those who assume a close connection between Nazism and Nietzsche. For example, Nietzsche considered the Polish people one of the most gifted races and that Slavs in general were greater than Germans. Nietzsche also believed in race mixture and argued that Germany would benefit from mixing with other races.

People may not also be aware that Nietzsche had favourable opinions toward the Jews, a remarkable position in 19th century Germany. He much preferred Jews to Christians and the Old Testament to the New Testament. Nietzsche was very critical of antisemitism and spoke against his sister and brother-in-law who joined an antisemitic community.

Much of what would make Nietzsche attractive to the Nazis was the control that his sister had on his later publications as she attempted to impose her own antisemitic agenda on his writings.

I would suggest that Hitler and the Nazis used a shallow reading of Nietzsche, banking on the fact that most people either won’t read his books are at least won’t understand them. Words, phrases and concepts were taken and used apart from other opinions of Nietzsche that contradicted the Nazi agenda.

Subscribe to my Second World War Podcast.


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Captain Marvel – First Trailer

This is a trailer that comic book fans have been looking forward to. Captain Marvel is going to be playing a major role in the conclusion to Infinity War.

In the comics, Captain Marvel was originally a guy with a female as Ms Marvel. The original Captain Marvel died and Ms Marvel became Captain Marvel. This is not to be confused with DC’s Captain Marvel, now called Shazam.

The science fiction part of the MCU is one of the most interesting and so this should be a good movie. I ‘m looking forward to it.

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Thoughts on Ravi Zacharias and Credibility

I have been a defender of Ravi Zacharias in his recent troubles. I encourage you to check out my posts What We Can Learn From the Ravi Zacharias Credential Controversy and Ravi Zacharias, Credentials and Perspective.

I actually think the controversy about being called “Doctor” when only having an honorary doctorate is rather innocent. But other issues that have come up are more serious.

Ravi has long claimed to have studied at Cambridge and to have been a professor at Oxford. But this is not completely true. Watch the video below.

Please note that this video was compiled by an atheist but the video speaks for itself. I have heard and read Ravi make these claims. The truth is that Ravi audited courses at a college in Cambridge and had an honorary position at Oxford and was never on their payroll.

Is this just an atheist making false accusations? Ravi Zacharias has responded to these charges not with denial but with an “apology” and a clarification. You can read it here. Ravi has also updated his CV to reflect the more accurate version of his background. He has acknowledged that his previous CV was not accurate.

This is bad. Really bad. Don’t get me wrong. I like Ravi and I think he has done great things for the kingdom of God. I have enjoyed his books and lectures. But he made a big mistake by exaggerating his credentials.

Why should we care about this? The church has recently reacted strongly (rightly so) about about the sexual misconduct of Bill Hybels. Some might say that the things that Ravi has done are not near as serious as Hybels. But isn’t one of the foremost Christian apologist being dishonest about the facts a serious issue? Isn’t truth a core issue?

I’m not condemning Ravi for what he has done. I have no idea of his exact motivations for exaggerating. I suspect it began with innocent motives. But I also believe that evangelicals need to keep our own accountable. What Ravi has done will have serious ramifications.

I don’t think that Ravi Zacharias’s ministry is over. But I hope that he will offer a more sincere apology than he has so far. He needs to admit the seriousness of what has taken place. God has used him and will continue to use him. But damage has been done.

I encourage you to also read this interview on Randal Rauser’s blog. Don’t take Steve Baughman’s word for it but check out the facts yourself.

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The Meg – Review

Shark movies tend to be real classics (Jaws) or really cheesy (almost everything else). How does the recent movie, The Meg, fit in this continuum? Well, I wouldn’t call it a classic but it wasn’t near as cheesy as I expected.

In many ways it is a typical “realistic” science fiction movie. Scientists (and the millionaires that fund them) are fully committed to making the next big discovery and at the same time completely oblivious to the consequences (which always include plenty of innocent deaths).

In this case, scientists have discovered an isolated underwater habitat in the deepest part of the ocean. This area must be explored but unfortunately the sub that is sent is attacked and stranded on the ocean floor. A desperate rescue mission takes place to save the explorers.

Considering the title of the movie, it is no spoiler to say that the sub was attacked by a megalodon shark, a species thought to have been extinct for millions of years. The shark is able to escape its habitat thanks to the activity of the scientists and begins to terrorize the ocean.

The movie was actually pretty good. It was a lot of fun with plenty of action and some humour. One of the things I appreciated was that there was little swearing, no sex and considering it is a shark movie, very little gore.

I also noticed that the movie wasn’t near as predictable as I expected. Things would happen and I would think to myself, “I know what will happen next.” But I was always wrong. I was surprised over and over. In some cases I was actually disappointed that they didn’t do it the traditional way.

The Meg is not the most philosophical movie ever (although there are some ethical dilemmas) but it is an enjoyable movie. We saw it in 3D and our whole family enjoyed it. There are plenty of movies I have thought were a waste of money but this wasn’t one of them.

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Good News: My Wife in Seminary

Twenty-two years ago, I began my theological studies at McMaster Divinity College. And now my wife Amanda is beginning her own theological education.

If you are wondering what happened to her studies at Brock University, there is a simple explanation. She was doing an undergraduate degree for the purpose of getting a Master of Divinity degree. But McMaster has a Diploma of Ministry program that gets you the same education without the undergrad degree. This is a good path for her to take.

God has been using Amanda in ministry for many years and this is just the next stage. Like all seminary students, she is still discovering her ministry path. I know I had no idea what I would do at that stage. Amanda is doing her first placement at Queen Street Baptist Church and I’m excited to work with her. Amanda has many natural talents and she has a vibrant spirituality.

Amanda has finished her first week of classes and I am so proud of her. I look forward to what God has in store for her. You can read her thoughts on this journey here.

Amanda Bedard


Why do I blog about Good News?

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The Impact of Batman

BatmanAs I write this, it is Batman Day. Did you even know there was a Batman Day? Although there are hundreds and hundreds of superheroes, Batman is both one of the most popular and most influential superheroes.

Batman first appeared back in May 1939 in the 27th issue of Detective Comics. Many people do not know that the DC of DC Comics actually stands for Detective Comics, reflecting the importance of Batman.

Unlike Superman, who is super-strong and invulnerable, Batman has to rely on his own intelligence and skill. Millionaire Bruce Wayne serving justice as the Batman served as a model for many other superheroes, including Green Arrow and the Sandman (both also had young sidekicks).

Batman was one of the few DC superheroes who was able to hold onto his popularity after the Second World War and he is as popular now as ever. He has had numerous animated and live-action movies and TV series.

I think people identify with Batman as someone who has experienced tragedy and responded by making things right with the resources available. We may not be able to beat up the bad guys but we can at least work for the sake of justice.

What is your favourite thing about Batman?


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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that you should check out.

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How Apologetics Intersects With My Interest in Disabilities

Two of the areas that I write on the most are Christian apologetics and disabilities. This makes sense. My faith journey includes a period of atheism and I am a skeptic by nature. In addition, I have two children with autism and so disabilities are close to my heart.

But how do Christian apologetics and disabilities overlap, if they do at all?

I see two specific connections between Christian apologetics and disabilities.

Disabilities and the Problem of Suffering

One of the most popular arguments against Christianity is the problem of suffering. This can take many forms but one argument includes the problem of disabilities. If God is all-powerful and all-good, why do some people have disabilities?

A simplistic answer is that disabilities are a result of the fall. Without denying the effects of the fall, that answer assumes that the experience of disabilities is all about suffering.

There is a vibrant theology of disability that is being developed that reveals that there is much to celebrate in the experience of disability. Many people with disabilities have very full and happy lives and would be confused by those who think it is a living hell.

Theology of disability is helpful for understand how God is working in the lives of those with disabilities, demonstrating both his goodness and power. Listen to this podcast episode that discusses theology and disability.

Disability Ministry as a Christian Apologetic

In my discussions with skeptics, I frequently encounter objections concerning the nature of the church. The church is filled with hypocrites, people who are greedy and selfish. Of course as long as we allow humans into the church, we will have such problems.

But I see a church that welcomes and embraces families and individuals with disabilities as being a powerful Christian apologetic. It is a witness of God’s love working through and among followers of Jesus. When the church is doing this well, it is a beautiful picture of what the kingdom of God can be like.

I encourage you to watch this video.

I will continue to write on both Christian apologetics and on disabilities. They are not two completely separate topics but do indeed have much overlap.

Here are two books that I have written on both these topics:

How to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

Experiencing God Without Losing Your Mind

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What Our Church Does For Disability Ministry

When people find out that I’m interested in disabilities, I often get asked what we do at our church for disability ministry. Like myself, people are always look for ideas. So when I get asked what we do for disability ministry, this is what I tell them.

Church.

Yeah, that’s it. It is not because we don’t value people with disabilities but because we do. Our goal is to integrate all people into our worship services and that includes people with disabilities.

There are times that I look at our congregation and notice that about ten percent of the people have either a developmental or physical disability. I think we might be doing something right.

This is not a jab at churches that have specific disability ministries as a part of their program. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Some great ministry takes place in those contexts.

But at this point, there has not been a need for us to do anything aimed just at people with disabilities. We don’t want to segregate people into (temporarily) abled and disabled. We have our church family, a family happens to have a lot of diversity.

This doesn’t mean that we do everything perfect. We still have a long way to go. There are some important areas of our church building that are not yet accessible. This is something that we are working on.

But I am thankful for where we are at a congregation and for every person God has brought to us.

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The Winter War: The Soviet Union vs Finland

Many people are not aware that some of the earliest battles in the Second World War were between the Soviet Union and Finland. The USSR attacked Finland and expected a quick victory. They were disappointed as Finland was able to provide a significant defence against the invaders. This was called the Winter War.

Make sure to listen to my Second World War Podcast.


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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.


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2 Models of Christian Ministry to Avoid (Or Not)

Over the last number of decades, there have been quite a few Christian leadership books that have drawn from business models. Some pastors even promote non-Christian business books as positive models for leadership.

This is unacceptable. The church is not a business and has nothing to learn from the business world. When Jesus taught, he never drew from the business world, but always spoke about a purely spiritual form of Christian ministry.

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;  to one he gave five talents (a form of currency), to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.  In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.  But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.  Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’  Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. (Matthew 24:14-27)

While I’m at it, there is another model of Christian ministry that has dangerously crept into the church. Some people try to find principles from the military world. What could the church have in common from the military? There is no way that the Bible would ever endorse looking to the military as a positive role model.

Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

I hope I have made my point. Christian ministry should not draw from business or military models but should rely purely on spiritual principles.

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Good News: Sweet Sixteen!

Although her birthday is not for a couple more days, we had the kids for a visit yesterday so that we could celebrate Abby’s sixteenth birthday.

It is hard to believe Abby is turning sixteen. It seems like only yesterday that she was only a baby. I remember being able to put her to sleep on command by rocking her in my arms. It worked every time.

We have had a lot of challenges with Abby and our life together has not turned out the way we expected. Turning sixteen should be a major turning point for her, but because of her autism, things are not the way it is for most kids her age. This is really bitter-sweet time for us.

But I choose to focus on the positive. I choose to focus on the fact that we have a beautiful daughter that we love very much and who loves us back. I choose to celebrate that we have a good relationship with her.

We love Abby very much and she is a blessing to all of us. This is my Good News!


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

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Is Evidence That Demands a Verdict Fundamentalist Apologetics?

Two of the current apologists that I appreciate very much are Randal Rauser and Sean McDowell. So I was quite interested to read Randal Rauser’s review of Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh and Sean McDowell that was published in the Christian Post.

Evidence That Demands a VerdictWhile Randal Rauser has a different style than the McDowells, he doesn’t take the opportunity to totally slam them. When he appreciates something they have done in the book, he is willing to give them the credit. I appreciate that about Randal.

At the same time, Randal has some major concerns, not just about the book in particular, but what it represents. This is seen by the title of the review, “Fundamentalist Apologetics Comes of Age.”

This surprised me, as I have been able to get to know Sean a bit, even if only online. We have emailed back and forth and I have contributed to one of his projects. The last thing that comes to mind when I think of Sean is fundamentalist. I see him as representing the brightest and most respectful of young evangelicals.

It all comes down to what Randal means by fundamentalist. The term fundamentalist came from the summary of the fundamentals of the faith that were developed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. These included:

  • Biblical inspiration and the infallibility of scripture
  • Virgin birth of Jesus
  • Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin
  • Bodily resurrection of Jesus
  • Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus

By this definition, Sean would probably accept the description of fundamentalist, as would I. But that is not what Randal means by fundamentalist, nor what most people mean in contemporary conversation.

I don’t want to get into the full discussion of the historical background, but I would like to point you to Roger E, Olsen’s article, What Distinguishes “Evangelical” from “Fundamentalist?”

Thankfully, Randal provides the definition that he uses for his purposes. Randal states, “These characteristics include biblicism, biblical literalism, rationalism, triumphalism, and binary oppositionalism.”

Having read carefully Evidence That Demands a Verdict, I think that while there are hints of these characteristics, Randal is stretching things for his own purposes. For example, in this book and elsewhere, the description of “biblical literalism” is an over-simplification of the hermeneutic used by Sean. Sean is a solid biblical scholar who understand very much the complexities of genre and rhetoric.

Really what Randal describes, and what he expresses concern over, is simply evangelicalism. The type of beliefs presented in Evidence is reflective of much of evangelicalism and not just the small segment that would self-identify as fundamentalist.

Randal knows very well what happens when he describes something as fundamentalist, even if he defines it precisely in the body of his article. “Fundamentalist” is a term that is used to identify something as dangerous, isolationist and irrational. We have been trained to be very concerned about anything described as fundamentalist.

For example, we would walk away with a much different impression if Randal had titled his article, “Evangelical Apologetics Comes of Age.” Despite “evangelical” beginning to receive negative reactions, it is still a much more positive term than fundamentalist.

By describing Evidence as “Fundamentalist Apologetics,” Randal has dismissed the value of the book with a label, aside from the specific concerns listed in the body of the article.

As I said in my introduction, I’m thankful for the work of both Randal and Sean and all they do to present a Christianity worth considering. But in this case, labeling Evidence as fundamentalist distracts us from what could have been helpful critiques of the book.


You can read my review of Evidence That Demands a Verdict here.

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2 Things I Wished I Learned More in Seminary

My wife is just beginning her seminary studies and that is making me reflect on my own experience in seminary. I had a fantastic experience at McMaster Divinity College and I had a very good theological education. But looking back now after over twenty years in ministry, there are a couple of things that I wished I had learned more about.

Leadership

I started my theological education in the mid-90s, just as the focus on leadership was beginning. But at that time, it was not playing an important part in theological education. This was something that was really missing in my seminary studies.

Being in different roles, from associate to solo to senior pastor, there were plenty of leadership challenges. I needed to know both how to lead and how to be led. Thankfully seminaries are taking this more seriously now. If you are looking for more in-depth leadership development, I recommend the Arrow Leadership Program.

Mental Health

There was some discussion about mental health in my pastoral care and pastoral counselling courses. However, dealing with mental health issues has been probably one of the biggest challenges I have faced in ministry. And this is the one that I have found myself the least equipped to deal with.

I understand that I’m not a psychologist or professional counsellor, I need more knowledge than I have. This is a definite area that I’m looking for continuing education in. One of the things that I appreciated about being a military chaplain was the emphasis on mental health. The church needs to catch up.

What areas do you wish seminary had emphasized more?

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.

 

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Autism and the First Day of School

Like many parents, we sent our children off today for their first day of school for the year. We took the obligatory pictures of our three children and posted them on Facebook.

Except we have more than three children.

AutismTwo of our children have autism and live in a group home over an hour away. That means that we didn’t even see them on what should be a very important day. We were sent a picture of our daughter Abby but not our son Logan.

Logan is in grade twelve and this should be the start of his last year of high school. But it isn’t. Students with disabilities can stay to an older age in school. Grades are not near as important. The focus is on preparing for life rather than future academic pursuits.

The first day of school is an exciting day. But for parents of children with autism and other developmental disabilities, it can be more difficult. Some parents may have trouble getting their children to school. Others, like us, may not even see their children.

So enjoy the first day of school. But remember that it can loo different for some families.

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Young Earth Science

Young Earth Science

 
 
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Jay HallThere are many different interpretations of the biblical and scientific data regarding creation and human origins. In addition to evolutionary creationsim and old earth creationism, there is young earth creationism. While Young Earth Creationists are often accused of ignoring science, many are wrestling with scientific evidence.

In this episode, I talk to Jay L. Hall, author of Young Earth Science and the Dawn of a New WorldView: Old Earth Fallacies and the Collapse of Darwinism. Even if you do not identify with young earth creationism, you may find this interview informative. I would also encourage you to listen to my interview with Andrew Walsh on evolutionary creationism.

My audiobook recommendation is Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

When Charles Darwin finished The Origin of Species, he thought that he had explained every clue but one. Though his theory could explain many facts, Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. During this event, the “Cambrian explosion”, many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock.

In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life – a mystery that has intensified not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found but because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. During the last half century, biologists have come to appreciate the central importance of biological information – stored in DNA and elsewhere in cells – to building animal forms.

Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the origin of this information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes.

Get this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.


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Now We Are Masters of Our Fate

One of the greatest accomplishments of Winston Churchill during the Second World War was the nourishing of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Below is a video of Churchill’s speech titled “Now We Are Masters of Our Fate” that was given in the United States. You can find the text of the speech here.

Please check out my Second World War Podcast.


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Good News: Labour Day in Merritton

Good NewsA big part of my childhood was going to the carnival in Merritton (a neighbourhood of St Catharines) during the Labour Day weekend. I looked forward to it every summer, it helped make up for the start of school. There were many great times.

The tradition continues as my children also look forward to this carnival. The carnival may be smaller but they have just as much fun.

Good NewsI am a nostalgic person and I enjoy looking to the past. But this brings my past and present together. I get to reminisce and watch my children have fun all at the same time. This makes for Good News.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts I came across this week.

 

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Apologetics and Preaching

While I consider myself an apologist, my primary role is that of a pastor of a local church. But I don’t find these roles to be contradictory. I try to include apologetics in my pastoral ministry.

There are many ways to do this but one way is through preaching. Often in the summer I offer a “You Asked For It!” series where I allow the people in the congregation to choose the topics/passages.

I find that people often choose apologetics-related topics. This is interesting as the “experts” tell us that this culture is not interested in apologetics.

Here are a couple of sermons that I have preached recently that have been related to apologetics:

They were well received and confirmed my belief that people are still interested in topics related to apologetics. If you want to find more of my messages, you can find them here.

If you are a pastor, I encourage you to not shy away from apologetics-related topics/passages.

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When Pastors Mess Up

MistakeThis is not about when pastors mess up by having an affair, developing an addiction or being financially dishonest. I’m talking about the regular mistakes that pastors make on a regular basis. They are common mistakes, but when not dealt with properly, they can cause major problems.

I messed up on Sunday at church. The details are not important. The point is that I said I would do something and I didn’t do it. That kind of mistake can quickly lead to diminished pastoral effectiveness.

I will tell you that I had two immediate temptations.

  1. Make Excuses. I had some excuses, some good ones. But excuses do not make things better, especially for the other person. I grew up with low self-esteem and found myself often making excuses for not doing a good job at something. It took time for me to recognize my temptation to offer excuses and those excuses still rise up in my mind. But I don’t express them unless there is a very good reason to.
  2. Beat Myself Up. Part of my low self-esteem is to beat myself up for my failings. It is good to have some short-term regret for failing to do something as that can be motivation to do better next time. But self-condemnation is never healthy and it ends up being a waste of energy.

So if those are the things not to do, what should we do?

  1. Apologize. It is appropriate to apologize for a mistake and to demonstrate some regret for having failed the person. No need to bring out the sackcloth and ashes but a sincere apology is appropriate.
  2. Fix It. While acknowledge the emotional reaction of the person, we should seek to find some way to fix the situation. In my case, I made a suggestion for something we could do that would accomplish what my mistake failed to do. That doesn’t instantly repair the loss of credibility but it is the beginning of healing. Regret is good but regret plus action is much better.

The fact is that as pastors, we are all going to make mistakes. We will mess up often and hopefully will not cause too much damage along the way. We can’t always prevent the mistakes, but we can choose how we will respond to them.

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.


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The King James Bible – Review

King James BibleThis is not a review of the actual King James Bible but of the book, The King James Bible: Do You Know the King James Version? by Edward D. Andrews. I should note that I was given a copy of the book by the author for review purposes.

I went into this book assuming that it was about King James Onlyism, the belief that the King James Bible is not only the best translation, but the only appropriate English translation. This was a reasonable assumption, as “KING JAMES VERSION ONLYISM” appears at the top of the book cover. But that is not what the book is really about.

Edward Andrew’s book is really a history of the putting together of a critical Greek New Testament and the history of the English Bible. That is a worthwhile topic, as the Bible is the most important book ever written. Many people have no idea how the English Bible came about.

It is true that Andrews does deal with the Textus Receptus (the Greek New Testament used in the KJV) and the process by which the KJV was translated. He demonstrates how much the KJV relies, not just on the inaccurate TR, but also on the earlier English translations.

But if Andrews is critical of the KJV, he is just as critical of dynamic equivalence translations. In fact, Andrew appreciates the translation philosophy of the KJV more than that of the NIV or many other newer translations.

I do have some issues with this book. I feel like the title of the book is not a very honest description of the contents. I also have much more appreciation for dynamic equivalence translations than Andrews does.

One of the biggest problems is that the book comes across as a series of independent articles rather than as a systematic treatment of the subject. The same stories and the same quotes appear over and over again in each chapter. There is no chronological sequence, as Andrews goes back and forth along the timeline with no obvious logic.

Much of this book is just building the foundation for a different project that Edward Andrews is working on, a new translation called the Updated American Standard Version. There are numerous contributions by Leland Ryken, in which he argues for the English Standard Version as the best translation. Andrews then adds a comment of how much better the UASV is than even the ESV.

The King James Bible (the book, not the translation) has a number of issues. It is far from a perfect book. But you will find some helpful information about the English Bible. He hits all of the big events and most important concepts. You will learn something.

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Good News: Writing a Novel

I have written everything from biblical studies books to devotionals to scholarly journal articles to magazine articles. I love writing. But one thing I have never tried was writing a novel. Until now.

Am I not too busy to write a novel? The truth is that I need things that are relaxing that are not related to my work. Writing a novel is about as far away from theology as possible.

So what is my novel about? It is in the fantasy/science fiction genre. It is about a version of our world when not just a few people have superpowers, but everyone does. Or at least almost everyone. What happens when one person is born without superpowers?

The reason I’m writing this novel is mostly for my children. We have had trouble find books to read at night that they all enjoy. So I decided to write my own book. It includes characters named after all five of my children: Logan, Abby, Justus, Emma and Faith. Characters named after myself and Amanda will also make an appearance.

I read the prologue and first chapter to Justus and Emma and they absolutely loved it. Not just because their names were in it, but they really enjoyed the story. They were so excited that I was doing this.

I’m writing this book not with the anticipation of becoming a world-famous novelist. My only goal is to write something my children will enjoy. If it is only for them, that is enough.

The excitement of my children is definitely my Good News for the week.

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How to Grow – Review

How to GrowWhat is the gospel? For many people, the gospel is the message by which one gets to heaven. But the Bible presents a much fuller concept of good news. It is a gospel that is supposed to affect our entire existence.

Darryl Dash, thankfully presents to us a vision of how the gospel can help us grow as both humans and as followers of Jesus in his book, How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life.

Dash presents the following as the essentials of the gospel:

  • God if holy.
  • Humanity is sinful.
  • God is rescuing His people and creation through the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

This goes far beyond just getting us tickets to heaven. It transforms our lifestyle, relationships and the way we do church.

Dash presents a clear picture of what discipleship is supposed to look like. It includes an intellectual aspect but is a much deeper work. It is more than just self-help tips, it is the work of God in our lives as we act on biblical principles.

I found How to Grow to be helpful, both as an individual follower of Jesus and as a pastor. The book is full of principles that are theologically grounded and also immensely practical. Dash is able to find a excellent balance. I really appreciated the illustrations from his own walk with Jesus.

If I had one criticism, it is the relationship between this book’s principles and traditional self-help books. Dash is quite critical of self-help books, and yet a non-Christian who followed his principles here, would also experience benefits aside from the supernatural work of God. I understand the difference that Dash holds, and I agree with him, but the lines can get somewhat fuzzy.

But that is a minor quibble and it in no way gets in the way of the value of How to Grow. This is a book that I expect to go back to again and again.


Check out this interview I did with Darryl Dash for my podcast.

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts I came across this week.


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At the Intersection of Theology and Disability

At the Intersection of Theology and Disability

 
 
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Two of biggest interests that I have are theology and disability. Thankfully these two topics do intersect. When I wanted to talk about this, I knew exactly who I wanted to chat with.

Keith DowKeith Dow is the Manager of Organizational and Spiritual Life at Christian Horizons. In addition to working on the front lines of disability ministry, Keith is also doing his PhD in theology. I have come to really respect and appreciate Keith’s thoughtful reflections on the intersection of theology and disabilities. I think you will enjoy our conversation.

You might also be interested in this text interview I had with Keith Dow a few years ago.

Two of the resources that Keith mentions in this episode include:


The recommended audiobook for this episode is A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada

In this eloquent account of her current struggle with physical pain, Joni Eareckson Tada offers her perspective on divine healing, God’s purposes, and what it means to live with joy. Over four decades ago, a diving accident left Joni a quadriplegic. Today, she faces a new battle: unrelenting pain. The ongoing urgency of this season in her life has caused Joni to return to foundational questions about suffering and God’s will.

A Place of Healing is not an ivory tower treatise on suffering. Its an intimate look into the life of a mature woman of God. Whether readers are enduring physical pain, financial loss, or relational grief, Joni invites them to process their suffering with her. Together, they will navigate the distance between God’s magnificent yes and heartbreaking no and find new hope for thriving in between.

You can download this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.


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The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth

Who was J. R. R. Tolkien? Nearly everyone knows him as the author of two of the most beloved books of the 20th century: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many also know him as a member of the Inklings and a close friend of fellow writer and scholar C. S. Lewis. Fewer know Tolkien’s work as a literary critic, a world-class academic in medieval literature, a linguist, an inventor of languages, and a visual artist or realize that he was also a devoted husband and father.

Much of this is captured this year in a nearly comprehensive exhibit at Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries on Tolkien’s life and legacy. “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” has been billed as the exhibit of a generation, and it is indeed that. But there’s a glaring omission: any mention of the author’s devout, lifelong Christian faith. Without that piece, we cannot have a true picture of Tolkien.

Read the full article by Holly Ordway at Christianity Today here.

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SWWP 8 – The Munich Agreement

The German invasion of Czechoslovakia was a turning point in Hitler’s acts of aggression. This was the necessary step to transition from annexing fellow Germans in Austria to invading the non-German Poland, thus starting the Second World War.

The Munich Agreement was Britain and France’s sellout of Czechoslovakia in attempt to prevent war. It failed miserably.

I would encourage you to also go to the blog post, Peace in Our Time?

You can find more episodes here.


My recommended audiobook for this episode is The Munich Agreement of 1938: The History of the Peace Pact that Failed to Prevent World War II.

“My good friends,” the mustached, bony man with thick eyebrows and large, strong teeth somewhat reminiscent of those of a horse, shouted to the crowds from the second-floor window of his house at 10 Downing Street, “[T]his is the second time in our history, that there has come back to Downing Street from Germany peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”

The man addressing the crowd, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had just returned from the heart of Nazi Germany following negotiations with Adolf Hitler, and the crowd gathered outside the English leader’s house on September 30, 1938 greeted these ringing words with grateful cheers. The piece of paper Chamberlain flourished exultantly seemed to offer permanent amity and goodwill between democratic Britain and totalitarian Germany. In it, Britain agreed to allow Hitler’s Third Reich to absorb the Sudeten regions of Czechoslovakia without interference from either England or France, and since high percentages of ethnic Germans – often more than 50% locally – inhabited these regions, Hitler’s demand for this territory seemed somewhat reasonable to Chamberlain and his supporters.

With Germany resurgent and rearmed after the disasters inflicted on it by the Treaty of Versailles following World War I, the pact – known as the Munich Agreement – held out hope of a quick end to German ambitions and the return of stable, normal international relations across Europe. Of course, the Munich agreement is now notorious because its promise proved barren within a very short period of time. Chamberlain’s actions either failed to avert, or actually hastened, the very cataclysm he wished to avoid at all costs.

Download this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.


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Good News: “Go Away!”

Good NewsHow many parents think it is good news when their teenage daughter tells them to go away? This one does.

A couple of days ago, I was visiting our children, Logan and Abby, at their group home. Both Logan and Abby have autism and are considered nonverbal. Abby uses an iPad as an augmentative communication device.

Abby was doing some neat things with her iPad, including pairing different words that belonged together. For example, she paired “guided reading” and “dictionary.” After about two hours, the usual length of our visits, she used her iPad to say, “Go away.”

I was not offended as Abby was not mad at me. She knew that it was about time for me to go and so she communicated to me that it was time for me to leave.

Most parents would not like being told to go away but this was an important step in Abby’s ability to communicate. Communication difficulties are a common experience for people with autism. Abby communicated with me and this is Good News.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

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Top Ten Apologetics Blogs – August 2018

I’m so thankful for the many individuals and organizations that are involved in apologetics blogging. From time to time, I compile a list of the top ten apologetics blogs. How do I determine this? I use the Alexa ranking to come up with my top ten based on this master list. This does not mean that blogs that did not make it are not good. They are all worth checking out.

Top Ten Apologetics Blogs – Single Author

  1. Cold-Case Christianity
  2. Hope’s Reason
  3. Wintery Knight
  4. Canon Fodder
  5. Sean McDowell
  6. Come Reason
  7. James Bishop
  8. Bellator Christi
  9. Truthbomb Apologetics
  10. Capturing Christianity

Top Ten Apologetics Blogs – Multi-Author

  1. Evolution News
  2. RZIM Global Blog
  3. Stand to Reason
  4. Cross Examined
  5. Premier Christianity
  6. Reasons to Believe
  7. Bethinking
  8. Reasons For Jesus
  9. The Poached Egg
  10. Apologetics 315
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1 Bad Response to Bill Hybels (and 3 Good Ones)

As we sort through the mess with Billy Hybels and the situation at Willow Creek, there are any number of responses we could have. There are both good and bad responses that we could have.

Don’t Respond This Way

One bad response to Billy Hybels’ fall from the super-pastor hall of fame is to gloat. There have been many people who have been jealous of Hybels’ success. He started a church from nothing and turned it into one of the most successful churches in the world. Willow Creek has transformed lives within their own community and have been involved in leadership development globally.

Some leaders struggling along in our little churches might feel a bit of jealousy/envy/resentment toward his success. Even if the feelings are not aimed at Hybels in particular, it may be aimed at the kind of pastor and church he represents. Seeing him fall might make us feel like he is getting what he deserved for being too successful. Time has proved that we were the ones in the right.

But that is not the right way to respond. There is nothing to gloat over. Not only is it a tragedy from every angle, what happened with Hybels was not unique to him. The same thing could happen to any pastor and we are deceiving ourselves if we think otherwise.

Respond This Way

So if our response shouldn’t be gloating, how should we respond? Here are three responses that are appropriate to the situation at Willow Creek.

  1. Have Compassion Toward the Victims. The victims of the sexual abuse are the ones that need the most attention. They must be believed and appropriate action must be taken to demonstrate that their abuse is taken seriously.
  2. Prayer and Love Toward Bill Hybels and His Family. As bad as what Hybels did was, he still is a human being created in the image of God and someone who identifies as a follower of Jesus. I can’t imagine what he and his family are going through. No matter the depth of his guilt, we must have compassion toward Hybels.
  3. Make Changes to the Church. All church leaders, pastors and otherwise, must work toward developing a culture where this type of abuse will not happen. We must address issues of power and authority. We must address relationships between men and women in the church.
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Top 10 World War II Movies

My interest in the Second World War began by watching old war movies. That conflict was one that brought out the best and worst of people and there are plenty of stories to tell.

Some attempts to tell these stories have been better than others. Here is an interesting list of movies related to World War Two. I’m not sure my top ten list would be exactly the same but they got some right. What would you include?

If you are interested in the Second World War, check out my Second World War podcast.


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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.

 

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First Thoughts on The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor is a medical drama that airs on ABC and which features a doctor with autism. It is based on an earlier South Korean series. At this point I have only watched the first two episodes and will comment further after watching the first season. These are only my preliminary thoughts.

There have been plenty of medical dramas on television, from House to ER to Grey’s Anatomy. Some better than others. But there are only so many twists that can be performed on the theme.

The Good Doctor does take a fresh approach by having the main character as someone with autism. I will say that I have so far enjoyed Freddie Highmore’s portrayal of Dr. Shaun Murphy. Murphy is hired at a hospital as a surgical resident. Although extremely talented, he is very socially awkward. He also faces significant prejudice as certain people at the hospital are actively working to have him removed.

There is plenty about the series that I enjoy so far. There are some comparisons to the BBC Sherlock Holmes in the way that he processes data. There is lots of humour as well, mixed with some sad moments.

Of course my interest is in the autism connection. Yes, there are plenty of stereotypes in the series (see my post Disability Stereotypes in Movies). Murphy is not a typical person with autism (as if there was a typical person with autism) in that he is a savant. The idea that most people with autism are savants is an unfortunate stereotype. However, his savant abilities are what end up making the series interesting.

The president of the hospital who fights to get Dr. Murphy hired points out to the board that there were times when the hospital did not hire black or female doctors. One of the board members is outraged that he would compare being black or female to having autism. If found that reaction to be quite interesting.

I will keep watching the series and will write a full review once I have completed the season. But so far I like The Good Doctor.

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My Experience With a Coach

You may have heard about life coaching. A life coach helps a person to ask the right questions in order to determine a direction for their life. Life coaching is for everybody. Did you know that there is also coaching for pastors?

A generic life coach could help a pastor, as the nature of coaching doesn’t require the coach to be an expert in every area. But pastoral ministry is so unique that it can be helpful to be coached by someone who knows what it is like to be a pastor and who regularly coaches other pastors.

I just completed a series of coach calls with Dave Jacobs. I was not in a crisis or on the verge of burnout but I wanted to make sure my pastoral ministry stayed on the healthy side and that I could take steps to become more effective. I had taken other steps toward this and the last one I wanted to experience was coaching.

Dave Jacobs is a fantastic coach. He is gifted at getting to the heart of the situation. There is always a danger when two pastors talk that it just be chit chat but Dave always kept us on track. Our talks included Homework assignments. Don’t let that scare you. I’m not talking about a research paper. Rather I would prepare for our talks by thinking through certain scenarios.

Having completed this coaching, what are my thoughts? I am totally sold on the idea. I have seen the effectiveness and I believe that I am already a better pastor after only a few months of coaching.

While I’m going take a break to work on a few other areas of my life, I fully intend to return to Dave for some more coaching. I know that he can help me to stay in the healthy areas. I recommend that all pastors consider coaching and particular that you consider Dave Jacobs.

If you are interested in just being coached but actually doing coaching, Dave also provides coach training. It is something that I am strongly considering. You can find out more here.

You also might want to check out Dave’s recent book Naked Man Running: 100 IDEAS that work in a small church.

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Good News: Vacation Time

My Good News for this week is that of today I’m on vacation. It is nice to have some time off work, time to relax and recharge. Amanda and I were able to enjoy a nice long drive together as we took the kids to camp. We drove through some beautiful country and were able to enjoy quality time together.

One of the reasons that this is Good News is that I don’t have a job I hate. I hear from many people who can’t stand their job and they count down to vacation and dread going back. I actually enjoy my job at Queen Street Baptist Church. It is a great place to work.

Having said that, I know that I need some time to relax in order to be a good pastor. I also need time with Amanda. I will be a husband long after I’m a pastor. I look forward to this week and the rest I will get.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that you should go and check out.

 

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The God of Tarzan

When one thinks of the great Christian apologists, it is likely that Edgar Rice Burroughs is not at the top of the list. In fact, Burroughs was not very religious in his private life. However, I came across an interesting story as I was reading Jungle Tales of Tarzan.

One of the chapters in this novel is called “The God of Tarzan.” Tarzan at this point had not connected with any other humans other than a tribal village in the jungle and he didn’t know their language. Tarzan, however, had discovered the hut of his deceased parents, including the books that belonged to them. Tarzan taught himself how to read (but not speak) English and he understood most concepts. But the idea of God was challenging.

The story covers his journey of discovering who and what God is. He goes in a few wrong directions, including the moon and a tribal witch doctor. Then he has a number of experiences that begin to fill in the idea of God.

The first experience was after confronting the witch doctor. The chief of the village attacked Tarzan and Tarzan prepared to kill him. Tarzan had killed many from this village and never had a problem with it. But for the first time, Tarzan felt pity.

Tarzan sought for an explanation of the strange power which had stayed his hand and prevented him from slaying Mbonga. It was as though someone greater than he had prevented him from slaying Mbonga.

While reflecting on this, Tarzan began to notice things about the world in which he was so familiar.

What made the flower open? What made it grow from a tiny bud to a full-blown bloom? Why was it at all? Why was he? Where did Numa, the lion, come from? Who planted the first tree? How did Goro (the moon) get way up into the darkness of the night sky to cast his welcome light upon the fearsome nocturnal jungle? And the sun! Did the sun merely happen there?

While admiring creation, one of Tarzan’s ape friends (Teeka) has her balu (child) taken by a giant snake. In order to save her offspring, Teeka voluntarily allowed the snake to take her, despite having a terrible fear of snakes.

He scarce could believe the testimony of his own eyes then, when they told him that she had voluntarily rushed into that deadly embrace.

Reflecting upon all these things, Tarzan came to an understanding of who God was. The story concludes with:

Yes, Tarzan had found God, and he spent the whole day in attributing to Him all the good and beautiful things of nature.

Is this an airtight argument for the existence of God? Of course not. Skeptics could respond in any number of ways. But I see in this echoes of how people encounter God. I think Edgar Rice Burroughs did a fantastic job of describing Tarzan’s faith journey.

Is this enough? Burroughs was actually a deist (see this article). No this is not enough, but it is a good beginning.

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Should We Still Read Books by Bill Hybels?

Bill Hybels
The situation at Willow Creek with former pastor Bill Hybels continues to deteriorate as reported in this recent article at Christianity Today.

Bill Hybels was for a long time one of the superstars of Christian ministry. He has probably been one of the most influential pastors in the last twenty-five years. Unfortunately, just as he was about to retire, accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment were made. A pastor whom we all hoped would finish well did not finish well.

I don’t want to get into the details of what Hybels did or didn’t do. Willow Creek is not my church and I don’t need to know any more of the details than are required to pray for the church and the victims and Hybels.

But what about pastors (such as myself) who have benefited from Hybels’s books? Should we stop reading all of Bill Hybels’s books since he has been accused of such terrible things?

The first question we should ask is, are his writings now untrue or unhelpful because of his misconduct? Are the leadership principles he taught still valid? Something is true because it is true and not because we like the source. The genetic fallacy is dismissing something because of where it came from. His books should be judged based on their own merits and not by what he did.

Having said that, we should read his books with some awareness of the mistakes he made. We can learn from his mistakes as much as we can learn from his wisdom.

But aren’t we rewarding Hybels by continuing to read his books? Reading his books has nothing to do with his misconduct. In fact our motivation should never have been to reward him but rather to learn to be better leaders and pastors. If you are uncomfortable giving him royalties for his books, buy his books at a second hand store. There might be more copies appearing there soon.

I don’t want to suggest that we pretend that Hybels didn’t do what he was accused of or that his victims’ suffering wasn’t serious. If we are going to continue to read books by Bill Hybels, let us also work hard to build a culture where these crimes won’t take place in our community. Make your community a safe place marked by mutual respect. Ensure that victims have the freedom to state what they experienced. Take charges seriously and investigate thoroughly.

These may be the most important lessons we learn from this situation with Bill Hybels. Read his books but also respond to the #metoo movement in appropriate ways,

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies – Review

I will admit than when my kids first started watching Teen Titans Go! that I cringed. The New Teen Titans was one of the first superhero comics that I collected and I really enjoyed it. Teen Titans Go! seemed to be a mockery of a beloved comic series.

However, after being in the same room as my youngest daughter binge watched Teen Titans Go! I grudgingly began to appreciated the show. I realized that there was some intelligence behind the episodes and that it was full of thoughtful satire. This brings us to their big screen appearance in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.

Teen Titans Go

My daughter was super excited to see the movie but I was skeptical. Their short episodes were fine but a full-length movie? I was not sure.

I will begin by saying that this movie is not life-changing, nor will it affect the culture the way Wonder Woman and Black Panther did. But it was a fun movie and I laughed out loud numerous times. My children absolutely loved it. My one daughter said that after seeing this movie, “Good bye Black Panther as my favourite movie.”

Yes there was some childish humour and some fart jokes but there was more to the movie. It was really a running commentary on the state of superhero movies. There were numerous jabs made at both DC and Marvel movies. I loved it when they called Slade (Deathstroke) Deadpool, since Deadpool was a Marvel knock off of Deathstroke.

Minor Spoiler Alert

One of the funniest parts was a cameo by Stan Lee, who at first didn’t realize that this was a DC movie and not a Marvel movie. It ended up being one of the funniest Stan Lee cameos in any movie.

As a long time comic reader, I enjoyed the running gang about the Challengers of the Unknown, a team that I was familiar with. Then there was Nicholas Cage’s long awaited portrayal of Superman. Many people will not be aware that Cage once almost played Superman in a live action movie.

There were so many references to a wide variety of movies and comics that I could never comment on all of them. For someone like me, it was a good fun time of catching the connections. As a superhero movie, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies definitely wasn’t steak but it was a nice sweet dessert.


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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts I came across this week.

 

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Important Tools for Pastors

CommentariesWhen it comes to pastoring, some of the most popular resources are in the area of leadership and other practical ministry tools. But I would suggest that pastors, especially those just beginning their ministry, work toward building their commentary library.

Preaching and leading Bible studies are key activities for pastors. While some pastors feel comfortable just with their Bible and their own interpretation, I believe it is good to let other voices into the conversation. Commentaries are also helpful for filling in the historical and cultural context.

Pastors should know that not all commentaries are the same. Some are aimed at devotional reading, others for pastors and others for academic research. It is probably good to have good variety, but spend less time with the devotional commentaries.

Collecting commentaries can be expensive and so pastors should be strategic in their collecting. Pick a few areas to focus on. Don’t feel the pressure to get multiple commentaries on every book of the Bible. Try some from different perspectives, to stretch your understanding.

Here are some suggestions of what to consider. If you are looking for an affordable set on the entire Bible, I recommend the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. This commentary does not go as deep as you might want but it is a good place to start and I still use mine.

A good solid commentary set that has been around for a long time but is regularly updated is the New International Commentary Old Testament and New International Commentary New Testament.

Another commentary set that I have come to appreciate is the NIV Application Commentary. In addition to giving an interpretation of the original text, the author wrestles with the application of the text. This gives the preacher plenty of material to work with.

What commentary sets have you found most helpful as a pastor?

 

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The Metanarratives of Christianity and Islam

The Metanarratives of Christianity and Islam

 
 
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Duane Alexander MillerI recently had the opportunity to talk with Duane Alexander Miller, author of Two Stories of Everything. This is a book that I really appreciated and you can read my review here.

Duane is a scholar and a pastor who really has a heart for Muslims. Our discussion will interest people who are interested in the academic study of Islam but also those who want to better be able to share Jesus with them.

Duane recommended the following books in the podcast:

Recommended Audio Book:

No God But One by Nabeel Qureshi

On account of the superficial points of agreement between Islam and Christianity, many don’t see how tremendously deep the divides between them really are, and fewer still have considered the evidence for each faith. How is jihad different from the Crusades? Can we know the life of Jesus as well as the life of Muhammad? What reason is there to believe in one faith over the other, and what difference can the Gospel really make?

In No God but One, New York Times best-selling author Nabeel Qureshi takes listeners on a global, historical, yet deeply personal journey to the heart of the world’s two largest religions. He explores the claims that each faith makes upon believers’ intellects and lives, critically examining the evidence in support of their distinctive beliefs. Fleshed out with stories from the annals of both religions, No God but One unveils the fundamental enduring conflict between Islam and Christianity – directly addressing controversial topics like jihad, the Crusades, Sharia, the Trinity, and more.

Listeners of Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, will appreciate his careful and respectful comparison of Islam and Christianity. Both religions teach that there is No God but One, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus?

Get this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial of Audible.

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Good News: A Relaxing Day

ReadingEach week I share a Good News post. Sometimes it is a big thing and sometimes just something small. Today is just a small thing.

Today was a nice relaxing Sunday. After church, I relaxed with a good book. As an introvert, what I enjoy is laying on the couch with a comfortable blanket, a cat laying on me and reading a good book. While my idea of a good book is different from some (I was reading church history) it was still relaxing for me.

Later in the day, we went out for a swim as a family. That was a lot of fun. I had tried for months to teach Faith to dive with no luck. A few lessons by Emma, however, and Faith is diving like a pro. I will claim that I taught Emma to dive.

Overall, it was just a nice relaxing day.


Why do I blog about Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

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2 Types of Sect Leaders

I just finished teaching a course on Contemporary Religious Movements at Tyndale University College. One of the things that I enjoyed about the course was seeing the connections between the different groups. We focused on groups that developed during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

What was interesting was that there were two basic types of leaders of the sects that developed during this period. I call them the Bible teacher and the prophet. There is some overlap between them, but most leaders fall primarily into one or the other.

For example, Joseph Smith, Jr. was definitely in the prophet category, not that I consider him to have been a real prophet. But the religious group that he created was based primarily on what he considered to be his personal revelations. No one could have sat down with just a Bible and come up with Mormonism. It is based on the ideas of their prophet.

On the other hand, John Thomas of the Christadelphians and Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses never claimed to be prophets. They sat down with their Bibles and attempted to discover the truth of Scripture outside of traditional interpretation. Even if we disagree with the teachings of Thomas and Russell, we can at least see where in the Bible they got their ideas. They were Bible teachers, even if orthodox Christians might argue that their interpretations were incorrect. (Check out my book, The Watchtower and the Word)

The Seventh-day Adventists are an interesting example (See my post Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christians?) William Miller, who had predicted that Jesus would come in 1844, was definitely in the Bible teacher category. His interpretation was not based on his own prophecy but on an interpretation of Daniel. Now the explanation by others about why Jesus didn’t return in 1844 was a blend of revelation/interpretation. And Ellen G. White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism wrote her books in the style of a Bible teacher. But she was seen, during her lifetime, as a prophet by her followers.

Oneness Pentecostals are another interesting example (See my post How Did Oneness Pentecostalism Start?). Their understanding of the proper baptismal formula comparing Matthew and Acts was in the Bible teacher category (taught by Canadian R.E. McAlister). But the development of a Jesus only baptismal formula into a rejection of the Trinity was understood as revelation.

The categories of Bible teacher and prophet are not perfect, but they help us to understand the different types of sectarian leaders of this important time in history.

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The Hope’s Reason Podcast

PodcastI have been podcasting for quite a few years and I do enjoy it. Although my original podcast has been taken down by me, I am still active in podcasting.

I offer a podcast that is partner to my blogging activity at this site. It is called Hope’s Reason: A Podcast of Discipleship. This podcast was on hiatus for a while but is now active again.

I have changed the format of it and it is now primarily interviews. However, I do have some plans for other types of episodes. I have been able to interview some amazing thinkers from a wide variety of backgrounds. I talk to professors, pastors, authors and others that have valuable wisdom to share. I think you will enjoy our conversations.

You can find the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.

If you get caught up on these episodes, you can also check out my other podcasts:

 

 

 

 

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Stranger Things: Season 2 – Review

I really enjoyed the first season of Stranger Things. Not only did I love the story, I was not much older than those kids at that time in the 1980s. I was looking forward to the second season, but didn’t jump into it because I was watching plenty of other shows.

I finally watched the first episode of the second season. It was okay but it didn’t really grab me. In fact it was a couple of months later before I watched the second episode.

However, as the story developed, I got more into it. The 1980s charm was as powerful as ever. But it was more than that. I really enjoyed the story and the character development. I liked the new characters and what they did with the previous characters.

This was especially true with Eleven. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her side-trip to Chicago. But it all made sense by the end of the season.

I found the final battle with the shadow monster to be quite satisfying. In fact I liked the ending of this season better than the first. And of course things are nicely set up for the third season.

Stranger Things

 


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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts for you to check out.


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Should Churches Participate in Short-Term Mission Trips?

There are many concerns about short-term missions trips. Some argue that they are more harm than good. Many of the concerns are quite valid. But I will argue that such experiences are good when done right.

I understand the concerns. They include sending rich westerners to build something that takes away much needed work from workers in that community. The economic ramifications need to be thought through.

Another concern is about importing more western culture than gospel truth. Churches must not come in with a pompous attitude, attempting to displace what they see as an inferior culture.

Having said that, participating in short-term missions have been instrumental in my spiritual and ministry development. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

My first mission trip was to London, England with Operation Mobilization. The emphasis was very much on discipleship development for the missionaries and in that it was very successful. We didn’t come to show the churches the best way to do things but to make ourselves available to what they wanted us to do.

My second trip was a part of a youth group going to Trinidad. It was a different context from my first one but like my time in London, we were there to help the local church with what they were already doing and not to tell them what to do. It was a great leadership experience for me.

Before planning or participating in a short-term mission trip, make sure to ask the purpose for the trip. Developing disciples on the team is a perfectly valid goal and is much needed. Of course it is good to help the people you are travelling to, but find out what they want and need rather than imposing your own agenda.

I believe there is still an important place for short-term missions. It just need to be done carefully.

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The Rise of Imperial Japan

Although the Allies focused on defeating Germany first in the Second World War, the conflict with Japan was not just a side theatre. Japan was a major threat to Britain, United States and especially the countries in east Asia and Australia. But how did Japan get to this point? This short video gives a helpful summary.


Listen to my Second World War Podcast.

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Good News: Sharing and Worshiping

HeritageNot all ministry takes place in a church building. We recently had an opportunity to share at Heritage Christian Bookstore. This included Dayspring, which is the praise team from Queen Street Baptist Church. I love this band. It represents people born in Japan, Mexico, Zimbabwe and Canada. They did a fantastic job.

My role was to share my story. I did that in two parts. The first was my story of becoming a Christian. I was raised in church but became an atheist in my mid-teens. I came to believe in God while in university and became a Christian a couple of years later.

The second part was my story of life after becoming a Christian. This included the role of apologetics in my ministry and my spirituality. It also included how we have dealt with autism in our family and the way God has sustained us. It was interesting that the day I did this was the anniversary of our daughter going into a group home.

It was a great time and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share.


Why do I share Good News?

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

 

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Today is a Hard Day

Abby

Abby as she arrived at her group home

Today is eight years since our daughter Abby moved into a group home. She was only seven years old at the time. That means she has lived away from us longer than she lived with us. That is hard.

It wasn’t an easy decision to have Abby move out of our home. No parent wants to see their seven year old leave. But the way her autism affected her made it necessary. Abby would destroy our house each day and more seriously, would injure the other children. The stress of her behaviours were tearing our family apart.

As much as we didn’t want to do it, we also knew we had to.

We saw God involved in this process. We had just met with the committee that makes the decisions about group homes. They told us that there were no beds and no funding. The only option was for us to abandon Abby. While I know people who have had to do that and I can’t judge, we didn’t want to do that.

A few hours later they called us back and told us that they didn’t know how but suddenly a bed and funding was available and Abby could move early the next week. We took that as a sign that God had not abandoned us.

Having Abby move didn’t mean that we lost her, it meant that we got her back. Instead of the stress of taking care of her 24/7, we now had the freedom to enjoy our visits with her. Our relationship with her is so much better now than it was back then.

It is still not easy. There are still regrets and doubts about how life turned out. But it is what it is and we are determined to have the best relationship with Abby that we can have.

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Pastors and the B-Word

BusyAs a pastor, I try not to use the b-word. Which b-word? Busy. This is a change for me. Years ago, when people would ask how I was doing, I would always respond with “busy.” Then I heard some other pastors push back on the idea of talking about being busy.

Why have I stopped talking about being busy?

For one thing, I am no more busy than the other people in my congregation. They have careers and friends and families and hobbies, just like I do. We all have twenty-four hours to get it all done, no more and no less.

But the biggest reason is that I found it put up a barrier between myself and people in my congregation. People would apologize for just having a five minute conversation. There was a sense that I was too busy to talk to them, when my job is to talk to them.

Even now, not using the b-word myself, I still have people come up to me saying, “I know you are busy.” I make sure to drop any posture of busyness and make it clear that I am not busy and that I indeed have time for them.

The added benefit is that as I have stopped talking about being busy, I don’t feel as busy. I get more done now than then but I don’t feel the same anxiety because I don’t label my activity as busyness.

So my word to pastors is to at least limit your use of the b-word. It may help everyone.

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Luke Cage: Season 2 – Review

I recently watched the second season of Luke Cage on Netflix. I had been disappointed with the first season. I thought that the first season was painfully slow, focused more on highlighting the culture of Harlem than anything else. I also found the villains, Cottonmouth and Diamondback to be rather boring.

I thought the second season was a great improvement over the first. In this season, we have a Luke Cage who is much more comfortable with the role of a hero. The pace was picked up a bit. Although part of the problem is the Netflix pace in general. I’m currently watching Agents of SHIELD and I much prefer the faster pace of that series to the slower pace of all the Marvel Netflix series.

I also liked the villain Bushmaster in this season much better. I call him the villain, even though he is not the real villain of the season. That would require some spoilers. I will say that there were some nice fight scenes between Bushmaster and Luke Cage. It is difficult to find villains than can stand up to Cage but Bushmaster had what it takes.

A highlight of the season was the appearance of Danny Rand. Iron Fist got some mixed reviews but he is actually one of my favourite Netflix Marvel heroes. There was some great chemistry between Luke and Danny. I’m all in favour of a Netflix series featuring both Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

The ending of the season left us in some suspense. Luke was victorious but his victory may be his downfall. We now wait to see if Luke’s character is equal to his strength.

Luke Cage

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Midweek Apologetics Roundup

Here are some apologetics-related posts I came across. Go and check them out.

 

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Interview With Wesley Huff on Faith and Apologetics

Interview With Wesley Huff on Faith and Apologetics

 
 
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Wesley HuffI recently had the opportunity to talk to Wesley Huff, a fellow Canadian apologist, about his faith journey and current ministry. Wes ministers on campus with Power to Change and is also a doctoral student at the University of Toronto. Make sure to check out his blog.

Wes has an amazing testimony, including a healing from paralysis. But is faith is not just based on experience. Wes is a deep thinker, whoo is especially interested in New Testament studies. I think you will enjoy our conversation.

Wes recommended the following books:

The recommend audiobook for this episode is Saving Truth.

Increasingly, Western culture embraces confusion as a virtue and decries certainty as a sin. Those who are confused about sexuality and identity are viewed as heroes. Those who are confused about morality are progressive pioneers. Those who are confused about spirituality are praised as tolerant. Conversely, those who express certainty about any of these issues are seen as bigoted, oppressive, arrogant, or intolerant.

This cultural phenomenon led the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary to name “post-truth” their word of the year in 2016. How can Christians offer truth and clarity to a world that shuns both?

By accurately describing the Culture of Confusion and how it has affected our society, author Abdu Murray seeks to awaken Westerners to the plight we find ourselves in. He also challenges Christians to consider how they have played a part in fostering the Culture of Confusion through bad arguments, unwise labeling, and emotional attacks.

Ultimately, Saving Truth provides arguments from a Christian perspective for the foundations of truth and how those foundations apply to sexuality, identity, morality, and spirituality. For those enmeshed in the culture of confusion, the book offers a way to untangle oneself and find hope in the clarity that Christ offers.

Download this audiobook for FREE with a FREE trial from Audible.

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Good News: A Painful Reminder

That is a strange title. But this is what I mean. I have a disease called sarcoidosis. I have been doing very well with it and have enjoyed the best health I have had in years. It has been so good that my doctor suggested I get off the low dose of prednisone that I have been on.

That is where the reminder comes in. I have been decreasing it at 1 mg per month, which is pretty gradual. But three weeks into it I started getting back the sarcoidosis symptoms I haven’t had in a long time. This includes joint pain, fatigue and some lung issues. I have decided to go back up to my original dose and am already having some relief.

So how is this Good News?

It is a reminder of where I have come from. My experience with sarcoidosis hasn’t been fun. It has been a long journey. There were times that my future didn’t look very bright.

But I have done very well and have come a long way. The symptoms I’m experiencing, that should disappear soon, are a reminder of my recovery. Temporary pain can be a good reminder that there is always hope.


Why do I blog Good News?

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Shazam! and Aquaman Trailers

I for one, have not give up on the DCEU. I’m excited about the universe that DC is building. This has been an exciting week for DC fans as trailers for two upcoming movies were released: Shazam! and Aquaman. These two characters have not always been the most popular in comics, but these trailers look promising. Each movie has a different feel but they both look very good. I’m looking forward to both of these movies.

 

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Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts for you to check out.

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Are Seventh-Day Adventists Christians?

Seventh-day Adventists are a group that appeared in the 19th century, out of the same religious culture that produced the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There has long been a debate among evangelicals as to whether or not to consider Seventh-day Adventists to be a Christian denomination or to consider it a cult. People are still divided about this.

Where Did Seventh-day Adventists Come From?

William Miller

William Miller

The 19th century was a time of great religious fervour with two specific trends: expectations of the imminent return of Jesus and careful study of the Bible apart from denominational traditions. The Seventh-day Adventists were the product of both these forces.

In the first half of the 19th century, there was a man named William Miller. Miller had predicted, by calculations from the book of Daniel, that Jesus would return in 1844. Miller convinced thousands of people that his theory was true. But when the day that was predicted came and went, many people were confused as to what had happened. This was called the Great Disappointment. However, many were to ready to give up yet.

Ellen G White

Ellen G. White

Some were still convinced of Miller’s calculations. The problem must be in the interpretation. It was determined that Miller was correct that something important had happened on that day, but it was not the return of Jesus. Rather it was Jesus entering into the heavenly sanctuary to cleanse it in preparation for his eventual (and soon) return.

Certain leaders, including Ellen G. White, took these beliefs and combined them with a renewed conviction that worship was to take place on the Sabbath, and from this emerged Seventh-day Adventism.

What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe?

Seventh-day Adventists believe most of what would be considered orthodox Christian doctrine. This would include belief in the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus and salvation by faith. Unlike the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventists see themselves in the same line as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and other prominent church leaders.

Seventh-day Adventists do believe in some distinctive doctrines. This includes the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844. They also believe that it is important to worship on the Sabbath. While I see nothing wrong with Sabbath worship, I’m concerned by their identification of the mark of the beast as Sunday worship. To be fair, they don’t believe that Sunday worshipers today have the mark. Rather just before Jesus returns, the truth of Sabbath worship will be made clear and anyone who retains Sunday worship will receive the mark.

Seventh-day Adventists also believe in annihilationism or conditional immortality. This is something they share with Jehovah’s Witnesses. But is this enough to put them in the cult camp? The truth is that man orthodox Christians hold to conditional immortality. See my post Orthodox Christians and Conditional Immortality.

Are Seventh-day Adventists Christian?

Many years ago, Walter Martin caused a stir by classifying Seventh-day Adventists as a Christian denomination in his classic Kingdom of the Cults. That is not to say that Martin had no concerns. He did but argued that the weight of the evidence pushed them into the Christian side.

I have some concerns with Seventh-day Adventist theology. Their emphasis on following Old Testament rules can lead to a sense of legalism. This can be dangerous. Still, they do hold to salvation by faith and other Christian denominations also have expected standards.

The main concern is the role of Ellen White. I see two kind of religious leader in the 19th century: the Bible teacher and the prophet. Charles Taze Russel (Jehovah’s Witnesses) would be a Bible teacher and Joseph Smith, Jr. (Mormons) would be a prophet.

Ellen White seemed to see herself with a foot in both camps. I have read a number of her books and the emphasis was overwhelmingly as a Bible teacher, sharing interpretations from the Bible and church history. But many of her followers did and do consider her a prophetess. New Testament Christianity has a place for prophets, so this does not necessarily lead to heresy. The problem is when prophetic revelation is taken as an authority equal or superior to Scripture (as in Mormonism).

While some Seventh-day Adventists may have an overly exalted view of Ellen White, I would say, based on their official statements of faith, that they are a Christian denomination and not a cult. I would have no problem working with a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in ministry.

You might find this recent Twitter poll I did interesting.


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Top 10 Lines Falsely Attributed to C. S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis, described by some as the “patron saint of American evangelicals,” is a very quotable writer, and evangelical Christians love to invoke him in sermons, social media posts, and casual conversation. However, you cannot always believe what you read. Expressions credited to him on social media or through google searches aren’t always actually found in his writings. Over the last several years, William O’Flaherty has collected a growing list (over 70 at last count) of quotations attributed to Lewis that will be the focus of an upcoming book, The Misquotable C.S. Lewis, to be published by Wipf and Stock in mid-2018.

You can find the full article at Christianity Today here.

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