We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Public Apologetics-Evangelism Ministry

In this post I am going to tell you about a ministry my wife and I have.

Our ministry is in the pedestrian mall (streets closed off to make a park lined with stores, restaurants, bars) in Iowa City. From spring to late fall, as weather permits, we are there Friday evenings with a book table giving away Christian books. A sign on our table says, “Free Christian Books.” Our books are many explaining and defending the Christian faith, a sampling being Case for Christ, Case for Faith, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist, Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, Christian Faith 101, Bibles, More Than A Carpenter, and numerous booklets from Answers in Genesis.
Being one of the most liberal university towns in America, you can imagine the people who cruise the “ped mall” - students of every variety from all over the world (often in very immodest attire), liberal professors, atheists, skeptics, and even families of every size. The seedier side of society also cruises there - homosexuals, homeless, street-walkers, drunks, and pan-handlers. Many come over with genuine interest and engage us in much conversation, while others come over to harass us. We have a lot of Mormon missionaries, because of the Mormon history of the area, and we‘ve engaged them often about their false belief system (they don‘t know what to do with me as I come equipped with my own “Triple Combination” and other material). There are other tables or blankets laid out selling new age books, giving tarot readings, selling socialist papers, and activists for every liberal cause. The Mormons tried copying us for a while with their own table. Part of the draw to the ped mall are the Friday evening free concerts which range from rock to folk to country. Families are there also for the local theatre with stage productions.

We have done this ministry since 2003. When people ask about churches we send them to local churches we know are solid doctrinally (not many!). We don’t know if many people have come to know the Lord because of our table, but we did have one young man who returned months later to tell us that he came to the Lord after reading I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and invited us to his baptism.

One of the more interesting aspects is that the unbelieving regulars of the ped mall come to see us as a fixture they miss when we aren’t there. We have had unbelievers even come to our defense when some of the ruder, more threatening people come over. Being the presence representing light in such a spiritually dark place has given us many opportunities to help people with material needs as well.

Another type of people who come to our table are Christians. Many come over just to give us encouragement, but we also get many who are looking for ways to learn more about their faith, or for information to help lead friends to Christ. Many times we have had young people come over for counsel. In several situations we have suggested other books which would be helpful, and have sent them in the mail later.

Some evenings we will have so many “customers” that we can’t keep up with them, while other times we may sit all night with only one or two people stopping. We have been blessed this past year with a couple who also think this is a viable ministry and, although they live an hour away (compared to our 20 minutes), they come as often as possible.

I can definitely say that it is a great ministry in which to practice apologetics. We have also been thankful that we have attended conferences for Biblical Counselors, which has provided us much insight and ideas for working with these people.

Perhaps you can take encouragement from hearing of our ministry and try it out yourself at a local college town - or any other open-to-the-public venue.

UPDATE:  At the end of fall 2014, we ceased operating this ministry.  Construction in the Ped Mall, removing old buildings and constructing an apartment complex, impacted traffic flow reducing numbers of people.  In 2012 the laws changed to not allow tables except at an area where few people went, and permits were required for that.  So for 2013 and 2014 we used a large tool box on a cart.  New laws also forced out many of those who normally frequented the Ped Mall, such as homeless, drifters, panhandlers, and various groups.  While the weekly concerts at the one end continued, the genre was less desirable for many who used to frequent them.  All this along with a noticeable change in attitudes (everyone seemed to be spiritually apathetic, and even moreso the 2nd time President Obama was elected; we noticed a definite decrease in traffic beginning about 2010 as many of the locals were happy their "man" was in office and that the government was now going to give them all their needs).  We became more and more ignored and avoided that in 2014 we gave away only three books.  We felt that our ministry had served a good purpose for many years but the Lord will probably have something else for us to do now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

And God Created Darwin

“Faith is the substance of fossils hoped for, the evidence of links unseen.”

This rewording of Hebrews 11:1 is just before the table of contents of the book, And God Created Darwin, by Duane Arthur Schmidt and published by Allegiant Press.

Dr. Schmidt is a local dentist who sent me an autographed copy of his book because he liked a letter-to-the-editor I wrote about evolution. It is an excellent book and it is even endorsed by Phillip E. Johnson. It was Johnson’s book, The Wedge of Truth, that gave Schmidt the idea for his book. Schmidt wanted to write a book about evolution with the idea of not even bringing God into the discussion: “The evolution argument from science becomes so preposterous that religion need not enter the equation.”

This book is a concise reference work about all the major scientific challenges to Darwinism. In the introduction Schmidt points out the problem with theistic evolution, saying that “to believe God and Darwin worked hand-in-hand to create life on earth either elevates Darwin to godliness or denigrates God to humanness. In the final wash, neither concept works.” He also tells us, “Evolution is taught because it supports a metaphysic that has chased God from the classroom.”

The first chapter is focused on the Galapagos and the wonders of wildlife there. Schmidt demonstrates the real science behind these creatures against what Darwin claimed. An interesting observation was from a museum on San Cristobal where they show supposed ancestral species, and have a sign posted which says, in Spanish, “Imaginary Link.” These are the best proofs the museum has and yet they are labeled “imaginary.” That should tell us something!

In the next chapter we have a summary of the problems of evolution versus the cell. Evolutionists have all these ideas about one animal changing to another, but they can’t explain how to get the basic cell! Sort of like putting the cart before the horse - one needs cells before getting the full creature. Schmidt begins showing some of his wit with imaginary conversations between cells. Discussing cells leads into the information theory and demonstrating the need for a programmer. Schmidt says, “If evolutionists cannot answer these questions about the first cell, why can anyone believe that we even have anything sensible to talk about downstream?” He then points out that, “Evolutionary thought today provides many other instances where priority of the paradigm (i.e., the assumption that evolution is fact) takes precedence over common sense.”

When he comes to Chapter Three, Schmidt brings in more humor as he discusses problems which would occur as one animal species transitioned into another animal species. This continues the thought from cells to bigger problems.

Next, we learn of “Darwinians’ Deceits and Deceptions.” Schmidt quotes Carl Sagan complaining that only nine percent of Americans believe in evolution. Schmidt then boldly states, “Only nine percent of Americans believe in evolution? Nine percent of a population of believers adds up to ninety-one percent of Americans who do not believe in evolution. But their children watch TV shows such as Nova that claim evolution is a fact. Their children’s science textbooks proclaim evolution to be fact, and many of their children’s biology teachers teach evolution as a fact.” He then reminds us that, “Thought control, in the form of a sketchy theory of evolution taught as fact, already has wormed its way into schools, even if gun control has not. In many respects, that form of control is more dangerous than uncontrolled weaponry.”

Schmidt quotes a People for the American Way position paper as saying, “The public is clearly not supportive of attempts by a small, extreme minority to force their religious beliefs into science classrooms either as ‘Creation Science’…or by stripping the teaching from the curriculum.” He then responds, “A vast majority (eighty-seven percent) of Americans who believe God either created the universe all at once, or guided evolution, can hardly be labeled an extreme minority. These believers in God, who PFAW said want to force their religious beliefs into science classrooms, perhaps want their schools simply to reflect both honesty in science and their cultural values. It is hardly strange that an eighty-seven percent majority may want the true minority of atheistic evolutionists, who daily force their secular tenets, in the name of science, upon all children, to take a walk.”

More humor follows as Dr. Schmidt leads us through surgery on an evolutionist’s book. After this he says, “A good reading guideline, if you are compelled to read the likes of Jones, Lewontin, Dawkins, Gould, and Darwin, is to keep your scalpel ready and perform mental liposuction as you go. Suction out the invalidated, irrelevant, uncorroborated, unauthenticated, unsubstantiated, unverified (and unverifiable), unproven (and unprovable), plus the unwarranted statements and unbridled assumptions. You will be shocked at how little is left of evolution literature.”

A disturbing quote is from a children’s book, Wonderful Egg (recommended by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, the American Council on Education, and the Association for Childhood Development), which shows how a bird hatches from a dinosaur egg: “It was a wonderful new kind of egg. And when it hatched, it hatched into a baby bird, the first baby bird in the whole world. And the baby bird grew up to be a beautiful bird with feathers. The first beautiful bird that ever sang a song high in the tree tops of the new green world of long, long ago.” Schmidt is so right on when he says, “When fables turn into facts, and receive accreditations from educators and scientists, one must fear for the future of science and for our children.”

Schmidt has one whole chapter which discusses nothing but the various frauds from evolutionists, and other chapters on dating methods, comparing apes and humans to show how they couldn’t possibly be related, irreducible complexity, and intelligent design.

Dr. Schmidt sums up the book pretty well with, “None but a cloistered today could possibly maintain a belief in an in coherent system so abysmally inadequate that, not only can it not come close to explaining these irreducible complexities, it cannot even offer an imagined pathway. No imaginary links are acceptable at this window.”

This book is fast-paced and only 197 pages long. Its style keeps your interest very well. I recommend this book as an excellent addition to any creationist’s library.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

God Mandates Sound Doctrine

"Few churches today attract large crowds because of careful, systematic teaching of the Word. People will flock to churches with great programs for all ages, a well-organized sports schedule, or to hear professional-level music, but sound doctrine holds little attraction. Yet it is sound doctrine that God mandates. Lives are not changed by programs and entertainment; they are transformed by the renewing of our minds that can only come through exposure to the truth of God's Word (Romans 12:2)"

Gary E.Gilley, editorial in Personal Freedom Outreach's "The Quarterly Journal," Jan-Mar 2010.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The ELCA - Moving From Apostate to Heretical

Here's a bit of news from One News Now:
Evangelical Lutheran leader suggests Bible not the final authority
Associated Press - 12/7/2009 7:20:00 AM

CHICAGO - The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is suggesting that the Bible isn't the last word on homosexuality.

In a town hall meeting Sunday, Bishop Mark Hanson said, "the understanding we have of homosexuality today does not seem to be reflected at all in the context of the biblical writers."

Therefore, he said, Lutherans should consider more modern views on sexual orientation.

In its churchwide convention in August, the ELCA lifted its ban on partnered gay and lesbian clergy, prompting some traditional congregations to withhold funds and begin forming a separate denomination.

But Hanson insisted the ELCA can accommodate both views. In his words, "God is still speaking to us."

He also suggests that more homosexual-friendly policies may help the denomination grow.

Once you start down the road of apostasy to the point the ELCA has reached with their stance on abortion, homosexuality, and women leaders, it is not much of a step to become heretical by denying the Word of God. God's Word is very plain as to how God sees the sin of homosexuality, and no amount of denial by man is going to change it.

If you are a Christian still attending an ELCA assembly, please explain why you don't shake the dust off your feet; I'd really like to know!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Alpha Course

You may have heard of a course called Alpha – it’s been making the rounds for quite a few years in churches nationwide, and also over in merry ole England. It claims to be a course for reaching out to the unsaved. Alpha originated in Holy Trinity Brompton Church in England and seems to be most popular here in the States in the Episcopal churches, although I have seen it advertised in the newspaper as being held at churches of other denominations.

Holy Trinity Brompton (also known as HTB) is a home of the false revival and other aberrations of that nature, so right away one has to be suspicious of any course coming from there. A little research definitely proves the suspicions valid.

Some books published in England are a thorough investigation of Alpha. The books are written by Elizabeth McDonald and Dusty Peterson, and comprise three paperbacks. The main title of all three is, Alpha – the unofficial guide. The main guide is in two volumes: World and Church. The final volume is Overview, which is a summation of the other two. The authors are well qualified to do this study since they have reviewed just about every video and audio tape and other publications put out by Alpha, and have attended some of the courses themselves. It is very thorough research.

I first read these books in 2003 when they were new. The first book I read was Overview, which was unfortunate because it really gave me the wrong impression of the main volumes. I think the authors’ brevity in that volume led to some ambiguity and confusion in regards to issues that were very well spelled out in the main volumes. My recommendation for anyone interested in studying the Alpha Course would be to read the main volumes first to get a better and fairer overall evaluation. For this commentary, I will highlight the volume Church.

There is one issue where I part company with the authors and that is their KJV-only stance. There are many complaints about Bibles other than KJV being used in this course, but I don’t really see that it matters what they use since Alpha is short on Bible use anyway. I do have to say that this series did give me a new perspective on comparing various translations; most of the authors’ arguments comparing passages were very good and only a few did I feel could be discounted. If the KJV-only stance turns you off, either forget about the books or just overlook those parts. I think the material on Alpha is well worth the study.

A primary problem with Alpha is its ecumenicism; it is very supportive and encouraging of Roman Catholicism. Because of the very strong connection with R.C. and Alpha, the authors spend a lot of time with the history and doctrine of R.C. so the reader will have no doubt as to the problems with encouraging unity with such an apostate religion. For those unfamiliar with R.RC. heresies and aberrations, this book is a very good primer.

Alpha is very weak on the gospel message and, as noted above, does not rely much on Scripture. There is a lot of “easy-believism” in the teaching about “accepting Christ” to the point where, according to the many cited testimonies, people really have no understanding of what it means to be Christian. “Holy Spirit Weekend” appears to be nothing more than an introduction to the false revival (the same “revival” of Toronto, Pensacola, etc). There is a lot of emphasis on how we “feel” about our beliefs, and how our “self-esteem” is doing. Absolutely no discernment is taught, and “students” are encouraged to go to “any church” without regard to doctrinal teachings.

There are a lot of quotations from the various Alpha sources, and most of them are troublesome because of either ambiguity in the teaching or just plain bad doctrine. There are some areas where you may see some “nit-picking” as I did, but when you understand that some of what may seem as “nit-picking” is actually showing the general tenor of the course (this was explained to me by the authors in personal communications), you will realize it was necessary to be picky in these areas.

Since Alpha is still making the rounds, if anyone is attending a church which intends to use, or is using, the Alpha Course, I strongly urge you to acquire these volumes so as to be armed for discussions with your leadership as to why they should not use Alpha. If you have friends involved in Alpha, I would suggest you learn about this course so as to be able to present them with the true gospel message and defend against errors in the course.

Information about purchasing this series by Elizabeth and Dusty can be found at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~emcd/index.htm

Holy Trinity Brompton is a bad tree and Alpha is its bad fruit. Be Bereans.