False Views Of Marriage – Part 2

Since writing the previous part of this series, I’ve had the opportunity to read more widely online. I don’t intend to link back to anything which I did in fact read, as my experience was something like sifting through a pile of garbage. Christians seem to have adopted a wide variety of beliefs and opinions regarding the institution of Marriage, even introducing practices in an effort to preserve purity which are foreign to the Bible. Assaults on free choice, making up systems of rules, attempting to bring back arranged marriages, claiming that Marriage or singleness is a gift, the suggestion that you’re not an adult without getting married, the claim that ministry is the only reason a person may choose to remain single, nonsense that God will supposedly try to frustrate your attempts to get married because it’s “not his will”, trying to elevate celibacy above marriage, and other false teachings seem to characterize this festering digital landfill.

No doubt, if you want to understand these issues for yourself I once again have a rather radical suggestion for you. Pick up your Bible, grab a concordance, discard all literature or websites talking about relationships, and study it for yourself. You might even think about getting yourself some good Bible software [my own personal recommendations to you are E-sword and Bible Analyzer], as Bible search engines are easier to use than a physical concordance. With that said, let us jump right into debunking these false teachings.

Assaults On Free Choice, God Meddling in Your Relationships, and the gift of singleness

One website I found spoke of people who try to find a spouse. Evidently this was done by going on mission trips, praying repeatedly, and using websites like E-harmony. After giving a lecture about how God does not promise a spouse to any of his people, the writer of the article proceeded to suggest that an individual’s lack of success in this area was due to God saying “no” or “not yet” and that he was essentially blocking the person’s attempts at finding some one.

The first problem with this position is it assumes that when God wants or does not want something, he will block people from going contrary to what he wants. In which case, I would challenge you research the concept of free will from the Bible. For instance, I made citation of two such passages in the previous part from Deuteronomy and Joshua. Free will allows people to walk contrary to God’s will, though there may be consequences for doing so. Jeremiah could’ve told the Lord, “I’m going to get Married whether you like it or not.” He would’ve experienced the results he was essentially warned of if he had, but the point is that he could’ve chosen to walk contrary to command.

As another example, lets take the Bible’s numerous warnings about marrying unbelievers. Christians often do this anyway, yet God does not step in and stop them. He sends warnings through his servants and perhaps convicts them by flashing the Scriptures back into their minds, but he doesn’t cause the relationship to fail and end in heartbreak. He may then allow people to experience the results of their choices. If a Christian prayed for a marriage and God’s answer was “no”, theoretically they could still find and marry some one anyway, as it is free will that ultimately allows this. I cannot stress this enough, you have a choice.

Another problem with these ideas is they ignore Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. If a person is trying to find some one, that is a pretty good indicator that they “cannot accept” Christ’s saying in verse 12. Otherwise they would be perfectly fine, and might not experience even the slightest longings in that area. In addition, such views ignore the fact that only two of the Eunuchs on Christ’s list are involuntary and the third is a purely voluntary action chosen by the individual. “Made themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake” makes this pretty clear. If God is manipulating circumstances to prevent some one from getting married because it’s “not his will”, than a person’s state of singleness is involuntary. Therefore one might reasonably argue that they’re not really the third type of Eunuch which Christ mentions. These ideas really are just another attack inside of Christendom on personal choice, likely held because the people espousing these ideas are deterministic in their thinking.

Consider also the Biblical record of Marriages. There are no cases where we read of God stepping in to prevent some one from getting married anywhere in the Bible. You may search from Genesis to Revelation, but you will find no such stories where God has ever done this. There are no records stating that God rigged events so that a person would not find some one. In addition, the only times he ever commanded people to marry or stay single were given under special circumstances to prophets who do not represent the general population. Thus we might safely conclude that in a general sense, God doesn’t do this kind of thing. He may not answer prayers the exact way you want him to, but this doesn’t mean he will stop you if you decide to do your own thing.

After this, the most obvious arguments that can be marshaled against such teachings stem from statements speaking of God’s character in the Bible. I think specifically of John 3:16, 1 John 4:16, Matthew 10:30, Psalm 145:8, etc. God is described as one who loves the world, who is Love, who numbers the hairs of your head, and who is full of compassion. How could a God who is full of compassion deliberately rig your relationships to fail or make it harder for you to find some one? I might further add that if God were to do such a thing, than he doesn’t really love you as he claims, and he isn’t love, because if you love some one you wouldn’t hurt them.

Usually at this point some one objects by saying, “but God will give you what is for your best, and his own glory!” I might ask in response how cruelty is in a person’s best interest, or how it glorifies God. Like it or not, arbitrarily manipulating circumstances in a person’s life to where they cannot get married is cruel. I would not be surprised if some folks would leave Christianity because of this suggestion. Given the fact that there are numerous Bible passages that portray God as a being of love, compassion, and kindness we may safely conclude that the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances so that you can’t get married doesn’t glorify him. It makes him out to be cruel, like some one who seeking to torture you. Maybe a study on what actually does or does not glorify God from the Bible is in order.

But not only does this fact present itself, but the objection once again ignores Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7, both of which are authoritative Biblical texts that set the standard for what is or is not best for a person when dealing with this subject. You should let those verses sink in, because they put the abilities a person is in possession of on display and show that whether or not somebody is getting married is really up to them. God would not manipulate circumstances to prevent somebody who “cannot accept” Christ’s saying from getting married. As for 1 Corinthians 7, let’s take a quick look at Paul’s counsel which destroy these ideas.

“For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” – 1 Corinthians 7:7-9

Paul starts off by saying that he “would that all men were even” as himself. If we scroll down to verses 8-9, we find some clues as to what he is here talking about. He speaks of how it is good for the unmarried and widows if they “abide even as I”, then makes reference to those who cannot contain, and says “let them marry.” This suggests that Paul remained unmarried, especially when one considers his reference to containment in connection with these cryptic statements about himself. Thus when he says he “would that all men were even” as himself he is saying that he stayed single, and that he would like it if all men were that way. Above in verse 6 he states that he speaks “by permission, and not of commandment.” So, Paul is here giving nothing short of his own opinion, and thus such a text should not be read as saying all men should stay single. This would be ignoring Christ’s statements in Matthew 19:11-12.

Paul then references gifts, saying that everybody has his proper gift of God. This is usually where people get the ideas of the “gift of singleness”, “gift of marriage”, or even “gift of celibacy.” The problem is that people stop at this verse and do not keep reading. Paul follows up by saying that, “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry.” ‘Therefore’ is a word which links the two statements, since it means “for that reason, consequently.” Paul is saying that because everybody has their proper gift, it can be good if people remain unmarried, but if they cannot “contain” [i.e.] handle that lifestyle they should therefore be allowed to get married. He finishes by saying, “it is better to marry than to burn.” The New King James version adds the words “with passion” into the mix. Here is the crucial point, singleness itself is not the gift but rather to ability to “contain” as Paul states. Though these texts by no means state that celibacy, singleness, or marriage are themselves gifts.

The concept of the “gift of singleness” is something we’ll come back to. But for now, I want you to focus in on the abilities that a person is in possession of. If some one “cannot contain” as Paul states, is it really logical to conclude that God will manipulate circumstances so that they cannot get married? If it would cause them to “burn” as Paul says would God therefore block a person from finding a spouse? The answer would logically be a resounding “no.” This does not mean that prayer will cause a spouse to miraculously appear, or that God will always answer “yes” to such prayers. Though I know some personally who’ve found their marriages through prayer, this doesn’t mean it’s always going to make somebody materialize in your home. We need to remember that God isn’t a dating service or a vending machine. At the same time, I will not say that such prayers are inherently wrong though some act as if they are.

So, if God doesn’t manipulate circumstances to block a person from getting married, what stops people? This would seem a very logical question, and in view of it I would like to point out that there may be practical reasons why a person is having trouble finding a spouse. For instance, it should be noted that the concept of the “gift of singleness” has been used to attack people who desire Marriage. Usually they will get a line about how singleness is a gift, dating is bad because it causes discontent with said gift, they should just be content with what they have, and its wrong to seek for it. They might even have 1 Corinthians 7:27 thrown at them, twisted outside of its context. This kind of garbage is what causes the reaction from the people who run around saying Marriage is a duty, and both positions are wrong. But further, it can cause a person not to seek out a relationship, and thus by default not to find it. Unless you actually put the effort into finding some one, in most cases it isn’t likely that some one will just magically materialize in your home so that you may marry them.

In which case, it is also worth pointing out that merely praying about it until you’re blue in the face doesn’t guarantee somebody will show up. Especially if you’re the man, because it seems like women these days expect men to do all the work in getting things started. Some even go so far as to preach that this is the way things are supposed to be, when I’m not convinced the Scriptures really definitively teach that. Others things worth consideration might be that you give up too easily [i.e. it fail a couple of times and therefore conclude it won’t happen], you have too high of or impossible to meet standards thus causing you to overlook perfectly compatible people, and you’re not open to looking in multiple avenues [there are more websites than just e-harmony, some of which are even Christian specific, and mission trips are not the only place to meet other Christians.] Maybe there are even things in your life and habits that block it from happening.

One of the biggest things that needs to be acknowledged is free will. Not only does the suggestion that God is manipulating circumstances to prevent a person from getting married ignore the free choice of the person seeking, but it ignores the the choices of others involved. For instance, women can choose to say “no” and reject your advances for virtually any reason. This isn’t God manipulating circumstances to prevent you from getting married, it’s the free choice of the woman who doesn’t want to date or marry you. Sometimes an individual just doesn’t like you, and I think Christians should acknowledge that such a thing is a person’s right. It doesn’t mean that God has rigged everything against an individual getting married, neither does it mean that therefore nobody will ever like you. This would be what is termed “over generalization”, which is where one or two pieces of evidence are taken to support blanket conclusion covering all of something.

To Be Continued

This seems to be a good point to cut it off and continue onto a 3rd part, which was ultimately not my expectation. So, I intend to continue examining and refuting the other errors in part 3. I hope this post is a blessing to you!

Why Do Christians Ignore Evidence?

I would consider this your official disclaimer. What follows may seem harsh, but in light of observations I’ve made I feel some toes need to be stepped on. I’m not deliberately seeking to be inflammatory or offensive, but I see a need for a warning message that must be delivered.

If you’re a good driver, you’re constantly scanning your surroundings as you drive. You watch for cars backing out of driveways, drivers who may be about to do something foolish on the road, or other dangers which may be lurking around the corner. You’re alert to the possibility of danger, and maintaining a good level of awareness of your surroundings. This will allow you to react properly when the situation calls for action.

But now picture the proverbial ostrich with it’s head buried in the sand. Is this a good level of awareness? No doubt, common sense tells us that this animal is not protected in any way by burying its head in the sand. It is placed in a position of twice as much danger because all awareness has gone out the front door. In like manner, think of the road yet again. If you cease paying attention to your surroundings while driving, does this protect you from getting into a car wreck?

Obviously not, but the real question is “how do these analogies relate to Christians ignoring evidence?” A branch of Theology exists within Christianity known as “Apologetics”, which is all about a defense of the faith and showing the reasonableness of Christian beliefs. I speak from experience when I say that a thorough study of this branch would bring an overwhelming mountain of evidence in support of Christian faith to the table. There is just one problem. If Christians ignore it, it might as well not exist.

To Ignore this branch of theology is to deliberately create a situation in which the evidences that it produces are unknown. If this is the case, the results of a lack of evidence automatically follow. What are those results? While surfing through the WordPress reader at one point, I stumbled across a blog post by an individual stating that he had come to the “heart wrenching” conclusion that there was no evidence in support of Christianity. I imagine this “discovery” lead the individual into atheism, and ultimately apostasy. But the real issue comes down to a question —- how much of this is their personal choice and how much of it is the fault of the Church?

If Christians stuff their heads in the sand, ignoring evidence in support of Christian beliefs, than they’ll find themselves unprepared to help those struggling with doubt. Perhaps it seems a small matter, but such a failure may have its cost in the loss of souls. Think of whoever wrote that blog post. Do you honestly think that they remained a Christian? The odds are more in favor of them taking a bite out what a friend of mine calls “secular humanism.” But how could you expect anything less of them? If they were unable to find evidence that supports Christian beliefs, and the Church failed to provide it through lack of study, how could they be expected to make any other choice?

Yes, they would’ve made their choice. But the choice they made was certainly influenced by a seeming lack of evidence, which could’ve been prevented if people would take their heads out of the sand. If there had been just one person with enough knowledge of Apologetics, this individual’s Apostasy could’ve been prevented and they might’ve been convinced of the reasonableness of Christian belief. Instead things turned out the way they did.

In a post from “Bethinking” titled “Six Enemies Of Apologetic Engagement”, the top three listed are Ignorance, Indifference, and Irrationalism. It’s hard to imagine that somebody who just doesn’t know that the information exists could be held accountable. But I can say with a certainty that indifference is a choice — one that often implies some one doesn’t care. Can you see how wrong that actually is? Imagine for a moment that some one somewhere in the Church apostatizes, totally losing faith in God’s existence to become an atheist, and that it could’ve been prevented if some one was familiar enough with Apologetics. But it was not prevented, because the entire church corporately did not care enough to look, even when they had the opportunity. That’s actually rather infuriating if you think about it.

As I’ve undertaken a study of Apologetics, I’ve come across the shocking realization that many websites have to write a defense of Apologetics itself. This is because well-meaning but confused Christians within the Church start to oppose it. The reasons cited vary from what is essentially irrationalism to the notion that it must be ineffective, since you cannot win people by argument. Although answers for such ridiculous assertions exist, I cannot help but express a sigh of frustration because this fits the picture of the ostrich with its head stuffed in the sand.

While somebody assumed that the whole point of Apologetics was to win people to the truth who ultimately do not want to listen, another may become discouraged and lose faith because of a single encounter with an atheist. Its easy to dismiss this as a weak faith on the part of the person. But if we step out of the bubble of irrationalism for five seconds, we might discover that in all reality no thinking person can hold on to beliefs when confronted with what seems like evidence to the contrary. Thinking rational people do not do this. It is only those who willfully bury their heads in the sand against all evidence who exhibit this kind of behavior. Is faith really a requirement for the Christian to leave his or her brain at the door and enter into a total state of foolishness and irrationality or is it reasonable?

1 Peter 3:15 commands us to give a reason to those who ask us of the hope that is within us with meekness and fear. I think reality is more on the side of the reasonable faith, rather than the popular irrationalism. Yet some Christians have buried their heads in the sand, and their opposition to Apologetics is a demonstration of this fact. Then they act surprised when their children walk away from Christ at a later age. If you think that the Biblical definition of faith excludes any empirical evidence in support of Christianity or that we shouldn’t bother to look at that evidence because we’re not going to convince anyone than you are sticking your head in the sand.

You’ll then find, much to your horror, that you’re about to crash into the proverbial car because you weren’t paying attention. How could this be so? Your neglect to research such an important subject, even your resistance toward others choosing to do so, will drive others from the truth. If you don’t already, you should understand that this could mean the difference between some one continuing to follow Christ and a decision to walk away from him forever on the basis of unbelief.

False Views Of Marriage – Part 1

“You don’t get to decide to get married because you aren’t in control of your life!”

“What will you do if it’s God’s will for you to marry!? Will you say no!?”

I have been a Christian for seven years. Throughout my time as a follower of Jesus, I’ve often had encounters with people holding to false theology. False beliefs and teachings are floating around everywhere, as if every “wind of doctrine” is blowing in the Churches of Christendom. Marriage seems to be no exception, where even here some Christians do not seem to have correct views of it. I don’t mean to zero in on those who think that Marriage is the attainment of perfect bliss, either. This would constitute more naivete than false teaching. Instead I mean to target those views of Marriage which malign God’s character [and they’re more prevalent than you think.] There are also ideas related to this subject which are extreme and potentially dangerous.

One such view is what should be termed “salvation by marriage.” It should be acknowledged that nobody literally runs around, so far as I know, thinking that Marriage will lead to their salvation. Instead there is a much more subtle teaching, which seems to have no Biblical support whatsoever, that Marriage is meant for the growth of Christian character. I’ve heard some go so far as to suggest that Marriage is God’s most effective tool for causing Christians to achieve likeness to Christ. But an in-depth research project on the subject of Marriage has yielded no such information supporting this view point. With the best Bible software at my disposal, I searched for words like “Marriage” and “Wife”, and studied each passage that jumped out at me in its context. I found no evidence anywhere from Genesis to Revelation that supports the notion that Marriage is God’s most effective tool for Character growth, that it was his original purpose for Marriage when he created it, or that Marriage has any connection to the Salvation of Christians.

I must say that if a Christian decides to marry an unbeliever, this has the potential to suck the Christian away from his or her faith. The Old Testament is full of warnings meant to steer the Isrealites away from marrying the Canaanites on the grounds that it would lead them into Idolatry. You also have stories which demonstrate the effects of this in action, such as Ahab’s Marriage with Jezebel which lead to the apostasy of both him and all of Israel. This is a Biblical route in which a Christian’s salvation could be effected negatively by a Marriage, and it has strictly to do with the influence a wife has on the husband and vice versa. This would be the rationale behind Paul’s prohibition of being “unequally yoked” together with unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14.

Marriage is not a salvation issue. If Christians do not get married, there is no evidence anywhere from Genesis to Revelation that even remotely suggests that they will be penalized for it. Neither does the Bible paint it as something which could be helpful in a Christian’s salvation. What some have failed to recognize is that a view which paints Marriage as the most effective tool for a Christian’s character growth/sanctification is a doctrine lacking in the department of compassion. What if a person never finds a wife or husband? Does this mean that sanctification will be harder for them than those who’re married? Such a thought would place considerable discouragement not only on those who have difficulty involved in finding some one, but people who have chosen not to marry.

People who hold to this view need to recognize that relationships are hard. My own personal experience is that it is exceedingly difficult to find some one, especially since my previous Church had no women my own age. In addition I’ve found it even harder to avoid something bad happening. Its been something like walking through a mine field. I cannot even begin to stress just how cruel it is to suggest to people who’re having such difficulties in this area that its going to be much harder for them to experience sanctification because of not getting married.

Some who think this way have a tendency to equate questioning their position with downplaying or attacking the institution of Marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution which was given to man as a gift shortly after creation alongside the Sabbath. Hebrews 13:4 calls it “Honorable”, and 1 Timothy 4:1-4 classes enforced Celibacy as a “doctrine of devils.” Proverbs 18:22 suggests that finding a wife is a “good thing.” [Surely this means a good wife.] It should also be noted that Christ performed one of his miracles at a wedding feast. There is nothing wrong with Marriage inherently, and it doesn’t need to be connected to Character growth in order to be a blessing to mankind, have sacredness, or be held in high regard by the Christian. Some through the centuries have had the mistaken notion, perhaps based on a misinterpretation of Matthew 19:11-12, that Celibacy is somehow more commendable than Marriage. Hebrews 13:4 destroys this false viewpoint. Thus Marriage can be still viewed as honorable without being seen as the most effective agent for your character growth.

Closely connected is the notion that the Christian doesn’t have a say in whether or not they’re getting married. The two quotations given at the beginning of this article illustrate this view point. Essentially it is claimed that we have to pray for divine guidance in order to determine whether or not we’re getting married and submit to whatever God tells us to do irrespective of our personal wishes. Now if a Christian wants God to lead in these areas of their life there is nothing wrong with that. But these ideas go well beyond that and practically imply that people will be forced into marriage by divine providence, which is usually accompanied by the suggestion that any resistance will cause the Christian to be lost. This is like the reverse of the age old position of enforced celibacy.

God’s character is maligned by these ideas. The Bible paints God as a being of love, compassion, one who numbers the very hairs of your head, and kindness. It pictures him as one who does good to all, and whose tender mercies “are over all his works.” You cannot claim to love some one and then force them into Marriage irrespective of their wishes on the matter. Regardless of the justification [some like to use the “its for your best” platitude that Christians often toss out at such an objection] this would be a very hurtful move to somebody who wants to remain single. The reverse is true for those who want to get married. In actual fact, this would just be a divine version of enforced celibacy, and thus it has to be acknowledged that most people would be harmed by this. I have a difficult time of seeing God as a being who is in the business of causing deliberate harm to his people, which sounds more like an accusation that would come from the mouth of Satan.

The teaching also ignores Bible passages, as well as whole chapters, such as Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7. Matthew 19:11-12 is the teaching of Christ regarding Celibacy. In verse 11 Christ says, “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Clearer translations, such as the New King James Version, translate the word “receive” as “accept.” Jesus was virtually saying that not everyone was able to accept what he was about to say, but only those to whom the saying had been “given” could do so. A person’s acceptance or rejection of a message has to do with their initial reaction to it, and whether or not they want to carry out the instruction therein contained. “Cannot” is also a strong word, running contrary to the notion that Philippians 4:13 should be taken to its literal extreme. Evidently there actually are things that a Christian cannot do, although in this case it depends heavily on them personally and where they stand on the issue. “Given” in this statement seems to be suggesting that Christ’s upcoming saying is targeting a specific type of person.

In verse 12 Christ then says, “For there are some eunuchs which, were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive let him receive it.” The term “eunuch” is a word which references an individual who has been neutered, or rather a man who is castrated due to his service in a king’s harem. In general it references some one incapable of producing children. This is evident from Christ’s use of the term, as he speaks of people who were born that way, people who were made that way by men, and people who made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom.

However, it should be noted that the third type of Eunuch Christ references is not an individual who has been castrated. You should observe that Strong’s Greek Lexicon, shown below, suggests that the term “Eunuch” has a figurative sense referencing living in an unmarried state. Taking his statement with regards to Eunuchs literally would be dangerous and extreme, sort of like taking his statements about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye rather than sinning to an extreme literal interpretation and then severely injuring yourself because you thought this was Christ’s direction. It should be observed that Jesus often used figurative language in some of his teachings and parables, spoke with hyperbole, and used similar illustrations. Concrete thinking should be suspended when dealing with some of his sayings.

[*StrongsGreek*]
2134 eunouchizo yoo-noo-khid’-zo from 2135; to castrate (figuratively, live unmarried):–make…eunuch. see GREEK for 2135

Notice that Jesus used the words “made themselves”, and then contrast that with the two previously cited types of Eunuchs. If a person is born incapable of having children they had no control over this happening. Somebody who was made a “Eunuch of men” was forced into that position by the cruelty of men. The third type of Eunuch is completely deliberate. The word “made” strongly implies that it was a deliberate action on the part of the individual. In other words, they did this to themselves. It was not decided for them by anyone else. These words alone, in contrast with the individual who “cannot” accept this saying imply free will or choice on the part of the Christian. This is through a contrast of options, something which Scripture uses to suggest free will in other locations of the Bible. [See Joshua 24:15, Deuteronomy 30:19]. Either a person “cannot accept” Christ’s saying, or he can and therefore he makes himself a Eunuch for the sake of the kingdom. But whether or not he is capable of accepting it depends heavily on him. Not only may we derive free will from this fact, but it should be clear that a person’s abilities also has an influence on whether or not they’re getting married.

Now, to demonstrate more fully that these passages are in fact in reference to Marriage take a close look at its context. Verse 10 states, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” From verses 1 down through 10, the entire subject was marriage and divorce, and it was brought on by a question the Pharisees were using to entrap Jesus. Thus Matthew 19:11-12 must unquestionably be talking about Marriage, and the conclusion is inescapable that Christ was using “Eunuch” as a figure to reference living in an unmarried state for the sake of the kingdom.

However, Christ’s statements should by no means be taken as suggesting that Celibacy is more commendable than Marriage. The Bible should be making this clear when it classes enforced Celibacy with apostasy [1 Timothy 4:1-4], calls Marriage “honorable” [Hebrews 13:4], states that whoever finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor of the Lord [Proverbs 18:22], and so on. A more balanced position would regard permanent singleness by choice as something which could cause some one to have more time for ministry, but which is not necessarily something to be exalted over Marriage. It’s a choice and not something to be enforced, neither is it required on the part of the clergy. Not only would such a notion run contrary to 1 Timothy 4:1-4, but it would also contradict the qualifications of bishops and elders who were to be the “husband of one wife.” [Titus 1:5-6, 1 Timothy 3:2.]

A case by case study of the Marriages of the Bible also reveals that there were only two times in which God ever gave commands in this area of a person’s life. One was Jeremiah, who was told to remain single directly. The other was Hosea, who was ordered by God to marry a “wife of whoredoms” [implying either that she was a prostitute or a wife who cheated on him frequently.] Hosea 1:2-3 and Jeremiah 16:1-4 are where you may find this information. Verses 3-4 strongly imply that the whole reason Jeremiah was issued the command not to marry is simply that his wife and children would’ve been killed. Hosea’s Marriage is obviously being used as a symbol for Israel’s apostasy, which is evident by the phrase “for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.” In other words, these extremely rare cases are under special circumstances that the average person might not necessarily experience. I personally have never been used by God as a symbol for my local Church.

This alongside the low amount of such commands strongly imply that the majority of people are left to marry or stay single on their own. There really is no reason to believe that God is going to issue commands to the average person in this area. The fact that he has only done it twice throughout all of sacred history should give us a clue that generally he isn’t interested in playing puppeteer when it comes to whether or not a person will marry. Christians need to realize that this is a bit like expecting God to tell you whether or not to eat an apple or an orange, which is a bit ridiculous. God is a God of love and choices, he isn’t in the business of forcing others to do anything. Honestly, reading either Hosea’s case or Jeremiah’s as though we must wait for God to tell us what to do regarding whether or not we’re getting married is a bit of a stretch. I might go so far as to declare it Eisegesis [reading something into the Bible that isn’t there.] It should be remembered that these stories are descriptive rather than prescriptive, and thus are not meant to be suggesting that you cannot decide whether or not to get married, since this would run contrary to the actual counsel given in Matthew 19:11-12.

1 Corinthians 7 will reinforce this position, but it will have to be examined later due to the length of this article. However, one point that will be covered in closing will center around the belief that Marriage is a duty. This view is pushed by one particular person who recently wrote a book challenging the concept of the “gift of singleness.” I can understand reacting against people who teach this kind of thing, but swinging to the opposite extreme and implying that Marriage is something a Christian MUST do is a bit of a stretch. I will not only reiterate my previous point that relationships are hard, but point out that this has the potential to cause the Christian to live with guilt because they’re having trouble finding some one to marry. There also is no Scriptural support for such a position.

There are no Bible verses condemning Celibacy in anything other than an enforced context. Remember that Adam was the only human being alive when God gave Eve to him, and thus Genesis 2:18 would have more to do with isolation as opposed to singleness [which doesn’t necessarily result in a person being “alone.” How can some one be alone when they have friends they can talk to, co-workers they can converse with and witness to, or people to fellowship with at Church?] As close as the Bible gets to a command to Marry for the general populace is Genesis 2:24 which reads, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” When compared with Christ’s statements in Matthew 19:11-12, and later passages we will examine in 1 Corinthians 7, it should actually be clear that this is more stating that marriage is the general plan for most people. It is the natural order of things. Such a passage in Scripture would speak volumes as to why not everyone can receive Christ’s saying in Matthew 19, why some people would find Celibacy painful, and perhaps even why some one carries the desire for marriage. But when read in connection with other passages this statement no longer assumes the position of a command. Christians do not have a duty or obligation to get married. In fact, turning it into a duty is a bit strange since usually people want to get married.

I cannot stress this enough. Marriage is a choice, not a duty or an obligation. Christians do not have to get married if they do not want to. Neither do they have to stay single if they want to get married. Christians need to toss their false doctrines making it anything but a choice in the garbage.

When To Leave Your Church

In recent times, I’ve come across a number of articles from Christian websites giving instruction on a sensitive topic. That of course being, “when to leave your church.” The overwhelming majority of them seem to carry a rather unified message, claiming that the primary legitimate reasons to leave a church surround doctrinal matters. Although occasionally something to the effect of, “the church becomes more about politics than Jesus” or “transformation is absent” show up on some lists. Most seem to be against leaving because somebody said or did something unpleasant to you, building their case on a list of stock arguments derived from Biblical instruction on forgiveness and reconciliation.

First, it needs to be acknowledged that the Bible is silent on the subject of exchanging churches. In other words, it doesn’t comment on church “hopping”, “shopping”, or any of the other pejorative terms attached to jumping around from church to church. Usually Christians speak negatively about this because they’re unreasonably concerned that it will quickly become “church stopping”, where you cease going to any church entirely. I’m not convinced this is something which will happen, as it would depend heavily on the determination of the individual to find what they’re looking for in a church and the will power involved in sticking with any church-going. Neither has any real evidence that this is the case been brought to the table.

A certain text in Hebrews, which speaks of “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25] negatively targets “church stopping.” Although to read this as though we’re bound to one particular church, and if we leave it for another we’re somehow doing something wrong would be a stretch. Verses 26-27 beneath it reference sinning “willfully” after having received the knowledge of the truth, as well as a “certain fearful looking for of judgment.” The Greek meaning of the term “forsaking” seems to mean something more like total desertion, rather than the occasional disappearance. To forsake the “assembling of ourselves together” would then obviously be to avoid any assembly of Christians together, rather than simply switching churches.

G1459
ἐγκαταλείπω”
egkataleipō
eng-kat-al-i’-po
From G1722 and G2641; to leave behind in some place, that is, (in a good sense) let remain over, or (in a bad one) to desert: – forsake, leave.

There are a variety of reasons that people are motivated to leave a church. Probably the most Biblical on the list is surrounding doctrinal issues. I can think of scenarios in which churches corporately adopt heretical theories, in which case leaving would be a move that has great value. This would protect you from falling into the same errors, since you’re not invincible and it may not be wise to willfully listen to error sermon-after-sermon. People also leave because some one said something to them which was offensive.

Since there is no perfect church, leaving because of one or two incidents may only cause you to be greeted with disappointment. In such cases, thicker skin is needed on the part of the Christian. This may also be where forgiveness comes into play, as leaving in a fit of rage may suggest that the person is holding a grudge against the church or the person in the church. Scripture obviously speaks of forgiving others and seeking reconciliation with those you’re in conflict with all over the place. So, to the credit of those who online have written against leaving a church because of conflict with a person they certainly have some points in this area.

However, it should also be noted that there are times where hitting the “forgiveness” and “Reconciliation” buttons is just a little bit too simplistic. For instance, Christians often think that forgiving a person and resuming regular association with them are one and the same, and that reconciliation is absolutely required in all circumstances. The assumption seems to be that otherwise you have not truly forgiven the person. The problem with this thought process is that it ignores the potential for a person to simply just want to get away from bad behavior in the church.

As one example I make citation of myself. I have been a Christian for around 7 years now. During that time, when I related to a brother in Christ that I wanted to be an author the person crushed my dreams. They responded by saying, “no one will read your books” and “we have enough literature.” Another person told me, “go get a real job!” These are very discouraging things to say to a person who wants to be an author. In general, I do not allow my memory of this experience to lead to anger towards the individuals. But I recognize I don’t want to be around them or share my dreams with them. Why might this be the case? For the simple fact that I recognize this sort of behavior doesn’t make a person desirable to associate with.

I would not leave a church for such an encounter by itself. But the point I’m attempting to illustrate here is that when some one demonstrates themselves to act in an unpleasant fashion, it is only reasonable to avoid that individual. This prevents you from having further negative experiences with this person. When the Bible speaks of reconciliation, I do not believe it is forbidding these kinds of scenarios — Christians would be bound to experience repeat abuse by very manipulative and hostile people within the church.

With that thought in mind, while one or two comments require thicker skin to deal with what if the person’s behavior persists? People generally have unrealistic pictures of Christians as being inherently good people, when in actual fact they’re sinful and fallen like everyone else. This means that you will find bullies in the church as you would outside of it. Think of some one intentionally harming you every time you attend church. They put you down verbally every time they see you. They use the concept of “reproof” as their weapon to hurt you, over-criticizing everything you say and do. You cannot talk to them on the phone or in person without them finding something to chastise you for. They go out of their way to deliberately crush your ministries, saying things to you like “haven’t you done enough for the Lord!?” They act the naysayer whenever you’re trying to win souls for Christ, telling you that “that person will be too challenging!”

Avoiding them and simply not talking to them seem like viable options. But what if you can’t? What if it happens during gatherings where this individual is present? What if you cannot even be in the same public place with this person with it happening? Much to the dismay of those who believe there are few legitimate reasons to leave a church, I personally wouldn’t stick around in that kind of a situation. In this context, simply “forgiving them” and seeking to be “reconciled” are simplistic responses. There is no confronting such a person, as you would be placing yourself in a situation to receive further abuse. You cannot avoid the person either for reasons previously dwelt upon. Thus in such circumstances I would see this as a valid reason to leave a church, or to jump from church to church, until one finds a safer environment.

Other reasons I would consider pretty good stem on the overall behavior of the Church. What if the Church is acting in a manner which comes off like a cult? Christians who believe their particular churches to be orthodox in all of their doctrines would find such a thing unthinkable! How could their Church ever act the way cults act? The problem here is that generally when Christians think of cults, the picture they have is the one fed to them by the counter-cult movement within Christian Apologetics. Due to the work of this movement, people tend to think of the term “cult” as applying primarily to groups that are unorthodox in their doctrinal views. The theological sense of the term might constitute a solid reason to leave a church, but this is hardly different from leaving for doctrinal reasons.

When I think of cults I think of Jim Jones. We’re talking about a man who killed his followers with poisoned Kool-Aid. It should be noted that groups like his maintain control over their followers through manipulation, coercion, mind control techniques, and other unsavory means. Such groups also do not like critical thinking of any kind. It should be noted that any attack on critical thinking within a Church is questionable, as Christians should be free to research something from the Bible for themselves. They should be just as free to understand the foundations of why the Bible and Christianity is true, especially in a world filled with a myriad of religions and ideas. Attempting to stifle any investigation into these questions because you think it isn’t faith comes off an awful lot like you’re attempting to hide something, and you don’t want other Christians thinking critically about what you say.

Stifling investigation into the truthfulness of doctrinal questions is a cult-like behavior. If your church is actively doing this, than I would say it is time to leave. I recently have left my own local church and have begun searching for another because I felt like critical thinking regarding doctrinal issues was unwelcome. It was typically branded as “looking for excuses”, as if there was no legitimate reason to be asking questions. I have not left the Christian faith, neither have I changed positions on anything I’ve written about on this blog. But I felt like I needed to get away from the boot of those who would not allow me to critically examine the truthfulness of some of the things I had been taught. Especially since they could not abide adopting an alternative viewpoint on issues which were not questions related to the salvation of Christians. They actively made these questions of salvation, and branded the alternative views as those which would cause Christians to be lost.

Coercion also comes to mind. I am aware of one particular Church that had taken the issue of Vegetarianism to such an extreme that it was made essential for the Christian’s salvation. There are a number of Biblical texts which this thought would contradict, in addition to an overwhelming lack of evidence that becoming a vegetarian is explicitly commanded in the Bible. If a Christian wants to be a vegetarian or a vegan, there is nothing wrong with that choice. But they should not be running around turning it into an issue of morality when it isn’t. It is unfortunate that at least four members of this Church attempted to coerce a close friend of mine into becoming a vegetarian based on this false doctrinal premise. How they arrived at such extreme conclusions is something which I still have failed to grasp, especially with the lack of Scriptural support. With that thought in mind, if a Church is using coercion you really should consider using the ‘exit’ door.

Questionable beliefs that lead to rash behavior also come to mind. “Fanaticism” might be a better term in this instance. I am thinking specifically of people who believe that a visit to the hospital or doctor constitutes a denial of faith and is somehow displeasing to God. This furnishes a pretty sound example. This kind of thinking is typically termed “tempting God” in the Biblical record. The best example of which is found in Matthew 4:5-7, where Jesus is taken to the top of the temple by Satan and told to jump off of it on the grounds that God’s angels would hold him up. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” was Christ’s response. If a Church decides that common sense should be thrown in the garbage and therefore they shouldn’t see a doctor, have medical insurance, or go to the hospital in times of medical emergency than perhaps its time to leave that Church. Extreme beliefs like this that are outright fanatical and rash can be very dangerous and it isn’t safe for a Christian to associate with those who hold to such thinking.

Beyond what I’ve listed, if you start to observe mind-control techniques used in your local church, manipulation, or anything akin to Jim Jones-style behavior you need to get out of there. There is no legitimate reason to suggest that a Christian should stick around in such a situation. I feel that these constitute valid reasons to leave which do not seem to receive as much attention as the doctrinal side of things and are worth consideration.

My Experience With Intelligent Design & An Overview Of The Movement

I was first exposed to the concept of Intelligent Design [ID], as well as Creationism, during my Junior year of High School. It was at this point that I was taking Biology class, which was beginning to cover the Theory of Evolution. We as a class were shown a video, that I thought might be a propaganda hit piece, which was geared to paint Intelligent Design as “repackaged creationism.” The overall aim in the video was to push the agenda that Intelligent Design doesn’t belong in our schools, and therefore should not be taught in the Science classroom. I recall a statement made by my High School Biology teacher suggesting that Creationism specifically had come about during the 1970’s, and had been refuted. Unless my memory is failing me, I seem to remember my Biology teacher making the connection between Creationism and Intelligent Design.

In spite of the fact that the commentary was entirely negative, I still found the concept of Intelligent Design compelling, and wasn’t entirely swayed by the conclusions of the video. I wanted to know more, and did in fact engage in some limited research. I agreed with the conclusion that life was far too complex to have arisen by what I would later term “naturalistic processes”, and was immediately skeptical of Neo-Darwinian Evolution from the start. Yet in some ways I didn’t fully grasp how to dig into the matter thoroughly, and therefore I did not hear about the concept of “Irreducible Complexity” until after my conversion to Christianity.

During those days of my Junior year, I adopted a position of “Agnosticism.” My brief classification of myself under those beliefs was based largely due to an imperfect understanding of what an Agnostic actually is, derived from a series of conversations between a few perhaps misinformed teenagers during lunch and in-between classes. I was told by a friend that an Agnostic is some one who believes there might be a higher power, but that you are not able to really identify who or what that higher power is. This might be a fairly close definition, but I think still somewhat off. Without really understanding all of the issues involved, I adopted the title merely because I liked the way it sounded in view of the direction the Intelligent Design concept was causing me to swing.

I was slightly discouraged from the concept however when I ran into criticism of ID, particularly using a repackaged variant of the “problem of evil” argument. Nevertheless an awareness of the idea was in the back of my mind, and it opened the door for later research. Fast forward to five years or so after my conversion. A concern about encounters with Atheists has recently motivated me to dig into Apologetics. Somewhere in the midst of all my reading, I stumbled across Intelligent Design again.

I learned that my High School Biology teacher either lied to us or was deceived herself. It was clear that Creationists often criticize Intelligent Design because it doesn’t necessarily land you on the God of the Bible. By contrast, Creationism is geared as a defense of the Bible whereas Intelligent Design takes no stance on the issue. Key Creationist beliefs, such as a 6,000 year old Earth, belief in a Global-Flood, or a literal 24-hour creation week are totally left out of the discussion. In fact, not all of the proponents of Intelligent Design are Christians. Some of them are Agnostics! Some “FAQ” sections of their websites have even stated that you don’t necessarily have to make the deduction that simply because something is intelligently designed, therefore it was supernaturally created.

The Intelligent Design Movement or “IDM” is obviously steering clear from religious questions, focusing instead on scientific investigation. As I devoured scores of Creationist and Intelligent Design Articles, the differences between the two became clear to my mind and I quickly discerned that there was something wrong with what I had been taught in High School. In fact, before I had thought of the possibility that our teacher was deceived herself the thought that they were lying to us crossed my mind. These obvious differences between the two movements were conveniently left out, and we as High School students were indoctrinated to believe that one is a repackaged version of the other. We were spoon-fed what is tantamount to a conspiracy theory that Intelligent Design is a backdoor to get Creationism into Science classrooms, yet my research into the history of the movement showed that it developed independently of Creation Science and well before some of the court rulings banning it from being taught.

I thought that the video shown might be a propaganda hit piece, but I never thought that I would find confirmation! I feel violated, and I even wonder what else in that class was nothing more then an attempt at indoctrination! A friend of mine from Church remarked that the education system is designed to indoctrinate you into naturalism. While I don’t claim to be able to be able to prove such a statement, it certainly makes sense in the light of my own personal experience and the fact that almost all of my friends swung towards Atheism or similar beliefs. I can hardly describe how horrified I actually am!

Yet it’s obvious that their attempts at indoctrination had the exact opposite of the desired effect, because at the time it only triggered me to look into it. Today I know why such a hit piece would be produced. Intelligent Design is powerful and very compelling, and it has convinced me to drop doubts about God’s existence that I at times have struggled with. While it doesn’t necessarily prove the Bible to be true, it certainly falsifies Atheism. In spite of statements by the IDM that you don’t necessarily have to bring in the supernatural, it is something that I personally found very encouraging.

It would seem that the mere fact that I found it encouraging is something which would be used by Intelligent Design’s opponents to make the ridiculous assertion that it is religion and not science. But such an objection would merely be spewed forth on philosophical grounds and not as an evaluation of the actual empirical evidence. In my research thus far, I’ve learned that the “repackaged creationism” label and the “not science” claim are common Darwinian rhetorical strategies and tactics, aimed at maintaining control over the public.

The question then remains, if it doesn’t bring in the supernatural why is it encouraging? How useful is Intelligent Design for the Christian? The work of the ID Movement actually ends up lending Scientific support for one of the classical Apologetics arguments for God’s existence, that being the “Teleological argument” [argument from design.] Thus, it’s research and findings are certainly useful out to a certain point. The fact that it doesn’t bring in the supernatural necessarily or land a person on the God of the Bible definitively means that from here you have more work to do so far as providing evidences in support of Christianity’s truthfulness.

In addition, the IDM has no problem with vast amounts of time for the earth’s age. It’s lack of support for a literal six-day creation week and a global flood means that if you rely on the IDM alone to build your case in support of your beliefs you could end up having more than a few weak spots. This goes back to a previous analogy I gave when addressing Apologetics websites regarding a toolbox. Ultimately this is just one more tool, like a wrench or hammer, to put in your Apologetics toolkit. But it isn’t the sole argument, and it should be remembered that ID Scientists never intended the concept of Intelligent Design to be used as an Apologetic for Christianity.

It should also be noted that thus far Intelligent Design seems to posses the capability of withstanding criticism. In researching some of the arguments raised against it such as the concept of evil design, the panda’s thumb [“sub-optimal” design objection], “who designed the designer” argument, and pre-adaptation/Type-III secretory system arguments I’ve not found them particularly compelling. For instance, “evil design” is a purely theological objection. Somebody merely makes citation of something like viruses or something in nature which appears designed to kill and all of the sudden this simply must refute design.

I find it strange that critics feel as though they must combat Intelligent Design, a strictly empirical approach, with repackaged versions of classical Atheist arguments. Evil design and “who designed the designer” are just dressed-up versions of the “problem of evil” argument and the old schoolyard charge of “who made God”, both of which have been demolished by Christian Apologetics. If such arguments couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the Apologetics community, what makes the critics of ID think such strictly theological charges would stand up in this case?

Apparently evil design is only an argument against the goodness of the designer, and therefore doesn’t stand as a convincing case that the life form is not designed. It should also be noted that unless one understands the complete picture of the purpose behind the design, how can one within reason term something “evil”? Spiders for instance are fairly complex creatures, but they also trap and kill insects and are often poisonous. This might seem like evil design on the surface, yet without it perhaps the insect population would explode out of control and become a pretty serious problem. Thus you have something engineered as a population control mechanism, which in this case is not inherently evil. It would more testify to wise planning on the part of the designer rather than wickedness.

Not understanding the full reason of why something was designed can certainly lend to a case of the appearance of evil, but a more complete understanding might perhaps alleviate some of the issues in question. Although not applicable in all cases of apparently evil design, such an argument would theoretically account for some of the problem without bringing theological responses to the table. But even so, there are seemingly evil designs produced by human beings, weapons of warfare [and even mass destruction] being one example. Although designed to kill, they were still designed. Hence “evil” doesn’t really refute the fact that something is the product of design.

It seems more like somebody attempted to throw this charge out in the vain hope that it would present problems for Christians potentially encouraged by Intelligent Design, but in actual fact Christianity is fully-capable of accounting for such things through the fall of man and sin’s impact on the overall creation. Thus a Christian wouldn’t be too discouraged by rehashed Atheist attacks.

Since I linked back to responses to some of the other arguments, I won’t dwell at length on some of the other issues in question. As I personally haven’t found the criticisms compelling, Intelligent Design is therefore something which might be a useful tool in your kit. But it should always be used alongside other arguments and with plenty of research for support. As an article from bethinking notes, you shouldn’t engage in discussions on these issues with those outside the faith armed only with a surface understanding of the issues in question.

Earlier in this article, I noted that my Biology teacher suggested that Creationism came about in the 1970’s and has been refuted. I feel compelled to write about my exploration of creationist articles as well, and so some of the science and reasoning will be addressed in a forthcoming article. But suffice it say I’m not buying into the claims of my Biology teacher in this area either. Making vague references to something being refuted without giving citations or real evidence for support isn’t as convincing of a case as it sounds on the surface.

A Review Of Apologetics Websites

I’ve never been one to flee from deep research. Regarding Conditional Immortality, I once built a document containing up to 63-64 pages worth of content in E-sword notes. I have a tendency to thoroughly investigate material when a subject captures my attention, and I’ve always found joy in reading. Lately, in my research I’ve begun turning my attention to Apologetics based materials, especially websites with apparently endless amounts of articles, videos, podcasts, and recordings. Perhaps there is more content related to this subject than I could reasonably study in a lifetime’s worth of investigation.

Therefore my probe into the subject has yielded a wealth of data. Much of it will impact future posts on this blog, but for the time being I felt I might share with you some of the websites from which I have been reading. However, I do not do so without leaving you with a disclaimer. I do not endorse everything that these websites teach. As an example, surrounding the creation vs evolution debate you will find that some of these websites promote old earth creation/theistic evolution-based positions. I personally do not agree with this. Some of them also attempt to support the concept of eternal conscious torment through logic. While the arguments are certainly interesting, I do not agree with or endorse these positions either. In fact, some of this material will be countered on my blog at a future time.

But in all reality, as I recently wrote, you should be thinking these issues through for yourself. Apply discernment and critical thinking skills to any information which comes in, and allow no man, no matter how good his arguments appear, to be brains for you. If something does not harmonize with Scripture, reject it. Some may ask, “why link back to the websites at all, if you know they teach error or messages you don’t agree with?” Those with whom I am personally acquainted may especially feel compelled to ask such questions. The facts are however that these websites are featured because they contain information which is useful for defending Christianity as a whole. They cover a wide variety of topics related to these issues, and thus their overall value should not be denied so far as a useful tool in a defense of the faith.

There are multiple tools for different jobs. Some good examples are a wrench, screwdriver, hammer, drill, and so on. You wouldn’t use a wrench or a screwdriver to nail boards together. These websites are similar. Some of them have information and arguments that others do not. Others seem to be geared towards specific topics [such as the Creation vs Evolution debate]. If something is focused on a particular topic, you would not want to search it for answers refuting the way skeptics use the so-called “lost-books”, neither would you find much in the way of information actually training you to do Apologetics yourself. Think of the websites as tools for your “Apologetics toolkit” to be applied to the needs of differing situations and questions.

That said, the first website on the list is “Answers In Genesis” [AiG for short.] AiG is a fantastic website. I’ve made it my “go-to” website for issues surrounding creation vs evolution, although I’m aware of several others which cover this topic that I’ve yet to thoroughly explore. There are dozens of articles on their website covering this topic, and also some which are a decent introduction to Apologetics as a whole. They even wrote a superb article about giants in the Bible, which is a question few Apologetics websites will touch. In fact, AiG is the only one that I’ve seen actually address this issue. Although much of the information is technical, they also have a scholarly research journal which can be useful for keeping yourself up to date on some of those issues.

The next one on the list is “Apologetics Press” [AP for short.] Like AiG, AP has a wealth of articles on the creation vs Evolution debate. It also has quite a few articles going over “alleged discrepancies” in the Bible and God’s existence among a treasure trove of other articles. In addition, there are several books which the website owners have produced and made available for free download in PDF file format. I’ve yet to read them all the way through for myself, so I won’t recommend them right off the bat, but they may have their uses.

The third website is known as “Reasonable Faith.” Reasonable Faith is run by a man named William Lane Craig, who I would classify as a very good Apologist. At the same time, he swings more towards the theistic evolution side of the question within Christianity. Nevertheless, he offers interesting logical arguments for God’s existence with scholarly papers written explaining and defending them for perusal on his website. You will also find articles defending the existence/historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, which is a powerful argument in favor of Christianity. There are many other podcasts, videos, recorded lectures, and so on available on his website as well. Although I’ve yet to view any of them, as watching media hasn’t been something that I’ve typically classed as fitting my learning style. In spite of his bent towards Theistic Evolution, I’ve found high-quality materials covering other topics on his website.

There is also “Cold Case Christianity” run by a man named J. Werner Wallace. He is a former Atheist and “cold case detective” who applied his investigative skills to Christianity and the Bible to determine if there was enough evidence to reasonably hold religious beliefs. I suspect this was an attempt to discredit the Bible, which ultimately wound up with him becoming a Christian Apologist. I’ve found a wealth of information on this website dealing with the question of Biblical manuscripts, the historicity of the Bible, and other topics. Many articles can be downloaded in PDF format, which makes it easy to save the information for later use.

Logically Fallacious” is another website I’ve found uses for. You will find that this website is not particularly geared towards defending Christianity per-se, but it has it’s uses in this direction. This is because as the name suggests, it covers the subject of Logical Fallacies. Logical fallacies, or mistakes in reasoning, are often made by those who oppose Christianity. They thus have their uses in responding to criticisms leveled at the Bible or Christian belief by Atheists or other skeptics. Logically Fallacious is actually an in-depth database of logical fallacies. So, it is fantastic website for educating yourself in this direction or for use as an online encyclopedia of logical fallacies.

Cross Examined” is another website which I’ve found to be invaluable. I’ve been especially blessed by the “blog” section of the website, which includes many well-written articles on a variety of topics including the “Problem of Evil”, God’s existence, Manuscript/Lost Books-related issues, Faith vs Science issues, and many other helpful topics. Some other websites I’ve found and used came from the “Resources” section of this website, which has a “links” page opening the door for you to explore the content of other Apologetics based websites. Cross examined also has a smartphone app, which is very powerful for times when you need fast answers and good for when you have some time to kill.

Finally, of the four websites where I started my research [one being AiG], I’ve decided to feature the last two to close things out. One is known as “Bethinking.” Bethinking is excellent because it allows you to compare other religions with Christianity, engage with the debate on varying issues, and explore a wide variety of topics. It includes articles, audio recordings, and videos thus hitting various preferences. Those who don’t like reading could find the website equally as helpful as those who do in view of these facts. The last is RZIM, which is the website of Ravi Zacharias’ ministry. While there are articles on this website, I’ve found the better content in audio or video format, which has often caused me to spend more time with other websites as I prefer to read rather than watch or listen. There however is also a forums set up where people ask the RZIM team Apologetics related questions. This is very helpful if you’re seeking answers to specific issues, or want direct feedback about a question.

These websites are just a small taste of what I’ve been reading. When you actually take the time to sit down and look, the sheer amount of blogs and websites that are out there covering Apologetics related materials is almost overwhelming. I have found myself “swimming” in information, unfortunately perhaps more than I actually have the time to read through. I hope that you might be as blessed by these websites as I have been, and that you can see the truthfulness of Christian belief through them.

Thinking For Yourself

In the post titled “A Radical Suggestion“, I’ve outlined an approach to dealing with concepts such as the pre-tribulation rapture, the debate about the rapture’s sequence [pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib], and other issues related to end times teaching. I want to develop these suggestions further, and expand this concept well beyond the rapture. It should be noted that teachings with regards to final events are not the only doctrinal positions for which there is massive debate within Christian circles.

Some other examples come down to issues such as the three major schools of thought on final punishments. The traditional view of eternal conscious torment, Conditional Immortality, and Universalism form these three schools. With regards to Prophecy, some of the major schools of thought include Historicism, Futurism, and Preterism. Not to mention those who follow “Progressive Christianity” type thinking have thrown out prophecy entirely, claiming that it is not predictive in it’s character. There is even a debate between those who hold to Calvinistic type beliefs and the Arminian school of thought, with others leaning towards Molinism.

Variation doesn’t just exist surrounding prophetic interpretation, but perhaps virtually every doctrine within Christianity. It would seem there are beliefs within the faith that are as numerous as there are denominations. On the one hand, this may not be as confusing as the variation regarding prophetic interpretation. Most choose to listen to their pastor rather than conducting their own research, or they study with a sort of spiritual “Confirmation Bias.”

The challenge really comes down to deeply entrenched beliefs. Regardless of whether or not the Bible discredits them, people will read them into the Bible. Even to the point of ripping passages out of context, interpreting the text with Esiegesis, and focusing in only on texts that support their thinking while ignoring everything else. I would even dare say that such beliefs lead to accusing the opposing side of doing those very things, whether they actually are or not. People have a tendency to build justifications for practices and beliefs which they may know are wrong, but which they have no desire to abandon.

In view of such a deep entrenchment within people’s thinking, I don’t imagine that those who hold to particular beliefs such as: the pre-tribulation rapture, Calvinism, Preterism, Eternal Conscious Torment, Universalism, or “Progressive Christianity” will be willing to accept my challenges and radical suggestions. I can expect within reason that they would either be offended, or take it on but because of a “spiritual confirmation bias” come back with evidence that supports their thinking every single time. No doubt, such persons are not confused about the variation of beliefs within Christianity. They’re so convinced of their deeply held beliefs that the word “entrenched” couldn’t describe the situation better, as this definitely implies a deliberate effort to fortify those beliefs against any attempts at discrediting them from the Bible.

My attention is more on the seeker after truth. I define this as a person with an open mind and heart. We’re talking about somebody who is seeking to know what the Bible teaches, without bias from any particular church dogma. That seeker after truth is a person not only willing to do the research and think for themself, but to surrender ideas they hold to which may not have a foundation in the Scriptures, and to lay aside practices which may not be inherently right. This person might also be willing to start literally from square one.

I want to issue something of a rallying cry to Christians everywhere. That cry is simply to think for yourself. Do not allow anyone, whether it be a pastor, elder, blogger, or some prominent teacher to interpret Scripture for you. Understand that during the days just before the Protestant Reformation, the Church taught that only the priests were competant to explain and interpret the Scriptures. Remember that such a teaching gives the church power over the lay people. It also creates a situation where in effect, you may end up following the clergy over the Bible.

We should not follow the opinions of the “learned” within Christianity as though they’re absolute truth. Neither should our pastors be placed in a similar position, where they’re given a level of trust that should be attributed to God alone. Instead all teachers, whether pastors or theologians, should be thoroughly fact-checked by the Scriptures. Their sermons and teachings should be subjected to a high level of scrutiny to determine whether or not there is truth in it, lest one be in danger of accepting doctrines and ideas potentially threatening to one’s salvation. Although lies may not be around every corner, every precaution should be exercised and discernment should be practiced rather than adopting the position of a “doctrinal sponge” where everything is accepted blindly without critical thought.

Some have at times gone to the opposite extreme. Instead of total reliance on the minister, they’ve generated theories which are not in God’s word. Speculation and theorizing have been indulged in by many, who perhaps might be seeking something to gratify the imagination over Scriptural truth. Much of this is borderline Esiegesis, but it should be noted that this is more likely what Scripture targeted when it spoke negatively of “private interpretations.” God is the source of the true interpretation of the Bible, and hence we must always come to him in prayer in order for the Holy Spirit in order to properly interpret the word of God.

But thinking for yourself when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture is important. You should not allow others to investigate, pray, research, and think for you. Satan may work in this way to control the minds of the people, locking Christians into false beliefs and deceptions through the use of some prominent Theologian whose teachings are accepted as authority over the Bible. No doubt, Christians should faithfully study the Scriptures to discern if things they hear at Church are true, practicing discernment. But also doctrines that are spread wide throughout Christianity should pass the Bible test.

To test a doctrine, you must study it carefully and prayerfully. The Bible should be approached without a “spiritual confirmation bias” where you’re ready to gather up evidence to support your pre-existing beliefs. In fact, every preconceived idea about a subject should be laid at the door of investigation. Then and only then can you arrive at accurate conclusions when researching any subject from the Bible. As originally suggested, lay aside all Bible commentaries. Even reference works should be set aside if you have the slightest suspicion that they may color your interpretation of the Bible. Any other books, sermons, or articles which speak on the subject should be set aside as well.

Begin with the key verses used to support a particular belief or doctrinal view. Lay aside all interpretations that have been read into the passage and research the context, pay close attention to the exact words to see if a text as been read Esiegetically, and carry out a comparison with other texts found elsewhere in the Scriptures. Use the lexicons which your concordance or Bible software may come equipped with to see if there is anything behind the Greek or Hebrew which helps to address the way the text has been perverted. You might also write out a list of key words or terms which are along the same subject matter and carefully research every Bible passage you can find which speaks about the subject. In this manner, through careful self-study, you will have a better grounding for your beliefs.