Archive by Author | Paul O'Brien

Look before you… Entertainment

There is something about physical harm and pain that reminds us to look before we… leap. Why? Because we leaped one too many times without looking and our brain has trained us not to do that again. That’s the way our brains work. And our brains work well. That is, at least, for a lot of things. However, our brains may work against us when it comes to others things.

We sit down and watch a cute, funny dog video on YouTube and that’s fine; no pain. Actually, we quite enjoy it. Our brains do not tell us: Look before you… watch. So, we don’t. We don’t consider what we watch or how often we watch because, after all, we like it.

Plus, entertainment is everything.[1] But, is it? Or, should it be? We would do well to consider this question as (likely) the most entertained people in all of history.[2]

What is “entertainment”? What does that word mean? It has been defined in this way: “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” So, entertainment gives us pleasure, enjoyment, and diversion; especially by a performance of some kind. For instance, I was entertained at NitroCircus when Travis Pastrana did a double backflip on a dirt bike.

To quote someone from a different arena, it would have been fitting for Pastrana to scream out:

“Are you not entertained?! Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!”

There is a danger that people will die in entertaining us but is there also a danger for us as we are endlessly entertained?

Neil Postman wrote in 1985 about the danger of, as his book title says, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and that was before public internet, let alone social media and the smart phone. It is not an understatement to say that we are likely to amuse ourselves to death. There are serious health risks for us when all we care about is entertainment. There is the further danger that we’re not living and loving as we should. We’re liable to amuse ourselves until death, and never do anything worthwhile with the time we’ve been given.

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The Christ of the Cosmos

The heavens scream out and tell us of God’s surpassing worth (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20). God’s glory is beyond our comprehension. For example, do you know how far away the closest star is (besides the sun)? It is approximately 4 light-years away. A light-year is the length that light travels in one year. Light travels 186,000 miles per second and there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. A light year is really far. One light year is almost 6 trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles! So, it takes four years for the light from the closest star to get to us.

The universe is also vast beyond comprehension. Hugh Ross said, “Somewhere around 50 billion trillion stars make their home in the observable universe.” That is impossible to conceive. “A comparison may make it more comprehensible: if that same number of dimes were packed together as densely as possible and piled 1,500 feet high (as high as some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers), they would cover the entire North American continent.”

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God’s Sovereignty and our Responsibility to Evangelize

Introduction

How should we understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility to evangelize? J.I. Packer’s book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, is a helpful book for those considering this important question.

God’s Sovereignty and our Responsibility

Packer gives various examples of the sovereignty of God. He points out that just by praying to God we acknowledge His sovereignty.[1] Packer points out that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught side by side in Scripture.[2] And “far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility—indeed, the certainty—that evangelism will be fruitful.”[3]

God’s sovereignty is a great means of encouragement to us in our evangelism. Packer helpfully says that in our evangelism we

have every reason to be bold, and free, and natural, and hopeful of success. For God can give His truth an effectiveness that you and I cannot give it. God can make His truth triumphant to the conversion of the most seemingly hardened unbeliever. You and I will never write off anyone as hopeless and beyond the reach of God if we believe in the sovereignty of His grace.[4]

So, we are responsible for sharing the gospel but God is sovereign. A proper understanding of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility is important and practical. It is important for us to realize, as Packer says, that “it is God who brings men and women under the sound of the gospel, and it is God who brings them to faith in Christ. Our evangelistic work is the instrument that He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: It is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument.”[5] So, “the belief that God is sovereign in grace does not affect the necessity of evangelism.”[6] Will Metzger, in agreement with Packer says, “We should not consider… sovereignty and responsibility as enemies but rather see them the way the Bible does—as friends!”[7] So, God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility may seem at odds but they are really not, although we may not understand.[8] We must remember that the secret things belong to the LORD but the things that have been revealed belong to us that we may do what God has called us to do (see Deut. 29:29).

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Marijuana and Me?

What should we think about marijuana use?

What we think about marijuana and its use will be determined by the commitments that we hold or what is often referred to as a worldview. I am not a relativist, I believe in objective truth, yet the way we see the world (our worldview) will determine the way we think about marijuana. So, it’s important to understand that the way we come to the question will make a difference in the way that we answer the question.

Marijuana And America

It’s reported that George Washington grew marijuana and employed it along with other Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson.[1] And a few Presidents have admitted to smoking marijuana.[2] News sources say that support for legalization is at an all-time high (no pun intended).[3]

Marijuana, whatever we think about it, is all over the place. It’s legal in some places and in most places people are living like it’s legal. And very soon it may be legal all across the country (my issue here is not to discuss whether or not it should be legalized). The question for the Christian is more than a question of legalization and cultural acceptance. The issue has to do with whether or not we believe God would be pleased with our use of marijuana.

This question will need to take into account legalization and even cultural acceptance but is not ultimately based on either of those considerations. That’s why I said the way we come to the question is really important. What is guiding us as we look at the question of marijuana use? If it is just our feelings and the surrounding culture then that will lead to one set of conclusions. If it is the Word of God, however, it will likely lead to a different set of conclusions.

So, let’s look at what the Bible says.

Marijuana And The Bible

I have talked to a lot of people that boast about marijuana’s many benefits in recreational use. Some will even bring up Genesis 1:29 that says that God made every plant on the earth that produces seed and then says we “shall have them for food.” So, people ask, “Doesn’t that count for marijuana?! Didn’t God make it to be enjoyed? Shouldn’t we just receive it with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5)?”

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Drinking and Smoking

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Jesus turned water into wine and drank wine Himself (Jn. 2:1-12; Matt. 26:27). Jesus the perfect Son of God drank, so can we drink wine, beer, whiskey, vodka, rum, and what not, as we like? Here are some things to consider:

  • Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God.” So first, do not drink if you are under the legal age. Do not smoke if you are under the legal age. Do not smoke things if they are illegal.
  • Romans 13:13-14 says, “Let us walk properly…not in…drunkenness…but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Second, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, we are to be like Him and not be alcoholics. Exciplity we are told to not get drunk (Eph. 5:18). This text applies to more than just alcohol. It also applies other things such as pot, even legalized pot (though see here for my views on psychoactive medication). However, realize you don’t find a command for complete abstinence from alcohol.
  • Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident… drunkenness… and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Cor. 6:9-11). We need to, third, cultivate the works of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, and patience, not the works of the flesh. However, that does not make having a drink wrong for everyone, though drunkenness is wrong for everyone.
  • Proverbs 31:4b-5 says, “It is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to drink strong wine, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.” Fourth, we see that it is a good principle for those who are in places of authority to not drink. This is so they do not mess everything up by being drunken and foolish. In the Bible priests (Lev. 10:8-10 ), Nazarites (Num. 6:3-4 ), and John the Baptizer (Lk. 1:15 ) were not to drink. They were likely not permitted to drink for the same reason kings and rulers shouldn’t drink, so they won’t “drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of the afflicted.”

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20 Quotes from Gregory Koukl’s Tactics

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I found Gregory Koukl’s book Tactics helpful. Here‘s a book review to check out and here are some quotes from the book that I enjoyed: 

  1. “Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagement should look more like diplomacy than D-Day” (19).
  2. “You must be careful not to use your tactics merely to assault others… I am not opposed to being assertive, direct or challenging. However, I never intend to be abrasive or abusive” (27).
  3. “Always make it a goal to keep your conversations cordial. Sometimes that will not be possible. If a principled, charitable expression of your ideas makes someone mad, there’s little you can do about it. Jesus’ teaching made some people furious. Just make sure it’s your ideas that offended not you, that your beliefs cause the dispute and not your behavior” (31).
  4. “The ability to argue well is vital for clear thinking. That’s why arguments are good things. Arguing is a virtue because it helps us determine what is true and discard what is false” (33).
  5. “It doesn’t follow that if God’s Spirit plays a vital role, then reason and persuasion play none” (35) (cf. Acts 17:2-4).
  6. “Some people think Christians are the only ones who need to answer for their beliefs. Of course, we should be able to give reasons for what we think is true. But we are not the only ones; others should be able to do this, too” (58).
  7. “Many Challenges to Christianity thrive on vague generalities and forceful but vacuous slogans” (58).
  8. Ask people for facts to support their conclusions. “Most critics are not prepared to defend their faith” (61).
  9. “Reversing the burden of proof is not a trick to avoid defending our own ideas. When we give opinions, we have to answer for them just like anyone else. We have a responsibility, but so do they” (65).
  10. “When someone asks for your personal views about a controversial issue, preface your remarks with a question that sets the stage—in your favor—for your response. Say, ‘You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from your own?’ Now when you give your point of view, it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to call you intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too” (78).
  11. “The quickest way to deal with a personal attack is to simply point it out with a question. When someone goes after you rather than your arguments, ask, ‘I’m a little confused about your response. Even if you were right about my character, could you explain to me exactly what that has to do with this issue?’” (79).
  12. “Think about using the phrase ‘Have you considered’ to introduce your concern, then offering a different view that gently questions the person’s beliefs or confronts weaknesses with his argument… ‘Have you ever considered… that the existence of evil is actually evidence of the existence of God, not against it?’… ‘Have you ever considered… that if Jesus was wrong about being the only way of salvation, it is difficult to call him a good man, a prophet, or a wise religious teacher? What do you think about that problem?’” (84).
  13. “Can you help me understand this? If there is no evidence that life came from non-life (abiogenesis)—that life spontaneously arose from inanimate matter to kick off the sequence of evolution—and there is much evidence against it, how can we say that Darwinian evolution is fact?” (85)
  14. “If someone’s thinking is flawed, the key to finding the error is to listen carefully to the reasons and then ask if the conclusions follow from the evidence. Point out errors with questions rather than statements. You might soften your challenge by phrasing your concern as a request for clarification or by suggesting an alternative with the words ‘Have you considered…’ before offering your own ideas” (88).
  15. “As a general rule, go out of your way to establish common ground. Whenever possible, affirm points of agreement. Take the most charitable read on the other person’s motives, not the most cynical. Treat them the way you would like others to treat you” (95).
  16. “If all religions are true, then Christianity is true. Yet a central claim of classical Christianity is that other religions are false when taken as a whole. Clearly, Jesus was not a pluralist. Either Christianity is correct that Jesus is God’s Messiah for the world and other religions are deceptions, as Scripture teaches, or Christianity is false and some other view is true. In no case, though, can all religions be true and valid” (119).
  17. “If you help someone see in advance that the route his map recommends will actually lead him off a cliff, he might consider changing his course. He might even discover he is using the wrong worldview map altogether and exchange it for one that is more reliable” (143).
  18. When there is a conflict between methodology and materialism, the philosophy always trumps the facts. Modern science does not conclude from the evidence that design is not tenable” (171).
  19. “When an academic begins with naturalism, a series of ‘facts’ fall into place before any genuine historical analysis begins… Starting with one’s conclusions, though, is cheating. Nothing has been proved, only assumed” (173).
  20. “Carnage of unimaginable proportions resulted not from religion, but from institutionalized atheism” (177).

Apologetics Resources

Reading book

I really enjoy apologetics and believe it’s important that we know why we believe what we believe. Here are some resources I’ve found helpful. 

General

McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict
Keller, Reason for God
Craig, On Guard
Craig, Reasonable Faith
Sproul, Defense of the Faith
Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist
Lewis, Mere Christianity
Strobel, 3-Disc Film Collection: The Case for Christ/The Case for Faith/The Case for a Creator
Bahnsen, Always Ready
Pearcey, Total Truth
Little, Know Why You Believe

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