Saturday, January 29, 2011

Touching Base! Part 112

Biblical Authority

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Our presenter today was James A. Beverley, Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara.

I. Reasons to Trust the Bible and make it our Authority
  • The Bible points to Jesus.
  • The Bible is rooted and anchored in history.
  • The Bible has been copied carefully.
  • The Bible contains amazing prophecies that have come true.
  • The Bible has a wonderful message of salvation and eternal life.
  • The Bible is the witness to God’s mighty acts.
  • The Bible is accurate about humanity.
  • The Bible contains great guidance for moral and spiritual living.
  • The Bible commands a self-critical stance.
Jesus had a high view of the Jewish Scripture and used its teaching to resist Satan and to guide his disciples. If the Scriptures were good enough for Jesus, why not follow his lead?

Question for Discussion:
  • Are there other reasons to trust the Bible?
II. Options on Biblical Authority

1. Fundamentalist/conservative Christian view

The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. There are no mistakes or errors on any matter, scientific, moral, spiritual, historical, etc. The Bible should never be doubted and there is no reason to question any of its historical reports, miracles, or teaching.

(Many fundamentalists would add that the King James Version is the only trustworthy translation of the Bible.)

2. Moderate Conservative view

The Bible is God’s Word and is infallible on matters of faith and practice. However, there are some very difficult teachings in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. Further, there are minor errors on scientific and historical issues. These mistakes come from human error and not from God’s revelation.

3. Liberal Christian view

The Bible contains great spiritual teaching but informed Christians need not believe its miracle-stories or many of the Old Testament myths. The Bible contains false teaching on major subjects related to creation, the role of women, slavery, etc. As well, God speaks through other scriptures like the Gita, the Qur’an, the Sikh Adi Granth, and the Buddhist sutras.

4. Atheist view

The Bible is a false, misleading, dangerous book that has crippled humanity. There is no God and so there is no divine map for humans.

Questions for Discussion
  • What is your view of the Bible’s authority?
  • If you accept the Bible as God’s Word, how do you handle tough teachings?
  • What is your favourite Bible translation?
III. Principles on Inerrancy
  1. Inerrancy is the ideal theory about the Bible - a book without mistakes is better than a book with mistakes.
  2. The doctrine of inerrancy is often defended on the basis of logic - a) God inspired the Bible, b) God makes no mistakes, and c) Therefore, the Bible makes no mistakes.
  3. Inerrancy illustrates the power of a world view. If one is radically committed to the importance of inerrancy, then it would be very difficult to admit to an error in Scripture even if there was one or several or many. Evangelicals who believe in inerrancy need to work hard to be honest about problems in Scripture.
  4. The inerrancy doctrine preserves something absolutely crucial about the Christian doctrine of God: God makes no mistakes, He is perfect, therefore, whatever He inspires has to be inerrant. If there was a mistake in the original autographs that would have to come from human error in reception of God's Word.
  5. Inerrancy is not absolutely essential for the survival of the gospel. While an error on certain crucial items would spell the end of the Gospel (e.g. if Jesus has not risen from the dead), the Gospel does not hinge on an error on a minor item.
  6. Evangelicals need to be loving in the defence of Biblical authority. The battle over inerrancy and the authority of the Bible has often illustrated abuse of power and a lack of love.
  7. Be wary of the slippery slide in relation to Biblical authority. History has shown that once humans become the judge of Scripture on minor things, the trend continues on to question the very essential doctrines of the faith.
  8. Don't decide an issue by whether a view is liberal or conservative. Decide on the basis of what the Bible really teaches. The Bible teaches both liberal and conservative ideas. Jesus was both liberal and conservative, depending on the issue and the setting.
  9. Distinguish between the major and minor issues in biblical authority.
  10. Don't be superstitious about the Bible. It is to be respected as God's word but not to be treated as a book with magic powers.
  11. Be careful of the line that says “It doesn't matter” in relation to alleged mistakes in the Bible. Of course it matters if there are mistakes in the Bible.
  12. I would recommend that evangelicals admit to problems in Scripture but resist calling them errors - this gives the Bible the benefit of the doubt.
  13. Don't focus on inerrancy and solving problems in Scripture to the neglect of seeing the wonderful truths of the Bible. The supremacy of God's Word should not be lost in the debates about alleged contradictions and problem passages.
  14. Distinguish between whether the person believes the Bible is their authority from whether or not they have a false interpretation of specific Bible items. Is it an issue of authority or hermeneutics (or maybe both)?
  15. Be careful of the emphasis on the King James Version only in some conservative circles. The inerrancy issue is separate from the issue of the best translation. (The KJV is a beautiful translation but modern translations like the NIV are understood more easily).
Questions for Discussion
  • Do you agree with all of Professor Beverley’s points?
  • Are there any mistakes in the Bible?
IV. Resources on Scripture

Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Zondervan, 2003)
I. Howard Marshall, Biblical Inspiration (Hodder & Stoughton, 1982)
Leon Morris, I Believe in Revelation (Eerdmans, 1976)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Touching Base! Part 111


(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

This TB is going to be a little different than ones we put out weekly. You will note that, included in this TB is a bibliography. We strongly encourage you to check out some of these resources as you seek to intelligently engage with friends and family who may be atheists. One of the purposes of the Hot Topic series is to equip you (me too) to answer tough questions.

Below you will note the issues that the panel members addressed. Each of them has provided a brief summary of their presentation.

In my opening remarks, I commented on how we live in a world offering a “buffet” of belief choices. Even back in Joshua’s day with Israel surrounded by foreign nations, they had to choose for themselves who they would serve, what they would believe in:
"Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:14-15)

What has been your experience with those who have embraced atheism?
Is it harder to be a person of faith today than in your parent’s generation? Why or why not?

Carmen - Nothing New Under the Sun.

Carmen explained briefly that while the new atheism certainly is a step-up in terms of angry rhetoric, it’s really nothing new, because in Solomon’s own words “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The arguments haven’t changed, and in many cases the answers have been the same for over 2000 years.

Do you find this reassuring? Why or why not?

When people like Freud or Marx make their suggestions about why there isn’t really a God, have you found yourself believing them? Carmen pointed out that their arguments actually prove nothing about the actual existence of God. All they prove is that man is a fallen human being, capable of great evil and idolatry.
Why do you think people simply take their arguments at face value?

What can you do as a Christian to ensure you are able to “give an answer for the hope that is within you, with gentleness and respect”?
HINT: it’s at the end of the TB, starts with “B” and ends with “IBLIOGRAPHY”.

Eric - A Biblical Diagnosis
  1. Rebellion (Romans 1:21-25) - If you leave God out - don't glorify Him, thank Him, believe in Him - and worship other things, he may let you do your own thing. And there is nothing more frightening.
  2. Independence (Luke 12:20) - This is more subtle. It's just leaving Him out. Doing good and logical things and being just fine without God at all.
  3. Psychology (Romans 7:18,23 and the story of the Prodigal Son). St. Paul clearly says that there is much more than reason alone to explain our behaviour.
We might believe in the God described in Scripture in our heads but - deep down, and in our actions - really believe Him to be the God who is like the earthly father we grew up with.

  1. Are there examples of rebellion or independence in your life?
  2. Do you ever believe God to be either like your own parents or like one of His true attributes but one very selectively chosen from Scripture?
Meredith - Where are the atheists right?

Meredith noted that Christians often accuse Atheists of having no "moral compass." We accuse them of being gluttonous, greedy, lustful, and slothful. But are there times when we have been hypocritical? The greatest philanthropists of our time are atheists: George Soros, Bill Gates and William Buffett.

Atheists have long been critical of Christians – Meredith pointed out that Christians have the same vices (such as issues with pornography) as non-believers.

Atheists often feel frustrated with Christians appeal to God to explain complicated things (a so called "God-of-the-Gaps" mentality), or who divide over dogma, or are hurtfully narrow-minded while failing to address some of the most egregious and obvious sins in their own backyard (racism, sexism, consumerism, fill in your own -ism).

Have you struggled with this in your life as a believer? What would you say to an atheist who brings this up?

Noted atheist A. N. Wilson wrote about his return to his Christian faith. He writes: "My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known—not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die. …”

Note “the lives and examples” … how is your life? What are your examples?

Living the way of Philippians 2:1-4 is a powerful apologetic!
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favour: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. (The Message)

Mark - Slogans

The slogan I commented on was “There’s Probably No God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Read Matthew 6:25-34. How is this slogan the direct opposite of what Jesus said?
This slogan suggests that God must be some monster so now we can stop worrying because the monster doesn’t (probably doesn’t - to be exact) exist. Why do you think that some atheists seem to have this monster view of God?

Comment on the following quote I read in conclusion:
“I have never heard anybody say, One day I realized there was no God, no one behind reality, no life after death. I realized existence is a meaningless accident, begun by chance and destined for oblivion, and it changed my life. I used to be addicted to alcohol, but now the law of natural selection has set me free. I used to be greedy but now the story of the Big Bang has made me generous. I used to be afraid, but now random chance has made me brave.

I have never heard the story of an accidental, meaningless universe changing a life like that. Now, I have heard people say they were oppressed by the form of faith they followed and felt a sense of liberation when they didn’t believe it was true anymore. But I have never seen anyone receive the power to live the kind of life and become the kind of person he or she wants to be by hearing that there is no story behind the universe. I have never heard anyone say, ‘Now I have found a meaningful existence from a meaningless reality.’ ” John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt

What are the action steps?
  • Pray for people you know are atheists.
  • Serve people who are atheists and use words when necessary.
  • Be prepared to give an answer, with gentleness and respect - Respond in grace.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Hot Topics for a Cold Month # 2 - 16 JAN 11 – Atheism


1. Books

Aikman, David (2008). The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN: 1-4143-1708-5

D'Souza, Dinesh (2007). What's So Great About Christianity? Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing Inc. ISBN: 978-1414326016

Eagelton, Terry (2010). Reason, Faith and Revolution - Reflections on the God Debate. Yale University Press, ISBN: 978-0300164534

Flew, Anthony with Roy Varghese (2007). There is a God. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
ISBN: 978-0-06-133530-3

Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek (2004). I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN: 1-58134-561-5

Hitchens, Peter (2010). The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN: 978-0-310-32031-9

Keller, Timothy (2008). The Reason For God. New York, NY: Penguin Group. ISBN: 978-1594483493

McGrath, Alister (2010). The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind. Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830838431

Ortberg, John (2008). Faith and Doubt. Zondervan Books. ISBN: 978-0310253204

Spiegel, James (2010). The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8024-7611-1

Sproul, R.C. (1978). If There's a God, Why are there Atheists?: Why Atheists Believe in Unbelief (Revised edition of the book The Psychology of Atheism.). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN: 978-0871232380

Stott, John (2006). The Incomparable Christ. Intervarsity Press. ISBN 978-0830832224

Vitz, Paul C. (1999). Faith of the Fatherless: the Psychology of Atheism. Dallas: Spence Publishers. ISBN: 978-1890626129

Wright, N.T. (2006). The Challenge of Jesus - Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830822003

Wright, N.T. (2006). Evil and the Justice of God. Intervarsity Press. ISBN: 978-0830833986

Wright, N.T. (2010). Simply Christian - Why Christianity Makes Sense. HarperOne. ISBN: 978-0061920622

Yancey, Philip (2010). What Good is God? Faithwords. ISBN: 978-0446559850

Zacharias, Ravi (2008). Beyond Opinion – Living the Faith We Defend. Thomas Nelson. ISBN: 978-0849919688

2. Websites:

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith
Stand to Reason


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Touching Base! Part 110


(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

How many of us would agree that knowing and trusting somebody does not necessarily mean you understand them? How many spouses would say “I know my spouse, trust them, but don’t understand them all the time? This can happen in all kinds of relationships. Can you give an example of this in your own life?

What is true about our human relationships is also true regarding our relationship with God. I think we would all agree that there are a number of issues that we trust God with, but don’t have complete understanding of.

For example, take the issue of hell. C.S. Lewis notes that heaven is the abode of those that say to God, "Thy will be done," and hell is the dwelling of those to whom God will eventually turn and say, "THY will be done." In other words, hell is the rejection of relationship and meaning, the insanity of a self-imposed isolation where "man is the measure of all things." Having affirmed himself as his own god, man lives in hell with the full consequence of this faith. Some scriptures to check out are, Matthew 5:22, 29-30;10:28;18:9; 2Peter 2:4.

If you are reviewing this TB in a group, take some time and imagine the following scenario. You are in a coffee shop, talking with a friend who is not a believer. They ask you the question,” How can you, an intelligent, 21st century person believe in the teaching of hell? How can you believe that a loving God would allow people to suffer in hell for eternity? How would you respond? Would your answer reveal that you understand God completely on this issue or that you struggle with coming to terms with what Jesus said about hell?

On Sunday, we talked about how to frame some thoughts around a very difficult issue. If you were not present, it may be difficult to track with the following outline. You can hear this teaching on our website.

Starting with the nature of God
What you believe/know about the character of God will determine whether you can trust Him with something you don’t completely understand. For example if you believe God is some vindictive megalomaniac, then hell is like a hard packed snowball in the hands of a schoolyard bully. Discuss how our understanding of God deeply influences our trust of Him. How can this influence our trust in God when it comes to the issue of hell?
What do we as Christians believe about the nature of God? Scripture teaches the perfect love and perfect justice of God.

Perfect Love
The image of God as a divine lover saturates the bible. When God wanted to communicate his love to the northern tribe of Israel who had fallen deeply into idolatry he told Hosea to marry a prostitute as a demonstration of God’s love for an adulterous Israel. John 3:16 speaks of this love. At the cross Jesus allowed the very people he came to save to spit upon his flesh, to whip his flesh, to impale His flesh, and to pierce His flesh.

Perfect love grants freedom, where the recipient of love can choose to receive or reject that love. True love requires true freedom. Freedom is a necessary moral component of love.

Discuss how providing moral freedom helps us understand the reality of hell.

Even with this understanding of moral freedom what are still some of the questions your friend may have about the issue of hell? In other words, what mystery are we still left with?

Perfect Justice
Perfect justice refers to God’s nature whereby he is infinitely righteous in Himself and in all he does. A biblical worldview teaches that no stone will be left unturned, no crime scene unsolved, no injustice undealt with. Psalm 89:14 is one of many verses that talks about the righteous judgments of God.

Talk about the worlds desire to see justice. What are various scenarios that you desire to see justice? Hell addresses everyone’s longing for justice! Atheists have no hope of perfect justice being satisfied.

However, what is our desire can quickly become our dilemma. We have all misused the moral freedom God has given us. Based on His perfect justice we all stand condemned. The justice of God demands that a penalty be paid. It is as this point we appeal to the perfect love of God. The justice of God demands we pay a price for our sin. The love of God propels him to send Christ to pay that price. (Gal 3:13)

Talk about how hell addresses our desire for justice - perfect justice.

Do you find that most are willing to admit the dilemma they find themselves in based on the perfect justice of God?
Ravi Zacharias says that depravity is the most empirically provable doctrine yet most resisted by atheists.

Romans 11:22 says-"Behold then the kindness and the severity of God." What is it about our culture that does not like to talk about the severity of God?

Even with this understanding of perfect justice, what are still some of the questions your friend may have about the issue of hell?

Hell is not something to take lightly. It represents a doctrine that represents the largest “room in the house”. We can explore it from every angle but still be left having to trust God with an issue that is in part beyond our understanding. However, I do believe that as we understand the perfect love and perfect justice of God we can begin to shape some of our thoughts and express our faith more clearly to a world that is in need of the good news for this life and the next.

How does your life need to be different in light of the reality of hell?

Take some time to pray for those in need of the perfect love of God. Pray for those who need to come face to face with the perfect justice of God.


If interested in joining or starting a small group contact


Does not perfect justice mean that the punishment fits the crime?
Scripture teaches that there are different degrees of punishment in hell, just as there are different degrees of reward in Heaven. Check out Matthew 11:20-24, Mark 12:40, Rev 20:12,13.. These texts teach that God’s justice is proportional.

What about the person in “India” who may never hear about God’s provision in Christ?
You cannot answer this question without holding the perfect love and perfect justice of God in balance. God’s love for this world goes far beyond anything I could measure, yet his love cannot contradict or compromise his perfect justice. How God works all that out is beyond my understanding. I side with Abraham who said in Gen 18:25 “ Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” While trusting God I need to do my part in communicating the Gospel and that salvation is found in Christ.

Are the flames of hell literal?
I believe much of the language that describes hell is figurative. For example the imagery of flames is often used to describe hell. However, hell is also described as a place of utter darkness. How is that possible? Wouldn’t flames light the place up? We often will describe a literal place with figurative language. Scripture does the same. However, make no mistake that even though some of the language that describes hell may be figurative, what it is communicating is that hell is a place to be avoided.