Part 1 -
When Someone Attacks My Faith!
The Church must always be willing to deal with important issues, and this is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This week, our lesson had a simple Big Idea: WHEN PEOPLE ATTACK MY FAITH… BE AN AMBASSADOR!
We say this because 2 Corinthians 5:20 informs us that we already are anyway – it began when we started following Jesus, and will only end with our last breath. Everyone is included!
So of course, the only question to be answered is… are we GOOD ones or BAD ones?
Q. In your groups, take a minute to give some examples of good ambassadors you’ve seen, as well as not-so-good ones in the Christian world.
To help define what an ambassador is, we went back into Canadian history: the Honourable Lester B. Pearson (1897-1972), is a great example of someone who was a wonderful ambassador for our country, receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his work in developing Peacekeeping.
On the other hand, I think we can all agree that if we were to appoint, say, Homer Simpson as the new Canadian Ambassador to Israel, it wouldn't be long before we were at war with everyone!
1. SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE…?
Pearson’s skilfull ambassadorship was based on three components:
A. Knowledge (an accurately-informed mind)
So for us, as Christian Ambassadors, this means understanding:
- The truth about Christianity and Christ
- The truth about the post-Christian era in which we live
- The truth about false philosophies of the age (see Colossians 2:8)
Q. Where do you need greater knowledge?
B. Wisdom (an artful method)
C. Character (a warm, attractive and inviting manner)
We have to be the kind of ambassadors that people wish would stick around longer. When Jesus left town, NOBODY ever said “boy am I glad to see the back of him!” (except those who wanted Him dead, but that’s another sermon series!)
Q. Has emotion ever sabotaged your being attractive? When?
2. 2015 – APPLIED AMBASSADORSHIP!
We then cashed out the idea of ambassadorship by using an example that happened to us here at the church in 2015, when we were asked to respond to a letter (the letter, and Carmen’s response are included at the end of the TB). So how did we go about it?
A. Pick your battles!
Any soldier will tell you that you cannot win a battle on multiple fronts, so instead of debating everything Mr Skyvington said, I picked three quotes and dealt with them specifically, using wisdom to decide which specifically I was going to deal with.
But firstly, in order to deal with them at all, I had to have knowledge, I had to know why what he was suggesting was incorrect. The only way to do this is to be an ongoing learner - some resources are suggested for you at the end of the TB.
B. Speak to everyone!
I wasn't only writing to Mr. Skyvington, who might never read my reply, but also to the other people who read the Letters page. Nor was I trying to win a fight; I was simply making sure that I left information in my own letter that would put a stone in their shoe, hence my suggestion of certain books they could check out for more information.
C. Bring it back to Christ
Finally, I brought it back to Christ… the fact is that most atheism is a heart issue, not a facts issue. And yet most people will say they think Jesus Christ was a fine man and a great teacher… so let’s let them deal with who He was, because He certainly thought that the Old Testament was the Word of God, among other things!
Lastly, let’s deal with the question Carmen often gets asked… “BUT WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWERS WHEN I START TALKING TO SOMEONE?”
Well… so what? Do you think our Canadian Ambassadors know EVERYTHING? Of course not! There are times when all they can answer is “I have no idea. Let me do some research and get back to you.” This is a great example of wisdom.
And THEN, show them your Character and GET BACK TO THEM to continue the conversation.
Contrary to popular belief, our faith is a real-world faith, based on solid evidence. By building our store of Knowledge, Wisdom and Character, we’ll have nothing to fear from those who would attack it. In the words of Greg Koukl, President of Stand to Reason Ministries, let’s get out there and give ‘em Heaven this week!
Mark Kotchapaw and Carmen Gauvin-O'Donnell
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. 2015: Harper San Francisco, 227p.
Stand to Reason Ministries – http://www.str.org Equipping Christian Ambassadors with Knowledge, Wisdom, and Character (sound familiar?! Many thanks to Greg Koukl and his team for today’s material – you’ll find it in a resource on that website called “Ambassadors for Christ – The Essential Skills”. Greg also hosts a weekly free podcast where people call in and discuss various issues and topics)
Turek, Frank. Stealing from God (Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case). 2014: NavPress, 304p.
Wallace, J. Warner. Cold Case Christianity (A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels). 2013: David C. Cook Publishing, 224p.
ORIGINAL LETTER AND RESPONSE:
It’s time humans started to think for themselves instead of relying on the dictates of religious stories that are little more than fairy tales
By Stephen Skyvington, Special to Postmedia Network
Friday, June 12, 2015 9:28:07 EDT PM
I often wonder what animals must think of us. Sitting on the couch with my three dogs, watching the latest atrocities being played out on TV, I can’t help but wonder if they’re not thinking — much like me — that the wrong ones are caged up.
Lions and tigers and bears may be the ones we’ve put behind bars, but honestly, after the burning death of Muath al-Kasaesbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was captured after his plane was shot down by members of Islamic State, you’ll have a hard time convincing me who the real animals are.
This brutal act of terrorism, following on the heels of the beheading of two Japanese prisoners, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto — as well as the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris in January — has convinced me that the time has come to do something about the root cause of all this evil.
I’m talking about doing away with religion.
Banning it, outlawing it, abolishing it. Whatever term you wish to use, it really doesn’t matter to me, just get rid of it. The world is on shaky enough grounds as it is. The environment is at risk, our economy is faltering, and our social fabric is torn. Now is not the time for either a holy crusade or a jihad.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we ban spirituality, or showing compassion and empathy for our fellow beings, or even basic human kindness. Those things are all good and we should strive to make them a part of our day-to-day lives.
What I’m talking about is this seemingly fanatical devotion to the Word.
As a spin doctor — and an atheist — I have to tell you only a fool believes everything he or she reads. People in my line of work — public relations — get paid good money to “tell the story that tells the story.” We never let the facts get in the way of a good tale. Most important, we understand that something doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be believable. At least, that’s the case when you’re trying to sway public opinion.
Take the Bible, for instance. Bob Dylan once said the Bible is both the most underrated and overrated book, and I think he’s right. It’s also been called “the greatest story ever told,” and I agree with that assessment, too.
The Bible is a story. It’s not the word of God or Jesus or Moses or Yahweh. It was written by people just like me. Spin doctors, if you will. It’s a fairy tale that has about as much to do with reality as the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.
Same thing with the Qu’ran, and other books purporting to explain how it was we came to be here on this planet.
Now, I’m not trying to blind anyone with science, or mock anyone who truly believes. I get that it can be a mean old world out there and we all need a little solace from time to time in order to make it through the night. As Bruce Cockburn facetiously sings in Justice, “Everybody loves to see justice done on somebody else.”
I am not recommending we burn these books because they’re dangerous. It’s not ideas that are dangerous. It’s the people who take those ideas and bend them to fit their own evil intents that are the dangerous ones.
What I am suggesting, however, is that maybe the time has come to be honest with ourselves. We are living on a beautiful planet full of marvels, a veritable garden of earthly delights. But guess what? Adam and Eve? We’re not in danger of falling because we’re being tempted by the devil, who has chosen to appear in the form of a serpent. No, our downfall will happen because we are too bloody stupid to think for ourselves.
German philospher [sic] Friedrich Nietzsche, who in 1892 said, “God is dead,” was wrong. God is not dead. There is no God and never was. Until we, as a society, come to terms with this and stop conjuring up invisible men in the clouds who are supposed to watch over and protect us, we’re never going to evolve.
Fortunately, there is hope. More and more atheists are identifying themselves. And not just intellectuals and celebrities such as biologist Richard Dawkins, author Christopher Hitchens or comedian Ricky Gervais. Ordinary people, like you and me.
But the road is long, with many a winding turn, as someone once said. For those of us who understand you don’t need to believe in fairies and magic dust in order to see what a wonderful world it is, it’ll likely take several lifetimes to convince everyone else the truth is right here in front of us, if only we have the courage to look.
Stephen Skyvington is the president of PoliTrain Inc. He can be heard every Saturday at 1 p.m. on CFRB Newstalk Radio 1010. Follow him on Twitter @SSkyvington.
“HELP, GOD YELLS, I’VE BEEN ROBBED!”
Posted on August 13, 2015 by seegod1
In June, the Kingston Whig Standard received and published a piece by Stephen Skyvington (you can see it here), to which the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada asked us (I work for Bethel Church Kingston) to publish a reply. We did, but probably a little too late to appear in the Whig so they didn’t publish it. However, I can always publish it right here in my own blog, for those who may be interested. Here it is.
“In his piece on June 15th (“Embracing Atheism), Stephen Skyvington says that “the time has come to do something about the root cause of all this evil.”
While I certainly agree with him that evil is present among us, unfortunately, he, as an atheist, cannot make that argument. By denying the existence of God, atheism must also deny the notion of objective morality (that is, the notion that there exist universal rights and wrongs, rooted beyond our own internal subjective opinions). For Mr. Skyvington, as an atheist, we regret to say that there can be no such thing as objective morality, and therefore, no such thing as evil, only his opinion. With respect, and to quote the title of a recent book by Frank Turek, by saying religion is “evil”, he’s “Stealing from God”, an interesting position to hold when one thinks there is no God in the first place. Objective moral laws can only exist because of an objective moral lawgiver.
Mr. Skyvington also suggests that “only a fool believes everything he or she reads.”
Again, I can only agree with him, and certainly far too many people are guilty of simple “blind faith”, i.e. not really knowing what they believe or why they believe it. However my own walk as a follower of Christ (as someone who originally trained as a lawyer) began with a careful investigation of the evidence for the historical nature of Christianity, both using outside historical sources (documentary and archaeological) and the “internal” historical documents which now form the book we call the Bible. Since he states that the Bible is only a “story”, I certainly hope his conclusion is based on that same kind of investigation. If not, may I recommend “Cold Case Christianity (A Homicide Detective investigates the Claims of the Gospels)” by J. Warner Wallace, the product of Mr. Wallace’s own investigation as a specialist in Cold Case investigations and the conclusions he reached?
Furthermore if Mr. Skyvington is going to bring up the Bible, then he must deal with one of the central characters of that book – the man Jesus Christ, who most (reasonable) scholars will acknowledge certainly existed. The challenge here is that this particular man made some absolutely remarkable claims about himself: to be blunt, he called himself God.
Now most people today love to hedge their bets by playing the “great moral teacher” card with Jesus. Unfortunately, to quote C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity”, we really should have none of that “patronizing nonsense”: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” This is the Law of Non-Contradiction: Jesus cannot be a Great Moral Teacher and be lying about who he is at the same time, and in the same way.
Finally, Mr. Skyvington suggests that people are “too bloody stupid to think for ourselves”, all while suggesting that we are also to be the ones to fix the problem.
Now that is a contradiction. But for the Christian, no such contradiction exists: we know we are the problem, and we know that there is only one solution, Jesus Christ, who can fix it. And while we agree that there are those who do evil things in the name of religion, at least where Christianity is concerned, the only way to willingly do evil is to ignore the plain teachings of our founder, Jesus Christ.
I think one of the marks of a good thinker is being willing to begin with an open mind – maybe there is a God, and maybe there isn’t. But if what you begin with is a “materialistic” worldview (i.e. the universe is all there is – that’s another objective claim by the way), then there will be only one possible conclusion – there is no God.
Respectfully, I think this is what Mr. Skyvington has done and would suggest that he take a step back and begin his investigations anew. Like I was many years ago, he may be shocked at what he finds.