29 08 2011

I am a big science fiction fan and have enjoyed BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.  Several months ago I found a great post on THE POACHED EGG (which is becoming a highly useful tool for apologists) that is worth your reflection as you see to communicate the Gospel. – Steve

The Consequences of Rebellion

Imagine a time in the not too distant future. Trying to compensate for a declining population, scientists use advanced technology to build a “race” of robots, giving then not only human appearance and abilities, but also increasing amounts of “artificial intelligence.” Things work smoothly in the short run, as the robots’ nearly limitless energy for work transforms Earth into a near paradise. But the scientists, never satisfied with their product, and seeking to give them a chance at true relationship with their human masters, give the robots freedom of will, grafting it on to the ability to the think independently that they already have. Chaos soon ensues, as the robots rebel and rise up against the human population….

This is standard fare, of course, in science fiction circles. Shows like “Battlestar Galactica” explore the philosophic issue surrounding this scenario, and play out possible expected, and some unexpected, outcomes. Let’s do the same from an apologetic’s standpoint.

A major stumbling block for non-believers – and for many Christians as well – is the doctrine of Hell. How, they ask, can an “all-good” God consign his creation to a place of torment? Don’t we have a right to continued life, as we want it to be? Rights talk such as this flows readily from the American mind and temperament. As beneficiaries of a system of ordered liberty, with resort to the courts to settle our grievances, we seem to easily slip into thinking that man is autonomous, a force onto himself, with rights that spring from his desire for control.

But though we resist thinking about this notion, we are in fact created beings. We did nothing to bring ourselves into existence and the basic equipment with which we encounter the world was given to us at birth. However much we wish it to be otherwise, we cannot for long escape the realization – especially as our bodies age against our will and betray us – that we are on a journey in which this good Earth is simply a way-station. However much we assert our independence, utilize our intelligence, and demand our “rights” to do what we want, we must, if we are honest with ourselves, realize – perhaps with a bit of alarm – that whatever left us behind may intend to reckon with us for what we have done while here. He may, we must acknowledge, require an accounting.

Most people who think through the implications of our contingent nature eventually realize that whatever did create us and leave us here retains the right to do what he will with the fruit of his labor. After all, no one condemns the potter when he smashes the pot that does not meet his wishes, or the painter that slashes a painting if he so chooses. In the scenario painted above, we realize that the scientists would be within their rights when they “unplug” or otherwise disable their creation. Having made them, the scientists retain the right to do what they will – even by putting them to forced labor or by dismantling them for parts. There is no moral outcry when, for example, the Air Force cannibalizes broken planes for parts that keep other planes flying.

But when we move to the arena of man and his Creator, our bias leads us to a totally different conclusion. But we are different, aren’t we? We think, and reason, and have free will that allows us to plan, to dream, to set goals. We form relationships that are meaningful to us. And most importantly, we feel. Pain is a constant threat and common companion. Does this not give us the right to “do what we want?” Especially if we mean well and don’t want to “hurt” anyone? To be “good,” God must simply get out of our way and let us … what, be God?

Actually, He doesn’t. Nothing changes in this analysis when the creatures under consideration are us. Having formed us – and everything for that matter – from nothing, God can do what he wants with us. In fact, it appears that in the natural order of things, God has established rules that we violate at our peril, so that what He wants for us can be seen not only in his Revelation, but in the natural law. What changed is our perspective. Our bias in wanting our way is what leads us to cry foul when God’s created order bumps up against our plans and desires. As in the Garden of Eden, modern man insists on not serving God, but on replacing him… or displacing him, at the very least. Insistent on having our way, we see God as a nuisance, or for many of us, the enemy. We shake our fist at him, insisting that He move out of our way, and that he justify Himself to us.

Unlike the robot analogy, God does not fear us or where our freedom may take us. We present no threat to him. But that does not mean that He must accept us into His fellowship, for to do so would be inconsistent with His holy nature. So, He reveals Himself to us, in a way that is substantial but not overwhelming, so that He does not overcome our freedom to choose. And most importantly, He provides a way for us to reunite with Him, but on His terms. That many people will use this freedom to remain in rebellion is not something for which He must explain.

None of this is easy for us to fully comprehend or to accept. Set in our rebellion, without God taking the initiative, all would be lost. But when we insist that God must bend to our will, that our freedom to choose must be accepted by Him despite His contrary view, well, then we are living outside the order which God has created. And in the end, He can – and will – do what He, in His wisdom, deems right.

Better for us to begin to see that clearly than to persist in a notion that we can imagine God out of existence. He may seem largely hidden to us, but He is there.


17 08 2011

by Stephen L Dunn

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” – Jesus, quoted in John 8:32

The Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom of God.  It is the revelation that God  loves us and wants us to be an integral part of His eternal kingdom by delivering us from the power and the penalty of sin. There is bad news associated with the Gospel. That bad news is the reason we need the Gospel.  Sin has us in its grips and has deceived us into thinking we are free.

Henry Blackaby is credited with saying, “Truth is a person.”  That person is Jesus Christ,  The Good News is that he has come into the world to free us from our sin and invite us to be a part of His kingdom of love and grace.  Delivered from the power and penalty of sin – we are now truly free. We are free indeed!

Our world has a skewed view of the Gospel.  They think it’s about rules and restrictions, about squelching our human aspirations and impeding our spiritual quests. If truth does not come from within, but is revealed–then we can become slaves to or victims of whatever religious powers define as that truth.  If we must be accountable to God’s view of our humanity then will not truly be free.

At times, however, the proclaimers of the Gospel feed these attitudes. When we make the faith about believing in God instead of giving our lives to God, we make it possible for people to reject God because we don’t yet believe every jot and tittle of the Bible.  When we make the faith about becoming a part of our particular church culture, adhering to its practices instead of inviting us to become disciples of Jesus Christ, we make it the Gospel about a new set of behaviors and laws instead of renewing our minds so that we have the mind of Christ.  When we make the Gospel about an intellectual decision that follows an answer to every question we proffer instead of a lifestyle of trusting God to keep His promises, we allow people to compartmentalize their lives into ‘practical’ and ‘spiritual’ worlds and we never challenge them to live 24/7 for God.

The Gospel introduces us to the Truth that sets us free.  Let us make sure that it is the Gospel we proclaim instead of a counterfeit that once again ensnares people in slavery with spiritual explanations.  Let us make the Gospel about introducing them to Jesus.

(C) 2011 by Stephen L. Dunn

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5 08 2011

Bridgebuilders Seminar is a six-hour training event created by Dr. Steve Dunn to help traditional churches reach their unchurched neighbors.  Part of the challenge of this effort is that it is often a cross-cultural experience for which traditional churches are ill-equipped by temperament, knowledge, and skills.  Even if they believe that they are called to reach the mission field that is outside their front door, they often see it as a matter of getting people in the door so that the church might survive. And too often they believe that simply re-packaging a bit what they do will make them attractive to people for whom church is simply irrelevant to their daily lives.

The Seminar breaks down into six sessions:
+”The Mission Field Outside Your Front Door”
+”What Every Missionary Needs to Know”
+ “Christ’s Respectful Ambassador”
+ “Listening to the Holy Spirit and the Culture”
+ “Tools to Building Bridges”
+ “Getting Started as a Church (And as Individuals”

The next two scheduled Bridgebuilders Seminars are in the Eastern Regional Conference. They will be held at:

September 24, 2011
Shippensburg Church of God
Note new location

9:00 am-3:30 EST
Host pastor: Rev. Paul Tatum

October 29, 2011
Germantown Church of God
9:00 am-3:30 pm EST
Host pastor: Rev. Mark Hosler

Under a special agreement with the Commission on Evangelism of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God (which is sponsoring these two events) the cost is $15 per person or $50 flat fee for churches registering four or more.

To register go to the Commission’s web site EVANGELISM PLUS and follow the Bridgebuilders link.

If you would like information about bringing these seminars to your church, region or adjudicatory, please contact Steve Dunn at (717-898-8144)


3 08 2011

This comes via Greg West and THE POACHED EGG:

A Child-like Faith

by Lee Strobel

When I make evangelism too complicated, I think about Jack – and suddenly I gain clarity again.

For a long time, I wondered whether Jack really understood what he was hearing as he sat in our services week after week.

Jack lives in a residential facility for the developmentally disabled in suburban Chicago, and a volunteer from our ministry to mentally challenged adults would bring him to our church each Sunday morning.

Jack would always sit near the front. When the service was over, he would amble over to the pastor who had taught that day and begin talking in a low mumble. His brown hair would be tousled, his clothes disheveled, his tie askew. His face would have stubble and his thick glasses would be smudged.

I don’t know the diagnosis of Jack’s condition, but for the most part his thinking is unfocused and much of the time his speech is a string of disconnected thoughts. Although he’s an adult, talking with him is similar to communicating with a child.

Then one Sunday, when Jack came over to me after the service, I saw that his right arm was in a cast and sling. I pointed to the injury. “Did that hurt?” I asked.

Jack glanced at his arm and then at me. He replied in his halting voice: “I come here… and hear… about Jesus…and I think about… all the pain… he went through… for me… and I think… this was nothing!”

That’s when I knew that he understood. “Jack,” I said as I reached out to hug him, “that’s the most profound thing anyone has said to me for a long time.”

There’s no doubt that Jack loves Jesus. And what happens when a person truly adores someone? He can’t keep it to himself. So he routinely tells the other residents and staff at the facility where he lives that Jesus loves them. He encourages them to visit “my church.” (He’s very proud of his church.)

In his group at the facility, the attendants give each of the residents half an hour a day to play whatever they want on the tape machine or radio. Most put on the ballgame or music, but not Jack…


A Child-like Faith / LeeStrobel – Bible Gateway


1 08 2011

Via Greg West and The Poached Egg: