Tag Archives: Church life

Is There a Place for Apologetic Ministry Within and Without the Church?

ImageSeemingly irreconcilable conflicts are inherent to opposing world views, and at the center of them is Christianity. Often assumed is the specious idea that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. And this illusion is not going away in the foreseeable future. From this we learn that our objective as Christians is two-fold. On one hand, we must minimize the currently surmounting confusion in the skeptical mind by offering answers to difficult questions, while at the same time demonstrating to all that faith and reason needn’t be reconciled, for they are friendly neighbors in the biblical system of thought. In this series I will attempt to accomplish both of these objectives by way of a  limited case study I conducted recently. Firstly, I will identify the three most common questions raised by twelve people I interviewed. Secondly, I will interpret the cause of the questions. Thirdly, I will answer them. And finally, I will discuss the solutions that I believe best address the root of these issues.

1.1. What is going on in my church/community?

The questions that have come to me through my interviews in and out of our church community are numerous, but there are common threads that connect them and which allow me to narrow them down to three primary categories. They are 1.) the problem of sin, 2.) the problem of suffering in the world, and 3.) the problem of freewill.

1.1.1. The Problem of Sin

Pertaining to sin, the questions were about what it is and why it exists. Specifically, why did God give man the potential to sin, or at least after sin entered the world, why didn’t God simply eradicate it? Must sin continue as the cause of so much trouble today? One interviewee preceded Adam’s fall (Gen 3:6) with a question about Lucifer’s creation and his eventual banishment from heaven (Isa 14:12). Why did God create Lucifer if He knew that he would fall into sin, lead a celestial rebellion, and consequently become the great tempter and catalyst to man’s sin? Immediately following this came the logical perplexity for why God didn’t destroy Satan immediately. Because these questions all are so closely related to one another in that they deal with sin’s nature and origin, I have put them together under the single heading “The Problem of Sin,” which I will discuss shortly.

1.1.2. The Problem of Suffering

The problem of suffering, and why there is so much of it, must be the single most popular criticism against the existence of an omnipotent and loving God. Permeating this topic were similar questions pointing to specific instances of suffering, such as war, famine and sickness. The troublesome part for most of those interviewed was not so much why suffering exists, per se, but rather if God is all-powerful and good, why don’t we see Him doing anything about it? Once again, given the related nature of these questions, I have chosen to place them together under the single heading “The Problem of Suffering.”

1.1.3. The Problem of Freewill

Interestingly enough, this last question, “Does man have a free will?” is in a sense more of a doctrinal issue than it is apologetic. Doctrinal because it rises from the face of Scripture specifically, but still apologetic because some atheists (i.e. Sam Harris) deny that man has a free will at all. Human beings are nothing more than animalistic machines with refined behavior. Therefore I believe it is fitting to address the problem of free will here, within the context of an apologetics study, for two primary reasons. First, because it was a common enough question asked in the interviews for this case study. Second, and perhaps most importantly, because freewill lies very much at the crux of the other two questions listed, the “Problem of Sin” and the “Problem of Suffering.”

In my next post, part two of this three-part series, I will address the eyeopening socio-cultural influence behind these questions, which inevitably overflows into the context of church life. Stay tuned and let me know what uThink!

Advertisements

The Virtual Church, Part One: Where is Modern Technology Leading the Church?

Modern technology has brought us virtual pets, virtual homes and virtual flowers. Yes, we can even have virtual children now. In fact, on March 5, one Korean couple was arrested for letting their real baby girl starve to death while they obsessively raised a virtual child in an online video game. It is so tragic and disturbing that it is hard to believe! But the truth is that people are losing touch with the warmth of reality, and instead, they are embracing a cold and detached alternative. And do you know what else? The church is not far behind in this trend.

Today, church-life faces a subtle threat to its overall health. It comes not as an external enemy, but an internal anomaly. It is the fast-spreading mentality of believers who would argue that faithful attendance and participation in the local body is really not important, neither for themselves nor for the whole of the local church. Their presence just doesn’t matter. As far as their spiritual health is concerned, they’ll be fine. They’ll just turn on Christian radio, or internet streaming. Maybe they’ll download an MP3 or flick through the Christian channels on cable or satellite television and just have church at home. And as far as their part of service in the fellowship, everything’s already been covered by the guys up front.

If, like so many believers do today, you view church as something passively to be observed and not actually participated in, then the case I will bring to the table in these posts will appear to be groundless. On the other hand, if you are willing to consider this topic through the lens of Scripture, you may just have to readjust not only your perspective, but also your involvement and attitude towards the body of Christ and the life of the church. Consider the meaning of church biblically. Does it ever refer to a sermon? A bible study? Even a building? Never. Certainly, these things are an essential part of church activity, but they do not constitute…the church.

The very word itself in Biblical language gives us the insight we need to remember. It is “ekklesia” and the New Testament is peppered with the word. Seventy seven times to be exact, with the majority of occurrences appearing in the Epistles. When Jesus spoke of the church in the gospels (Matthew 16:18), he referred to the universal church consisting of all true believers of every generation and in every part of the world. Location is irrelevant. In the other instances however, location is very relevant. The Apostles spoke of the church as specific groups of believers that met together in different places. To name a few, the church in Ephesus, the church in Galatia, the church in Corinth, Rome, Philippi etc. So we see that the meaning of the word has everything to do with the people who first of all are in Christ and secondly, who come together in His name somewhere locally.

In terms of definitions, church can’t be broadcasted by satellite nor can it be had from the comfort of our living room unless our living room is where the church actually meets. In many parts of the world, this is the case. Due to a citywide traffic block a couple of Sundays ago, we did exactly that for our church fellowship here in Italy. We held the service right in my living room for any who could join us, and it was a blessing. But for the people who unfortunately were too distant to come by foot, the best they could do was watch and listen online. Sure, it was better than nothing, but it was not the real thing. The real thing is active and not passive, it involves the rich blessing of ones presence where there is a warm touch. It is face-to-face fellowship and breaking of bread together. Handshakes, hugs, and sharing a laugh. Bottom line, it is a gathering. And that is the meaning of  ekklesia. So when a person says, “Let’s just watch online and have church at home,” what they mean is let’s listen to the message. A message is good, but it is not church.

Why nitpick over such terms? Because meaning matters folks. And our understanding of these things will determine how we live our lives. Those who think church is just listening to a sermon are not only an ocean’s distance from the Biblical meaning of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19), but they are very close to robbing themselves and the local church of the rich blessings and fruit God intends to produce through their presence and their participation. Both are vital, neither can be virtual.

For part two of The Virtual Church series, click on this link “The Virtual Pastor.” Or in the meantime just give the subject some thought. What do uThink about the direction modern life is taking the church?