Every Christian a Theologian

“Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary.”

This quote is printed on the last page of the rifle data books issued to every U.S. Marine for their annual marksmanship qualification. The source of the quote was General Alfred M. Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps and the only commandant to have his official photograph taken in a camouflage utility uniform.[1] The message was sent loud and clear: Every marine is a rifleman.

Since the War for Independence, the U.S. Marine Corps has been distinguished by its dedication to marksmanship. Every recruit is trained early and thoroughly. Regardless of their military occupational specialty (MOS), be it infantry, technician, food service, or music, every marine is expected to be proficient with a rifle.

Here’s the thing…

I believe Christians would do well to learn from this legacy. There are certain things that are so intrinsically tied to the Christian identity that no Christian should go without. There are certain subjects every Christian ought to learn early and thoroughly, namely theology.

Every Christian to one degree or another ought to be a theologian. Continue reading “Every Christian a Theologian”

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Say It with Me: Worldview

worldview apologetics

This is the first installment of a series of posts, introducing terms and ideas that may be unfamiliar to many but are increasingly necessary for the thinking Christian to understand. 

At first glance, worldview seems like an arcane topic reserved only for the more philosophically minded. Discussing worldviews can get tedious and sometimes downright arbitrary. However, worldview thinking is becoming increasingly necessary for Christians to understand the world around them properly.

Meaning

The term worldview refers to a person’s general concept of reality. It is general, being the perspective from which a person approaches every aspect of life. It is a concept, existing as a set of ideas that precede further thinking and action. It deals with reality, viewing the ultimate state of everything as it truly is.

Simply put, our worldview is the way we view the world.

Our worldview consists of what we acknowledge as ultimate reality, whether that is a personal God, or a universal spirit, or the material universe. Our worldview is how we make sense of our experiences and assign meaning to them. Our worldview is largely responsible for why we think and act the way we do.

Our worldview will determine how we answer life’s biggest questions.

  • What is real? – Our answer depends on what our worldview says about the nature of reality.
  • Who am I? – Our answer depends on what our worldview says about our identity.
  • Why am I here? – Our answer depends on what our worldview says about our purpose in life.
  • How do I know what is right and what is wrong? – Our answer depends on what our worldview says about morality.
  • Where am I going? – Our answer depends on what our worldview says about our destiny.

We may not spend time on a regular basis, thinking through these questions. However, because these questions are so basic to our lives, forming a worldview to live by is inevitable, whether we know it or not. To quote Francis Schaeffer, “People function on the basis of their worldview more consistently than even they themselves may realize.”[1]

Research psychologist Artur Nilsson agrees.

While it is true, I believe, that most persons do not have an articulated and organized philosophy of life, everyone does have a worldview. But we’re not typically aware of our worldviews in our daily lives. They’re so basic to our thinking that they become invisible to us. They present themselves as the obvious truth. We use them to think, perceive, and act in a largely habitual and unconscious way, but we rarely reflect upon them.[2]

So, here’s the thing…

How beneficial would it be if we were to think deeply about our worldview and worldviews in general? What if we intentionally curated and cultivated the way we think about the world around us? What if we took up the task of worldview thinking?

After all, we are what we think. (Proverbs 23:7) Continue reading “Say It with Me: Worldview”

Would-be and Wouldn’t-be Apologists

What do one million dollars look like? Well, that depends.

If you want to see a million dollars in $100 bills, I am afraid it is not all that impressive, fitting into an oversized briefcase. If you wanted to see a million in $20 bills, it is a bit less underwhelming. At least it would be something that could qualify as an actual pile of money.

However, if you wanted to see a million dollars in $1 bills, now that actually looks like a lot of money. At Chicago’s Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum, a rotating “cube of cash” is on display. One million $1 bills fill a 64 cubit foot case and weights over a ton. As a single stack, it would reach nearly four hundred feet in height.

What does Christian apologetics look like? Well, that depends. Continue reading “Would-be and Wouldn’t-be Apologists”

How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?

Nonbelievers give many reasons for believing that God does not exist. Some say they cannot reconcile modern scientific thinking with belief in God. Some say that there is not enough historical evidence.

Then there is an entire category of questions about God with a different common theme: judging God’s character and actions. In this category, questions like the following are asked:

These are certainly legitimate questions, which Christian thinkers over the centuries have treated with care. But, notice the common denominator. The real alternatives assumed in these questions are not whether God exists, but whether he is justified in what he does, assuming he exists.

Here’s the thing…

Discussing God’s existence and judging God’s character are two very different endeavors. Yet, people act as though how God exists determines if God exists. It is as if they are saying only when God’s character and actions are acceptable to us will his existence be plausible to us. Continue reading “How Could Someone Who Does Not Believe in God Judge Him?”

How Could a Righteous God Allow Bad People into Heaven?

I had honestly never thought about it before. So the first time I was confronted with this question, I was dumbfounded. I had thought through why God would send people to Hell, but this is the other side of the coin.

This question resonates with me. I get it. According to the Bible God offers forgiveness—and therefore salvation, and therefore Heaven—to the worst people. Terrible people. I get a lump in my throat to think of it. How could God forgive them? Pick the worst sin you would dare imagine. For one moment, try to entertain the thought of the very possibility of that person finding forgiveness from God and getting to spend eternity in Heaven. Outrageous!

I believe that the longing behind this question is justified. We want to see justice come to the serial killer, the child molester, and the rapist. We want them to get what is coming to them, to feel the pain they caused. We want no loopholes, no way out. Yet, isn’t that what God offers?

We deal in terms of what people deserve, and there are monsters in this world who deserve no mercy, no forgiveness, and certainly no Heaven.

However, the topic of what people deserve is a much broader topic than we like to admit. We point the question to extreme wrongdoing, as if to differentiate between our “not so bad” wrongdoing. We focus on God dealing with extreme evil in the world, and ignore the “nobody’s perfect” evil in our lives.

But, here’s the thing…

If nobody is perfect, then everybody is guilty.

So, the question really seems to be that if God is righteous, how can he forgive anyone? Continue reading “How Could a Righteous God Allow Bad People into Heaven?”

How Could a Loving God Send Good People to Hell?

The problem of Hell is one of the most frequently asked questions about God, and one of the hardest to answer.

As with most questions about God, there is a lot behind this question. How do we reconcile the Biblical descriptions of Hell with a God who does not just show love, but as the Bible says is love? How could Jesus show so much compassion for people, and yet talk so explicitly about eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth?

What is behind this question differs from person to person. Some people would word their question better by asking, “Why would God send a person who sinned for a few years to hell for all eternity?” Some would ask, “Why would God not just forgive everyone so no one would have to be punished?”

Whatever emphasis resonates, the basic question remains the same. Why would a loving God send good people to Hell?”

Here’s the thing…

When we take our time to clarify what we mean in what we are asking, the answer reveals itself.

When we clarify certain things about God, we see that God’s love and judgment are complementary, not contradictory. When we clarify certain things about ourselves, we see that God’s justice is exactly that, justice. When we clarify certain things about Hell, we see that the solution for it is not the eradication of it; it is salvation from it. Continue reading “How Could a Loving God Send Good People to Hell?”

The Questions They’re Asking and the Answers They’re Getting

…and What We Should Do about It

Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

I have never been much of Star Wars fan (please don’t unsubscribe), so when my student hit me this quote in the middle of a conversation about morality, my reaction was little more than an eye-roll. Fortunately, I was able to convince him that Obi-Wan Kenobi may have been strong with the force, but he was weak with philosophy, especially considering that his statement was absolute.

Consequently, it was one of the best conversations I have ever had with a student about the nature of morality.

It’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

Now, Batman? I can appreciate Batman. So, when a student threw that one at me, I was a bit more receptive. As it turns out, much of the stress this student felt due to his underperformance in school was prompted more by fiction than fact.

As a result, it was one of the best conversations I have ever had with a student about identity and accountability.

In both situations, fictional characters had given these young people more answers to life’s big questions than any of the adults in their lives had. I was not surprised. If you are, you should know, this is typical.

Here’s the thing…

Our young people’s lives are more often than we would like to admit guided by the culture that surrounds them more than the adults that raise them.

So, what can we do about it?

We first need to recognize two facts: young people are asking questions, and they are getting answers. The question is, from whom are they getting those answers?

We then need to develop a strategy to answer their questions properly, meaningfully, and—most importantly—Biblically.    Continue reading “The Questions They’re Asking and the Answers They’re Getting”