God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Showing posts with label Communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Communication. Show all posts

Monday, August 5, 2019

4 Questions to Ask Before You Hit SEND

Introduction

As someone who loves to engage people in deep worldview conversations and steer unbelievers towards the truth of Christianity, my ability to communicate is vital. Whether I am conversing in person or commenting on a post on social media, it is important that the words I speak or write glorify God and work towards the end of bringing more people to the Truth. In 2018 I read and reviewed an important book that helps the reader to accomplish this goal. Communication expert Dr. Emerson Eggerichs (known for Love and Respect) published his book on general communication, called "Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache" to challenge his audience to exercise wisdom and discernment before "hitting send" on their communications to others- whether verbal or written. Because of the insight offered throughout the book, it was included in my Top 5 Recommended Books for Productive Conversations. Eggerichs encourages people to ask four questions of what they are preparing to say or write to ensure that the words will accomplish the goal of the speaker or writer. Today, I am going to highlight those four questions and their importance for the Christian apologist. 


Is It True?

Because the Christian worldview is true and people's eternal destinies depend upon their recognition of this truth, ensuring that as we defend the truth of Christianity we also speak truthfully about other matters is of utmost importance. It is natural for us to doubt someone's truthfulness when they speak something false. I have written many times about the importance of apologists' studying and defending non-essential doctrines, and in those posts, I emphasize this very concern of unbelievers.

For instance, many people have issues with origins and the Bible, and while not all aspects of origins are essential issues, it is important that the apologist be able to speak truthfully on the origins issue. If we speak falsely and the person knows that we are speaking falsely (whether we mean to or not), then we give them a good reason to doubt our trustworthiness when it comes to the more important matter of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Is It Kind?

One of the big issues that I see with Christians, especially on social media and when discussing hot-button issues such as origins, is the unkind attitude with which the Gospel is presented. While we defend the truth, we cannot defend it with contempt for the person we are presenting it to. They are created in the Image of God and are worthy of our love, respect, and kindness no matter what they have done or how frustrated they make us. If we truly wish for them to repent from their sins, accept Christ's sacrifice, and live with us for eternity, would we not want to present the truth in the most kind and loving way so as to encourage them to accept the truth we speak?

Unlike what many think about speaking kindly, it does not require that we speak untruthfully. "True" describes the content; "kind" describes the attitude with which content is presented. If we present true content unkindly, we do damage to the truth by making it appear repulsive.

Is It Necessary?

The necessity of what we speak has two sides. The first is that we must speak what is necessary, and the second is that we must refrain from speaking what is unnecessary. Many Christians refrain from speaking what is necessary because they are fearful that they are not equipped to defend what they believe. They know that the time is right and that it is necessary to say something. They want to defend the truth of the Resurrection and the Christian worldview, and they know that they need to. Doing so is necessary in many of our conversations with friends, family, and coworkers. This is why studying the defense of the Christian worldview (asking the question "Is It True"- apologetics) is important for all Christians.

The second side is that we also tend to speak unnecessarily. For instance (I have to really watch out for this one), if an unbeliever is not struggling with science/faith issues, then bringing up the whole creation/evolution debate is unnecessary and may actually introduce a stumbling block for the unbeliever. No Christian ever wants to introduce more reasons for an unbeliever to reject (or even delay accepting) Christ. We need to listen carefully to the unbeliever's concerns and address those with truth and kindness and do our best to not bring more unnecessary matters into the decision-making process. This is not to say that these issues are not important; they are; but that particular conversation may not be the time to discuss them with a particular person. If the person brings up a non-essential matter, then it is now necessary to address, and we need to be prepared to do so or to refer them to a resource that can address it (all the while reminding them that it is not an essential issue and not a reason to reject Christ).

Is It Clear?

While everything that we speak can be true, kind, and necessary, we may still fail in our communication by not communicating it clearly. Many Christian apologists are familiar with the work of Greg Koukl. In his book "Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions" he encourages Christians to engage in conversations by asking questions. When we ask ourselves "Is It Clear?" we are essentially taking Koukl's questions and asking them of ourselves: "What do I mean by that?" and "How did I come to that conclusion?" When we answer these questions for ourselves, we are more likely to be able to clearly communicate to others.

We must also not resist if others ask the "Columbo" questions of us. If the questions are asked, it is because we are not speaking clearly enough for a good understanding. In this situation, it should not frustrate us to have to clarify, it should excite us that the person values what we say enough to ask for clarification. When we are given the opportunity to clarify, we are given the opportunity to get the unbeliever intellectually (and many times, emotionally and spiritually) closer to accepting Christ.

Conclusion

As evangelists (Matthew 28:19) and defenders (1 Peter 3:15) of Christianity, it is vital to our purpose to be able and willing to communicate the Gospel in the most effective way possible. And in today's culture, stopping to think carefully about what we say or write is not necessarily encouraged. However, that is what is necessary to be successful ambassadors for Christ. I encourage you to pick up a copy of "Before You Hit Send" and make the decision to consciously exercise the advice provided within it pages, for the benefit of Christ's Kingdom.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Top 5 Books For The College-Bound

Introduction
The time is coming soon for a new chapter of our children's lives to begin: college life. This can be quite an apprehensive time for both Christian parents and the teens. The parents are preparing to let their kids go out into the world, unable to be protected by Mom and Dad from the various dangers that they experienced too at that age. The students are preparing to get a better taste of independence, learn more about the world and prepare for their future career and lives as individuals. Through exposure to new experiences and new ideas, they will be challenged mentally and intellectually.

Unfortunately, during the years at the university, many Christians become less convinced of the truth of the Christian worldview and many give it up entirely. This is a scary thought for Christian parents, as they know their kids may not be prepared to properly think through the philosophical challenges that this new world will put before them. That is why I have put together a short list of books that parents can go through with their college-bound kids as they prepare to enter this exciting new world. Whether you have been actively preparing your teens for these challenges or have not been so focused on them, I believe these books will prove to be vital resources to read before attending college and throughout the college years. Click the titles to see my full chapter-by-chapter review of the books. They are:
  1. Tactics: A Gameplan for Sharing Your Christian Convictions- Greg Koukl
  2. Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey- Jonathan Morrow
  3. Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels: J. Warner Wallace
  4. Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible- Frank Turek and Norman Geisler
  5. Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache- Emerson Eggerichs

Why Did I Choose These Books?

1. Tactics: A Gameplan For Sharing Your Christian Convictions

My first recommendation is "Tactics: A Gameplan For Sharing Your Christian Convictions" by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. I begin with this book because it is an easy read and will help ease apprehension in the reader about how to discuss what they believe. Skeptical questions from friends and others they respect will be common in college and can be intimidating, especially when they do not know the answers right off the top of their heads. The advice offered by Koukl in this book will allow the student to carry on a conversation about their beliefs without necessarily being "in the hot seat." This is the best place to start as it will prepare the student for any "awkward encounters" no matter their level of knowledge. Koukl offers wise advice throughout the book for the apprehensive student (and the over-zealous one), so it is

2. Welcome To College: A Christ-Follower's Guide for the Journey

This second book is by Jonathan Morrow and specifically targets the college student. Morrow not only discusses the intellectual challenges to the Christian worldview that will be faced in the university but he also covers that normal day-to-day challenges of campus life. The book certainly will not remove all surprises from the campus experience, but it will definitely reduce them and help the student to maintain focus. This is a great book for the student to keep on their bookshelf and reference from time to time or even revisit between semesters throughout their college career.



3. Cold-Case Christianity

The third book focuses on one of the major challenges that the Christian will face from both professors and fellow students: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of the fact that the entire worldview of Christianity rests on this single historical event (1 Cor 15:14), understanding the evidence for its happening in history will be necessary for any student who wishes to show evidence of the truth of Christianity in a college setting. "Cold-Case Christianity" was written by cold-case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace. He uses his years of experience working murder cases where no existing eye-witnesses are still alive ("cold" cases) to investigate the death and resurrection of Jesus- the most important claimed event that also has no living eye-witnesses. He takes the reader through the process of investigating cold cases and shows how the same methods can be applied to investigating the Resurrection. If you really enjoy this book, you may also want to check out Wallace's book that uses the same methods to investigate the case for God's existence: "God's Crime Scene."

4. Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible

Fourth, Christian politics will be constantly challenged not only in the classroom but also in the student's life apart from the classroom. Because politics are dependent upon ethics and morality, these are also under constant attack. Drs. Frank Turek and Norman Geisler wrote the book "Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible" specifically to address many of the common challenges Christians face regarding politics. Turek and Geisler demonstrate how anyone who claims to be against the legislation of morality is actually guilty of doing just that. They also demonstrate how the protection of human life via laws can only be grounded in the Judeo-Christian doctrine of the Image of God. Even if college students can avoid discussing politics with their friends, they will be challenged by professors, and they need to know how these challenges are resolved within the Christian worldview.

5. Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache

Finally, the book that I want to be freshest in the memory of the college-bound student is Emerson Eggerich's "Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache." While the other books help the student to analyze, internalize, and begin to articulate the case for the truth of the Christian worldview, this book focuses on the presentation: the communication. Eggerichs describes eighty different ways that communication can go wrong and presents four questions to always ask before speaking or pressing "send" on the internet.  for ensuring that what the student communicates is effective: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it clear? It is important that the college student use discernment when speaking to friends or in class or communicating on the internet. Ensuring truthful, kind, necessary, and clear communication with friends and professors will help maintain friendships and establish trust with those around them. This book will not only be helpful in communicating the case for Christianity, but it will help in all other interactions. This is another book that the college student will want to keep on their shelf and revisit often.

Bonus: A Secret Weapon

And, I want to add one bonus title to the list for the student who wants an extra "secret weapon" in his or her arsenal. Learning how to think logically provides anyone who wishes to discover and defend the truth an incredible advantage over those who do not take the time and effort. The bonus book is not the most entertaining to read and is definitely the dryest in this list, but it does provide this most valuable tool. "Come, Let Us Reason" by Norman Geisler takes the reader through both deductive and inductive logic. He explains how arguments are formed using each method and what level of certainty (necessarily true or probably true) each provides. This will help the student to properly form their arguments when speaking to others and to be careful not to overstate the certainty level of their conclusions. It will also help the student identify when professors and fellow students make fallacious arguments and/or claim a greater level of certainty about their conclusions than is warranted by the argument they are presenting.

Conclusion

While there are many books that would be helpful for the college-bound to read to prepare for their journey, as I've read each of these, I wished that I had had them available to me during that those crucial years. If you want more great books on other topics that will benefit the college-bound, please check out the other Top 5 Books lists. I also recommend that the student join their college's chapter of Ratio Christi (if available on your campus) to have a place where they can go to discuss the many other challenges that they will encounter. Other apologetics ministries that have local chapters that the Christian student can find encouragement and support from are Reasons to Believe and Reasonable Faith. And, of course, the Christian student MUST remain in the Word of God and in prayer throughout their years in college. The challenges that they face will be powerful, and they will not only be intellectual. The student must not only know that Christianity is true but trust and dedicate his or her life to following Jesus Christ. It is as much a heart issue as it is a head issue, and it is only in Christ that the student can find (and show to others) that both the head and the heart can be fulfilled.

I have written other posts that the college-bound may find useful as various challenges arise. Please check them out and save them for when that time comes:

Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: Before You Hit Send

Introduction

I was first introduced to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs' work about a decade ago when my wife and I were at the local Christian bookstore, and one of his books about communication in marriage was on sale. I picked it up and found that it was on target with what Scripture taught about male and female communication and what my wife and I had experienced in our own marriage. After reading his flagship book "Love and Respect: The Love She Desires Most; The Respect He Desperately Needs" and listening to the podcast he produced for a couple years, I (along with many others) realized that the communication principles he drew from Scripture rang true in all relationships, not just marriage.

When I found out that he wrote a book on general communication in all relationships and focused on communication in the age of social media, I was ecstatic! As a defender of the Christian worldview, I am constantly engaging skeptics and presenting the evidence for the truth of what I believe. The common passage of scripture that is quoted to support this aspect of evangelism is 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, and do so with gentleness and respect." This passage emphasizes not merely the content of our defense but also the delivery of the content: "with gentleness and respect." Learning to be wise communicators is necessary for anyone who wishes to obey Peter's command in full. That is why I chose to review "Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache" on Faithful Thinkers. As with my other reviews, this one will be a chapter-by-chapter summary. Eggerichs describes eighty (yes, 80) unique pitfalls in communication, and while I will not attempt to describe each one, I have added bold type to emphasize their particular applicability to those defending the faith. Before I get to the review, here is a short interview with Dr. Eggerichs about the content of the book:

Monday, September 10, 2012

How and Why The Problem of Evil

Lately two three-letter words have been getting me thinking about the problem of evil. They are simple words that may stand alone in order to ask two unique questions. It seems that when we properly distinguish between these two words, we can see a clear pointer to the truth of Christianity playing out in the lives of every person alive. These two words are "How" and "Why".

How vs. Why and Its Common Confusion
"How" is a question of mechanism. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the physical, cause-and-effect series that led to the result. If someone asks how a house is built, the answer would include all the steps from laying the foundation to the final inspection.

"Why" is a question of purpose. When someone asks this question, they are (presumably) looking for the reason that the house was built. If someones asks why a house is built, the answer would normally include the fact that it will provide a living space for a family.

I've noticed that quite often, these two very different questions are confused by both questioner and listener. A lot of times when someone wants to know "how" something took place, they will ask "why" it happened. Likewise, if someone wants to know "why" something happened, they will ask "how" it took place. In some cases the listener will understand the question (regardless of the incorrect word being used) and provide the answer appropriate to the question, but there are other times that the listener does not recognize that someone is asking "why" and they answer "how" instead (because they asked "how"). 

Confusion of the questions can have trivial effects or eternal consequences. Since "why" is a question of purpose, in worldviews where ultimate purpose does not exist, a "why" question is irrational to ask about suffering, evil, and even existence. A person who asks "why" assumes that there is a purpose, and they want to know it. But if a worldview that posits no ultimate purpose is true, then the assumptions in the question contradict reality- that is how a "why" question is irrational on, say, atheism, but is perfectly valid (and compelled) if Christianity is true.

Worldview Implications
In atheism, asking why anything happens cannot be answered because "why" is a question of ultimate purpose, but atheism, a priori, has no ultimate purpose. Now, it can answer "how" something happened. A person could go into all the different laws of physics and chain reactions of cause-and-effect that led to the result that the question is being asked about.

Unlike atheism, theism can answer both questions. Theism can answer "how" something took place and "why" it took place. Atheism uses the scientific disciplines to answer a lot of "how" questions (not all, though that is a topic for another post)- that is the limit of science's ability. If we believe that science will answer all our questions, we are wrong. Science cannot answer our "why" questions. Granted science may be able to answer "how" we can ask "why" questions, but it will never answer "why" we ask "why" questions. It may be able to answer "how" we have a sense of purpose, but it will never answer "why" we have a sense of purpose (more on this below). An attempt to answer "how" when the question is "why" is an attempt to explain away what cannot be explained by naturalistic worldviews.

Applying to The Problem of Evil
For a person who assumes that there is a purpose behind a certain happening (something evil tends to the what the question is about), answering "how" is not sufficient. In fact, it is actually a red herring, intentional or not. The person is looking for comfort in the form of assurance that the suffering was not gratuitous and was not useless. Answering "how" when someone is asking "why" can actually make the situation worse for the person- by implying that the answerer either doesn't understand the pain the person is experiencing as they ask the question or that they have no comfort to offer but are trying to hide that fact by avoiding the actual question.

When we apply this distinction between the two types of questions to the problem of evil, we realize that the logical problem of evil is a "how" question. It asks how an all-loving and all-powerful God and evil can co-exist. It has been recognized generally that this question has been answered. But, that does not mean that the emotional problem of evil is answered. They are two very different questions.

The emotional problem of evil is a "why" question. It questions the ultimate purpose of evil and suffering in the world. Now, let's assume for the moment that when someone asks this question that they are assuming that the evil or suffering they are asking about does have a purpose (meaning that they assume theism). The ultimate purpose behind the evil and suffering in the world is difficult to answer, at best, because of the fact that man does not have the mind of God- man does not necessarily know the purposes behind certain things that happen. But we don't have to always appeal to mystery to answer the emotional problem of evil about certain events.

Many of us recognize that events that take place in our lives would not have happened if it were not for other events in our past. Notice that I am looking to the cause-and-effect series. I am asking a "how" question of a recent event to answer the "why" question of an event further in the past. If we can see the good that is taking place now (the event that sparks the "how" question), then we can see the purpose for the suffering that we had to endure in the past (the events that spark the "why" question).

The Scope of Evil Events
Now we have to remember that the emotional problem of evil will never be completely answered. We will not be able to see every good thing that comes from every evil event that takes place. What takes place in our lives does not only affect us; it affects those around us, and what happens to them affects those around them, and so on. The implication here is that we may never know the reason that we had to endure some suffering. We also may never know the reason that someone else had to endure suffering. And interestingly enough, the suffering that we see in the past can be part of the cause-and-effect series that has led to what good we have in our own lives today.

Patience is a Virtue
Notice that in order to answer the "why" question of the emotional problem of evil, we must be patient, and we must be actively looking for the paths that led to what is good in our lives today. It is very rare that we will know the purpose behind an evil event right away. Very few of us like to wait. 

We are very impatient; we want everything, and we want it now. We want to know everything, and we want to know it all now. But as you can see, life bears out this truth: "Those who wait on the Lord, will renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31a NASB). When we are patient to see what God brings about in our lives or in the lives of others, the emotional weakness that we suffered from a specific event in the past can be lifted when we see that it was part of God's mechanism for bringing about something good in our lives or someone else's life. By that new recognized connection our strength is renewed, and our trust in God is increased for the next time that something evil takes place in our lives (see my posts "What is Faith?" and "Is Faith Emotional or Logical?").

The Purpose Of The Emotional Problem of Evil
Many people see the emotional problem of evil as a huge challenge to the truth of Christianity. It is, if you wish to interpret it that way. One can certainly think that since they don't or can't know everything (see "Dangers of Requiring Complete Knowledge") that God is evil and unfair to you. However, I believe we must ask another "why" question: "Why must we struggle with the emotional problem of evil?" Notice that I didn't ask "how do we..." (I'll let the naturalists attempt to answer that one). The key to answer this question is above- building trust in God. If people did not, first experience evil and suffering, and second, feel the emotional pain from it, we would not struggle with it ("how" the struggle exists). And without the struggle, we would not recognize our own weakness and powerlessness in our lives to avoid evil and suffering. The suffering in life painfully reminds us that we are not in control until the day we die. Without that recognition, we would not be able to recognize our need for Someone who loves us enough to die so that we can eternally escape evil and suffering. The purpose for the existence of the emotional problem of evil is to bring people to Christ and know Him more intimately (see the recent post "Tornadoes, Flat Tires, and Moore").

Conclusion
Atheism does not have the ability to answer our most painful and real question: "why". If we want such answers, we have to recognize that life is not about us, and at best, we are second to One. And with that humble recognition comes a promise: God's love never fails. Only through Christ can we answer "how" and "why" evil exists and why we must suffer the pain of evil.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Are You Addressing A Worldview or Its Adherents?

The other day I posted a challenge to the atheistic worldview. I basically proposed that a few things were inconsistent within the worldview. In the comments, a person challenged me about how I was approaching the issue- saying that no atheist he knew held the beliefs that I was proposing. This brings up an important distinction that I think needs to be brought to the forefront: a worldview vs. an adherent.

A worldview is basically a series of propositions that may accurately reflect reality. An adherent is one who holds those beliefs. In conversations about reality, a worldview may be addressed; the adherent to a worldview may be addressed, or both may be addressed. When addressing a worldview, one takes its propositions and tests them against reality. There are multiple levels of worldviews that get more specific. Within the theistic worldview, you have Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and others. Within the Christian worldview, there exists Calvinists, Arminians, Compatiblists, etc. And there are more divisions at the same level of that with other distinctions. The general worldview or the specific worldviews may be tested. I expand on this more in my post "Can Religion Be Tested For Truth?".

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Review: The Word of God and the Mind of Man

Book Review: "The Word of God and the Mind of Man" by Christian philosopher Dr. Ronald Nash

Introduction

The Word of God and the Mind of Man by Ronald Nash is a book about Christian epistemology (how we can know what we know). I've been intrigued by discussions of knowledge for quite some time. I was enjoying a philosophy lecture series by Dr. Nash, and while discussing epistemology, he mentioned this book. The book is divided into two parts consisting of a total of twelve chapters. In the first part, Nash provides a case against different religious epistemic systems of the past and present, while in the second part he provides a case for the Christian God being the epistemic foundation for human knowledge.


Chapter 1: Hume's Gap- Divorcing Faith and Knowledge

In Chapter 1 Nash clarifies some misconceptions about David Hume. He explained that Hume's epistemology was not based on an atheistic worldview, but one that held to man's inability to know metaphysical things with any level of certainty. Hume's argument against miracles, was not against miracles happening, but against man having any rational reason for believing that miracles happen. Nash explains that Hume believed that faith was indirectly related to the amount of thinking put into it. In other words, Hume promoted a completely blind faith. He explains that Hume's effect on Christianity (the split between faith and reason) was not from a direct attack on the truth of the worldview, but an attack that emphasized mystery rather than rationality or a balance of the two. Since it was not a direct attack on the truth of Christianity, Christians did not feel the need to defend against Hume's arguments.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Importance of Defining Terms

Introduction

A few years ago I listened to the podcast "The Word Nerds". This podcast helped me gain an appreciation for the power of the English language. In my conversations with people I have noticed the power of the words themselves. Using the wrong word can cause needless arguments; using a less specific word can cause confusion, and many other effects (I just checked Dictionary.com to make sure I used the right one there) come from using the wrong word.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Art and Communication


Painting, dance, music, etc...are forms of communication that are not verbal. Artists are attempting to communicate via means besides the spoken word. Anyone who comes to art as a deconstructionist ("it means whatever the viewer/listener wants it to mean") destroys the communicable genius of the product and cheapens the communication ability of the artist. If one was to approach the spoken word (another form of communication) as a deconstructionist ("I can interpret what you say however I want"- "it means whatever the listener wants it to mean") you and I would not be able to communicate effectively with one another (what's in my mind would not effectively or accurately be transmitted to your mind).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Importance of Learning to Communicate

This post was originally published in Feb 2009:

Communication is key to any kind of interaction with people. It helps us accomplish common goals, empathize with each other, or persuade of another opinion. Communication also informs people around us who we are and what we think.

Communication is an awesome tool, but it can do much damage if not used properly. This holds true in all types of situations.

As (hopefully) everyone knows, communication is a two-way street for the parties involved. If you are attempting to communicate with another person, you convey information, and they convey information. The key is for each of you to accept the conveyed information. I'm not talking about just "hearing" or "seeing", but interpreting and understanding. If one of you interprets the information incorrectly, it could result in something as small as a simple misunderstanding or as large as an personal insult (that does lasting emotional damage).