Category Archives: apologetics

I am not a meat puppet- Incarnation Living

Have you ever thought of yourself as a soul taking your body for a drive? I call this “meat puppet” theology, and it isn’t healthy.There is some incidental foul language in my post this week because of an embedded link from a popular science website. 

We spend much of our time and effort trying to “put things in perspective.” The problem is that a perspective is not objective or universally true. There are always a variety of perspectives to choose from.

Perspective, according to Mirriam Webster, simply means a particular attitude or way of viewing something. Sometimes we can choose the wrong perspective and it can have a profoundly negative impact on our life. The above example, viewing humanity through the lens of “meat puppets” or “ghost driving meat covered skeletons” has been liked by over 60,000 people on Facebook and shared over 20,000. This perspective is clearly popular! But it is a harmful perspective.

IFL, I F**king Love Science is a page full of “sciencey coolness,” and interesting discoveries.  I know the language may offend some of my readers (I apologize but I cannot censor the direct link embeds). It is meant in the exuberant exultant, this is so cool, science is amazing way. I follow this page because science is AWESOME!  I love learning about the wonderful things we can observe and learn about creation. IFL is a catchall for some of the coolest innovations as well as the merely fascinating like The Science of Why Bacon Smells Good. The blog also posts scientific studies that address critical issues such as mental health. I particularly liked this post about the negative effects of mental illness; mental illness is more likely to cut your life short than heavy smoking.

The problem is that IFL is not just dedicated to showing the coolness of science. They are also promoting a worldview that embraces rationalism. Rationalism is a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response. The problems that stem from rationalism are not immediately apparent. After all, reason is good thing and so is knowledge. Yet the idea that reason and knowledge can be divorced from our emotions and our body is made absurd in the practice of human life.
What’s wrong with this post about ghost driving meat covered skeletons made of stardust? It promotes the idea that we are meat puppets. Meat puppets are machines that our consciousness drives around. Why is meat puppetry bad?
There are several things dangerous about thinking humans are meat puppets:

  1. Meat puppetry rejects the true incarnate nature of humanity
  2. It promotes viewing the body as a machine, and detracts from holistic living


I will address each of these in the coming weeks as I’ve chosen to devote quite a bit of my blog this summer to the topic of Incarnation, but today I will focus on the incarnate nature of humanity.

What is Incarnation?

Incarnate means not just having a human body (a meat puppet driven by a brain), Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines incarnate as being invested with both human form and nature.

Incarnation then is

1 a (1) :  the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (2) capitalized :  the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ

To put it simply Incarnation is the union of mind, or consciousness (or ghost as the IFL meme puts it) with the body. The fullness of being human requires both the mind and the body. The mind depends upon the body, and the body depends on the mind.

The Word was present at the beginning of creation. In him was the light  of all humanity, yet the Word, became incarnate and put on flesh, to become Jesus Christ to live and die as one of us. Then he was bodily resurrected to continue his teaching, before ASCENDING STILL INCARNATE, still in flesh, back into heaven. Jesus Christ, incarnate is present in the Godhead, the Trinity, the 3 in 1.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

 Incarnation vs. Meat Puppet View in light of Scripture

If we were meat puppets, or ghosts driving meat covered skeletons, why would the second person of the Trinity, come down from heaven, and take on flesh. Flesh is IMPORTANT to God. What’s more, human flesh now sits enthroned in heaven. If the only important thing were our human consciousness then surely Jesus would have shed his body to ascend into heaven.

Our bodies are important to God, and they are important to us. I look forward to delving more into what it means to be more than a meat puppet for God. If you have any topics, questions or thought about what it means to live incarnate, comment below.  For the next post I will be talking more specifically about the Incarnation of Jesus, “Jesus was not a meat puppet.”


Christian Response to The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins Straw Man

Every Christian needs to be ready with a Christian Response to The God Delusion. Why? Richard Dawkins’ name is often invoked as the reason why Christianity has been debunked. In The God DelusionDawkins constructs an elaborate argument to put social pressure on people to become atheists. Yet his whole argument rests on a “straw man” version of Christianity that bears little resemblance to Christianity. If we are equipped with a Christian Response to The God Delusion, not only will our faith not flag, we may plant a seed that weakens an atheists antagonism to the gospel. That is, after all the heart of what apologetics ministry is.

Richard Dawkins Straw Man ChristianityToday’s posting features my debunking of Dawkins’ argument with liberal aid from Alister McGrath and Johanna Collicutt McGrath’s, The Dawkins DelusionI encourage you to read on. You, dear reader, will one day face the challenge that Dawkins has shown God is a megalomaniac, jealous, fanatic who is ridiculous to believe in. This post will equip you to answer that charge.

Continue reading

Love is an Open Door: theology from Frozen

What do apologetics, evangelism and Disney’s “Frozen” have in common? Love! Most people would say fairy tale love has nothing to do with the gospel love of Christ, but as I jammed out in the car to the Frozen Soundtrack with my, soon to be 2, little girl, I picked up on some words in one song that sparked this post.

The song can be viewed in all its quirky glory here:

Love is an Open Door – Frozen Clip on Disney Video

Spoiler Alert:

Hans is not her True Love! In fact, he’s using her to get to the crown. So should we just chuck the song as the dreams of a naive girl soon to be dashed…No

Check out this particular lyric:

“Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door”

The Love described here is a healing love. Perhaps that’s why we as a generation are all chasing love like crazy, at earlier and earlier ages. We are looking for a romantic love to complete us, and heal our pain. But as Anna found out, and our divorce statistics reflect, rushing into this kind of romantic love isn’t working! It’s not healing us! It’s causing further harm by stealing childhoods, early and unsupported pregnancies, quickie divorces etc…

Does that mean a true healing love doesn’t exist? On the contrary; it does! It was exemplified by Jesus’s actions on the cross. God scandalously came to live and die as one of us because HE LOVES HIS CREATION. God wants us to be in right relationship with Him, to “Say goodbye to the pain of the past, We don’t have to feel it anymore…Love is an open door.”

A romantic relationship that is quirky, wonderful and healing does exist. My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We met working for Disney and have survived my losing my mother to a quick battle with Pancreatic Cancer, separation due to military service, and general family dysfunction. But we thrive because we recognize that our love is only a reflection of the love God has for us. The triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an inherently relational God.

We hunger for relationship because we are created in God’s image. Right relationships are founded in sacrificial love, as Jesus demonstrated to us.

Thomas Long: The Witness of preachingTaking this ethic of “love is an open door” deeper into apologetics and theology…

Thomas Long in his book The Witness of Preachingtalks about sermon illustrations as being more than just a window to look in at the gospel. Unfortunately, if the window is dim, dirty, poor, or opaque people focus on the window and not the view beyond. A sermon illustration should not seek to be not a window to glimpse the biblical text and truth through. Rather, a sermon illustration should be an “open door” which invites our hearers into the biblical text.

I’m going to amplify Long here, and say that not just for preaching but for apologetics and evangelism, our whole lives should be open doors which invite people in to the biblical truth that Jesus’s death on the cross means that love really is an open door.

To read more about living a love that invites people to know God you can go back to my previous post Love/Hate Relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love.

For some more reflection about the theology of Frozen you should check out these other blogs:

This one reflects on some of the more problematic theological elements from Elsa

A reflection on the transfiguration that occurs from love

This one highlights the sacrificial love of the sisters as a type of Christ’s love

Happy Easter or Festival of the Resurrection?

Do you celebrate Easter, or do you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Some would say this is just semantics…but are Easter and the Resurrection the same thing?

This is a tough topic, but I think it must be said. At the Church I attended on Easter we had the Easter Bunny come by and we had an egg hunt for the kiddos. We also had AWESOME music…Handel’s Alleluia Chorus, He is Risen. The Risen Lord Christ was proclaimed in the liturgy and in the word John 20:1- 18…BUT we fell short in one area…

The talking points of the sermon were these :(this is straight out of the bulletin)

Five most common regrets expressed by people
on their death beds:
1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to  myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

After these talking points the priest talked about the gospel. How Mary was so wrapped up in her own worries that she couldn’t see the risen Lord right in front of her.

So what’s the problem here? Everyone was happily nodding along with the points…The central message of the sermon that the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior means that we are to live a happy life without regrets. That is NOT the message of the gospel. It is my contention that when we talk about Easter, we leave room for confusion about what we really are celebrating, and why.

Back to my topic…Easter is the English/Germanic name for the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, see here for more details on the origins of the name Easter. So in theory, because Easter is just another name for the Resurrection feast there is no problem with using it. But in reality there is a deep problem. Easter as a term has lost its theological freight. We no longer associate it with the Festival of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We associate it with plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies. There is nothing wrong with eggs and bunnies. They too have Christian origins, see here. But, rather than supplemental symbols to help us see the fullness of what Easter means for Christians, Easter eggs and Easter bunnies have stolen the show. They have been allowed to overshadow the Resurrection.

My final point for using Festival of the Resurrection, is this. Easter has become just a day. It is a holiday where nominally Christian people post “Happy Easter” or “He is Risen” on their facebook. Yet Easter has no impact on their daily lives. Its a fun family day, but its over by Monday. The candy is all discounted, and the decorations put away until next year. Easter has become synonymous with Resurrection Sunday.

In the Church year Easter is not just a day, it is a season. Eastertide or the Festival of the Resurrection lasts from Easterday until the day of Pentecost. The fullness of the season allows for time not just to remember an event long past, but also remember that this event is ongoing in its consequences for the World. Jesus is the firstfruit of the Resurrection that awaits all in the last day.

Let us recapture the FULLNESS of Easter, not just as a day which somehow makes us feel better about our lives, but as a real celebration of the historical miracle that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life, and that we can have new life in him.

It is my contention that the word “Easter” has lost its theological meaning and significance. We either need to reeducate our people on its true meaning, or stop using it. Either way we cannot allow it to be a veil that distances the hearer from the true meaning of what we are celebrating: Alleluia, Alleluia The Lord is Risen!

An Apology for Ecumenism: Pax Nashotah

St. Mary's Chapel

Inside St. Mary’s Chapel

Ecumenism between the Anglican Church of North America and The Episcopal Church, when rancor abounds.

A firestorm has surrounded my beloved Nashotah House about the invitation of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori. You may ask, so what? What does this invite have to do with apologetics or ecumenism…

Well, Bishop Schori is actively suing members of Nashotah’s Board of trustees, and several faculty lost their priest credentials in the Episcopal Church. She holds some questionable, if not outright heretical theology. So WHY invite her?

The idea was the brainchild of a few students, particularly Deacon Terry Starr, who was told by Schori not to go to Nashotah, because Nashotah taught hate. The invitation was issued to prove her wrong and model Christ’s love. At its heart it is ecumenism at its finest.

Yet the firestorm, and blowback arose because the internet began circulating that she was going to preach, and even celebrate Communion. That is FALSE!

To quote an article from VirtueOnline:

“The thought of her preaching at Nashotah is beyond reasonable, like inviting the fox into the hen house. Hence, two bishops have publically vocalized their disdain and have used their feet to distance themselves from the Wisconsin seminary. As the story continued to unfold, it was learned that in actuality the XXVI Presiding Bishop was not being invited to preach at The House because of her questionable theological stances, her lack luster preaching ability, or her embracing the hot button issues which have divided the church. Instead, after discernment with the Board of Trustees, the three inquiring students and select faculty members with soul searching prayer, Bishop Salmon determined that the prominent Wisconsin seminary could reach out to Katharine Jefferts Schori with the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ being presented in a graceful, non-judgmental loving manner thus graphically showing that her misconceptions and negative opinions about Nashotah House are unfounded. ”

To prove her misconceptions wrong…sounds like apologetics and ecumenism at its finest to me. Sadly, in the firestorm and upheaval, we lost our brother, Deacon Terry Star. He died of a heart attack. To read more about Deacon Starr go here.

I can only say what I believe. Spiritual warfare was ongoing. Ecumenism and apologetics are of God. When we cut off dialogue, we prevent healing.

For this reason I pray…

As I sit, in silent contemplation,

I pray to thee, heal thy nation.

Like branches, grafted on the tree are we.

Yet, trembling and bending, some are breaking free.

Help us now, before we dost prune,

to see thee in them, erst callously we not commune.

Thou art God, and thee alone,

Jesus for all, our cornerstone.

In fertile soil the tree is planted.

Aid our arguments, so that thou art not supplanted.

Faith, Hope and Love, I know these to be true.

For love of Christ, I will dialogue with you.

What do hot coffee lawsuits have to do with apologetics?

What does a “frivolous” lawsuit have to do with apologetics? As it turns out, a lot!

Stella Liebeck spilled 8 ounces of McDonald’s coffee on herself and awarded $2.9 million from a lawsuit. If you’re like me you remember this case well. It was on every talk show and news station, and even Seinfeld and Toby Keith made a joke about it…What a ridiculous, frivolous lawsuit…or was it?

I came across this video from Upworthy, that tells the other side of the case. The side no one heard was that this woman needed skin grafts to cover over burns from super-heated coffee. In the video, John Llewellyn, a Professor of Communication at Wake Forest University had this to say:

“Vey much like urban legends, It is a very compelling story, once everybody decides what is true about something, and the media has been sort of an echo chamber for it, then how do you deal with the fact that they might be wrong.”

This got me thinking about another thing people and the media get wrong: the idea that God is obsolete and Science can explain everything. If you’re like me you’ve heard this repeated, A LOT! But is it really true?

Science has made God obsolete and irrational…

Alister McGrath sets out to challenge this view in his book, Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths. He states that the view of God as obsolete has itself become obsolete. It is a myth founded in rationalism, the idea that you can know everything by reason alone. Yet in our modern and very scientific day we still can’t prove the sun will rise tomorrow, we take it on faith, based on history.

Is faith in God, based on the history of the life of Jesus Christ really any different? The intellectual and media would say, Yes! Faith is irrational! But what if they’ve got it wrong? Just like we were all wrong about poor Stella Liebeck.

So in John Llewellyn’s words, “how do you deal with the fact that they might be wrong?” And the answer is…apologetics. Apologetics does not create faith. “The aim of apologetics is to create an intellectual and imaginative climate favorable to faith; it does not itself create that faith.”[1]

[1] McGrath, Alister E. (2010-12-21). Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths: Building Bridges to Faith Through Apologetics (Kindle Locations 782-783). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Sensus divinitatis and Reformed Epistemology

The sensus divinitatis means we all have an innate sense of God, and this sense leads us to seek God. Does this mean if we don’t hear the gospel we were ignoring our sensus divinitatis? In other words, is someone who has never heard the gospel news damned? Wow, what a loaded question…

As I continued my reading of Colin Brown’sbook, Philosophy and the Christian Faith Philosophy and the Christian Faith: A Historical Sketch from the Middle Ages to the Present DayColin Brown; InterVarsity Press 1980WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder I have to make a break with him.  Last week, I said here, that Brown made a persuasive case for the presuppositionalist approach to apologetics. He does do that, but in his final chapters an conclusion he goes beyond presuppositional apologetics to a Reformed Epistemology approach.

What is the difference between presupposition and reformed epistemology?

A presuppositionalist begins with the assumption of God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism. The reformed epistemology approach is quite similar, but includes something called the sensus divinitatis, or an innate sense of the divine.

Steven B. Cowan gives an excellent overview of the 5 most common apologetic approaches in the the book, Five Views on Apologetics.  According to Cowan’s typology, the reformed epistemology method states that it is reasonable for a person to believe in things without objective evidence.[i] This does not mean that positive arguments for belief in God are not useful; they just are not necessary.[ii] Rational arguments are not necessary because, according to Calvin, all human beings are born with an innate sense of the divine.[iii] Thus the proper focus of reformed apologetic is defensive, countering challenges to theistic belief.[iv]

This sounded like an ok perspective to me until I read Brown’s amplification of it. According to Brown all people have a sensus divinitatis, or an “awareness of God regardless of whether they have heard the gospel and regardless of whether they respond or not.”[v] This awareness is the point of contact for believers to share the Christian message, and is what “clinches man’s guilt in his persistent turning away from God.”[vi]


I have two problems with Brown’s assertions. 1: A person’s innate sense of the divine can be distorted both by their own sin, or by another’s sin. For example, during the years I was abused I lost faith in a God that claimed to love me, but didn’t protect me. Was this my own fault? Would I, if I had died during this time have been damned?

The 2nd problem is that the reformed epistemology approach limits apologetics to a purely defensive discipline.  According to Colin and others, the effects of sin are so strong  that we cannot possibly build common ground with a non-believer. Our presuppositions are opposed.

I will grant that most people do not come to faith by a reasoned and well thought out logical argument, but some do. My Christian Philosophy professor did. My own mother did as well after years of struggle with the  tension she imagined between a scientific and a Christian worldview.

So what do you think of the sensus divinitatis? This week I have only been exposed to Brown’s ideas about Calvin’s idea of sensus divinitatis. Next week, we will go straight to the source, Calvin himself, and see what he had to say.

[i] Cowan, Five Views on Apologetics, 20.

[ii] Ibid., 20.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Brown, 272.

[vi] Ibid., 273.

The Case for Presuppositionalism

Is presuppositionalism circular? Can you assume that Christianity is right? Can you argue the truth of the Bible from the Bible?  Is an apologist obligated to use the two step approach?

If you’re new to the realm of apologetics it is important to realize there are a variety of approaches. The approach I have favored is the two-step approach. The two step approach first establishes God’s existence. The moves to establish the truth and rationality of Christianity. My reason for favoring the two step approach over presuppositionalism  is simple. It is the approach that helped bring my skeptical family to faith.

Recently, however, I have been converted more towards presuppositionalism. A presuppositionalist begins with the assumption of God’s existence and argues from that perspective to show the validity of Christian theism.

This change was prompted in part by been reading Colin Brown’s, Philosophy & The Christian Faith. 

Philosophy and the Christian Faith Philosophy and the Christian Faith: A Historical Sketch from the Middle Ages to the Present DayColin Brown; InterVarsity Press 1980WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Brown is not intentionally creating a presuppositionalist apologetic. Instead he sums up the traditional arguments for God throughout history. He then points out they all have flaws and are all capable of being refuted. A philosopher refuting an argument, however, does not refute the faith. The Christian faith does not depend on arguments for proof.[1] Modern skepticism tells us we must understand something in order to believe it. The problem with evidence is we are always going to want more time, or more compelling evidence to make up our minds. The evidence some find convincing will leave others totally unconvinced.

Brown sides firmly with presuppositionalism quoting  Anselm, who stated, “I believe so I may understand.”[2]

Brown offers us this logic for presuppositionalism, “Does it not make better sense of the world- and of our thought about it and our behavior in it- if we presuppose the biblical view of God as its author and sustainer?”[3]

If we accept Browns view that we should presuppose the truth of Christianity, the purpose of apologetic philosophy then is the explanation of the grounds for and the nature of the Christian faith, and that the investigation of these grounds strengthens and enriches the committed Christian’s faith.[4]

Brown, finally, offers an important critique of the two-step approach, If we first wait to establish objectively that God exists, will we ever get to the second step of presenting the truth and validity of Christianity?

For more information on  about what pressupositionalism is check out
Christianity Today also has an excellent post that looks at the common objections to presupposing the existence of God in apologetics. You can find it here.
For another look about  why I think apologetics matter check out Apologetics in an Unapologetic World.

[1] Brown, 29.

[2] Anselm, Proslogion, i.

[3]  Brown, 30.

[4] Ibid., 29.

[5] Ibid., 47.

[6] Ibid., 48.

Must Faith Follow Reason?

But that doesn’t make any sense…how can you believe that a man died and rose again after 3 days, and your ‘eyewitness’ accounts are written more than 70 years after the fact. -Sam Atheist

Pastors are (or should be) encouraging their flock to go out into the secular world and share their faith. But often we are ill prepared to do this. Many times we will encounter people who are outright antagonistic and think Christianity is outright stupidity. Indeed many can present seemingly challenging criticism like that mentioned above, and the conversation especially in an online forum goes downhill from there. Our evidence comes from the Bible, yet our hearers don’t except that as an authoritative source. Many faithful, rather than effectively evangelizing, find their faith genuinely challenged by others questions…

William Lane Craig talks about the difference between “knowing” the gospel to be true and “showing” the gospel to be true. We can know the gospel to be true based on the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  During his time at Wheaton, Craig was exposed to an ideology that faith must always give way to reason. Therefore, if faith was countered by reason one must give up their faith.

Craig argues in the book , Five Views on Apologetics, that this is absurd! No we aren’t supposed to give up our personal faith, even when seemingly defeated by reason. “Some persons simply lack the ability, time, or resources to come up with successful defeaters of the antitheistic defeaters that they encounter” (Craig 34). The Holy Spirit is a ‘self-authenticating’ witness that, while not directly countering defeating arguments, overwhelms  them.

We “know” our faith based on the Holy Spirit, but when we seek to “show” our faith we need to provide evidence. Reason is the only way to break a deadlock between those who claim to have a conflicting experience with the Spirit, or who do not accept the Spirit as a valid witness at all. The role of the Spirit in showing others is prevenient grace, working on their hearts and minds to promote honest consideration of our arguments.

I think Pastor’s would be well advised to prepare their congregations to face the questions of the “Sam Atheists” of the world. We need to have both faith and reason; the faith to withstand questions, even those we may not have the answers to and the reasoning and apologetics to “show” our faith effectively to others.



Apologetics in an Unapologetic World

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is about Christian apologetics. The course readings include author’s such as Dawkins. One of his assertions that stuck out at me is that we are all atheists in this world. Some of of us just have one more God that we don’t believe in than others.

On the whole I find Dawkins smug and repugnant, but he has a point. No one is arguing much these days for the Gods of the Greek pantheon. Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacod going the way of Zeus? Are Dawkins and others just ahead of the curve in ousting this God that seems to not make sense in our scientific world. I would argue that no…they are not ahead of the curve, but are behind it.

Joseph Butler, an Anglican Bishop, wrote a fabulous book called “The Analogy of Religion.” His book is a fabulous piece of apologetic work that deconstructs the problems that many beginning in the Enlightenment began to have between ‘reason’ and ‘religion.’ Sadly his work is in 18th Century English, and largely inaccessible to the modern readers comprehension.

Apologetics seem more important than ever in a world where a Christian viewpoint is automatically deemed as biased and suspect, yet where have they gone? The last century was filled with great evangelists, but they had little impact on rational debate. Perhaps this century will be one in which apologetics again comes to the fore.

The recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about creation received a lot of buzz. Yet it seems no one was convinced. Nobody won…The creationists still believe and their opponents still do not. So what would a meaningful and impactful Christian apologetic look like in today’s pluralistic world?