Blog Archives

Jesus vs. Cthulhu

I’m sad that October is almost over. I love this time of year. Fall is here and with Halloween in a few days, we all have an excuse to indulge in some spookiness. As such, I decided to draw the themes for our first XLM weekly Bible studies from horror stories.

I love my job.

My notes are below.

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Cosmic Horror: the Universe Does Not Love You

Jesus vs. Cthulhu

Historical note: R’lyeh is not located at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.

H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of what’s called weird fiction. The bad guys in his stories are often these unspeakable cosmic horrors — vastly old, utterly alien creatures that cause trouble for humanity. Among them is Cthulhu, one of the Great Old Ones. He’s gigantic and has a squid head. Very creepy.

Lovecraft worked with that theme of alienness a lot. Much of the scariness of his stories comes as his characters learn unimaginable secrets about the universe. Because of that, one of the other themes that crops up a lot is madness. In the Cthulhu Mythos, when you learn the truth, the truth will drive you insane. Cthulhu and other figures in the mythos have evil cults that worship them and do terrible things. Their presence corrupts their followers. One of the things that happens in Lovecraft stories is that, if they don’t go nuts, people slowly become monsters.

Lovecraft’s work reflects his personal beliefs about the world. His philosophy is called cosmicism, which holds that the universe is an impersonal, chaotic, mechanical place. The universe was born of chaos, and produced only more chaos.

If that were so, what would it imply?

  • Our lives are completely and totally insignificant.
  • Good and evil are meaningless.
  • Life has no purpose.
  • There is no justice.
  • We could all be wiped out at any moment.
  • Suffering is arbitrary.
  • Love is, at best, a chemical reaction.

Ever feel like that? Ever doubt that your life, your experiences have any meaning? Isn’t it horrifying to think that they might have no meaning at all? Ever get the feeling like no one cares about what you’re going through and life is nothing but chaos?

Let’s look at some contrasts between the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos and the universe that Jesus describes. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics Finale: Jesus

In the final lesson of the apologetics series, we touch on perhaps the most important question of all: how can Jesus be the only way to God? What about all the other religions of the world? And aren’t all religions basically the same anyway?

Apologetics: Jesus (.m4a | .mp3)

And thus ends my Sunday School series. I hope it’s been useful and enlightening to you.

After this week, I’ll be getting back to regular blog posts. I say after this week because I’m preaching this Sunday! I’ll be working on my sermon, which you’ll be able to hear on the Crossroads podcast.

In the meantime, check out the Extra Life Ministries Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. There’s already been a lot of cool news in gaming and technology this week, with more to come.

Also, my friends are trying to rope me into playing Warhammer 40k. And I’m tempted. Pray for me.

Below is the lesson as written.

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This morning, we’ll talk about our most central apologetic task: defending Jesus Himself. Without Jesus, there’s no point in discussing the rest.

Jesus says this in John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The term “lifted up,” according to my footnotes, also means “exalted.” Our job is to, in a manner of speaking, make Jesus look good. The best way to do that is to tell the truth about Him.

That means we’ll need to have answers ready for views that oppose Christianity. We need something to say when people ask, “how can Jesus be the only way to God?”

It may be good to start by asking for clarification. If someone asks that question, you still may not know their specific objection. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics Double-Feature!

No Rocky Horror reference intended.

Here is the audio from the past two weeks of my apologetics series at Crossroads. Last week, we discussed the Church. Is it just an antiquated religious institution, or something more?

Apologetics: the Church (.mp3 | .m4a)

This week, we talked about the clash between science and Christianity. Do you have to pick one and discard the other?

Apologetics: Science (.mp3 | .m4a)

I’ll have one more lesson in the series. Then, I’ll be preaching in the main service on the 12th. After that, I’ll get back to regular blog posts.

There will be some other changes around the site soon. Good stuff, I promise.

Below are the lessons as written.

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Today, we’ll be discussing the church. Now, I’m well aware that I hardly need to defend the church to a group that actually shows up for a 9:00 Sunday School class. What we’ll focus on this morning is arguments we can use to defend the church to two groups of people.

Now, what do we mean by church? Some of us still think of the building. More likely, we think of the Sunday morning service. I’m not really talking about either of those. What I mean, basically, is the body of believers: the Church. That may look somewhat different in different denominations, or areas of the world, or cultures. That’s fine.

First, we’ll speak to the believers who say they don’t need to be part of the church to be Christian. That’s technically true, in a sense. If you’re in solitary confinement, for example, and are prevented from meeting with other Christians. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil

In this morning’s Sunday School class, I tackled one of the most troublesome questions in religion and philosophy: why is there evil in the world?

To hear my answer, click the links below. To save either file for later listening, right-click the link and select Save Link As… or Save Target As….

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil (.mp3 | .m4a)

Feel free to argue with me in the comments or send me an e-mail!

Below is the lesson as written.

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Today, we’ll talk about what may be the biggest philosophical question people struggle with day-to-day: the problem of evil. Whereas some people will look into the historicity of the Bible, and some will dig into deep theological issues, everyone wrestles with this issue. Everyone has had something bad happen to them, and frankly, everyone has done something bad to someone else. We feel the impact of evil every day. It affects our lives. And it’s often one of the issues that keeps people distant from God.

We’re going to talk about the philosophy of evil this morning. But before we do, we have to recognize that this is a very emotional issue for some people. Some people have been hurt very badly – either by other people, or just by circumstances, or even their own choices – and they’re angry with God because of it. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics: Intro

I’m teaching a class on apologetics at my church. It’s Sunday morning at 9:15 am, for the next few weeks.  Here’s the first lesson!

Apologetics: Intro (.mp3 | .m4a)

I invite your comments.

Below is the lesson as written.

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The idea behind apologetics is to offer a defense of the faith. The idea is to use well-formed, well-founded arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity.

The idea is not simply to win arguments. It shouldn’t be our goal to use this approach to pick intellectual fights just so we can feel smart. Apologetics is not for beating down people who disagree with us. Read the rest of this entry

Dodging the Truth

Pontius Pilate was a good politician, but a bad philosopher. At least, that’s what I get from his interaction with Jesus.

A crowd of Jews, including some of their religious authorities, shoved a bruised man at him – also a Jew – and demanded the man’s death. He knew something was up when he asked what Jesus had done, and they said, “If he weren’t a criminal, we wouldn’t have brought him to you.”

Given the animosity between the Jews and the Romans? Probably not true in the first place.

Confounded, Pilate questioned Jesus. He couldn’t figure out what the problem was. Jesus hadn’t done anything, but the religious leaders wanted Him dead. The truth was, killing Him would be wrong.

But Pilate was the governor of the region. It was his responsibility to maintain order amidst a people with a history of rebellion. And Jesus was causing a ruckus.

He was torn between what was safe and what was true.

But there was an even deeper truth he didn’t know. He was at a turning point in history. The Author of truth stood before him, on trial. The Source of reality was looking him in the eye. Jesus even gave him a hint. “Everyone on the side of truth,” He said, “listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked… and went back outside.

If only he hadn’t asked rhetorically. If only he had stuck around for the answer. He said the right words, but that was all. He was nearer the truth than he’d ever been, and perhaps he would never know it.

We do this all the time.

We argue for the sake of argument. We dodge uncomfortable ideas we can’t refute. We ask high-minded questions without ever waiting for the answer.

All that’s fine. Unless you really are looking for the truth.

If you want to find truth, you have to give up being right all the time. It takes humility. It requires actual listening and consideration. It means letting go of assumptions and opinions as necessary.

It means not taking the easy way out.

Faith isn’t Un-reason

Suppose you have a friend. Every time that friend makes you a promise, he keeps it. Every time that friend tells you a fact, he turns out to be right – even though you don’t always believe him at first. Your friend is always honest with you, even when it’s difficult to hear.

Your friend says something. Is it reasonable to believe him? Do you trust him?

I define faith as trust. Others, though, hear “faith” and think, “belief in a set of religious ideas despite a large volume of  evidence to the contrary.”

Some people don’t trust the Bible, but do trust their own hearts, or vice-versa. Trust can be reasonable or not. You generally trust your senses because they’ve been generally trustworthy.

Faith isn’t the opposite of reason. It’s a matter of what you trust enough to believe.

Apologetics is Not the Art of Saying Sorry

Ravi Zacharias is a genius. No exaggeration.

Dr. Zacharias is one of today’s preeminent Christian apologists. That is, he provides a defense of the faith in historical, scientific, and philosophical terms.

This guy goes to college campuses, businesses, and pretty much any other organization that will listen and gives talks on why Christianity best represents reality. He then opens the floor for questions. For most Christians, this is a terrifying thought. For him, it’s ministry.

His podcast Just Thinking typically features a segment of a question and answer session on Friday. I’ve gone through the archives and dug up all the series I could find. If you want to hear some solid arguments for the Christian worldview, do yourself a favor and listen to a few.

After Easter, I’m going to be teaching an apologetics series during our Sunday School hour. I’m going to be taking much of my material from these discussions.

Utah Q&A (part 1 of 4)

Utah Q&A (part 2 of 4)

Utah Q&A (part 3 of 4)

Utah Q&A (part 4 of 4)

Georgia Tech, Q&A (part 1 of 3)

Georgia Tech, Q&A (part 2 of 3)

Georgia Tech, Q&A (part 3 of 3)

Mind and Heart Q&A (part 1 of 4)

Mind and Heart Q&A (part 2 of 4)

Mind and Heart Q&A (part 3 of 4)

Mind and Heart Q&A (part 4 of 4)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering? Q&A (part 1 of 3)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering? Q&A (part 2 of 3)

Is There Meaning in Evil and Suffering? Q&A (part 3 of 3)

Muskoka Q&A (part 1 of 2)

Muskoka Q&A (part 2 of 2)

Cornell Q&A (part 1 of 2)

Cornell Q&A (part 2 of 2)

Calvary Chapel Q&A (part 1 of 2)

Calvary Chapel Q&A (part 2 of 2)

Fourth Presbyterian Q&A (part 1 of 3)

Fourth Presbyterian Q&A (part 2 of 3)

Fourth Presbyterian Q&A (part 3 of 3)

Oxford Q&A (part 1 of 6)

Oxford Q&A (part 2 of 6)

Oxford Q&A (part 3 of 6)

Oxford Q&A (part 4 of 6)

Oxford Q&A (part 5 of 6)

Oxford Q&A (part 6 of 6)

Weber State Q&A (part 1 of 4)

Weber State Q&A (part 2 of 4)

Weber State Q&A (part 3 of 4)

Weber State Q&A (part 4 of 4)

Penn State University Q&A (part 1 of 3)

Penn State University Q&A (part 2 of 3)

Penn State University Q&A (part 3 of 3)

Michael Coren Q&A (part 1 of 2)

Michael Coren Q&A (part 2 of 2)