Flotsam & Jetsam (1/25)

I suppose this marks the commencement of my own series of collected odds and ends from the cyber world…

  • Awe and Wonder – View some incredible 360 degree spherical panoramas of scenic Utah. “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done…” Psalm 40:5.
  • Taking On the Know-Nothing Atheists – Gary Demar says, “Our task is not to present the Christian faith as a debatable hypothesis, a study in probability, or just one religious option among many. We should never say, ‘You be the judge.’ In a biblical defense of the Christian faith, God is not the one on trial.”
  • Just for Fun – Kevin DeYoung shares some of his favorite quotes from P.G. Wodehouse’s Carry On, Jeeves. Make sure you’re in a place where you can feel free to laugh long and hard.
  • To Infinity – Sci-fi buffs will not want to miss these awesome Lego creations. I still can’t get over the one from Alien (1979). It’s just too cool.
  • Don’t Call It a Comeback – Tim Challies gives us heads-up on a recently released book, edited by Kevin DeYoung. It looks like an excellent read.
  • I Wanted a Bird – Kudos to E*Trade for coming up with such a creative (and hilarious) advertisement.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also
what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill

He Has Done All Things Well

“He has done all things well!” Mark 7:37

“Yes, from first to last, from our cradle to our grave, from the earliest pang of sin’s conviction, to the last thrill of sin’s forgiveness, from earth to heaven – this will be our testimony in all the way the Lord our God has led us in the wilderness: ‘He has done all things well!’

“In providence and in grace,
in every truth of His Word,
in every lesson of His love,
in every stroke of His rod,
in every sunbeam that has shone,
in every cloud that has shaded,
in every element that has sweetened,
in every ingredient that has embittered,
in all that has been mysterious, inscrutable, painful, and humiliating,
in all that He gave,
in all that He took away,
this testimony is His just due, and this our grateful acknowledgment through time and through eternity: ‘He has done all things well!’

“Has He converted us through grace by a way we had thought the most improbable?
Has He torn up all our earthly hopes by the roots?
Has He thwarted our schemes, frustrated our plans, disappointed our expectations?
Has He taught us in schools most trying, by a discipline most severe, and lessons most humbling to our nature?
Has He withered our strength by sickness, reduced us to poverty by loss, crushed our heart by bereavement?

“And have we been tempted to exclaim, ‘All these things are against me!’
Ah! no! faith will yet obtain the ascendancy, and sweetly sing:
‘I know in all things that befell,
My Jesus has done all things well!’

“Beloved, it must be so, for Jesus can do nothing wrong!

“Study the way of His providence and grace with the microscopic eye of faith – view them in every light, examine them in their minutest detail, as you would the petal of a flower, or the wing of an insect; and, oh, what wonders, what beauty, what marvelous adaptation would you observe in all the varied dealings with you, of your glorious Lord!”

~ Octavius Winslow

Book Review: Tactics

Gregory Koukl’s Tactics is one of those books I’d have read much sooner had I realized how good it was. After I finished it, I immediately added it to my favorites, and I’m already certain that it will be among the best, most helpful books I’ll read this year.

Tactics is essentially a game book for discussing your Christian convictions, specifically with non-believers. Koukl – who holds MA degrees in both apologetics and philosophy – introduces various techniques that will help you share your faith with others more confidently,
graciously, and effectively.

In the first chapter, Koukl points out the difference between strategy and tactics, something I had never particularly considered before.

Strategy involves the big picture, the large-scale operation, one’s positioning prior to engagement… Tactics, literally the ‘art of arranging’, focus on the immediate situation at hand.

He also points out another simple but oft overlooked fact: apologetics is not about beating the other guy over the head with your ideas.

Jesus said that when you find yourself as a sheep among wolves, be innocent, but shrewd (Matthew 10:16). Even though there is real warfare going on, our engagements should look more like diplomacy than D-Day.

In this book I would like to teach you how to be diplomatic. I want to suggest a method called the Ambassador Model. This approach hinges more on friendly curiosity – a kind of relaxed diplomacy – than on confrontation.

As ambassadors for Christ, we must be always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Yet we are to do this with “gentleness and respect”. The Ambassador Model which Koukl mentioned essentially consists in the following creed, which he shares towards the end of the book.

An ambassador is…

Ready. An ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an oppurtunity
Patient. An ambassador won’t quarrel, but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness will seek to respectfully engage those who disagree.
Reasonable. An ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), and gives reasons, asks questions, aggressively seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice.
Tactical. An ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in and understandable and compelling way.
Clear. An ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric.
Fair. An ambassador is sympathetic and understanding toward others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views.
Honest. An ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another’s view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the gospel.
Humble. An ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press the point beyond what the evidence allows.
Attractive. An ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct.
Dependent. An ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God’s power.

It’s simple, but eminently helpful.

Koukl shares nine useful tactics throughout the course of the book, and these include:

  • Columbo – using thoughtful questions to expose and defeat an argument.
  • Taking the Roof Off – pressing an idea to its logical conclusion.
  • Suicide – recognizing views that self-destruct

Here’s an example of how Koukl practically utilizes the last tactic, Suicide, to dismantle Theistic Evolution:

Some people suggest that God used evolution to design the world. They are motivated, I think, by two impulses. The first is the desire to affirm the Bible. The second is a suspicion that Darwinism might have merit. Thus, they declare both to be true.

These two notions, however, seem incompatible to me. It may sound reasonable for God to “use” evolution, but if you look closer I think you will see the problem.

Suppose I wanted a straight flush for a hand of poker. I could either pull the cards out of the deck individually and “design” the hand, or I could shuffle the cards randomly and see if the flush is dealt to me. It would not make any sense, though, to “design” the hand by shuffling the deck and dealing. There’s no way to ensure the results. (I guess if I were really clever I could make it look like I was shuffling the deck when in reality I was stacking it, but that would be a deceitful kind of design called “cheating”.)

In the same way, God either designs the details of the biological world, or nature shuffles the deck and natural selection chooses the winning hand. the mechanism is either conscious and intentional (design), or unconscious and unintentional (natural selection). Creation has a purpose, a goal. Evolution is accidental, like a straight flush dealt by a poker rookie.

Pretty neat, huh?

I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 14 (due to mature content), but for older readers Tactics really is a must-read. As another critic put it, “Greg Koukl is a wise, seasoned, front-lines apologist. I am happy to recommend a book so full of practical insights and careful guidance for skilfully, winsomely defending the Christian faith.”