Apologetics, Uncategorized

Christian Cultural Shapers

I am particularly excited about a book that I want to put into your hands. We are talking about it all this month. It is by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, entitled A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. I want to start with something written in this book, which has to do with changing culture. It goes all the way back to World War II and the statement that “Somebody…had to make a start.” In other words, someone had to make a start with respect to changing the culture instead of being simply an imitator of the culture.

There was a girl named Sophie Scholl. She was just twenty-one years old. She spoke those words, “Somebody…had to make a start.” She said them “to the chief justice of the People’s Court of the Greater German Reich shortly before he ordered her execution.” That was back on February 22, 1943. Sophie and her brother Hans (my dad’s name) and their friend Christoph Probst were convicted of treason in a kangaroo court and sent to the guillotine. Stonestreet and Kunkle write,

Hans Scholl led the underground resistance movement known as the White Rose. From June 1942 until their arrest, Hans, Sophie, and several other University of Munich students covertly authored anti-Nazi pamphlets and distributed them on campus and to nearby communities. Retribution for their crimes was swift. Within four days, they were detained, accused, tried, convicted, and executed. Within weeks other members of the White Rose were rooted out and faced similar fates.

Raised in a nominally religious German home, the Scholl siblings came to a real personal faith in Christ while at the university.

Imagine that! The conversions of the Scroll siblings motivated their actions. In The Fabric of Faithfulness Stephen Garber writes,

Brother and sister began to find a place to stand. Reading the Scriptures in light of the challenges presented by their culture, having conversations with friends about the world and their place in it, meeting older, wiser people who offered them their time and their books — together they molded a vision about what was real and true and right.

Stonestreet and Kunkle observe,

Many Germans, including Christians, chose to remain silent and do nothing to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. Others embraced the evil Nazi ideology. But the Scholl siblings’ faith that drove them from the sidelines into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “the tempest of the living.” Hans was supposed to meet Bonhoeffer, perhaps the most famous figure of the German resistance, but never did. Instead, Hans was executed the very day the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Hans and Sophie shared more with Bonhoeffer than antipathy toward the führer. Whether they knew it or not, they also shared Bonhoeffer’s theological vision for culture, which might be summarized this way: “We are Christians, and we are Germans; therefore we are responsible for Germany.”

That was their view, and therefore they wanted to make a difference. This begs the question: “What is cultural success?” Well, it is “a life lived like Hans and Sophie Scholl.” A life “deeply engaging the moment in which God has placed us and courageously navigating the threatening currents, knowing that we serve a cause, and a God, far greater than ourselves.” Think about that from A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Cultural success is recognizing that God has placed us here at this moment in history. He did not — like Hans and Sophie, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C. S. Lewis — place us at the time of World War II. He placed us at this time in history. This particular time in history. Therefore, at this particular time in history, we cannot simply look back to what others did, although we should and we just did with the anecdote and example of Hans and Sophie, and we cannot look forward to other generations and what they may do. God has placed us here, right now, for a purpose, and to make a difference while there is yet time.

I think about the smoke of the crematoriums wafting over the steeples in the German countryside, and I so often wonder why at that time were German pastor and parishioners strangely silent. Yet, as I wonder about that, I can stop wondering immediately when I look at the present-day church capitulating to the culture. Well-known Christian leaders (I am not going to name them; you know who they are) are strangely silent about the epic waves that are threatening to submerge the Christian church. For some, it is a matter of self-preservation. In the case of World War II, a lot of people tried to justify their apathy by blaming Jews for the Great War. Others believed that Jews were fatalistically destined to face wrath of antichrist; therefore, they did nothing. Then you had people like Hans and Sophie or Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “If we claim to be Christians, there is no room for expediency.” Thus, he was willing to denounce a Nazi regime that had turned its führer into an idol and a god. But, not just that — he was willing to denounce a confessional church more concerned with its own survival than with the sin of anti-Semitism and slavery. Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” That is precisely what happened on April 9, 1945. Bonhoeffer was just thirty-nine years old at that time, and he experienced the ultimate cost of discipleship by special order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. Bonhoeffer was hanged at the concentration camp at Flossenbürg. He is a man who was willing to shape culture and today is still remembered when we talk about the culture wars.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics

Canaanite DNA and the Reliability of the Bible

According to an ABC affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska, “Ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows,” and “you may even know somebody who derives their ancestry from the group of people.” In other words, the ABC affiliate is saying the ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows this, and so as a result of that the Bible has to be wrong.

This is fairly tame, of course, when you start looking at what else has been written in this regard. This is a question that has been asked over and over again, and this question is a question that has arisen as a result of what has been written, most of which is very sensationalistic. For example, “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” — The Telegraph. “The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese” — Pulse Headlines. “DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites” — Cosmos. Then there is the Washington Post; “Now a study of Canaanite DNA…rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.”

What is the message here? The message is that the Bible cannot be trusted. The Bible is fraught with error. These stories often cite Deuteronomy 20 as proof. The research study says that “DNA retrieved from roughly 3,700-year-old skeletons at an excavation site in Lebanon that was formerly a major Canaanite city-state shows that ‘present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age.’” Levant being the epicenter of the Middle East.

The bottom line: if all of this holds up, as further research is done, modern-day Lebanese people are descendants of the ancient Canaanites. But, even if that research holds up — it may or may not, but even if it does — the research does not disprove the Bible. It does something very, very different from disproving the Bible. Instead, this new genetic study is simply one more confirmation of the biblical account. All you have to do again is to learn to read in the sense in which it is intended. The Book of Judges explains that the Israelites never drove Canaanites out completely. In fact, if you read the text, there are passages that say the Canaanites will become “thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3 NIV). The dominant biblical language of driving out indicates that extermination passages are not to be taken in a wooden literalistic sense. Driving out or dispossessing is different from wiping out or destroying. You cannot both drive out and destroy at the same time. The point here is that God’s commands to destroy the nations inhabiting the promise land of Canaan should never be interpreted in isolation from their immediate context. The command to destroy them totally, as we see in Deuteronomy 7, is contextualized by the words, “Do not intermarry with them…for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (vv. 3–4 NIV). The aim of God’s command was not the obliteration of the wicked but the obliteration of wickedness.

Furthermore, let me say this: God’s martial instructions are qualified by His moral intent to spare the repentant. No greater example of that can be given than Rahab. Remember Rahab was a Canaanite. She was also a prostitute. Probably more well known for being a prostitute than a Canaanite, but Rahab and her whole family were allowed to live among the Israelites (Josh. 2:1–24; 6:1–26). Not only that, but Rahab the prostitute came to hold a privileged position in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1–17; cf. v. 5), which underscores a very significant point, not only that God unequivocally commanded Israel to treat the aliens living among them with respect and equality (Deut. 24:14–15; 17–18) but that there are blessings for those who repent. Of course, the concern for foreigners clearly demonstrates that the mercy shown to those who by faith repented of their idolatry and were therefore grafted into true Israel is a maxim. It is a principle. Blessing for those who follow and cursing for those who rebel (Deut. 16:1–19; 27:19).

This idea that the Bible has been disproven comes as a direct of result of people not being able to read the Bible in the sense in which it is intended. Here is why I wrote my book Has God Spoken: Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration. In the first half of that book, what I do is demonstrate that the Bible is divinely inspired. It is a trustworthy authority. But, in the second half of the book, I teach people the art and science of biblical interpretation so that these kinds of passages are not used to discredit the Bible but when they are you have an answer. This is one of the things that I lay out in some detail in Has God Spoken.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following:

How Can Christians Legitimize a God Who Orders the Genocide of Entire Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims (Clay Jones)

Was Israel Commanded to Commit Genocide? (Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan)

Also consult the following books:

Has God Spoken: Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff

Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan

Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

Apologetics

The Multifaceted Effects of Sin

I recently heard that when we do something wrong to another person, it is not only a sin against God but also a sin against the other person. Is this correct? Can we also sin against another man or woman?

That, I think, is a profound question. That is the kind of question I like to take on the Bible Answer Man broadcast. This is a profound question. When a man steals from another man in violation of the eighth Commandment (Exod. 20:15), we know from Scripture that he clearly sins against God. But, the answer to the question is he also sins against the individual in taking what does not belong to him. It is a sin against God. It is also a sin against humankind. This is why the Lord taught us to pray, “Forgive us of our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Matt. 6:12).

If you read Matthew 18 — the parable of the unforgiving servant — Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Remember what Jesus said? “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21–22 NKJV). In other words, you always forgive. If you have been forgiven a debt that cannot be quantified, we should never consider withholding from those who sin against us. How many times shall I forgive? It implies that we do forgive our bother and our sister. Ephesians 4:32 is also, I think, a passage that underscores this point. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” There are many other passages.

We are told by the apostle Paul we ought to forgive because our sin is not only against humanity but also a sin against Christ. A sin against Christ is a sin against the body; a sin against the body is a sin against Christ. I think even more interesting in answer to a very interesting question is 1 Corinthians 6. You can sin against your own body. You think about humanity, it includes you. For example, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit;” therefore, we are to “flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:17–20 NIV). This adds a whole new dimension to it. He who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The answer to your question is multifaceted. It is a great question. You also sin against a person when you sin against God. In short, you can sin against another man or another woman. You can sin against your body. You have the body of Christ, your own body, and you have Christ, who is the head of the body.

We daily ask God to forgive us of your sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). One of the reasons I think this is a particularly important question is that today we have all kinds of popular preachers who are telling you that when you sin, do not ever ask for forgiveness, because asking for forgiveness is tantamount to spitting in the face of God, so, please, please never ask for forgiveness. But, I have been absolutely astounded at how rapidly that perversion has become part of the ethic of the body of Christ, how quickly people have embraced that kind of spiritual cyanide. Well, what is the antidote? The antidote is to learn discernment skills. When someone says something like that, you do not look at the power of their radio or television platform; you test what they say in light of Scripture, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; Acts 17:10–12).

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the July 20, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.