Journal Topics

The Christian Citizen

Although the Bible says little about how Christians should be involved with politics, it seems to me that there are principles found in Scripture that can help us to think more clearly about the question. For example, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Does that refer only to their eternal souls? Apparently not, since even a casual reading of the Gospels shows our Savior tying Christian virtue to practical action on behalf of one’s neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most forceful illustration offered by Christ. But today, of course, the issues that drive many Christians to political action are contentious moral issues such as on abortion and the nature of marriage. What does it mean to love our neighbor when it comes to those issues? Does it mean that we do not employ the resources of law to make sure our neighbor is not harmed? For instance, in abortion, a tiny neighbor, the unborn child, is killed. Ought we to protect him? He is, after all, our neighbor too. And in the case of marriage, if the government were to allow same-sex marriage everywhere, and if opposing it is equivalent to visceral bigotry (as the opponents of prop 8 claim), would this not put Christians and their churches in the crosshairs of marginalization and persecution, simply because they believe that the basic good of conjugal love may only be actualized in the marriage of a man and a woman? But isn’t it essential to a liberal society such as ours to allow citizens to disagree on matters of sexual morality without condemning one faction as mere bigots? Thus, does that mean that liberals who condemn opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots are, ironically, illiberal?

Francis J. Beckwith Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, and Resident Scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University. He is the author of many books including Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010). His feature article, “The Christian Citizen” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 3 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription

Francis Beckwith will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on May 31, 2011! Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org!

Journal Topics

Gay Teens, Bullying, and Suicide

One of the most emotionally draining aspects of modern Christian living has to do with truth. Because the more our culture drifts away from being guided by Biblical truths, the harder it becomes to speak those truths without being viewed as judgmental, mean spirited, or just plain dumb. Talk about Jesus being the only way to God, and you’ll hear howls of “intolerant and “narrow minded.” Talk about the reality of hell, and you’ll be made out to be a sadistic fanatic. And if you dare talk about God’s created intention for sex and family life, then buckle up, because you’re in for one very bumpy ride.

Nowhere does this ride become more bumpy than when the talk turns to homosexuality. To a point, that’s probably a good thing, because it at least means people are far more caring of homosexual people then they were forty years ago, when it seemed perfectly kosher to call them names and insult their very humanity. But the growing respect for homosexual people has been accompanied by less and less tolerance for anyone who simply holds to the traditional view that marriage is for one man and one woman; sex for complimentary, not similar, genders.

Recently, that intolerance was given a boost when a number of young homosexuals committed suicide after they’d been repeatedly bullied for schoolmates and peers. The grief we all felt somehow morphed into finger pointed, with many cultural elites indicting traditional Christians as the villains. Their reasoning? If you preach homosexuality is a sin, you encourage violence against gays and lesbians.

So those of us still believing the traditional view have a choice: Cower in submission, or love enough (and boldly enough) to give the full counsel of God. Of course, it’s a counsel that’s often unwanted, and the price can be high. But in the eternal sense, can it be higher than the price of unfaithfulness to truth, and poor stewardship of the Word? Think not; I hope you agree. God grant us the love to stand firm when our stance is un popular, and the gentleness to always consider the needs and sensitivities of our hearers.

  1. If gay teenagers are being bullied, what can Christian students and friends do to help?
  2. If we say we love homosexuals, is that love evident in the way we speak about them when they’re not present?
  3. Where can we find common ground with those who genuinely want to protect homosexuals from mistreatment, yet feel that our position as Christians is harmful to homosexuals?

Joe Dallas is the program director of Genesis Counseling in Tustin, California, a Christian counseling service to men dealing with sexual addiction, homosexuality, and other sexual/relational problems. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is the author of three books on human sexuality, including Desires in Conflict (Harvest House, 1991) and A Strong Delusion (Harvest House, 1996). Joe Dallas will appear on the Bible Answer Man Broadcast on May 24, 2011 (to listen to the show live at 6PM ET please go to www.equip.org) to discuss his cover article on the topic above in the new issue of the Christian Research Journal. To read the full article by Dallas, please subscribe to the Journal (6 issues for $39.50).

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Parenting and Apologetics

The recent brouhaha over Yale professor Amy Chua’s memoir regarding her “Tiger Mother” parenting approach has stirred the pot about the most effective parenting techniques like in this New York Time debate: Is Extreme Parenting Effective? The Christian community has also had its share of parenting debates: Scheduling infants? Or demand feeding?

Sometimes these differences come to our attention because there are theological concerns with parenting methods. Back in 1998 the Christian Research Journal published an article about a Christian parenting ministry called The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Families International. We also published a follow-up article response to that article. In 2003 we published another article concerned with extreme parenting methods called “Christian Families on the Edge: Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us.”

But CRI is also concerned with equipping parents to train their children to know what they believe. In 2009 author Chris Sherrod offered parents tips on why they needed to equip the next generation. Sherrod was correct when he stated: “First, we need a clear definition of what we’re looking for—do we want nice kids who don’t get in trouble, or passionate followers of Christ?”

–Melanie Cogdill, Managing Editor, Christian Research Journal

Journal Topics

Christians and Politics

As the 2012 election cycle starts to ramp up, the Christian Research Journal is a vital tool that will equip you to practice your faith in the public square. Back in 2007 Christians wondered if it was permissible for them to vote for a Mormon candidate. CRI does not address political issues but we do provide reasons for Christian faith and ethics. This includes encouraging Christians to take their faith to the public square. In a Viewpoint Op-Ed published in the Christian Research Journal, Francis J. Beckwith gave his opinion on If It Is Permissible for a Christian to Vote for a Mormon Candidate. In 2008 we published an article that gave Christians tips on: How to Engage in Politics without Losing Your Soul. And that same year we also challenged believers how to consider Christian ethics at the ballot box and published an op-ed by Doug Groothuis on why the pro-life issue still maters. You won’t want to miss out on the upcoming feature article (Volume 34 #3) by Francis J. Beckwith about what it means to be a “Christian Citizen” in our May/June issue of our journal. Please subscribe to the Christian Research Journal to read Beckwith’s in-depth reasons why: “Although the Bible does not say much about the role of a Christian citizen and his relationship to the state, Scripture does communicate to us certain principles that provide us with insight on the scope of a Christian’s responsibility in a liberal democracy.”

Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor, Christian Research Journal

For Further Study:

Booklet for a Donation The Mormon Mirage: Seeing Through the Illusion of Mainstream Mormonism

Book Mormonism 101

DVD Bible vs. the Book of Mormon

Mormonism Tool Kit

Book Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons

Apologetics, Journal Topics

The Gold Plates of Mormon

If there are two elements at the heart of Mormonism, they are Joseph Smith and the gold plates. The two are in many ways inseparable because Joseph Smith claimed he was told by an angelic visitor to retrieve this buried record at a specific time and to translate it. The result, of course, was the Book of Mormon, a record believed by Mormons to be an ancient scripture in which Joseph Smith claimed was the “most correct book on earth.” To many members of the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon validates Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet in these “latter days.” Yet it is this same book that has caused skeptics to draw the conclusion that Smith was nothing but a charlatan who merely took advantage of gullible followers.

While much of the critical emphasis is on the contents of the Book of Mormon, the lesser focus is on the plates that are allegedly the source of that book. If they actually existed, what were they made of, how heavy would they have been, and were they really seen by anyone? The problematic story as it has originally been told has led many Mormon historians and apologists to contrive explanations that are just as perplexing as the story itself. Do Mormon explanations solve the dilemma, or do they make the whole gold plates story even harder to believe?

Bill McKeever is the founder and president of Mormonism Research Ministry, a Christian ministry based in the Salt Lake City area of Utah. Bill is the author of four books, including In Their Own Words: A Collection of Mormon Quotations (Morris Publishing, 2010). His feature article, “Problems with the Gold Plates of the Book of Mormon” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

For Further Study CRI Recommends:

Book: Mormonism 101

CD Package: Mormonism’s Greatest Problems

Article: DNA Science Challenges LDS History

Article: Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine: Part One

Article: Pinning Down Mormon Doctrine: Part Two

Article: LDS Apologetics and the Battle for Mormon History

Journal Topics

Atlas Shrugged

More than 50 years after its publication, the influence of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged still reverberates with many using her beliefs to shape their view of capitalism. Today a feature film of the book opens nationwide in select theaters. In the summer of 2009, the Christian Research Journal published an in-depth critique of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. The Journal will also publish a review of the film in our upcoming issue Volume 34 #3. If you are not already a subscriber, please sign-up as you will not want to miss it.

For an additional Christian critique on Ayn Rand’s world view a Journal author offers some insights. —Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor

For Further Study:

Book—Money, Greed and God

Apologetics, Journal Topics

The Historically Reliable Bible

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”—2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

To defend the Christian faith, we must be equipped to demonstrate that the Bible is divine rather than merely human in origin. When we can successfully accomplish this, we can answer a host of objections to the Christian faith by appealing to Scripture.

Toward that end, archaeology is a powerful witness to the accuracy of the Scriptures. Over and over, comprehensive archaeological field work since the mid-nineteenth century, coupled with careful biblical interpretation, affirm the reliability of the Bible down to minute details; and skeptics who challenge Scripture are silenced as myriad discoveries point to the accuracy of the biblical accounts. Take, for example, the skeptics’ claim that Jesus was not nailed to the cross but was tied according to the Roman custom. In 1999, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a young man in his early 20s who was crucified in the first century. His remains attest to a death by crucifixion precisely as described in the Bible: his bones tell the story of open arms that had been nailed to a crossbar, and a large single nail had been driven through both heels. That nail was still lodged in the heel bone of one foot, though the executioners had removed the body from the cross after death. Moreover, the shin bones seemed to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions.

Here’s another example. The Old Testament references the Hittites as one of seven Canaanite nations. In fact, Uriah the Hittite is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:39 and is one of King David’s warriors (who is later killed in battle). Yet, prior to the early twentieth century, skeptics said the Hittites were pure mythology. Thus, many were surprised in 1906 when archaeologists unearthed the ruins of Hattutsas in Turkey, the chief city of the ancient Hittites, confirming the biblical references. Or consider the Assyrians who, like the Hittites, were also thought to be a mythological people group. In the nineteenth century, the capital city was unearthed on the plains of Northern Iraq, including the palace of Sargon, the Assyrian King mentioned in Isaiah 20:1. The list of archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record goes on and on.

Furthermore, the reliability of the Bible is affirmed repeatedly by the eyewitness testimony of its authors—or close associates of eyewitnesses—to the recorded events (see Luke 1:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:3—8; 1 John 1:1-3). Additionally, ancient Jewish and secular historians, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius, also confirm the many events, people, places, and customs chronicled in Scripture.

It is important to note, finally, that while archeological and historical evidences can remove doubts about the factual accuracy of the Bible, the spiritual message of our sin, humanity’s need for redemption, and a loving Creator who interacts in the affairs of humans, providing salvation, must be received by faith. Indeed, as the apostle Paul declared, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NIV).

Hank Hanegraaff

Apologetics, Journal Topics

A Christian View of Human Nature

Consider the following situation. You meet someone: born on the wrong side of the tracks, raised in an abusive home, surrounded by cynical and unbelieving friends who scoff at the Christian faith. If God works miraculously and he comes to faith in Christ, how free is he to really progress in the Christian faith? Should occasions when he falls back into sin be seen as inevitable, given all the influences in his life, or actions for which he is fully responsible? Consider a contrasting situation. You meet someone who believes we are free to be whatever we want to be. Though born a male, this person wants to be female and decides to have a sex change operation as an expression of her freedom to be whatever she wants to be. Are there hard limits to the freedom we have? I will argue (in my article in the current issue of the Christian Research Journal) that a Christian view of human nature sees humans as neither completely free nor totally determined. We have enough freedom to be responsible for our actions, but our freedom is limited by or created nature, and we are influenced by the fallen, dysfunctional world in which we are born, raised, and live.

Which way is our culture heading? Do you see more emphasis on humans being free to become whatever they want to be, or the growth of ideologies claiming that our freedom is illusory and that we are determined by forces outside our control? What evidence could you cite to support your answer? How do we hold others responsible for their choices without overlooking the powerful influences family background, genetic inheritance, and environment exert upon us? What are the hard limits our created nature imposes on us? Is gender fixed at birth? Is physical mortality something we should aspire to?

John S. Hammett, Ph.D., has been a pastor, missionary, and professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, since 1995. He is author of a number of books and articles, including “Human Nature,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B and H Academic, 2007). His cover article in which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). Or give a gift subscription. Tune-into the Bible Answer Man broadcast on April 19 when Hank discusses this article with its author.

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Just War Theory

The recent U.S. military action in Libya brings the issue of a biblical view of war to the forefront again. In 1996 a Christian Research Journal feature considered Just War Theory and the necessity of warfare. What are the biblical principles of Just War Theory? How do we decide when military action is or is not warranted?

–Melanie M. Cogdill, Managing Editor

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Proof Positive

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”—2 Timothy 3:16

scriptureDespite what you might glean from the media, Christians have proof positive that the whole cannon of Scripture is utterly reliable. This is an important point to internalize because in order to effectively defend the Christian faith, we must be equipped to demonstrate to an unenlightened audience that the Bible is not only divine in origin, but also one hundred percent correct.

In fact, archaeology is a powerful witness to the accuracy of the Scriptures. Over and over, comprehensive archaeological field work since the mid-nineteenth century, coupled with careful biblical interpretation, affirm the reliability of the Bible down to minute details.

Skeptics who challenge Scripture are silenced as myriad discoveries point to the accuracy of the biblical accounts. Take, for example, the skeptics’ claim that Jesus was not nailed to the cross, but was tied according to Roman custom. In 1999, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a young man in his early 20s who was crucified in the first century. His remains attest to a death by crucifixion precisely as described in the Bible: his bones tell the story of open arms that had been nailed to the crossbar and a large single nail had been driven through both heels. That nail was still lodged in the heel bone of one foot, though the executioners had removed the body from the cross after death. Moreover, the shin bones seemed to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions.

Here’s another example. The Old Testament references the Hittites as one of seven Canaanite nations. In fact, Uriah the Hittite is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:39 and is one of King David’s warriors (who is later killed in battle). Yet, prior to the early twentieth century, skeptics said the Hittites were pure mythology. Thus, many were surprised in 1906 when archaeologists unearthed the ruins of Hattutsas in Turkey, the chief city of the ancient Hittites, confirming the biblical references.

Or consider the Assyrians who, like the Hittites, were also thought to be a mythological people group. In the nineteenth century, the capital city was unearthed on the plains of Northern Iraq, including the palace of Sargon, the Assyrian King mentioned in Isaiah 20:1.

The list of archaeological discoveries that confirm the biblical record goes on and on. The reliability of the Bible is affirmed repeatedly by the eyewitness testimony of its authors—or in some cases close associates of eyewitnesses—to the recorded events. Secular historians also confirm the many events, people, places, and customs chronicled in Scripture.

It is important to note that while archeological evidence can remove doubts about the historical accuracy of the Bible, the spiritual message of our sin, man’s need for redemption, and a loving Creator who interacts in the affairs of men, providing a means of salvation, must be accepted by faith. Indeed, as the apostle Paul declared, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Hank Hanegraaff

For Further Study CRI Recommends:

Flip Chart: LIGHTS on Your Path

Basic Bible Reading Tool Kit

Book: How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth

Article: Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence to Support the Historicity of the Bible