Podcast 100: Science and the Mind of the Maker with Melissa Cain Travis

Welcome to our 100th episode! On the show:

Nate talks about some of the people who have influenced A Clear Lens over the years (:17)
Science and the Mind of the Maker with Melissa Cain Travis (10:09)

You can buy Melissa’s excellent book on Amazon or go check out her website melissatravis.com for more!

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Ep. 100: Science and the Mind of the Maker with Melissa Cain Travis

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How to Use Apologetics for Your Own Growth

This post is a “part two” of sorts–a follow-up to my post “Why You Should Use Apologetics for Your Own Growth.” A reader asked for a better picture of how to put this idea into practice, so that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

Here’s a one-sentence summary of my previous post: Apologetics isn’t limited to answering others’ questions; you can use it to answer your own questions as well.

If you’re doing this truth-seeking and truth-sharing life right, you should be finding yourself in intellectually stretching situations regularly. For example, you might read something from a perspective you disagree with, and force yourself to think through the challenges presented. Or you might have a solid, engaging conversation with that coworker of yours who seems to always shoot down your carefully-presented reasons. Whatever the situation, you will discover new challenges.

When you come across these challenges, you’re initially stumped. The conversation moves on or ends, and you’ve finished reading the book or article. There’s not an immediate drive to have the answers for someone you’re engaging with. So, is it still worth digging into the issue? It’s up to you to discern, but many times it’s valuable to put in the effort to learn.

This is apologetics for your own growth: searching out the answers to your own questions. After all, if we aren’t fully persuaded, how can we persuade others?

When you diligently study apologetics for your own growth, you will be better balanced and prepared to answer questions posed by others. Instead of reading lists like “Top 10 Arguments for Apologists” or “Everything You Need to Know to Debate an Atheist and Win,” you will have a more holistic and meaningful array of acquired knowledge. Suddenly, your conversations are much more personal.

When your friend poses a tough question that you’ve wrestled with, you can respond, “You know what, I wondered that, too. Can I share with you what I found when I looked for the answer?” Now you’re sharing a story–your story. You’re not launching a round of pre-determined attacks. You’re sharing your journey and inviting them to join you.

At the end of your time together, you can follow up with, “I know I haven’t found all the answers yet. Would you like to continue looking into this together?” Just like that, you’ve transitioned from apologetics for your own growth to apologetics for growing together. Now you’re solidly in the sphere of relationships.

Here are a few action steps to begin implementing a mindset of apologetics for your own growth.

1. Make a list of the questions you still have.

I know, you think you’ve got a good idea of what you still need to learn. Or maybe you can’t think of any specifics right now. I challenge you to set it out on paper anyway. It’s hard to make visible progress without an idea of where to start.

2. Pick one, and start studying.

Look at the list of questions you just made. Choose the one that’s the most pressing and make an effort to start looking into that. Ask for some resource recommendations. Consult a trusted friend for their perspective. And of course, pray for God’s guidance.

3. Rinse and repeat.

There should never be a point in our lives when we stop learning. If you notice you haven’t uncovered a new question in a while, take a look at your life. You might find you’ve accidentally (or purposefully) stepped out of any uncomfortable situations and surrounded yourself with people who believe all the same things you do. Begin to seek out those challenging situations, for the benefit of your own growth.

How do you use apologetics for your own growth? What have you learned in your self-study that has been beneficial in conversations with others?

The Importance of Common Ground

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In his book Anything but Invisible, Christian author and pastor Nate Collins argues that most in the Western world do not have a worldview. Instead, he argues, most have a “social imaginary,” more like a story of how the world works than a developed philosophy. While I don’t believe it’s strictly either/or, story certainly holds a lot of sway.  This is especially true when discussing values.

Podcast 99: Ok, I’m Christian, Now What?

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On this episode:

Nate explains how to know your audience (:17)
Nate welcomes Logan (11:55)
Worldview Analysis: Miracles on Netflix (13:29)
Ok, I’m Christian, Now What? (24:33)

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Ep. 99: Ok, I’m Christian, Now What?

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Book Review: Signature In The Cell by Stephen C. Meyer

Professor John Lennox once said, “The moment you see a single letter of the alphabet, you know there’s a mind behind it. Isn’t it odd that we can see the 3.5 billion letters of the genetic alphabet in exactly the right order in the human genome and say, ‘chance and necessity?'” The idea that DNA contains an incredible amount of information isn’t a terribly controversial topic in of itself. It’s only when scientists seek to answer the question — where did that information come from? — that the conversation gets a bit heated. The idea of Intelligent Design is hotly debated. Yet, in biologist Stephen C. Meyer’s book, “Signature in the Cell”, the scientist seeks out to humbly answer the question of, “Where did the information in DNA ultimately come from?”

Overview

Originally published in 2009, Stephen C. Meyer’s book, “Signature in the Cell” is not terribly new. The book itself is a little over 500 pages plus a whopping 52 pages worth of notes! Overall, it’s a commitment to read, but the good news is that Stephen C. Meyer writes in such a way where even a complex topic like “the origin for information found in DNA” is still explained in a manner where someone like myself, who isn’t terribly interested in biology, can grasp.

The book itself is rather thorough, essentially taking the reader by the hand and walking them through the discovery of DNA itself to the knowledge of the information-bearing properties of DNA and the question of just where does that information come from.

As he explains: “…molecular biologists were discovering that living cells had been using something akin to machine code or software all along. To quote the information scientist Hubert Yokcey, ‘The genetic code is constructed to confront and solve the problems of communication and recording by the same principles found…in modern communication and computer codes.’…How did these digitally encoded and specifically sequenced instructions in DNA arise? And how did they arise within a channel for transmitting information?”

Meyer also takes time to explain how incredibly intricate and complex even the smallest cellular systems are. For example, he points out that DNA not only carries information, but that information needs to be translated:

“…the cell contains not just molecular repositories of genetic information, but a code for translating the information in the DNA molecule (and its RNA transcript) into the construction of a protein. But this requires some physical medium of information transfer…it became evident that the transcription of and translation of genetic information is mediated by a complex information processing system composed of many types of nucleic acids…and many specific enzymes.”

Ultimately, Stephen C. Meyer argues that the best explanation, when one follows the science, is that an intelligence outside of the evolutionary process is responsible for the origination of the information found in DNA:

“…low probability events by themselves do not necessarily indicate that something other than chance is at work. Improbable events happen all the time and don’t necessarily indicate anything other than chance in play…” He goes on to explain, “…any nucleotide base sequence that directs the production of proteins his a functional target within an abstract space of possibilities…the chemical properties of DNA allow a vast ensemble of possible arrangements of nucleotide bases. Yet within that set of combinational possibilities relatively few will…actually produce functional proteins…”  and concludes by saying,

“…the specific arrangements of bases in DNA point to prior intelligent activity…”

Recommendation

While Stephen C. Meyer’s book is a fascinating read, one should be prepared that he does tend to dip into serious scientific weeds. Even with the diagrams, I did find it a little hard to follow on occasion. To his credit, however, he does do a great job in keeping such a deep and scientifically technical topic rather accessible to average joes like myself. Overall, I would recommend this book. It’s an interesting subject that raises great questions for both believers and skeptics alike.

Stephen C. Meyer on the digital information found in DNA:

 

 

The Apologetics of Jesus: Asking Tactful Questions

Jesus was the master of asking questions that cut straight to the heart of a person. Sometimes we apologists can forget that human beings are more than intellectual machines.

That’s why it’s important to ask tactful questions that go beyond the surface of intellectual arguments. Three of Jesus’ questions in particular can be easily adapted to use in apologetic and evangelistic conversations.

“What are you seeking?” (John 1:38)
What are you wanting to get out of this conversation?

You can’t always assume that the person who comes to you with questions is doing so out of pure motives! That’s why it’s good to discern why a person is wanting to speak with you or listen to what you have to say.

This question causes people to stop and think about what they want to get out of the discussion. Are they seeking a fruitful dialogue or a fight to prove you wrong? Are they seeking to embarrass you or genuinely listen to what you have to say? Here are some responses from them that would be ideal:

  1. I want to hear what you have to say and share what I believe.
  2. I want to learn more about Christianity.
  3. I want to know the truth about such important issues.

Now of course, many people might say these things and not mean it. But the sooner we can get people to think through their motives, the sooner we can know how to continue the conversation.

“Why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46)
How believable do you find the claims that Jesus made about Himself?

This question zeroes in on the person of Jesus and what He said. Jesus made some serious claims about Himself in the Gospels, and there are a variety of reasons why people don’t believe what He said. The first step is to present some of Jesus’ claims and get their responses to them. Here are a few:

“I and the Father are one…whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 10:30; 14:9).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

“No one knows the son except the father, and no one knows the father except the son and anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27).

“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

“…the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:9).

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

Presenting these claims not only brings Jesus into the conversation, but it also provides a better opportunity to present the Gospel.

“Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
Who was Jesus of Nazareth?

To me this is the most important question that Jesus ever asked someone. What do you do with Jesus? Who do you think He is?

As with the second question, it’s best here to give options of what Jesus could have been. Was Jesus:

  1. A good moral teacher?
  2. Sincere but delusional?
  3. Purposefully evil and misleading?
  4. A completely fictional character?
  5. A real person who was embellished over time?
  6. Who He claimed to be?

Once they choose one, ask them why they believe that about Jesus.

Lastly, you can explain why you believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and continue the conversation from there.

May we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and ask tactful questions!

 

Why Protecting Our Borders with Lions Is Morally Good

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Is protecting the borders with flesh eating lions morally good? As a marketing executive who has read the Bible more than once, I think it is. In fact, the Bible itself repeatedly views protector lions with great favor!

In biblical times lions gave peace and security. Psalm 104:21 says, “The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” It is clear that if God wanted poor and wretched immigrant souls born in another country to enter, He would not provide them as food for these guardian lions.

Additionally, the Bible provides a crystal clear message that our borders should be protected by lions. Proverbs 20:2 says, “The terror of a king…the growling of a lion.” And all those, like the sluggard, too lazy to travel hundreds of miles to a legitimate, border check point, let this be a warning:

“The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’” (Prov 22:13)

In fact, the earliest temples were guarded by lions. “While twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps.” (1 Kings 10:20)

Objection: “We should be a nation that welcomes immigrants.” I agree. One Psalmist writes that the Lord is the protector from the lions; “The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Ps 34:10). This will ensure only Christ-following, legal immigrants will be granted entry.

Objection: “Lions are expensive.” Lions already exist in a natural habitat attuned to their needs. We simply need to relocate them to the borders! God does provide lions for such a day as this! “Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him” (Judges 14:5).

Objection: “Lions are too brutal” Lions are fierce and nasty, but Jesus is also described as a lion in the New Testament. We are comforted through the revelation of Jesus according to John, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev 5:5).

For these reasons, I think there can be no doubt that lions protecting our borders is a morally good action.

*Authors note: This piece is a tongue-in-cheek response to Wayne Grudem’s article: Why Building a Border Wall Is a Morally Good Action. A Clear Lens does not actually support the use of lions on the border.

Podcast 98: What Should a Biblical Pastor Look Like?

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Happy 4th of July everyone! On this episode:

Buddy Batterloins for Pastor (Skit) (:00)

Nate explains how to talk to someone who’s being led by their emotion (4:06)
Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (11:46)
Game Time: 4th of July Trivia (14:26)

What Should a Biblical Pastor Look Like? (21:26)

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Ep. 98: What Should a Biblical Pastor Look Like?

 

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Podcast 97: How Important Is Diversity In the Church?

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On this episode:

Nate explains what the Bible means when it says Christ is “in” us (:18)

Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (12:36)
Question: What does a fruitful youth ministry look like? (15:27)
How Important Is Diversity In the Church? (20:11)

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Ep. 97: How Important Is Diversity In the Church?

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Book Review: Testimonies by Rev. Thomas Browne, M.A.

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Cicero once said, “To know nothing of what happened before you were born, is to forever remain a child.” I think one of the sad and unforeseen side-effects of our age of technology is that we often forget about old books because we’re often distracted by the next “new and shiny” thing.  This can prove detrimental, particularly in the case of the Christian and Christian Apologist, as we often overlook the wisdom of those who came before us. Such as the largely forgotten book, “Testimonies” by Rev. Thomas Browne, M.A.

While researching for another article topic that I’m working on (“apologetic methods of the early Christians”) I came across a book I had mentioned in my very first post for the A Clear Lens team, “The First Apologists and Why They Still Matter”. I remembered what a huge impact the book had on me and how it strengthened my faith. As a result, I would love to do an official book review in order so that many more Christians can become aware of this book and read it.

Summary

Sadly, I don’t believe the book is in print anymore as it was originally published in 1837. However, you can find PDF versions online here or here. At 170 pages, it’s not a long book, and frankly, it’s so engrossing that it’s easy to simply zip through it in one sitting. The fascinating read is a compilation of translated first-hand accounts from non-Christians like Tacitus, Pliny, and Trajan. It also includes apologies from early church fathers like Tertullian and Origen as well as accounts of their sufferings under various persecutions.

As I laid out in my article, “The First Apologists…” many of the arguments (and even insults!) against Christianity and Christians have already been answered and said.  In our age of social media, insults tend to be the norm.

Celsus (AD 170), seemed to be a pioneer of “trolling” by stating that, “Some of them say, ‘Do not examine, but believe, and thy faith shall save thee:’ and, ‘ The wisdom of this world is evil, and the folly good.’ All wise men are excluded from the doctrine of their faith: they call to it only fools and men of a servile spirit.”

Browne also discusses the integrity of the scriptures during the first two centuries:

“Hegesippus, A.D. 173, states in a fragment of one of his works preserved by Eusebius,
that in a journey from Palestine to Rome he visited many bishops, and then adds, ‘In every succession, and in every city, the same doctrine is taught‘…’The same author,’ says Eusebius, ‘discoursing of the books called apocryphal, relates that some of them were forged by the heretics in his time.’ Hence we may learn, that the first Christians were not only on their guard against heretics but also against their forgeries.

Recommendation

I don’t think I could recommend this book enough! Despite the age in which it was printed, it was an easy read and a fascinating one, too. It was so interesting to read the translated words from Christians and non-Christians in the first two centuries. While I still adore and admire the work of modern apologists like Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, William Lane Craig and so many others, let’s not forget older apologists like Rev. Thomas Browne. They still have some amazing things to teach us.

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The Apologetics of Jesus: Asking Tactful Questions

Using three questions that Jesus asked for more fruitful spiritual conversations.