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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — Our Divine/Human Example (Part 3)

Man, does time fly when you’re preparing for a conference!  Those of you who follow this blog know that I have the opportunity to speak at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian Ministry Seminars” on February 6-7.  By the time you read this, the conference is over and I’m back home in South Carolina.  (I’ll post a follow-up report as soon as I can).

My theme for the conference is screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-4-55-42-am“Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality.”  We are to love God with our minds, Jesus says, and I’m trying to investigate various aspects of what that means.

In our last post on this topic, we looked at the Matthew 16 text where Jesus essentially says, “You know how to predict bad weather and to cancel your synagogue picnic.  Use your same reasoning powers to come to the proper conclusion about ME!”

But their own wickedness and spiritual adultery, Jesus says, short-circuits the thinking process.

Jesus, it seems unnecessary to say, was a master logician.  He used His human mind to defend His disciples, challenge His opponents, and press home His claims to those who eventually had Him crucified.  One of the most fascinating aspects of Jesus’ use of His mental faculties is the issue of logical fallacies.  A logical fallacy is, roughly speaking, an error of reasoning.

Some notable logical fallacies are the following:  ad hominem:  an argument that seeks to discredit a position by discrediting those who hold them (Example:  “That viewpoint can’t be true.  After all, he’s a liberal!”).  The red herring is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic (Example: “You may think screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-6-33-00-amthat he cheated on the test, but look at the poor little thing! How would screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-6-41-30-amhe feel if you made him take it again?”).  argumentum ad baculum:  An appeal to force is an attempt to persuade using threats. Its Latin name, “argumentum ad baculum”, literally means “argument with a stick” (Example:  (1) If you don’t accept that the Sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around, then you’ll be excommunicated from the Church.  Therefore: (2) The Sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around).  A straw man argument is one that misrepresents a position in order to make it appear weaker than it actually is, refutes this misrepresentation of the position, and then concludes that the real position has been refuted (Example: (1) Trinitarianism holds that three equals one. (2) Three does not equal one. Therefore: (3) Trinitarianism is false. This is an example of a straw man argument because its first premise misrepresents trinitarianism, its second premise attacks this misrepresentation of trinitarianism, and its conclusion states that trinitarianism is false. Trinitarianism, of course, does not hold that three equals one, and so this argument demonstrates nothing concerning its truth. (Taken from http://www.logicalfallacies.info/).

Some of you right now might be saying “this hominem‘s head hurts and I feel like going out and eating some red herring!”  We will look at several examples of logical fallacies — and how the Lord Jesus responded to them — in our next post. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in loving God with our minds

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 10)

This is our last post on the Apostle Paul’s use of his mind on Mars Hill found in Acts 17.  As I prepare to speak on the theme “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,” studying Acts 17 has been an encouragement to me in several ways.  If one pours over verses 16-34, we see that Paul saw all the idols in Athens and was deeply concerned that these intelligent people were idolaters.  He proclaims the “unknown god” to them and is then given the opportunity to formally present his “strange ideas” before their formal court of opinion.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amscreen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-02-35-amHe uses their own literature to advance his gospel presentation, quoting lines from pagan poetry with which those Athenians would have been familiar.  Would you ever say to someone who hasn’t believed in Jesus, “We are God’s offspring!”?  But Paul does not mean that, therefore, one doesn’t need to believe in Jesus. He is referring to creation — and never confuse creation with redemption!

In fact, he goes on to say, “Therefore since we are God’s offspring . . .”

(1) we should not worship idols (v. 29).

(2)  we should turn to the true God — and repent! (v. 30).

Using secular or contemporary or non-Christian literature might be a bit risky, but it accomplishes several goals.  The first is that your audience knows that you strive to be a well-read person who cares about what they think and has looked into what they read.  Second, using such material establishes a bridge, a contact point, between their worldview and yours.  You can then attempt to bring them from the known to the unknown.

Paul’s emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection produces an immediate screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-28-59-amresult:  Some sneer at him.  Others say that they want to hear him again on the subject.  Some of his hearers became followers of Paul and believed!  And Paul names two of them, one of whom is a member of the Areopagus!

We do not judge a person’s method by its results (a pragmatic approach).  Nowhere in Scripture is Paul’s process in Acts 17 criticized (please note Norman Geisler’s refutation of the view that in I Cor. 2:2 Paul repented of his approach here — see his article “An Apology for Apologetics” found here).

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-6-31-44-amSeveral questions occur to me as we conclude this brief study.  Perhaps you will find these challenging as well.
1. Am I open to learn various philosophies so that God can use me to speak to the intellectual unbelievers of my day?
2. Am I willing to read stuff that isn’t “Christian” so that I can connect with those who aren’t yet followers of Jesus?
3. Am I in it for the long haul? That is, am I willing to spend significant time presenting and debating the case for Jesus?
4. Can I name at least one unbelieving intellectual friend for whom I can daily pray?

Your comments?

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 8)

We continue with our study of Acts 17, Paul on Mars Hill.  I’m looking forward to Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” on February 6-7. My theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,”  will pursue several topics.  We will look at Acts 17:19-34 to see how the Apostle Paul used his mind to reach five different groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-19-05-amBeginning with a compliment, Paul proclaims the “unknown god” to the Athenians.  Let’s notice verses 24-28.  As Paul moves into PROCLAMATION, he speaks clearly of Christian doctrine!  Notice that he credits this “unknown god” with creation (He “made the world and everything in it” – v. 24) and providence (caring for His creation) (“he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” – v. 25).  Paul makes it clear that this true God is independent of His creation (He “is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands . . . and . . . is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything” – vv. 24-25).

Wow!  That’s a lot of Christian doctrine!  Paul goes on screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-29-18-amto talk about man’s creation (“all the nations” – v. 26) being intended by this God to “inhabit the whole earth” (v. 26).  Both man’s relationship to time (“marked out their appointed times”) and their geography (“the boundaries of their lands”) are covered in verse 26.

And this Creator-God is not content with simply making stuff.  He wants a personal relationship with human beings (“God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” – v. 27).

Question:  Are we presenting the true God of the Bible as One who wishes for a personal relationship with each of His creatures made in His image?

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 7)

On February 6-7 I will be the speaker at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars.” My theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,”  will pursue several topics, among them is Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17.  As we look at Acts 17:19-34 we see how the Apostle Paul reaches a diverse audience with the gospel. “Greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols,” he uses reasoning to debate with those five groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-17-43-amHe begins with a compliment:  “I see that you are very religious” (v. 22).  Complimenting those-not-yet-followers-of-Jesus is a wise approach, don’t you think?

He tells them that he has taken the time to look carefully at their objects of worship (v. 23).  He read every inscription.  He became culturally-aware of his audience and what had captured their attention.

He then moves from the known to the unknown.  The Athenians covered all their bases (or so they thought) by even having an altar with the inscription “to an unknown god.”  Paul uses that anonymous object of worship as a contact point to transition to “that is what I am going to proclaim to you” (v. 23).

There is a  time for PROCLAMATION in the presentation of the gospel, isn’t there?  But sometimes we bring in PROCLAMATION too early.  What has preceded Paul’s proclaiming of this “unknown god”?  (1)  He has taken the time to become screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-6-06-00-amculturally-aware of their religious habits.  (2)  He has extended a compliment to them as he begins to speak about the true religion.  RESPECT and KINDNESS precede PROCLAMATION.

In our next post we will notice how Paul unpacks the truths about this “unknown god” who has made Himself known to those who will seek Him!  Paul inspires their curiosity in the next part of his speech.  Question:  How do we get people in our culture to become curious about the Christian God?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 6)

Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” takes place on February 6-7 — and I get to be their speaker!  I’ve chosen the theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality” and will pursue several topics.  Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17 has always intrigued me.  Acts 17:19-34 gives specific steps in reaching a diverse audience with the gospel. We learn that Paul was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols” and that he used reasoning to debate with those five groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-17-43-am We have defined Epicurean and Stoic philosophy and must face the fact that the old-time gospel will be thought of today as “advocating foreign gods” and “strange ideas.”  Some enjoyed a great luxury — spending their time “doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas” (v. 21).

As he begins his formal presentation to this court of opinion, astonishingly Paul begins with a compliment!  He says, “I see that in every way you are very religious.” (v. 22).

I wouldn’t have started that way at all!  I would have said, “I’ve seen your idols.  Ya’ll are a bunch of IDOLATERS!  Ya’ll are going to hell!”  That’s how I would have started my speech.

Why are we often so reluctant to speak positive words screen-shot-2017-01-19-at-5-30-36-amto the lost?  Do we think that we will be miscommunicating the gospel if we say something nice to them?  Phyllis Theroux put it this way: “One of the commodities in life that most people can’t get enough of is compliments. The ego is never so intact that one can’t find a hole in which to plug a little praise. But compliments, by their nature, are highly biodegradable and tend to dissolve hours or days after we first receive them — which is why we can always use another.”

Say something nice to someone who is not yet a follower of Jesus today!

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 5)

We are preparing to speak at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” on February 6-7. Our theme, “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality,” will take on a number of topics.  One of those topics is Paul’s use of his mind in Acts 17 to reach a diverse audience with the gospel. Acts 17:19-34 shows us that Paul was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols.”  Paul used reasoning to debate with those five groups.

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-5-43-06-amIn our last post, we defined Epicurean and Stoic philosophy and challenged ourselves not to be discouraged by any criticism we receive  for “advocating foreign gods”!

Has it dawned on us in our post-Christian culture that the “old-time gospel” will be understood by many as something new and strange?  Our message will be critiqued as a “new teaching” and as “some strange ideas.”  The days of Christianity being the majority opinion are long gone!  And we need to be ready not to be offended but to go on the offense and present the Good News of the Gospel!

Please notice that Paul was “preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection” (v. 18).  This is critical in light of some who say Paul is out of line here in Acts 17 in using philosophy and pagan literature in his Mars Hill speech.

The follower of Jesus can be accused of being “anachronistic” or of being “modern.”  The anachronistic charge may mean that, in the minds of many, the gospel is out-dated and useless.  The modern charge is that the truths about Jesus have been lost and are “new” to this present generation.  Either way, the Christian has the responsibility to speak into his or her immediate circumstances the truth about “Jesus and the resurrection.”

The Areopagus (called “Mars Hill” in the King James Bible) was the seat of the supreme court of Athens.  Sessions were held by night for rendering judgment for crimes (murder, immorality, idleness) and for virtuous behavior.  Paul was brought here, after discoursing day by day in the market place, so that he could give a fuller and more quiet exposition of his doctrine.

Been dragged into court recently to defend the gospel?  Why not?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 4)

We are continuing to prepare as the plenary speaker for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” on February 6-7. Our theme will be “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality.” Here in Acts 17 we see Paul using his mind to reach a diverse audience with the gospel.  Our text, Acts 17:19-34, first shows us that Paul was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols.”

screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-5-43-06-amWe then noticed that Paul used reasoning to engage the groups that were there.  He shows his skill at reasoning with five groups:  (1) the Jews; (2) the God-fearing Greeks; (3) the intellectual loiterers of the day; (4) the Epicurean philosophers; and (5) the Stoic philosophers.

Who were the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers?  Epicureanism‘s founder was Epicurus (272 BC) who said that pleasure is the sole good: “Whatever feels good is desirable; pain is undesirable.”  All reality is material; no spiritual or immaterial; screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-6-00-05-amall is in motion and everything happens by chance; there are gods but they don’t care about human affairs; no afterlife or judgment.  Truth is established by the senses; the goal of life is pleasure!  Here’s a photograph of Epicurus:

Know anyone who holds that kind of philosophy?

Stoicism’s founder was Zeno (263 BC) who said that knowledge is attained through logic; we are to be indifferent to outward emotions; live in harmony with nature, happy & free from emotion; universe is eternal; everything is God (pantheism); screen-shot-2017-01-18-at-6-06-12-amGod is the soul of the universe; the universe is the body of God; all life is predetermined by fate; no immortality of the soul; absorbed into the divine essence; no final judgment.  So, truth is established by one’s reason and the goal of life is virtue!  This is a selfie of Zeno:

Know anyone who holds that kind of philosophy?

Paul debates with these philosophers. And he gets criticized for his view.  He is called a “babbler” (a word which literally means “seed-picker”).  Apparently they were scoffing at Paul for his not being identified with one philosophical group, but assumed he got his ideas from a variety of sources (which he “picked” over).

Don’t let criticism silent you!  The movie director Mel Brooks was once asked what he thought of critics.  He said, “They are noisy at night when you are in the woods camping.”  “No, Mr. Brooks,” said the interviewer.  “Not crickets.  Critics!”  Brooks said, “They are even worse!  They can’t even rub their back legs together to make music!”  Speak the truth about Jesus today — and don’t listen to the critics!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 3)

As we prepare our messages for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” for February 6-7, we see Paul here in Acts 17 using his mind to reach his audience with the gospel.  Our text is Acts 17:19-34.  We’ve already noticed that he was “greatly distressed” to see the city “full of idols.”

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-30-46-amWe next notice that Paul engaged in reasoning with the groups that were there.  He does not merely proclaim the gospel (fideism), but reasons with them.

Please notice that he is skilled at reasoning with five groups:  (1) the Jews; (2) the God-fearing Greeks; (3) the intellectual loiterers of the day; (4) the Epicurean philosophers; and (5) the Stoic philosophers.  The Jews and the God-fearing Greeks were, no doubt, part of Paul’s own background.  But what about the intellectual loiterers?  Several questions occur to me in considering this third group:
1. Are we present in the “marketplace” to make connections with those kind of thinkers?

2. What about our “day by day”?  Paul consistently was there.

3. “those who happened to be there” — God sovereignly allows people to be at places where believers can engage them with the gospel.  We don’t need to set up formal appointments, but simply BE THERE!

Many of us know the great quote from missionary-martyr Jim Elliot.  He said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”  There’s another Jim Elliot quote I love:  “Wherever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 2)

We are preparing our messages for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” for February 6-7.  Here in Acts 17 Paul is our example in using his mind to reach his audience with the gospel.  Our text is Acts 17:19-34.  Let’s look at the first few verses, make some observations, and draw some tentative conclusions.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-30-46-amPaul is waiting for his friends (presumably Timothy and Silas, although Luke might have been with him on this missionary journey [see Acts 16]).  But Paul is not just waiting around.  He busies himself as he waits.  He becomes culturally aware of his surroundings.  In Athens he “was greatly distressed” to see that the city was “full of idols” (v. 16).

The word used for “greatly distressed” is παρωξύνετο which means “stirred up, incited, provoked, distressed, irritated” (only used 2x in the New Testament – here & in I Cor. 13:5- that love “is not easily angered”)

Are our cities not “full of idols” today?  Timothy Keller in his book screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-42-23-amCounterfeit Gods makes the point that “[an idol] . . . is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…”

Are we “greatly distressed” by the idolatry that we see in our culture?  Do we even notice how people’s hearts and imaginations are absorbed by everything . . .  but God?

Your comments?

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2017 in Acts 17

 

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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 1)

As those of you who read this blog know, I’m preparing four messages for my time at Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian Ministry Seminars” February 6 and 7.  One of my messages — The main topic for my series is “Anti-Intellectualism Isn’t Spirituality!” — will survey Paul’s experience at Mars Hill in Acts 17.  He uses his mind to engage his audience and provides, I believe, a model for our doing the same in our culture.

The first task we need to take on is carefully reading Acts 17:16-34 which says —

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-05-35-amI’m not sure how you study a passage of Scripture, but I want to screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amwork our way through this text sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and observe carefully Paul’s approach to these people.  We will start that process in our next post.

May I suggest that you either read this text in a Bible you don’t mind marking up — or print out this post and mark up the text?  Make as many observations as you can.  What terms need to be defined?  What principles do you see in using your mind to love the Lord and reach the people around you?

Who’s with me?  Jot a note in the comment section below!

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2017 in Acts 17, Uncategorized

 

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