Tag: Mama Bear Apologetics

Tolle Lege: Narrative Apologetics by Alister McGrath

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This is a story about a book.  It’s not just a review because that wouldn’t be quite winsome enough.  So a story it is.  Once upon a time I was a philosophy major and really caught up in the Christian apologetics scene.  It’s still a pool I like to dip my toe in now and again, so I was pretty excited to hear what Alister McGrath had to say about the subject.

The book (published by Baker, 2019) arrived after a summer spent contemplating two contrary viewpoints.  The first was espoused by a speaker who made the following assertion, “The entire Bible can be summed up in the statement, “What ever you are doing that’s right, keep doing it.  What ever you are doing that’s wrong, cut it out.”  The second viewpoint was from an Instagram video of a pastor catechizing his own grandkids with the question “What is the Bible about?”  To which they responded in unison, “Kill the Dragon. Get the Girl.”  Wow. What a stark contrast!  The first synopsis is purely moralistic and works oriented.  Most other religions out there could offer a similar summary of their own teachings.  The second is what McGrath would define as a narrative approach and focuses on the eternal gospel story.   I’m definitely on the same page as McGrath in that regard.  In adopting the religion of moralistic therapeutic deism, Christians have lost sight of the great drama of redemption which God ordained from eternity past, Christ accomplished on the cross and the Holy Spirit will complete in the church, Christ’s Bride.

Nothing gets me more excited than Christians– be they apologists, evangelists, pastors, conference speakers, authors, tweeters, teachers, parents, neighbors, or buyers and sellers in the market place– proclaiming the gospel to a hell-bound world.  In my lifetime there has been so much emphasis on means and methodology that the actual urgency of getting the message out there seems to have been lost.  I even heard a speaker say that 1 Peter 3:15 meant that we were ONLY to share OUR story with people who asked us about the hope we have.  Further, he claimed that Jesus Himself modeled this methodology by only teaching or healing those who came to Him first.  Not only is that patently false, it’s the poorest excuse for ignoring the Great Commission I’ve ever heard.  Will we really be able to say in our own defense of all our acquaintances sentenced to eternal damnation, “Well, they never asked. Sooo…”?

My concern with McGrath’s book is that his focus falls too heavily on the means and takes too lightly the urgency of the message. He really does offer a winsome approach to sharing the Gospel story, not failing to live up in any way to the promises of his sub-title, “Sharing the Relevance, Joy, and Wonder of the Christian Faith.”  He states his purpose in the very first sentence as aiming “to introduce and commend… an approach to affirming, defending, and explaining the Christian faith by telling stories (7).”  Bravo for “affirming, defending, and explaining the Christian faith!”  That puts him right in line with some of my other favorite apologists out there today (i.e. James White, Jeff Durbin, Ray Comfort, Mark Spence, Eric Hovind, Neil Shenvi, Sye Ten Bruggenicate, Alisa Childers and the rest of the Mama Bears).  I think several from the above list would also appreciate McGrath’s self-described “winsome and welcome” approach while several others would be encouraged by mainstream evangelicals to give said approach a try, rather than the “clinically rational approaches … [which] lack imaginative depth and emotional intelligence (8).”  In other words, there are winsome, story-telling apologists and there are apologists.

McGrath argues that “A narrative approach to Christian apologetics does not displace other approaches” but rather “is best seen as supplementing other approaches (8).”  I might be able to buy that except for that he argues later that “Narrative acts as both the medium and the message in Christian apologetics (15).”  That makes for a rather exclusionary statement.  One that he follows with the claim that “demonstrating the reasonableness or truth of Christianity does not always lead people to embrace it (15).”  This is true and is clearly supported by numerous Scriptural texts (such as these found just thumbing through the first half of the Gospel of John– 3:11,12, 5:36-39, 8:45-47, 10:24-26, 12:39) none of which are cited by McGrath. His next statement however,  lacks the same force.  “Truth is no guarantor of relevance. Veracity is one thing–indeed, a good thing.  Existential traction, however, is something very different (16).”  Where McGrath errs is in citing as an example 3 true statements involving measured rainfall, the weight of gold, and a certain Nobel Prize nomination.  These, he argues, “may be true yet possess little, if any, relevance for human existence… while they might be interesting, none of them probably makes the slightest difference to anyone (15).”

McGrath is correct in his appraisal but wrong in his application.  The examples he uses are indeed true, but they are not what one would call Gospel Truths, or doctrine, which is exactly why they lack any “existential traction,” not because they are set outside the context of a winsome narrative, as McGrath suggests.  If McGrath is correct in his definition of apologetics as “depicting its world of beauty, goodness, and truth faithfully and vividly, so that people will be drawn by the richness and depth of its vision of things,” rather than the traditional definition of “persuading people that a certain set of ideas is right (18),” then I can see why his winsome narrative approach is so crucial.

The problem is, though I agree on one hand that the Bible itself is made up of said narrative, and that we actually are but players in this great drama of redemption, I disagree that the manner in which the story is relayed has the power in and of itself to produce transformation in one’s life.  Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel itself IS the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.  But effectual saving faith is a gift of God, not a natural response to a well told story (see Romans 10:20).  McGrath solves this difficulty by arguing that we need to “move away from the traditional believers-nonbelievers paradigm to a new seekers-dwellers paradigm (99).”  The book of Romans again proves problematic here for in the 11th verse of the third chapter we read, “no one understands; no one seeks for God.”  Which is why we have to be super careful in distinguishing an intellectual acquiescence to the truth, and true saving faith.

McGrath is honest enough to acknowledge this danger, pointing first to his own conversion, which he describes as “an intellectual conversion, lacking any emotional or affective dimension (28) and later Dorothy Sayers’ self-criticism.  “She at times wondered if she had fallen in love with the intellectual pattern that Christianity disclosed, rather than with the central character of that narrative (115).”  These two testimonials are almost reminiscent of that of the demons in James 2:19.  One has to applaud McGrath for pointing out this pitfall in any approach to Christian apologetics.

Since we’re already applauding, I might as well wrap things up.  The end of the story is this:  I was excited about reading this narrative approach to apologetics because I thought it would be an effective counter to the pragmatic, therapeutic, moralistic nonsense which has so weakened the church in my lifetime.  But in the end I was disappointed by the emphasis on seeker-sensitive methodology and lack of urgency for the bold proclamation of the Gospel to a hell-bound world.  That’s my narrative and here’s my rating:

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Shelf it. At least till I run out of space in the M’s.

Even though I was sent a free copy of this book from the publisher, I obviously wasn’t obligated to write a favorable review.

Tolle Lege: “The Physics of Heaven” and “The Story of The Cosmos”

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I’ve been working my way through these 2 science-y sounding books.  One is an inspiring scientific examination of the physical properties of the heavens and the other is a New Age fairytale.  Both claim the church needs to take something back from the world.  One claims that thing is the arts and sciences.  The other claims that thing is sorcery.   I want to talk about the former first. 

The Story of the Cosmos” is a fantastic compilation of beautifully written essays on astronomy and the glories of God as declared by the heavens.  The editor is the host of one of my favorite podcasts, “Good Heavens,” Daniel Ray, and the book reads much like their show (which I reviewed here).  Both the book and the show are casually conversational, scientifically informed, theologically sound, witty, eclectic, awe-inspiring, nerdy, and poetic all at the same time.  Each chapter is stand-alone and they cover a variety of topics such as how the glory of God is revealed in the cosmos, how that creative glory is also expressed through art and literature, and how the intricacies of the created cosmos point to the existence of a Creator. 

You don’t have to be a Phd to enjoy this book.  It’s completely digestible for the laymen interested in astronomy.  If a non-scientifically minded philosophy major like myself can grasp its key concepts, anyone can.  And if you’re still not convinced that it wouldn’t be over your head, just get it for the pictures.  The photos are numerous and stunning and will keep you thumbing through the book just to gaze at the glossies.  “The Story of The Cosmos” is definitely a book to be savored and shared.  Check out the fantastic youtube trailer by clicking here!

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Share it!

 

And then there’s the latter: an heretical New Age fairy tale called “The Physics of Heaven” put out by a number of influential leaders of Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding California, with contributions by “Apostle” Bill himself, his wife Pastor Beni, “Prophet” Kris Valletton and infamous guests like Bob Jones.  Folks, if you’ve heard about any of the questionable practices attributed to this signs and wonders movement, and wondered if they could possibly true, this book will not only confirm your worst fears, it will magnify them a thousand-fold.  And if you’re wondering how or why so many people can possibly buy into these lies just look at the kinds of things they are promised if they do.  Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve learned from this book so far:

  1. If you are a seer, you can join a Holy Spirit think tank and emerge with new perspectives never before pondered (from the forward by Kris Valletton, Prophet of Bethel Church)
  2. You can be transformed by the new sound which will be released from heaven.  If you receive and embrace the new insights and revelations about sound you can finally become the child of God creation has been waiting for (pgs 2,3).
  3. You can literally move mountains because you have the zero-point field within you and around you which is sustained by an underlying sea of quantum light (pgs 5-7).
  4. You can do even greater works than Jesus including living longer.  You should live to at least 70 or 80.  If a child gets cancer you can tell that cancer to leave because children are not meant to die early (p8).
  5. According to Bob Jones, some people are given special shields or badges with the number 341 on them which authorizes them to do healings, holy confiscations, prayer, petitioning, teaching and ushering in prosperity —which will be transferred from one group to another (pgs 21,22).
  6. You can smell God’s breathe.  And it smells like apples (p23).
  7. Vibrations are open portals to heaven.  You can find 300 in the Old Testament and 28 in the New Testament (p24). 
  8. Your genetics are the same as God’s were and you can change your DNA through the new sound that is coming in our praise (p25).
  9. You can reclaim or recover realms of anointing, mantles, revelation, mysteries, insights and realms of God that were left by the dead (pgs 30,31).
  10. You can reclaim the following practices which have been stolen from the church by the New Age movement:  spirit guides, trances, meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyances, and clairaudience and more (p 49).
  11. Through the mysteries of sound, color, light, vibrations, and energy, you can carry energy that has the force or power to empower others to do things like move deeper into God or take trips to heaven (p 53).
  12. You can sense the unseen and unheard through vibrational frequencies found in nature such as crystals and essential oils (p 62).

Oh dear, I really wanted to get in one more but that would be number 13 and I’ve heard that’s an unlucky number. It produces all kinds of bad vibrations (whatever those are), so I better stop and pick up with number 14 next time.  That’s right folks.  There’s more.  I’m only a third of the way through the book 😦  But just in case you’ve heard enough and have no interest in reading another post on the subject you can just take my advice regarding “The Physics of Heaven” and shred it.

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Shred it.

Tolle Lege: Mama Bear Apologetics by Hillary Morgan Ferrer

A couple weeks ago I was cleaning out a closet while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “Mama Bear Apologetics,” as they discussed their new book by the same title.  Listening to them talk, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that book.  Their motto, “You mess with our kids, we’ll demolish your arguments” resonated deeply with this former-philosophy-major-now-mother-of-5.  When they called on us to “rise up, Mama Bears” I could just feel that inner roar welling up.  But then I spotted a mouse in the back of the closet and ran screaming out of the house.

My middle-son, Nathan, came out to see what was wrong and from across the yard (I really had run that far) I warned him about the dreadful creature inhabiting the closet.  Nate disappeared back into the house and a minute later returned holding a pellet gun in one hand with the lifeless form of the perpetrator dangling by its tail in the other.  Not my proudest Mama Bear moment. 

After re-establishing the “no shooting guns in the house” rule, I finished the closet (actually I had Nate pull everything else from the back of it, just in case), and immediately ordered the book.  Here’s why I think every mom needs to do the same.

Mice are in the house.  They creep in unbeknownst to us, take up residence, and reproduce at an alarming rate.  They chew away at the fabric of our minds and leave their filth in every corner.  They are the ideas which Paul calls us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to trap, take captive and conform to Christ.  Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies” edited by head Mama Bear herself, Hillary Morgan Ferrer, will help moms shine the light of truth into the cluttered closets of young minds and identify intruders. 

Each chapter is authored by a different Mama Bear and focuses on a particular ideology, such as Naturalism, Skepticism, Moral Relativism, Marxism, Feminism etc…  Rebekah Valerius in her chapter called “The Truth Is, There Is No Truth” discusses how sneaky an intruder mindsets like post-modernism can be.  Parents think they’re “helping their children build on a foundation of truth” but all the while the children are reinterpreting it, not as THE truth, but rather YOUR truth.  Which is fine until you “claim that your truth should be theirs—then you’ll have pushback.”  She continues,

“Postmodern principles are insidious in that way.  They are like viruses that lay dormant for years.  We may not even know our kids are infected until it is too late.  That is why we need to expose the lies early and show how a postmodern mindset leads to chaos, not freedom” (139).

It’s like that mouse quietly making its home in the back of my closet, getting all nice and fat with my pantry supplies, wreaking havoc in my forgotten linens until one day I’m surprised into flight by its presence.  Thankfully my cub at least had the presence of mind to put his tools into use to demolish it himself.

Oh, and lest you think that by sheltering your kids in the church and Christian schools they will somehow avoid dangerous ideologies like these, Alisa Childers has an excellent chapter on how unbiblical thinking has invaded even the church.  New Age Spirituality, Social Justice Marxism, Self-Helpism, Feminism, Emotionalism have all made themselves quite at home in Christian closets, propagated by Christian speakers, writers, music, social-media etc… 

Identifying and rooting out these ideologies can be a daunting task.  It’s like standing in front of that long-neglected, cluttered up closet and not even wanting to open the door.  Who knows what’s lurking there in the dark.  

But that’s why this book is so great.  Using the acrostic “R.O.A.R.” it will help moms Recognize the massage, Offer discernment (“affirm the good and reject the bad”), Argue for a healthier approach, and Reinforce through discussion, discipleship, and prayer (54).

The Mama Bears have finally built a better mousetrap.

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You can visit their website here

Rebekah Valerius also blogs here

I also listen to Alisa Childers’ podcast here