Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver, Reviews

God’s Undertaker (Book Review)

By Weylan Deaver

Richard Dawkins, irascible critic of the Creator, says “I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion” (p. 8). He would like nothing better than to banish theism and religion to the ash heap of historically bad ideas. But, has science buried God? That question is the subtitle of God’s Undertaker, a Lion Hudson book penned by John C. Lennox. With three doctorates, Lennox is a mathematics professor at Oxford and a philosopher of science at Green Templeton College. His twelve chapters are a volley of withering fire against pseudo-science masquerading as the real thing.

Is a Dawkins an atheist because of the evidence, or because of a worldview, not founded on science, which he carries with him to the microscope? Lennox’s thesis is that real science actually points toward an intelligent Designer. That some scientists are so vehemently opposed to God speaks more to their unscientific prejudice and presuppositions than it says about God. The degree of atheistic animosity toward theism is itself a curiosity to Lennox, begging investigation why, if God were fiction, anyone should hate Him so. Lennox gives the much needed reminders that “Statements by scientists are not necessarily statements of science” (p. 19) and “you cannot deduce a worldview from a science” (p. 121). Worldviews are not mixed in a test tube; they originate outside science, but end up influencing the conclusions of scientists.

Lennox claims the biblical worldview, grounded in the ancient Hebrews’ concept of a single, omnipotent Creator has done more to advance science than any contribution from the ancient Greeks. Far from stopping scientific investigation, it was belief in an orderly universe created by God which initially propelled the discipline. Theism gave science its beginning; atheism gives science a black eye.

Lennox takes evolutionary theory to task, pointing out there is an “edge to evolution,” beyond which it cannot go. This is why small changes within species are observed (i.e. microevolution), but evolution across species (macroevolution) has never been observed, much less duplicated by science. Gaps in the fossil record tell an embarrassing tale too often buried as science’s dirty secret.

Further, as science is able to see increasingly on a microscopic level, it is becoming more difficult to argue against design in the universe. Lennox discusses the marvel of DNA from a scientific and mathematic perspective, adding up facts that make it impossible for life to have arisen on the basis of mindless chance. And, as information theory begins to blossom, he draws a striking point on the biblical teaching that, prior to the incarnation, Jesus existed as the “Word” of God. Information is real, but not physical. And there is nothing anti-science in recognizing divinely-put information in a cell, which gives design to an organism (especially when evidence points to the impossibility of its being undesigned).

Rejecting the popular concept that faith is not evidence-based, Lennox gives a cutting edge, refresher course on why we need not bow to brash scientists who overreach into metaphysics and stake claims far too weighty for science to bear. The last chapter is a devastating critique of David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher who did much to destroy belief in biblical miracles.

Lennox is an engaging writer, pulling the rug from under atheism with true British courtesy. But his kindness does not disguise the tatters in which he leaves materialism. His final two sentences are worth the book’s price: “Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second” (p. 210).

[This review was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Sufficient Evidence (pp. 56-58), the journal of the Warren Christian Apologetics Center.]

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Reviews

Book Review: The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians

By Weylan Deaver

[Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of Sufficient Evidence, the journal of the Warren Christian Apologetics Center].

The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians. By Thomas B. Warren. Glasgow, KY: National Christian Press, 1986. 217 pp.

Thomas B. Warren was a premier Christian philosopher of the twentieth century, and his influence in apologetics is still felt. More than a theologian and philosopher, he was a gospel preacher. And what happened when he turned his logician’s mind to the subject of the church was a book titled The Bible Only Makes Christians Only and the Only Christians.

In this case, the title really does say it all, and serves as the book’s central thesis. Its focus is neither the existence of God, nor the deity of Christ, but, rather, an all-out defense of the uniqueness of the Lord’s church. It is an honor to review, in part because my grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, is one of the preachers to whom the book is dedicated.

As an accomplished debater, Warren knew the power of precision. His terms and propositions are sharply defined. His arguments are cogent and unambiguous. With a rare combination of facts, force and feeling, Warren demonstrates concern for souls while marshaling the muscle of Scripture to wield his thesis with the subtlety of a sledge-hammer. Those used to hearing anemic religious claims may be shocked at his vigorous writing, ignited by his understanding of just how high the stakes are: Every reader will spend eternity in heaven or hell, based on his relationship to the church of the New Testament. Warren wrote to win souls, not to entertain.

The book is composed of eleven parts which are divided into thirty-seven brief chapters. It ranges over epistemology, ecclesiology and soteriology. Firing both barrels at the denominational concept of the church, Warren leaves it unable to give more than a dying gasp. With an arsenal of logic and hermeneutics, he operates as a biblical surgeon, severing denominational from divine doctrine, cutting away the cancer of religious creeds, exposing the healthy tissue of a body nourished by Jesus’ blood because it is governed by naught but the simple New Testament.

Warren did not intend his thesis be refuted, and this affects the style with which he wrote. His arguments and analysis benefit from verbal precision, repetition, and the inclusion of numerous Scripture citations. Those same qualities can also be tedious (chapter 35 repeats much of chapter 26), but, in this case, with Warren treating a topic so vital to us all, we affirm unhesitatingly that the tedium is worth the trouble. This is not light reading before bedtime. Nor is it for the spiritually spineless who cannot abide the staunch claims of Scripture. But, for the reader truly interested in discovering or defending the church about which the apostles preached, then this book is a veritable tour de force on the composition and uncompromising stance of the church of Christ. Those who agree with Warren will applaud his contribution. Those who disagree will find precious little with which to defend themselves against the relentless case he builds. None will have difficulty seeing exactly where he stands.

Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver, Reviews

The End of Christianity (Book Review)

By Weylan Deaver

The End of Christianity, by William A. Dembski, was published in 2009 by B&H Publishing Group. Dembski is Research Professor in Culture and Science at Southern Evangelical Seminary and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. As both a philosopher and mathematician, he is on the front lines of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement among scientists. His list of credentials and accomplishments impresses. With postdoctoral work at MIT, University of Chicago, and Princeton, Dembski has written over a dozen books, appeared on ABC News Nightline, BBC, CNN, PBS, NPR, and Fox News, and been cited by The New York Times and Time Magazine. He was interviewed for the Ben Stein documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

The book’s subtitle is “Finding a Good God in an Evil World,” and it is a theodicy, attempting to demonstrate that God’s goodness is compatible with the existence of evil on earth, or, in other words, “to resolve how a good God and an evil world can coexist” (p. 4). Divided into five sections, it contains twenty-four chapters and 238 pages, including introduction and various indices.

More than mere theodicy, Dembski’s goal is to outline a specifically Christian theodicy that defends three particular claims: “God by wisdom created the world out of nothing…God exercises particular providence in the world…All evil in the world ultimately traces back to human sin” (p. 8).

The eye-catching title has nothing to do with Christianity’s demise, but, rather, its effect. “The end of Christianity, as envisioned in this book, is the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world” (p. 11).

One might suspect an author trained in mathematics and philosophy should not be the most interesting to read, but Dembski is no dull writer. He excels at casting deep theological and philosophical truths in easy-to-understand, creative, and thought-provoking ways, perhaps even reminiscent of C. S. Lewis.

The initial four chapters treat the topic of evil, and Dembski offers many keen insights. In the face of critics who say Jesus could not fully identify with human suffering, Dembski defends the Cross as far more than the Lord taking a few hours of pain. “In particular, Christ on the Cross identifies with the whole of human suffering, and this includes the ignorance and uncertainty that intensify human suffering” (p. 20). “The extent to which we can love God depends on the extent to which God has demonstrated his love for us, and that depends on the extent of evil that God has had to absorb, suffer, and overcome on our behalf” (p. 23).

Humans are to blame for both the presence of personal sin (i.e. disobedience to God), and the existence of natural evil (e.g. floods, disease, animal suffering, etc.). Says Dembski, “We started a fire in consenting to evil. God permits this fire to rage. He grants this permission not so that he can be a big hero when he rescues us but so that we can rightly understand the human condition and thus come to our senses” (p. 26). Sin forced souls into a state of disorder, which, in turn, came to be reflected in nature (p. 28). The evil and disorder apparent in nature are designed to impress people with the magnitude of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Thus, “humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God” (p. 44). It is not that we serve a petty God who holds grudges, but, rather, that we must come to terms with the seriousness and consequences of human sin. “The problem isn’t that God can’t take it but that we can’t take it—in offending God, we ruin the image of God in ourselves and so lose our true self” (p. 45).

Chapters 5-9 deal with creationism from a young-earth and an old-earth perspective. “God gave humanity two primary sources of revelation about himself: the world that he created and the Scripture that he inspired. These are also known as general and special revelation, or sometimes as the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture…We study science to understand the first of these books, theology to understand the second” (p. 71). Further, “God is a God of truth. As the author of both books, he does not contradict himself” (p. 72).

Admitting that “Young-earth creationism was the dominant position of Christians from the Church Fathers through the Reformers” (p. 52), Dembski says he “would adopt it in a heartbeat except that nature seems to present such strong evidence against it” (p. 55). He sees a problem in that today astrophysics and geology posit an age of 13 billion years for the universe, 4.5 billion years for the earth. This model results in a world where animals predated humans by eons, and in which this animal planet was suffering the effects of natural evil. In other words, according to the current climate of accepted science, long before man arrived there were animals eating each other, dying slow deaths, suffering from parasites, drowning, falling in tar pits, etc. If humans are responsible for the existence of all evil on earth, then how could such evil exist before there were humans? The answer to that question is the gist of the book. More on that in a minute.

Young-earth creationists have no dilemma in which the need arises to account for evil before man, since everything was created in the span of six 24-hour days. But Dembski thinks this cannot—at least in the current scientific atmosphere—be made to harmonize with accepted facts of geology and astrophysics. “Christians, it seems, must therefore choose their poison. They can go with a young earth, thereby maintaining theological orthodoxy but committing scientific heresy; or they can go with an old earth, thereby committing theological heresy but maintaining scientific orthodoxy” (p. 77).

Taking young-earth creationists to task, Dembski accuses them of adopting a double standard, appealing to nature’s constancy when it helps their case, and denying nature’s constancy when it appears to hurt (p. 63). According to him, “Young-earth creationists, it would seem, hold to a recent creation not because of but in spite of the scientific evidence” (p. 70).

Chapters 10-15 are about divine creation and action. Writing on the creation week, he notes, “At the end of the six days of creation, God is exhausted—not fatigued, as we might be, but exhausted in the sense of having drawn out of himself everything needed for the creature to be what it was intended to be” (p. 99). However, Dembski does not take the days of Genesis 1 to be 24-hour days, which brings us to his unique solution.

Chapters 16-20 cover what he calls retroactive effects of the Fall. If, as Christians believe, the efficacy of Christ’s blood at the Cross could flow backward in time, as well as forward, then why not also the detrimental effects of original sin? Because God is not bound by chronological time, he could engineer the world to account for sin’s consequences, and allow those consequences to begin to play out long before Adam and Eve (who were the reason for sin’s consequences) appeared in the Garden of Eden. This intriguing suggestion would allow for an old earth, in which animals and natural evil existed long before humans. Evolution’s timetable could fit nicely, and even evolution itself since, as Dembski suggests, it is possible that part of sin’s result is that God had man evolve from lower forms, not because it was the original plan, but because evolution would itself be a form of evil brought on by man’s sin in the Garden, with God initiating evolution long before the Garden as a response to Adam’s sin (which was yet to be committed, chronologically speaking).

As he puts it, “in the theodicy I am proposing, our evolutionary past would itself be a consequence of sin (i.e., evolution would be a retroactive effect of the Fall)” (p. 162). Remember, Dembski is not saying we got here by evolution, but he is saying that, with his proposal, theistic evolution is welcome at the table, along with old-earth creationism (with young-earth creationism seemingly the odd-man-out).

It’s a bit of a mind-twister to think about this idea, somewhat akin to figuring out a time-travel plot in a science fiction movie. Writes Dembski, “God is under no compulsion merely to rewrite the future of the world from the moment of the Fall (as assumed by young-earth creationism). Rather, God can rewrite our story while it is being performed and even change the entire backdrop against which it is performed—that includes past, present, and future…In other words, the effects of the Fall can be retroactive” (p. 110). So, in a nutshell, natural evil is chronologically prior to man, but man is logically prior to natural evil.

This proposed solution harmonizes modern scientific belief about the age of the earth with the biblical account of the Fall, thus preserving the doctrine that all evil on earth traces back to man’s sin, which is the third plank in Dembski’s theodicy. And this, even though the beginning of evil on earth predates the arrival of man. “Young-earth creationism attempts to make natural history match up with the order of creation point for point. By contrast, divine anticipation—the ability of God to act upon events before they happen—suggests that natural history need not match up so precisely with the order of creation…” (p. 137).

But, if he is right, what about the creation account of Genesis 1? Dembski does not want to deny a literal interpretation of Genesis, nor does he want to suggest the day-age theory. He says, “Accordingly, the days of creation are neither exact 24-hour days nor epochs in natural history nor even a literary device. Rather, they are actual (literal!) episodes in the divine creative activity” (p. 142). But if the days are not days as we normally think of days, what are they? “They represent key divisions in the divine order of creation, with one episode building logically on its predecessor. As a consequence, their description as chronological days falls under the common scriptural practice of employing physical realities to illuminate spiritual truths (cf. John 3:12)” (ibid.).

The days of Genesis 1 are, thus, to be taken literally, but not as composed of either hours or eons of time. Rather, they describe chapters of activity by a God unconstrained by chronologic time. Chapter 16 is titled “Chronos and Kairos,” taken from two New Testament Greek words, and Dembski uses them to distinguish between two concepts of time. “The visible realm thus operates according to chronos, the simple passage of time. But the invisible realm, in which God resides, operates according to kairos, the ordering of reality according to divine purposes” (p. 126). Again, “Chronos is the time of physics, and physics has only been around as long as the cosmos. But kairos is God’s time, and God has been around forever” (ibid.). “Thus God responds to the Fall by acting not simply after it, as held by young-earth creationism, but also by acting before it” (ibid.).

So, the world we inhabit—affected as it is by sin—is greatly marred, for “God himself wills the disordering of creation, making it defective on purpose” (p. 145, emph. his). But why should the earth and animals suffer the effects of human sin? “The broad principle that justifies linking human sin and natural evil is humanity’s covenant headship in creation” (p. 147). Since man is creation’s apex, God holds man responsible for the results of his sin on himself, as well as the world. “God’s dealings with creation therefore parallel his dealings with humanity” (ibid.).

Refusing to question God’s justice in allowing nature to suffer for human sin, Dembski turns it around to suggest it would be unjust if God were to allow man to sin without its consequences coming down on nature. “Sin has ignited a raging fire in our hearts. God uses natural evil to fight fire with fire, setting a comparatively smaller fire (natural evil) to control a much larger fire (personal evil)” (p. 148).

The last part of the book, chapters 21-24, attempt to tie up “Loose Ends.” Dembski freely admits that “the present theodicy attempts to make peace between our understanding of Genesis and the current mental environment” (p. 170). The “mental environment” to which he refers is the current conception of a universe that began billions of years ago with a Big Bang.

It is important to note that Dembski himself is not an evolutionist. And, as stated, he is a leader in the field among those in academia subscribing to Intelligent Design. Nor does he deny the verbal inspiration of Scripture. We appreciate his effort to defend God, Christ, the Cross, and the Genesis account of the Fall, as well as the existence and nature of evil. And, to his credit, Dembski rejects process theology, which reduces God’s infinity in order to account for the existence of evil (making God himself an evolving, and in some ways helpless, being). Dembski believes in and defends the God of Scripture.

Thus, it is disappointing to see young-earth creationism endure a broadside (albeit a sympathetic broadside) from this proponent of Intelligent Design. Disappointment continues when Dembski writes, “Noah’s flood, though presented as a global event, is probably best understood as historically rooted in a local event (e.g., a catastrophic flood in the Middle East)” (p. 170).

Though this review, in the main, describes a thesis of Dembski’s with which we disagree, he does offer helpful insights and thought-provoking analyses, especially in Part I (“Dealing With Evil”) and Part III (“Divine Creation and Action”). Among many of note who praise the book, Douglas Groothuis, philosophy professor at Denver Seminary, writes, “Dembski’s ingenious approach to explaining natural evil (particularly animal pain and death before the fall) will not convince everyone, but all who read it will benefit from a mind crackling with intelligence, insight, and expertise.”

In the final analysis, we think Dembski goes too far in an effort to accommodate what parades under the rubric of modern science. His “kairological” interpretation of the Genesis creation account loads the text with more meaning than the language can bear (e.g. “the evening and the morning were the first day…the second day…the third day,” etc.), giving rise to this question: If God had wanted to convey the idea of his having created the earth in six 24-hour days, how might God have written that?

Further, Dembski’s proposed retroactive effects of the Fall (and even making room for the evolutionary timetable) does violence to the understanding of Bible believers across the centuries. Are we to think that truths as fundamental as the origin of man and earth were necessarily misunderstood by Christians until the advent of modern geology and astrophysics?

We’ll continue to occupy and defend our acre where evolutionary theory is untenable, unwelcome, and unable to be harmonized with Genesis. If it comes to a duel between science (or, what passes for science) and Scripture, we defer to the apostle Paul’s timeless principle, “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). God is the God of true science, and of all knowledge. All truth (i.e. whatever accords with reality) harmonizes with all Scripture (since all Scripture is, itself, true).

But science does not know everything it says it knows. And it is difficult to read some of Paul’s statements without the hubris of modern science springing to mind: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:19-20). “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Tim. 6:20).

 

Posted in By J. Randal Matheny, Reviews

A smarter way to social networking

By J. Randal Matheny

The options for interaction on the Internet grow by the hour, it seems. Servants of God want to be good stewards of their time and energies. They ought to be, as Jesus said, “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16 NET). These two qualities invite the disciple of Christ to evaluate his actions, make the best choices within his situation, and, within the context of Matthew 10, use all at his disposal for the mission given to the church.

This principle applies to such supposedly mundane things as one’s choice of social media.

One social networking option flying under the radar until recently deserves consideration as an already stable platform with a wide range of options, applications, plug-ins, and possibilities for opening up the Internet.

Friendica provides secure communications protocols for sharing with friends and contacts across the Internet. As the main website says, “Friendica is decentralised, open source, secure, private, modular, extensible, unincorporated, and federated.”

Three of these are mentioned for clarification, then four major advantages for users in general and for those interested in social networking for the gospel.

  • Open source: Any user can install his own instance, as its called, on one’s own server, either for oneself or just for friends or for the general public. It’s not a commercial product, so no one is trying to make money from users, which means it’s free of advertising. The level of complexity for installation is about the same as the WordPress software.
  • Federated: There is not a single website for Friendica, but a group of sites wherever people decide to install it. They can connect across the Internet among themselves and with other services. The user is not limited to a specific site on the web. This is an amazing advantage.
  • Extensible: A large group of volunteers constantly contributes new applications and plug-ins. Already nearly a dozen interface languages are supported and more are in the works.

What do these characteristics mean for users?

#1. Time-saver

Christians seek to use their time wisely and take every advantage of opportunities. This wisdom is practiced, in part, Paul says, by “making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16 ESV). Therefore, tools that contribute to the best use of time may certainly be welcomed by God’s people.

As one of those tools, Friendica can post to and interact with services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous, LiveJournal, and WordPress. It is a federated network, meaning it can communicate across the Internet with services called “walled gardens,” that is, normally closed to interaction with other services.

As well, Friendica interfaces well with other open-source efforts such as Diaspora and StatusNet (like identi.ca).

With such possibilities of communicating, one can concentrate most of one’s Internet activity in a single place. That is a major time-saver.

With Friendica one can even send posts to people who use only email, through connection with one’s email server. A development is near completion to allow people to subscribe to public posts by email as well. No one, then, is beyond reach.

A user can insert RSS feeds into his stream as well. RSS allows one to follow websites, forums, and discussion groups that provide the feed.

Most of what one needs from the Internet is brought together in a single place and can be distributed from a single source. Such convenience means saving lots of time.

#2. Security

Important records are guarded under lock and key. Counselors know the importance of respecting client confidentiality. While Christians are to be examples to the world in their conduct (the open-book analogy), some information and data should be protected as a measure of responsibility to others as well. Integrity means sharing with others what should be shared and withholding what will not edify.

Facebook talks about security, but it has been demonstrated that images which the user marks as private actually have a publicly accessible URI. Services like Facebook and Google evaluate the user’s activity in order to refine their advertising targets and sell user data to advertisers. Facebook has had serious security leaks of user information as well.

Friendica uses military-grade security features both to protect posts within an installation and to insure security when data is transmitted outside to other sites and services.

#3. Freedom

Freedom is an important concept in the Way (cf. John 8:32; Gal. 5:1). It keeps one from being bound by others’ demands, while allowing the Christian to limit himself in ways that will further the kingdom of God. Social media that preserves that freedom would seem to contribute to a better social experience and serve spiritual purposes.

Friendica is free in several ways that commercial services are not. First, there is no cost, neither in monetary terms nor in privacy. Facebook, for example, is not free, for the price one pays is to be the subject of scrutiny in one’s habits and content and the target of advertising.

Second, there are no restrictions on one’s data. Content belongs to the user, who can manipulate it at will. It can be downloaded from the instance where it is hosted, deleted, edited, shared publicly, privately, or not at all. User content is not a commodity, but under the user’s full control.

#4. Privacy

While privacy as such is not a biblical topic, respect for one’s own faith before God, exercised between oneself and the Lord, and for another’s faith overlaps with this concept. In the question of matters of opinion, Paul taught that one’s faith is held between oneself and the Lord. “Before his own master he stands or falls” (Romans 14:4 NET).

There are moments when corrections are to be made in public (1 Tim. 5:20), but we also see Aquila and Priscilla taking Apollo aside privately to teach him further (Acts 18:26).

Friendica allows the user to fine-tune who can access and read content, as well as protect the transmission of data to other services. In a litigious society today, one must take care with what information about others is shared. Prayer requests, for example, may not be publicly appropriate, depending on what is revealed about a person.

For that, Friendica has a full range of options, for groups, community pages, and forums, through which a message’s level of privacy can be defined with precision. Further, one can be sure that those privacy options, once determined, will not be changed, as has happened on sites like Facebook.

A satisfied user

My comments are made as a recent, satisfied user of Friendica. I’m not a contributor to the software nor do I benefit in any way from this article, other than the satisfaction of sharing what has quickly become for me a highly useful tool in my ministry.

I’ve tried most of the social networking services available, have used many of them rather intensely, and migrated recently to Friendica. From what I’ve seen so far, I will not soon leave it.

Randal can be found on Friendica here or as randal@myfriendica.net. See his blog post on “How to get started with Friendica in 7 small easy steps.

Posted in By John Henson, Reviews

Ascertaining

By John Henson

I don’t write recommendations for books, or do book reviews, but let me tell you a little about my favorite book.

Big things come in small packages, and this little book has been one I have treasured and loved almost as much as I do the Bible, for it helped clear many things concerning Bible authority since I first bought it in 1987. It has helped me understand that people need to understand what faith really is. And how people must “walk by faith,” for many really don’t know what that means or how to do it.

The book is Roy Deaver’s Ascertaining Bible Authority. I’ve highlighted in it, memorized much of it, and almost torn the book from its cover by use.

Why is it one of my favorites? Let me give you just part of the first chapter on page two: “Christians are obligated (and privileged) to ‘walk by faith’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). The standard by which the Christian is governed is the standard of faith. In Romans 10:17, Paul declares that ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ Obviously, then, the Christian walks by that which comes by hearing the word of God. If faith comes by hearing the word of God, then where there is no word of God there can be no faith.”

Think about it. Whenever the Bible talks about anyone having faith, that faith must have come from hearing God’s word. Bro. Deaver said that since we know this to be true, then “it becomes imperative that we be concerned about Bible authority, and how to ascertain Bible authority.”

The religious world stands apart from this, and it is one of the things Satan would love to convince us is unimportant. Satan works unceasingly to deny that Bible authority matters. He works day and night to convince people that God’s word is not the standard of authority ― in fact he denies there is any standard whatever ― and he works to confuse people, telling them they needn’t have any concern about how to interpret and use God’s word.

And, this is why this is one of my favorite books. This book deals with all of Satan’s attacks on Bible authority. If an honest person reads his Bible and this little book, there is no doubt that person can come to an understanding of the truth and be saved from sin. ‘Nuff said.

 

[Note: For book ordering info, email wdeaver[at]gmail.com].

Posted in By Marlin Kilpatrick, Reviews

My Impressions of the Deaver-Vick Debate

By Marlin Kilpatrick

It was my privilege to attend the Deaver-Vick Debate. The debate was conducted October 24-27, 2011, in the building of the church of Christ on Shelbyville Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. Brother Ben Vick is the preacher and an elder in the church at Shelbyville Road, while Mac Deaver is the preacher and an elder in the church of Christ, Sheffield, Texas. Both debaters utilized PowerPoint presentations of their respective materials. The proposition the first two nights read, “The scriptures teach that Holy Spirit baptism has ceased and is no longer in the church today.” Vick affirmed the proposition and Deaver denied it. Each debater had three (3) twenty (20) minute speeches, each evening. Brother Holger Neubaur served as Chairman for the debate and as brother Vick’s Moderator. Brother Weylan Deaver served as brother Deaver’s Moderator.

As a debater, I believe brother Vick is a capable advocate. He is not as experienced on the polemic platform as is brother Deaver, but he did a commendable work in presenting his material. Vick followed the usual line of reasoning, claiming that only the apostles and Cornelius’ household and near friends received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He claimed that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a miracle and since the miraculous has ceased, then Holy Spirit baptism has ceased. In response brother Deaver pointed out that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was not a miracle and, if it is, then every conversion today is a miracle. In my opinion, brother Deaver answered every point brother Vick made. Brother Deaver also pointed out that Vick’s duty as an affirmative speaker was to present a sound argument the conclusion of which proved that Holy Spirit baptism has ceased. It appeared to me that brother Vick had difficulty with understanding the nature of an “argument.” He often asserted certain things about certain scriptures, but assertion alone is not an argument, which Deaver called to Vick’s attention. When brother Vick finally presented four (4) or five (5) arguments in syllogistic form, Deaver pointed out that his first argument was unsound, as its minor premise was false. Each of Vick’s syllogisms was based upon the claim that Holy Spirit baptism was a miracle. So, when Deaver answered the first argument he had, in effect, answered each of the remaining arguments.

The last two nights of the debate involved the proposition which read: “The scriptures teach that when a person becomes a Christian he is baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit.” Now, the order was reversed with brother Deaver in the affirmative and brother Vick in the negative.

In his first affirmative speech brother Deaver reminded Vick and the audience that Vick, while in the affirmative, had six (6) speeches in which he failed to present a sound argument to prove his proposition, therefore he had failed in the debate. Deaver then proceeded to present several sound arguments to prove his proposition. Interestingly, brother Vick did not attempt to answer Deaver’s arguments. Instead, he continued to present more affirmative material and question some of Deaver’s conclusions, but as far as dismantling brother Deaver’s arguments by showing that their form was invalid or that either one or both of the premises were false, this Vick never attempted. Evidently, brother Vick was feeling the pressure of the debate when he claimed that the sinner’s nature is changed at the point of repentance. Deaver pointed out how he doubted that brother Vick really believes that and he likely had never made such a statement in his life, until the debate. Vick also claimed that the sinner receives forgiveness of his sins after he comes out of the water, instead of while in the baptismal water. Brother Deaver pointed out several problems with such a conclusion, to which Vick never adequately responded.

Overall, I believe the debate was a good debate. In my opinion Vick was feeling the pressure of Deaver’s arguments, and this led to him hurting his cause by referring to brother Deaver as a “half-baked Pentecostal.” He also claimed that Deaver is a Calvinist. Deaver countered by presenting a chart, enumerating the main tenets of Calvinism which he denied believing. He also pointed out that he had been scheduled to debate a real Calvinist, but, just two or three days before the debate was to begin, his opponent withdrew from the debate! In my judgment, brother Deaver was more calm and deliberate in his presentations. I also believe he was very able in proving the truthfulness of his proposition.

The debate was well attended. The audience was very courteous in listening to both debaters. The attendance the last two nights was somewhat less that the first two evenings; perhaps the rainy weather and cool temperatures played a role in the decreased attendance. The debate was also watched by several hundred people over the Internet; this, also, may have caused less attendance the last two nights.

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Reviews

Two Mints In One

By Weylan Deaver

At the recently concluded Deaver-Vick Debate in Indianapolis (October 2011, archived here), Mac Deaver affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that when a person becomes a Christian he is baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit.” Deaver made the case for a single baptism, consisting of two elements, in harmony with Jesus’ statement in John 3:5 that kingdom entry is on the basis of being “born of water and the Spirit.”

Listeners to the debate repeatedly heard Ben Vick belittle Deaver’s position with an appeal to an old slogan for Certs breath mints: “Two, two, two mints in one!” One might think that a discussion centering on the Holy Spirit—a person of the Godhead—might be treated with more dignity than afforded by a Certs commercial. But brother Vick thought it appropriate. In fact, on the final evening, he even began his first negative speech by trying to play a video clip of a real Certs commercial. To some, the embarrassment of his effort was compounded by his technical problems in getting the clip to play before the audience (Vick even called for his time to be held while his helper tried to get the situation sorted on his computer). Finally, the audience got to see the clip play and hear the Certs catchphrase: “Two mints in one!”

What was the point? Well, brother Vick’s accusation was that Deaver was trying to do the impossible by taking immersion in water and immersion in Spirit and combining them into a single baptism. So, Vick made a joke out of it by repeating the Certs expression. This, in spite of the fact Deaver proved that Scripture speaks of two bodies becoming one body (1 Cor. 6:16), and of two spirits becoming one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Therefore, there is biblical precedent, with inspired language indicating that a plurality can form a singularity. And, if God talks about it that way, who are we to contradict him? A baptism in the physical element of water and the metaphysical element of Holy Spirit can be called “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5, resulting in a person’s being “born of water and Spirit.” But Deaver’s point (along with many others) seemed completely lost on Vick, who continued to make light of the concept that two could really be one.

Which leads to this interesting question. What if the Certs commercial were turned back on brother Vick, and he were asked this question: “True or False: An individual Cert is a single mint.” What would Vick say? He could not answer “false” without showing himself ridiculous. But, he could not answer “true” without seeming to admit the very premise he fought so hard against (i.e. that two elements could be combined in one event). How thick the irony, that brother Vick’s slogan, designed to disparage Deaver’s position, should, in reality, go to demonstrate the very point Deaver was making.

Two mints in one? Absolutely.

Posted in By Ron Thomas, Reviews

Impressions from the Deaver-Vick Debate

By Ron Thomas

The remarks below are simply impressions, nothing more. I am sure that others have an entirely different impression of the debate. Below, I have three primary paragraphs: 1. Style, 2. Substance, 3. A final word. I was present for two nights (Monday and Thursday). For the Tuesday and Wednesday presentations, I watched it online (now archived here).

With regard to style, it must be said that “style” gains no points of substance in a discussion like these two men were engaged in. However, it does convey (to me anyhow) the comfort one has going in with (1) the occasion, (2) material. I thought both men carried themselves reasonably well. Of the two, Mac Deaver was more polished, but that is not to say that Ben Vick was bad. In fact, as I interpreted their mannerisms, both looked relaxed, engaged, and capable of presenting their position and countering the other’s. I was especially struck by Mac’s disposition and methodology throughout. Ben was erratic, but don’t let this word give you the sense that he did not know what he was doing, or even how. It’s just that there were more “starts and stops” with him than with Mac, who appeared much more fluid.

With regard to substance, Ben seemed to speak a bit about Mac’s insistence at his (Ben’s) lack of offering a logical argument for his position (the first two nights). Ben denied that he had failed to do so, and when he did ultimately offer one, Mac negated one of the premises of Ben’s argument by stating that Ben did not prove the premise correct, but only asserted it; thus it was an unsound argument (though valid in form). When Mac was in the affirmative, he quickly set out his arguments (Wednesday) and took time to prove each one of his premises which warranted the conclusion Mac presented to the debate audience. Ben did not address a single one, though he made an attempt on the last night of the debate (though it was not much).

One final word, I noticed throughout the debate what I thought were some unfortunate remarks by Ben. Though he complained that Mac was condescending (something I did not detect at all), it was actually Ben who made a few remarks that I thought were a bit disparaging. Those things happen, and I would have dismissed it if it would not have been for Ben’s last speech Thursday evening. There is only one word that I would use – pitiful! It was condescending, belittling, and entirely useless for the occasion. It appeared to me that Ben wanted to go out as a “dragon-slayer,” and he wanted to be in the negative for exactly this reason. Moreover, it also appeared to me, that Ben wanted his “faithful brethren” to know (with this last speech) that he stood with the “truth” and opposed a “false teacher.” Yes, it appeared that Ben wanted to “throw his chest out” and warn others about teaching something contrary to what is believed to be sacred.

Though, I have never been asked, I would recommend that if one wanted to debate brother Vick, that person think very seriously about allowing him the opportunity to speak last. If this is his manner, you might regret giving him an audience.