From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

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devotionsOne from the SharperIron archive. Originally published in the Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2011 and used here by permission. All rights reserved.

My wife and I were talking about the spiritual hazards in the current culture when she asked, “How do believers make it these days without daily quiet time?” This is a subject I rarely hear mentioned anymore. Maybe that’s because the matter is too personal.

Years ago a Bible college student confided that as he walked to breakfast on his first day of class, his suite-mate asked, “Well, George, what did the Lord give you in quiet time this morning?”

George’s mind worked fast. After the initial shock at the intrusion, he quickly made up something to tell. The next morning it happened again, and again he made up something to make himself look good. The third morning George got up earlier and prayed for the Lord to give him something he could share. From then on he had an appointment with the Lord and didn’t need any further prompting. Read more about From the Archives: On Daily Devotions

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A Review of "Darwin's Doubt"

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Stephen Meyer has been a thorn in the side of dogmatic evolutionists for a good while now. He has worked as a geophysicist and has a PhD in Philosophy of Science from Cambridge. His previous book of nearly 600 pages, Signature in the Cell, dealt with the criteria for determining information, especially in the formation and function of cells. It went into some detail about so-called “Shannon Information,” which is most often the kind pointed out by evolutionists. Shannon calculated the mathematical relationship between information and probability, showing that the amount of information conveyed by an event is inversely related to its probability (less probability, more information). The trouble with Shannon’s theory was that it could not distinguish meaningful information from gibberish. The solution to that problem forms another part of the book. Meyer demonstrates that complex specified information has both very high mathematical improbability, while also being goal-centered.

Then Signature included Meyer’s long interactions with the computer simulations of Kuppers, Dawkins, Schneider, Kauffman, and Avida, showing that they all presuppose what they claim to disprove: the need for an intelligent agent. Additionally, none of them fulfill their promises. The DNA molecule came under investigation throughout Signature, and the vaunted “scientific method” was examined, and it was shown that along with it being a fluid concept, many scientists devoted to it actually utilize intelligent design in their work. Read more about A Review of "Darwin's Doubt"

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Understanding the Small Church - Characteristics

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From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Characteristic 1: the small church is relationally driven

Perhaps the single most important distinctive of the small church is that it is relationally rather than program driven. There exists within the congregation a family atmosphere where individuals are considered part of a bigger family, where relationships become more important than performance and organization. The small church has a place for everyone and shows concern for everyone. People are counted rather than programs and ministries. Rather than the life of the church revolving around the worship service or the programs, it centers around the relational bonds of the congregation.

This has enormous impact upon how the small church functions and organizes its ministry. Within the small church, it is not the person’s position that gives power and authority to the individual but the relationships the person has with the other members. Consequently, the pastor is often not the primary leader of the congregation. That role is often given to an individual or family, who, by their personal interaction with others, influences the rest of the church. Read more about Understanding the Small Church - Characteristics

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Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

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From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission.

When David arrived at his first pastorate, he was excited about the possibilities. The church was a small church located on the fringe of a large metropolitan area. David had received high marks in his seminary experience and he was well trained for ministry. Before and during seminary he had attended a large, nationally recognized church in one of the major cities of the United States. He had spent six months on staff as an intern in order to get a feel for developing ministries and leading the programs of the church.

However, upon his arrival at the small church he sensed things were vastly different from his large church experience. And after he had been serving as the pastor for several months, David fully realized that the small church functioned with a unique set of characteristics. At first he tried to change them. Following the recommendations of the latest writings on the seeker-sensitive model of ministry, he tried to bring the church up to the 21st century (at least in his estimation). After several frustrating years, he stepped back and decided that perhaps he first needed to understand his people and what they wanted the church to be and do.

He began to do some careful listening and realized that they had the same heart for evangelism, discipleship and worship that he possessed, only they expressed it differently. Rather than try to change them, he decided that he would change his own attitudes and actions. For the first time since his arrival, he accepted them for who they were and how they expressed their faith in Christ. Read more about Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

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Just Words

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Sunday mornings in a pastor’s family are the stuff of legend. Besides having to feed, wash, and dress everyone, we are also expected to actually get to church on time. In our family, this means that my husband and I usually end up driving separately (our apologies to planet earth).

This last Sunday was no different. My husband had already left with our two boys, leaving my daughter behind with me as I finished getting ready. For some reason, I was feeling a bit spiritually disheveled that morning and so I did something I’ve never done before in my life. I asked my daughter to read to me while I was doing my hair and makeup.

It went something like this:

“Phoebe, get your Bible and come here to my bathroom. Now, open it. What day is today? … I know it’s Sunday. What day of the month is it? … The 12th? Okay. Find Psalms and read me chapter 12.”

So much for intentional parenting. Thankfully, God is always intentional, and in the next few moments, my baby-girl-turned-fourth-grader read me words of life and hope. Read more about Just Words

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A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview, part 2

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Read the series so far.

Within the various religious traditions there is broad agreement that evil exists and that it is a central theme in the comparative doctrines, yet justification for the existence of evil and magnitude of the paradox differs significantly from belief system to belief system. While each system gives at least some attention to the problem, it seems readily apparent that within the Christian tradition one will find the greatest consideration of and more numerous propositions for resolution of the problem. Perhaps the problem of evil is a central issue for the biblical system, since it is more precisely definitive of the character of God than it is in any other system.

Plato (428-348)

In Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro, Socrates asks “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” The question reflects a dilemma related to the problem of evil. If the former is affirmed then the gods are governed by an absolute standard which would necessarily be superior to them by virtue of its governance. If the latter is affirmed then any absolute standard of piety (or goodness) must be dismissed. If the latter is affirmed then the gods (or God) could not accurately be described as absolutely good since there would be no absolute standard of good, but again if the former is affirmed then the gods (or God) could not be described as all powerful, since they (or He) would be governed by piety (or goodness). Read more about A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview, part 2

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A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview

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The seemingly unavoidable contradiction between the existence of a personal God and the reality of evil provides a crucial point of entry not only for (1) argument for and against the existence of God and (2) discussion of the nature and character of such a God; but also, as Neiman suggests, the problem of evil is itself an organizing principle for history of philosophy.1 Thus the theologian will not be the only interlocutor on the subject, but rather in fact the philosopher must also dedicate significant energies to understanding and ultimately dealing with the problem. Perhaps if Neiman is correct, the problem has even less to do with philosophy of religion than with philosophy itself, or then again, as I would suggest the problem of evil affords an example of the unbreakable bond between religion and philosophy and the resultant necessity of interdisciplinarity between the two.

Noting the significance, then, of the issue, this present discussion will (1) identify major theorists and their statements of the problem within context, and (2) give attention to various attempts at resolution also within a chronological context. I will neither offer critiques of these various attempts nor propose a theodicy (explanation or defense of why God permits evil), nor will I attempt to offer a comprehensive discussion of pertinent thinkers and their views. The focus here will be an introductory survey intended to provide a working and historically informed definition of the problem of evil from theological and philosophical vantage points. Read more about A History of the Problem of Evil - Overview

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Book Review - Baptist Ways: A History

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Image of Baptist Ways: A History
by Bill J. Leonard
Judson Pr 2003
Paperback 480

Conceived as a replacement for Robert Torbet’s well-known text, A History of the Baptists, this book attempts to survey the worldwide history of Baptists from their origins in seventeeth-century England. Leonard states his thesis clearly in the opening paragraph of his preface:

“The thesis of this book is relatively simple. It suggests that amid certain distinctives, Baptist identity is configured in a variety of ways by groups, subgroups, and individuals who claim the Baptist name. This identity extends across a theological spectrum from Arminian to Calvinist, from conservative to liberal, from open to closed communionist, and from denominationalist to independent.” (p. xi)

This thesis allows Leonard to include a broad survey of individuals and groups, including giving significant attention to the role of women and minorities in the history of the Baptists. One interesting feature is regular description of Baptist hymnody and worship. Throughout the work, Leonard draws primarily from secondary sources, although the notes (which are placed as endnotes after each chapter) indicate a measured use of primary sources.

The book alternates between chronological and geographical perspectives. Read more about Book Review - Baptist Ways: A History

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