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September 26, 2006

Winning Isn’t Everything

And nor is it the only thing. Unfortunately, that's how some Christians see defending their faith. Even the phrase defending their faith betrays that.

I first became acquainted with Prof. Preston Jones of John Brown University after reading his article on prostitution and the military from Christianity Today; he later elaborated on the issue for BreakPoint WorldView. And so I got to have a first look at the topic of his new book, Is Belief in God Good, Bad, or Irrelevant?, in which he shares his correspondence with a punk rocker, Greg Graffin, who holds a doctorate in evolutionary biology. Preston wrote another BreakPoint WorldView article for me, taken from this new book. The subject matter -- naturalistic materialism, religion, and science -- is intriguing. But what's more intriguing is not what the two talked about, but how they talked. As Jones points out in a current Christianity Today article (thanks again to Steve B. for the link), it was not a debate; it was not about winning. It was about learning.

It also takes a commitment not to let the discussion turn into a debate. ... I've tried to resist the construal of our correspondence as a "debate." Yes, we disagreed and went at each other, but we didn't debate.

Debate is about winning, and that's important in many contexts. But I didn't care about winning. Nor did I care about "listening" in the gushy, politically correct sort of way associated with people-friendly evangelism.

Mainly I cared about learning. I wanted to learn how Greg sees the world, and I hoped that he learned about a Christian vision of the world.

In the process I found my relationship with Jesus strengthened. Not because I was stretched intellectually by the challenges of atheistic materialism, in which (it seems to me) there's a lot more bark than bite. Rather, my relationship with Jesus was strengthened because my conversation with Greg led me to see some things more deeply.

This is an important point Christians should take to heart for two reasons: 1) If you see "defending your faith" as winning the argument, then when you supposedly have won the argument, what have you really gained? A convert? Guess again. And 2) if you don't allow your belief to be challenged, or welcome opportunities to learn, then you don't open up to growing more deeply in your faith. Listening to or reading only everything you agree with does nothing to cultivate your faith, belief, and worldview.

Postscript: Some readers may bristle at the topic Jones addresses in the rest of his article, about the rigidity of believing a literal 6-day creation and the possibility of evolution and faith not being mutually exclusive. My own opinion is the latter. To be succinct, none of us were there at creation with a camera to witness exactly how God created; nor is exactly how God created what is important. I choose to be humble enough to allow God that mystery in what method He chose in creating all that is. And I don't think that diminishes His sovereignty or greatness; I think the mystery enhances it. But let's not debate this; let's choose to continue to learn ...

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I think it a great reminder that life is about constant learning and this learning helps us understand others better.


As to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, which are written in standard Hebrew vav-consecutive narrative:

If we believe in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, which is one of the definators of what evangelicalism -is-, we have to believe it as presented - an accurate historical report by the One Who did the creating.

Jesus is inerrantly recorded in the Gospels as believing that the first 11 chapters are historical, and He is God the Son. He was -there-.

The next element is theological. The Biblical worldview is Creation-Fall-Redemption. Francis Schaeffer pointed out time and again that if there was no historic space-time Fall, then we have no answers. Indeed, I would agree with many others who point out that if evolution is true, if as Peter wrote of those who are unbelievers "everything continues as it always has", then the Cross is tragic and the Law insane.

Neo-Darwinian model evolutionism, including its theistic forms, teach not only that everything continues as it always has, but that evolution progresses through anything that promotes the greatest number of offspring surviving to reproduce - rape, murder, theft, parisitism, etc. In otherwords, sin. Nature red in tooth and claw. If that is so, for what did Jesus die? Who's law is the Law? Do we agree with the heretic Marcion that it was some sort of evil demiurge?

You can have some sort of Deistic god with Darwinian evolution, but you -cannot- have Judaism or Christianity - hence Hugh Ross' descent into Chardinism and semi-Manicheanism.

Greg Laurich

Then how do we go about not making fools of ourselves in the marketplace of ideas? I've had my views crushed online, go to the forums on wetcanvas.com and start a conversation about Christianity, I promise you will hear the history of every evil thing Christians have ever done and they will give you the token good Christian like Mother Teresa. It's like banging your head against a cyber brick wall. Every valid point you make gets 6 responses that refute your arguement. It's hard not to 'defend your faith' when you are constantly attacked for your views. How do you respond?


Greg, first rule. Do Not Feed The Trolls.

Second: study to show yourself approved. find out the truth about their charges. You will find that most often, they are either massively multiplied and distorted, or else fabricated from beginning to end.

Third, know where to go for answers for questions you can't answer. Learn to say "I will look into that" and then, do.

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