Posts by barney

What’s the Point of Apologetics?

What’s the Point of Apologetics?

By on Feb 3, 2013 in Blog |

“You can’t argue people into the Kingdom, it just doesn’t work that way. People just need to be shown God’s love, to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit’s power. Trying to prove God’s existence is a waste of time.” I think this statement captures the feeling that many of us have about apologetics today. Those of us who don’t take this position are probably familiar with it. Apologetics is associated with heated arguments that lead nowhere, arrogant rationality, and a misguided understanding of what motivates human beings to change. Was anyone ever logically persuaded to become a Christian? On the contrary, ask any number of recent converts how they got saved, and you will hear countless stories of God’s love breaking into a person’s life, softening their heart, and showing himself to them. These things speak for themselves. Perhaps there is a small place for defending the faith intellectually, for a few high-flying Christian academics in Universities, but by and large we have more effective ways of spreading the gospel. I want to suggest that we’ve misunderstood the point of apologetics. I believe if we think about it differently, we will see that apologetics is actually an essential way to show God’s love to our non-Christian friends and neighbours – a love enriched with wisdom and understanding. Also, we will see apologetics as something for everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, to get involved with. First of all, I agree wholeheartedly that you can’t argue anyone into salvation. A lot of harm has been done by attempts to do this, and it usually alienates people even further from the gospel. It’s also obvious that hardly anyone has ever become Christian from losing an argument about God’s existence. Second, I agree with the two usual evangelism alternatives: “Just love people” and “They need an encounter with the Holy Spirit.” Once God has touched someone’s life – either in a way that we call supernatural, or through the power of the love of Jesus operating through his church – only then will they be open to the gospel’s message. Belief will come after experience has made belief possible. However, I think we’re often too quick to assume that we...

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Why I am a Charismatic

Why I am a Charismatic

By on Oct 2, 2012 in Blog |

“. . . but you will have power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8) This Bible verse distinguishes Christianity from almost all other religions and philosophies. They are in essence ideas, systems of thought, patterns of prescribed behaviour or ways of life. They assume that if we just get the right teaching, the right understanding, the right lifestyle, then humanity will be saved and will progress towards perfect flourishing. But Christianity does not assume this. Christianity alone sees humanity’s problem as deeper, and our situation more desperate, than something solved by moral or theological teaching. Even if we did “know” the right path, we would not have the strength or the will to pursue it. We cannot (or will not) climb out of the pit, even when we can see the footholds. We need a hand to reach down from outside and rescue us. In other words, over above any doctrine, even above any example, we need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to change our desires, realign our thoughts, and push us towards perfection. As a Charismatic, I am reminded regularly that only the power of the Holy Spirit can make a difference to this world. The Spirit may sometimes work through teaching, reason, and moral influence, but these are effective because the Spirit is the energy behind them. Without him they are only well-meaning ideas and programmes—sea-maps without sails, impotent to go anywhere. As a Charismatic, it is my experience of God that comes first. This experience transforms the way I see everything else. Philosophy understands that you cannot effectively communicate an experience unless it is already shared. If I have not tasted sweetness, you cannot convincingly tell me that something is sweet. Experience gives content to the words we use, without which words would be empty of meaning. The experience of God’s power at work in our lives has no analogy or parallel by which it can be explained. As with skydiving, you’ve simply got to try it. I am not suggesting that only Charismatics and Pentecostals have this experience. Nor am I prescribing the way it should look (i.e. speaking in tongues). What I am saying is...

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Christ as an Alien Time-Traveller

Christ as an Alien Time-Traveller

By on Sep 4, 2012 in Blog |

Although the TV series ‘Doctor Who’ is classed as science fiction, it has a broad appeal beyond sci-fi fans and ‘trekkies.’ It mixes genres of comedy, drama, humour, thriller, and epic—and you never know what mixture any given episode will have. The Doctor, a humanoid from the planet Gallifrey, takes companions from Earth with him on his time-travelling escapades across the universe. Sometimes they have adventures in the past, encountering Caesar or Van Gogh. Sometimes they go shooting into the future, to watch the last few moments of planet earth, or walk the streets of New-New-New-New-New York. One thing you can be sure of about every episode: it will be fun, exciting, and a little insane. The show also is also quite profound. The Doctor, from time to time, has saved the planet earth from destruction—whether from an alien invasion or an impending apocalypse. Sometimes he does so at great cost to himself. Because he will never ever use violence to accomplish his goals, he would much rather sacrifice his own happiness and glory for the sake of the other. His companions undergo character formation as they travel with him, as their eyes are opened to ever widening horizons. When done travelling with him they are never the same again. When they have returned to their lives on earth after a breathtaking adventure, they have to decide how to handle normality. Will they wistfully pine after the thrills of the past, seeing normal life as dull and boring, or will use the wisdom gained from their adventures to bring excitement into daily life? His first companion, Rose, put words to the experience at a time when she thought she’d lost the Doctor. As her mother and her boyfriend try to comfort her, she vents her exasperation: Rose: What do I do every day, mom? What do I do? Get up – catch the bus – go to work – come back home – eat chips and go to bed? Is that it? Mickey: It’s what the rest of us do. Rose: But I can’t! Mickey: Why, ‘cos you’re better than us? Rose: No, I didn’t mean that! She calms down and, through tears, tries to explain: “It was… it...

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