Wednesday, March 14, 2018

AWANA Journey Advocates / Lesson 7.2 Falsehood with Sean McDowell

These are my note from the lecture and not the exact things Dr. McDowell said on the video clip.

Here is the logic some use to "prove there is no God.
First Premise: If God is all-powerful, He could stop evil.
Second Premise: If God is all good, he would stop evil.
Third: Premise: Evil Exists, or at least evil acts happen.
Conclusion: Therefore, an all-powerful, all- good god does not exist.

If these three premises exist, then the conclusion follows.  If we are going to prove that this conclusion is false, what do we have to do?  Show that one of them is false.  If we can show that one of these premises is untrue then the conclusion does not follow.  
Premise One:
Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and others of the sort will typically begin with the third premise.  What would a pantheist say about the third premise?  They will deny that there is good and evil because they believe all is one.  So distinctions between yesterday and today, me and you, mind and matter—all these distinctions are artificial, so they actually solve the problem of evil by saying there is no such thing as evil.  Logically speaking this does get us out of the problem of evil.  Is that a meaningful, substantial way to solve the problem of evil by saying it’s not a problem at all?  Does that resonate in your heart?  When you look at the world in your experience is it fitting to you to say, “Evil doesn’t exist.”?  Getting rid of evil by saying it doesn’t exist seems like too high a price to pay. 
Premise Two:
All of you agree that God is all-powerful, but we have to ask a more basic question.  What does it mean that God is all-powerful or omnipotent?  Can God do anything we can conceive of?  Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it?  People raise that challenge and say, “If God can make a rock so big he can’t move it, He is limited.  If He can’t make a rock so big he can’t move it, He is limited.”  These are ways to trick or confuse what we mean by God is all powerful. 
You can’t bend a paperclip into a square circle.  Could God bend a paper clip into a square circle?  By definition, a circle has no points and if it has points, it is not a circle.  By definition, a square has four points and can’t be a circle.  A square circle cannot exist.  Even God cannot make a square circle exist. 
What do we mean when we say, God is all-powerful? Theologians have wrestled with this for centuries.  When we say that God is all-powerful, we mean that God can do everything that can be done.  If power can do something, then God can do it.  But power alone cannot make a square circle so there are actually some things God can’t do.  This isn’t a limitation on God, it is a recognition that some things in themselves are impossible and cannot be.  How many of you have told a lie?  Can God tell lies?  In the book of Hebrews it says that “God cannot lie.”  Does that mean you can do something that God’s can’t do, therefore you are more powerful than God?  Does that follow?  A lie is not a strength.  It’s actually a weakness, an imperfection.  So God cannot lie, not because He lacks power, but because he is morally perfect.    
When we say that God is all-powerful, we don’t mean that God can do anything conceivable, we mean God can do everything that power can do that is consistent with his moral nature. 
Even God can’t make a world with beings that are genuinely free and then force us to do what is good.  If God forces us then we are not truly free.  God can and will stop evil, but God can not make a world with genuine free will where humans can make meaningful choices and then turn around and force us to always choose what is good. 
Premise Two:  When you see someone suffering or drowning, or someone being bullied or taken advantage of.  If you had the power, wouldn’t you step in and stop it.  Yes, but every day certain kinds of evil happen and God doesn’t stop them.  Does that make you better than God?  What are some reasons that God might allow suffering and evil.? Maybe God has reasons for the evil and suffering in the world.  If God had reasons or a purpose, should we expect to always know what they are? 
If I told you there was an adult elephant in this room, how quickly could you determine whether that was true or false?  You could look around and instantly determine it was false.  What if I told you there was a flea in this room?  A flea would take a lot more search.  You wouldn’t expect to see a flea from your seat just looking around. 
If God is all-powerful if God is self-existent if God is eternal--He sees the past and the present and the future and how every decision he makes affects other people, should we honestly expect to know why every time God allows suffering and evil. 
Most of us can think of times where there is suffering and evil and good comes out of it. Evil and suffering can make people think about eternity in a way they never have before.  Can you see how God would allow something like that to happen?  Maybe because God is good, He realizes the depth of our depravity, how distracted we get, how we get caught up in our sin, and He allows some evil and suffering to draw us to Him.  God has a bigger plan.  Will we trust Him?

“God whispers in our pleasure, but He shouts in our pain.  Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  --C.S. Lewis   

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Journey: Advocates - Evil / Partial transcription of Sean McDowell

A problem well defined is half solved.
The problem of evil is one of the greatest challenges to
Define Evil:  
One answer is “Evil and good are equal are equal but opposing forces.”
Evil is a corruption of good.  You can have good without evil, but you can’t have evil without a standard of good that can be corrupted.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust.  But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?  A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.  What was I comparing this universe with when I called in unjust?”  --C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity
A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.  Injustice is parasitic on a standard of justice.  Truth is when a belief matches up with reality.  Truth is telling it like it is.  A lie is when you tell something that intentionally doesn’t match up with reality.  You can have a truth of which no one tells a lie, but you cannot have a lie unless you first have the truth.  Lies are a corruption of truth.
Evil is taking food, technology, medicine, and sex (etc.) and corrupting it for something bad.  Evil is when things are not the way they are supposed to be, or they are the way they are not supposed to be.  Understood this way, evil assumes that there is a way the world is supposed to be.  But this only makes sense if there is purpose and intent and a mind and a design behind the world.  Raising the problem of evil assumes or implies that there is a way the world is supposed to function. 
Atheism can’t account for design or purpose or that the world is supposed to be a certain way.  In atheism the world just is.  It popped into existence from nothing and through time and chance and the laws of physics the world just arranged itself the way we see it today.  If an atheist complains about the problem of evil, that have to assume a theistic worldview to do so. 
Pantheists also can’t consistently raise the problem of evil.  In pantheism distinctions are artificial.  There really is not a distinction between me and you, mind and matter, today and yesterday, good and evil.  According to pantheism, you can’t have a problem of evil, because evil doesn’t exist.  It is an allusion.

Properly understood, the existence of evil is one good reason to believe there’s a standard of good.  And if there is a standard of good, the best explanation is that there is a god.  This doesn’t explain why God allows evil, but at this point, it is critical to understand that when we properly understand the nature of evil, it’s one good reason to believe that God actually exists.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Following the Gracious King to the Cross in the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard --180311AM@TBC


Historical Setting
·       At this point in Christ’s ministry, we find Him going from Galilee through Perea to His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
·       There are All three synoptic Gospels record four events between Galilee and Jerusalem (by AT Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels organizing). 
·       Three of them surrounds our text that is unique to Matthew.
126. BLIND BARTIMÆUS AND HIS COMPANION HEALED--At Jericho / Mark 10:46-52 Matt. 20:29-34 Luke 18:35-43
128a. JESUS ARRIVES AT BETHANY, NEAR JERUSALEM--Friday afternoon / John 11:55 to 12:1, 9-11
128b. HIS TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM AS THE MESSIAH--From Bethany to Jerusalem and back (Sunday). / Mark 11:1-11 Matt. 21:1-11, 14-17 Luke 19:29-44 John 12:12-19

·       Only Matthew inserts the “Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard” in event 124 about the rich young ruler.
·       Parable Definition: A simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.  

Encourage the kids to listen & study the picture while we read and draw the pictures while I tell the story.
Scripture Reading

Richard C. Trent, in his classic work, Notes on the Parables of our Lord, notes that “It is a parable which stands only second to that of the Unjust Steward in the number of explanations, and those diverging the most widely, that have been proposed for it; and second to that, if indeed second, in the difficulties which it presents.
Let’s look through our passage’s context for clues to the meaning of our text.
1. What specific question or problem is the basis for the parable?
2. How much of the parable is explained in the text?

·       Jesus receives the children (19:13)
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
·       Encounter with the rich young ruler (19:13) who  22…went away sorrowful, for he had many possessions.
·       Peter’s Question (#1.)
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?
Before and after the parable we find these statements  (#2.)
30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.
·       Foretelling his death (humiliation) and resurrection
·       James and John (with their mother) ask for the best seats in the Kingdom.  The other disciples were displeased.
·       Jesus responds
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
 “The parable was designed to rebuke Peter’s self-seeking spirit that had prompted him to ask in effect, ‘What are we going to get out of all this?’ ”  --John Philips in Matthew (Exploring the Gospels by Loizeaux Brothers)

Big Idea: 
20:30 Many who are first will be last,
and the last first. 
Many who are thought great in this world will have a low place in the Kingdom.  The Kingdom will have a different operating system than this world operates on.

“Remember that Jesus used illustrations from everyday life that people back then would have immediately understood.”  
A. The Hiring of the Workers  (20:1–7)
1. Who were the day laborers?
·       Wealthy landowners often hired temporary workers, especially during harvest season, when workers were needed for short periods of time. Work began around sunrise, about 6 a.m. before the day became hot.[1]
·       Many of these would be the poor who depended on their daily wages to buy food for that day. 
·       This is why the Old Testament law required employers to not withhold wages, but pay each day.
·       In the New Testament the word "hireling" (misthotos) occurs only in John 10:12 f, where his neglect of the sheep is contrasted unfavorably with the care and courage of the shepherd who owns the sheep, who leads them to pasture and lays down his life for their protection from danger and death.  --  Edited by James Orr, published in 1939 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
2. What was a Denarius?
·       “However, some classical historians have discovered that a common day's pay for unskilled labor was equal to one denarius. Roman infantry soldiers were paid slightly less and Roman officers were paid slightly more.”    --
3. Time of hirings
·       (hired 1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th hour)
·       The day started at about 6 AM, so the 3rd hour was 9:00 AM, etc.  The 11th hour was a 5:00 PM, just one hour before everybody quit for the day.
·       The passage does not say why the owner returned four more times to hire more workers. Desperate? Compassion?
4. Details to notice:
·       The first group had a specific agreed upon what we think was a typical wage of one denarius.
·       The last group agreed to go with the understanding they would be paid “whatever is right.”
·       Nothing is said of why they had not been hired earlier.
·       Nothing is said about how hard they worked or how they felt about the owner until they were paid.

B. The Dispute over the Pay (20:8–15)
1.   The workers paid in reverse order (vv. 8–10)
·       Deuteronomy The order to pay them “from last to first” (v. 8)
·       Can you imagine the surprise and delight of the eleventh-hour workers when they are given a whole denarius? (v. 9)
·       Can you imagine how puzzled the full day workers were when the one-hour workers were paid for a full day.  Do you think they hoped for more?
·       Can you appreciate their sense of injustice when they are paid the same denarius after having worked through the heat of the day? (v. 10)
2.   The complaint about the equal pay (vv. 11–12)
·       What was the heart of their complaining?
1.     These last men have worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us.
2.     We have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
·       Do you hear Peter’s question in the laborer's complaint?
We have left everything to follow you!
What then will there be for us?”
·       Do you hear the coming request of Zebedee’s sons (Jesus’ cousins) and mother?
Grant these two sons of mine to sit on your right hand and left hand.

3.   The owner’s reply (vv. 13–15)
·       He was just giving at least what was agreed upon (v. 2) (v. 13)
·       His generosity was as surprising as it was expansive.  “There is an element of human tenderness in this parable.”  –William Barclay
·       It was his money was his to be generous with. 
·       Instead of goodwill and being happy for those who would be able to buy food for their families, resentment and envy filled their hearts.
·       Envy: It is to be distinguished from jealousy.
"We are jealous of our own;
we are envious of another man's possessions.
Jealousy fears to lose what it has; envy is pained at seeing another have"
(Crabb's English Synonyms).  --
·       Envy (the evil eye*) is close kin to strife. (Rom 13:13; 1Co 3:3; 2Co 12:20; Jas 3:14,16)

*Evil eye, glance believed to have the ability to cause injury or death to those on whom it falls; pregnant women, children, and animals are thought to be particularly susceptible. Belief in the evil eye is ancient and ubiquitous; it occurred in ancient Greece and Rome, in JewishIslamicBuddhist, and Hindu traditions, and in indigenous, peasant, and other folk societies, and it has persisted throughout the world into modern times. Those most often accused of casting the evil eye include strangers, malformed individuals, childless women, and old women.
The power of the evil eye is sometimes held to be involuntary; a Slavic folktale, for example, relates the story of a father afflicted with the evil eye who blinded himself in order to avoid injuring his own children. More frequently, however, malice toward and envy of prosperity and beauty are thought to be the cause. 
©2018 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc

C. Conclusion: The Great Reversal (20:16)[2]
You see this theme in Luke. 
Those who attain recognition and greatness on earth are often spiritually bankrupt face a bleak eternity.
·       The beatitudes in Luke 6
24 But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall morn.
·       The account of Lazarus and the rich man.  Luke 16:19-31
·       The foolish rich man who built bigger barns  Luke 12:13-21

1. The expansive generosity of God should change our disposition (from envy to rejoicing) and cause us to praise God.
Envy often a result of ungratefulness. 
Envy is often the fruit of a proud, entitled heart.
Envy is evidence of a lack of faith in God to reward us. 
·       More focus on gratitude and blessings and less on “my rights.”
·       Enjoy and practice God’s generous kindnesses.

2. The danger of an “evil eye” should be humbly avoided.
·       Proverbs 14:31-32
31 He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
32 A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.
·       Generosity and rejoicing is way better than envy.
3. Kingdom principles should change our perspectives and aspirations.
You can tell where your heart is by what kind of clothes you wear.
A servant’s heart is the sign of greatness in the kingdom.

4. We should take care to learn from the disciple’s poor example and adopt Jesus’ purpose.
Three times the Gospels record Christ telling his disciples about his coming death. 
Each time their thoughts turned to who would have the highest position in the Kingdom. 
Our focus and thoughts ought to be on serving Christ as we serve and love others. 
When we are too important or busy to associate with the poor man in filthy clothes, when we shame the poor in the church with our heartless selfishness, we have lost our way.

5. We should maintain an attitude of gratefulness for all of our undeserved blessings.
Do we believe that God is good all the time?  Do we believe that He is a just and generous God who will reward at His judgment seat?
A thankful heart glorifies God and exults His goodness.
·       Romans 1:20 … although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts
·       Colossians 3:15be thankful.
·       Ephesians 5:3-4 …  fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
·       1 Timothy2:1 giving of thanks be made for all men
·       Hebrews 13:5  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

6. We should rejoice with those who rejoice.
We should take such pleasure in God’s grace and generosity that we are pleased to see God’s goodness and mercy even on those less deserving than ourselves. 
How sad when disbelief and envy rob us of the joy of fellowship with others.
Romans 12:15-16
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep.
16 Be of the same mind toward one another.
Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.
Do not be wise in your own opinion.

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 

[1] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 20:1.
[2] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, vol. 1, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 727–728.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AWANA Journey handout lesson 5.4 -- The Apostles (Apologetics)

5.1 Miracles: There are things that the natural laws of science cannot account for.
5.2 The Resurrection of Jesus is historically corroborated event supported by many early sources.
5.3 Deity: Jesus claimed to be God and provided compelling evidence.
Big idea: History is full of people who fought and died for what they believed in. 
If the _______________ made up the __________________, then they ___________ for something they _____________ was __________________ and that is ____________________ to believe.
1. Luke 1:1-3 _________________________________________
2. 1 John 1:1-3 ______________________________________
3. 2 Peter 1:15-18 __________________________________________
Argument from the Apostles (by Sean McDowell in )
1.  What is meant by “apostle”? Two criteria from Acts were…
2. The earliest message that the Apostles preached was that... ____________________________________________________________
3. The Apostles preached a message...
4. The Apostles would not stop preaching the risen Jesus even when...
5. There is good historical evidence that...
An important distinction is that the Apostles were eye-witnesses.  If they made up the resurrection, then they died for something they knew was false and that is difficult to believe.
Apostles—Acts 5:17-42
What were the Apostles doing when they were arrested? (vv. 12-13)

What were they charged with?  (vv.27-28)

How did the Apostles respond to their treatment?  Why?  (vv. 41)
1 Peter 5.12-16

5:41–42. In spite of the bloody beating, the apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing. Here again the theme of joy is evident in the Book of Acts (cf. comments on 2:46–47). A victorious church rejoices in God’s working in spite of persecution—and even on account of it, as here. The apostles were honored to be suffering disgrace for the name (on “the name” see 3:16; cf. 1 Peter 4:14, 16). Later, Peter encouraged Christians to “rejoice” when they would “participate” in sufferings on behalf of Christ (1 Peter 4:13; cf. 1 Peter 2:18–21; 3:8–17).[1]

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 367.

“Did the Apostles Really Die as Martyrs for their Faith?”
By Sean McDowell
“Even though they were crucified, stoned, stabbed, dragged, skinned and burned, every last apostle of Jesus proclaimed his resurrection until his dying breath, refusing to recant under pressure from the authorities. Therefore, their testimony is trustworthy and the resurrection is true.”
If you have followed popular–level arguments for the resurrection (or ever heard a sermon on the apostles), you’ve likely heard this argument. Growing up I heard it regularly and found it quite convincing. After all, why would the apostles of Jesus have died for their faith if it weren’t true?
Yet the question was always in the back of my mind — how do we really know they died as martyrs? For the past couple years I have been researching this question as part of my doctoral dissertation. And what I have found is fascinating!
While we can have more confidence in the martyrdoms of apostles such as Peter, Paul and James the brother of John (and probably Thomas and Andrew), there is much less evidence for many of the others (such as Matthias and James, son of Alphaeus). This evidence is late and filled with legendary accretion. This may come as a disappointment to some, but for the sake of the resurrection argument, it is not critical that we demonstrate that all of them died as martyrs. What is critical is their willingness to suffer for their faith and the lack of a contrary story that any of them recanted.
Historian Michael Licona captures the key point in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach: “After Jesus’ death, the disciples endured persecution, and a number of them experienced martyrdom. The strength of their conviction indicates that they were not just claiming Jesus had appeared to them after rising from the dead. They really believed it. They willingly endangered themselves by publicly proclaiming the risen Christ.”
Here are the key facts:
First, the apostles were eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. When a replacement was chosen for Judas, one necessary criterion was that the person had seen the risen Lord (Acts 1:21–22). Paul and James the brother of Jesus were also eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:3–8). Their convictions were not based on secondhand testimony, but from the belief that they had seen the resurrected Christ with their own eyes. This makes the disciples’ willingness to die different from Muslim martyrs, who certainly sincerely believe in Islam, but base their belief on secondhand testimony.
Second, early Christians were persecuted for their faith. John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded (Matt. 14:1–11). Jesus was crucified. Stephen was stoned to death after his witness before the Sanhedrin (Acts 6–8). And Herod Agrippa killed James the brother of John (Acts 12:12), which led to the departure of the rest of the Twelve from Jerusalem. The first statewide persecution of Christians was under Nero (AD 64), as reported by Tacitus (Annals 15.44:2–5) and Suetonius (Nero 16.2). Although persecution was sporadic and local, from this point forward Christians could be arrested and killed for proclaiming the name of Jesus. And many of them were.
Third, the apostles were willing to suffer for their faith. This is certainly true of Paul, who recounts the suffering he endured, which included being whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, near starvation and in danger from various people and places (2 Cor. 6:4–9). Speaking for the apostles, after being threatened by the religious leaders, Peter and John say, “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The apostles are then thrown in prison, beaten for their faith, but they continued to preach and teach the gospel (Acts 5:17–42).
While the evidence of martyrdom is far better for some of the apostles than others, the evidence for Peter is particularly strong. The earliest evidence is found in John 21:18–19, which was written about 30 years after Peter’s death. Bart Ehrman, in his book Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, agrees that Peter is being told he will die as a martyr. Other evidence for Peter’s martyrdom can be found in early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Tertullian and more. The early, consistent and unanimous testimony is that Peter died as a martyr.
This does not prove that the resurrection is true. But it shows the depth of the apostles’ convictions. They were not liars. They truly believed Jesus rose from the grave and they were willing to give their lives for it.
Sean McDowell (’98, M.A. ’03) is a popular author and speaker, and the newest faculty member in Biola’s M.A. program in Christian apologetics. Find him online at
Biola Magazine Fall 2013