I recently re-visited a fascinating account in Scripture of the apostle Paul that presents a great example of apologetics! Paul is put on the spot to defend his actions in front of the powerful authoritative figures of Festus and king Agrippa. Here’s what happens…

Acts 26:24 “As [Paul] was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'”

What an interesting thing to be accused of! It seems today that it’s precisely the opposite brush with which we, as Christians, are often painted. We are seen as un-educated and un-sophisticated and un-reasonable. While there is certainly a simplicity in the basic Christian message, there is also a depth and mystery to it that has engaged some of the greatest minds of history, including Blaise Pascal, Rene Descartes, Isaac Newton, C.S. Lewis, Johannes Kepler, John Polkinghorne, and Thomas Aquinas among many others. Aquinas, probably the most powerful intellect of his day, even claimed that his voluminous writings about God were “As straw” when compared to a single mystical vision he experienced later in life. Quite the humble admission from a towering intellect!

The beauty of Christianity is that a child can understand the basic message of the gospel (we are sinners in need of saving, and Jesus saves us), but the details of that message continue to spark debate among the great intellects of our day. Oh, that we might once again be accused of too much learning!

Acts 26:25 “But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but am speaking true and rational words.'” 

Today, we are often considered irrational at best, and deluded at worst. The fact that the Bible contains miracles is often enough to illicit scoffing from the more “enlightened” in our culture. Consider this statement from atheist Sam Harris: “It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.”

So, is Christianity unreasonable?

Paul made clear that the words he spoke were both true and rational. He was not making up stories, but recounting historical events. Indeed, it would serve him little to speak crazy-talk in front of authorities who could inflict serious harm on him. What purpose would that serve? Listen to what he goes on to say…

Acts 26:26-27 “‘For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.'”

Paul argues his case from empirical evidence. The reason he has confidence is because the very things he is speaking of solidly took place in history and were observable. These events had not taken place “in a corner,” but rather in Jerusalem, the central hub of the Jewish world. People were talking about it, and it was gaining momentum, against all opposition.

It seems that Paul is on to something with Agrippa. It’s not so much that the Christian message was against reason, truth, or history. Rather, the evidence was in front of Agrippa just as it was in front of Paul. The issue seems to be belief. Paul is appealing to the king’s will. As is often the case with all of our beliefs, we don’t come to them because they are the most reasonable. No person, regardless of how rational they claim to be, has accepted each of their beliefs because of close examination. Rather, we tend to make up our minds first on emotion and intuition, and only later try and justify them through rational examination. How many people have you seen change their mind after witnessing or engaging in a debate with someone of opposing viewpoints? No matter how rational the conversation, the fact remains that reason is not the ultimate determiner of our beliefs. Although it does play an important role, it is typically used to justify our beliefs, rather than form them. Such seems to be the case with Agrippa. Paul is appealing to something deeper than the outward conversation going on. He encourages Agrippa to search his own heart, the center of his belief-making self. And Paul has his suspicions that Agrippa already believes…

Acts 26:28 “And Agrippa said to Paul, ‘In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?’ And Paul said, ‘Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.'”

Here is Paul’s big “sell” moment! He has the boldness to be up front and honest about his intentions. He is not looking for a crowd to preach to in order to inflate his own ego. Rather, he passionately believes that his message is true and good, and therefore wishes that those who hear would not only admit it but also accept it as such.

The end goal of apologetics is never to win an argument or a debate. It is not just about changing peoples’ minds but transforming their heartsIf we believe our message is true, and if we believe that our message is good, then we should be compelled to share this message in an engaging way to those who do not yet share our acceptance of it. May we, as Christians, take Paul’s example and use every opportunity given to us to eloquently, passionately, and clearly engage our culture on these fundamental issues of life, and may we do so with boldness.


Easter is a time for Christians to celebrate and recognize the core of our faith: The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. While I love Cadbury cream-filled eggs just as much as the next person (probably more), Easter is obviously about something much greater. In fact, Paul went so far as to say that if the resurrection didn’t happen, then the rest of our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:17). So are there good reasons to place our hope in this event?

This Easter season I came across an article written by professional atheist and editor of Skeptic magazine Michael Shermer (read it here He’s not a fan of the resurrection. Let me be clear: I like Shermer. I follow him on Twitter, I find his personality winsome, his writing is clear (I disagreed with the theses of The Moral Arc and The Science of Good & Evil, but I thought they were interesting and helpful reads), and his approach as a public atheist is engaging (he is a former Evangelical, so he understands us 328476 times better than someone like Dawkins, who probably couldn’t find 2 Corinthians if he started in 1 Corinthians). That being said, I found his arguments against the central event of the Easter narrative unconvincing. Here’s why…

He first points out that “Jews and Muslims, along with the world’s other four billion religious people, do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.” While he admits that the truth of an event cannot be authoritatively determined simply by how many people believe it, he offers little else to support this argument. He basically says if there was good evidence for the resurrection, then more people would believe it. First of all, he’s assuming that all these other religious believers have heard about the resurrection and the evidence for it (arguably, most Christians haven’t even heard the best evidences for the resurrection). Many of these religious believers have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel at all, and you cannot actively reject what you’ve never heard. Second, since when have people believed true things based solely on the evidence? Shermer of all people should understand this. It is to his own great frustration that many people seem to believe things despite the lack of evidence. As fellow atheist Jonathan Haidt claims in his book The Righteous Mind, people mostly believe things on intuition, and later use their reasoning to justify what they had previously accepted on emotion.

His second point is, “resurrecting someone back to life who was truly dead would be one of the most unusual events to ever happen in history, given the fact that to date approximately 100 billion people have lived and died before us and not one of them has returned to life.” Um, yeah. I don’t know any Christian who would claim that the Resurrection of Jesus is normal or natural. A miracle, by its very definition, is not a common occurrence. He is pointing to an unusual event and saying it didn’t happen because it’s unusual. But that is not a good reason to assume it is false! One might even argue that every event is unique, as it is not exactly like any other event. The resurrection is improbable, but it is only impossible if there is no God. So in the end, this point goes back to the age-old debate of 1. Does God exist, and 2. Can He do miracles? Regardless of what David Hume might have claimed, these are not closed cases. You cannot assume that the very event you are questioning is false to make the case that it’s false. If the resurrection happened, it was a miracle. So the greater debate must go back to the possibility of miracles and the existence of God.

Shermer’s third point assumes the “principle of proportionality,” which states that the more extraordinary the claim the more evidence is needed to prove it is true. While this is a good rule for a courtroom (when lives and life sentences hang in the balance!), it is not a hard-and-fast rule about the truth of any event. People might need more evidence in order to believe such claims, but limited evidence does not change the truth of the event in question. Shermer is the one claiming the resurrection lacks evidence. There are many who not only see evidence for the resurrection, they see convincing evidence (see particularly the works of Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, and William Lane Craig). In the words of Blaise Pascal, “There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.”

Fourth, Shermer claims, “there are no reliable extra-biblical sources documenting Jesus’s resurrection.” He assumes that the Romans would have made extensive records of such an event. Maybe they did. Does any historian pretend to have all the ancient accounts of common executions? Crucifixions were common in the Roman empire, and although we think the events of Jesus’ life and death are important, this does not mean that the Romans themselves thought they were any more significant than an isolated religious disagreement among the Jewish people. Also, he casually uses a word like “reliable” to dismiss the evidence that is there (such as Josephus and Tertullian). Finally, why is it that skeptics continually dismiss the eye-witness accounts of the gospels themselves by requiring “extra-biblical” sources? This is like dismissing all the firsthand witnesses of a robbery from a courtroom so that you can rely on the testimony of those who heard the news secondhand. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (which virtually all New Testament scholars believe to be authentically written by Paul), Paul claims that over 500 witnesses, including the disciples, the skeptic James, and himself (who actively opposed the preaching of the resurrection) were witnesses who could verify the appearance of the risen Jesus.

Fifth, Shermer states, “the biblical sources we have for the resurrection are not dependable.” He notes that the gospel accounts were written several decades after the events they describe. However, people tend to remember the most significant events of their lives, even after many years have passed (ask a couple who has been married 50 years to describe their wedding day). Furthermore, the gospel accounts are not our earliest sources for the resurrection. First Corinthians 15:3-8 clearly lays out what the first believers were teaching, likely within 2 years of the actual events (Paul received this doctrinal creed sometime after his conversion and before he met with the other disciples, which means this teaching was passed down to him by those who were already preaching the resurrection immediately after the event happened). Shermer goes on to claim that perhaps the disciples (all 500 of them?) saw post-death apparitions of Jesus due to their grief. But hallucinations are not group phenomena, and Paul (who himself claims to have seen Jesus) was not in a state of grief at the time of his experience. Also, this fails to explain why the disciples, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose, would face persecution and certain death based on nothing more than a ghost citing. Finally, Shermer suggests that religious people may have added these miracles into the story years later in order to boost the credibility of their own faith. The problem is, as 1 Cor 15 again shows, these miracles were being taught immediately after the events.

Finally, Shermer notes that the Catholic Church teaches, “Although the Resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles’ encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history.” I’m not a Catholic, so I don’t feel the need to defend their doctrine. However, all this seems to be saying (after admitting there is evidence) is that the spiritual importance of the resurrection is far greater than simply an event in history. Indeed, Christians believe that this event carries with it a significance that goes beyond a basic recollection of unconnected historical events. The resurrection is central to our faith because of what it did. It gave us peace with God, removing the guilt of our sin so as to mend our broken relationship with our Creator. The spiritual significance of the resurrection is greater than anything recorded in a dusty old history book or dug up from the sand. Our spiritual salvation, while not the kind of “evidence” Shermer is looking for, is certainly the most real to us, as we experience it every day. The resurrection is not less than historical; it’s more.

Happy Easter everyone, we’ve got reasons to celebrate.

Driscoll1In case you haven’t heard, Mark Driscoll, the controversial speaker/author and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle for the last 18 years, has resigned from his pastoral position in his church. Here are a few things that led up to this…

Driscoll has always been known to be blunt, outspoken, and oftentimes offensive when it comes to many things, but especially when speaking to men (or, as he would often put it, “Boys who shave.”). In a culture where the idea of biblical manhood has been all but totally disregarded, his voice (however vulgar at times) was a pleasant change. In fact, it appears that sometimes you have to speak with a certain degree of “shock value” in order to be heard. Seeing as though his church consisted of a large amount of young men, I’d say his target audience was listening. While most churches, even in the Bible Belt, are trying (and failing) to reach young men, Driscoll seemed to have their ears. Did he use crude and inappropriate language at times? Yes. But he also publicly apologized and repented of that on several occasions. The truth is, when you clean up as many messes as he had resulting from men acting like idiots, you have the right to “speak straight” with them.

Another point of controversy was the marketing strategy he used for the release of his book “Real Marriage,” in which enough copies were bought by inside sources to immediately put it on the New York Times bestsellers list. This was a form of manipulation, and he admitted as much in his open letter of apology ( Again, he admitted it was wrong, explained his misguided intentions in doing it, and has taken steps to try and fix what can be fixed of the problem.

Mark has also been accused of plagiarism in another of his books, which turned out to be a mistake and overlook in proper citation, as he often works on books in conjunction with others who help with research. Again, he has acknowledged this and apologized for it.

Perhaps what gets me the most, and what tipped the scales for Driscoll’s apparent downfall, is when his church leadership recently came to him accusing his leadership style of being too aggressive. This, I believe (and he has admitted), is indeed true. I don’t have a problem with their church leadership bringing concerns to the table and working them out. What I do have a problem with is the way the church community has handled this.

Rather than leaving things in the hands of the Mars Hill leadership, it seems as though the entire Christian community has jumped in to tear Driscoll apart. Lifeway pulled all but a couple of his co-authored books from their shelves. Why? What purpose does that serve? Is the content of these books heretical or inappropriate? Some might say there is some inappropriate content in his books. These people have obviously not read their Bibles, which contains enough violence, sex, and vulgarity to make a pretty gritty R-rated film, if it were to be all put on screen. The great thing about Driscoll’s books (and the Bible, for that matter!) is that they speak to real issues. Having read several books on marriage before getting married, I so appreciated flipping through his “Real Marriage” book to find a Christian writer who was not afraid to tackle questions that Christians are actually asking. This is often ground others fear to tread. Was it a little uncomfortable and crude at times? Yeah…but so is life. Anyway, back to Lifeway. To me, it seems like they are simply trying to avoid controversy by pulling any books that might align them as “supporters” of this man. To me, this is not only cowardly, but pointless. The same is true of the several places that canceled upcoming speaking gigs they had Driscoll billed for. It’s a display of looking out for oneself, rather than the content of what they will now be missing because of the cancelation.

All of that to say this: Why is it that we, as a Christian community, so love tearing down the ones we used to revere, just because they make a mistake? To be honest, it could have been a lot worse! The Mars Hill Leadership admitted that Mark was not found guilt of any kind of moral failing or illegality. It mostly comes down to a leadership style that left people with hurt feelings, frustrations, and a sense of being intimidated or bullied.

As a pastor, watching what is happening to Driscoll, I can say that I’m now even more scared to mess up. I don’t have the following he does (not by a long shot!), but what were to happen to me and my ministry if I were to make a mistake? Would Lifeway pull my books? (not that anyone would notice!) Would I be put out in the cold? Would people on the internet weigh in on me and call me a despicable false prophet? I’ll be honest, I am not innocent of expressing my disapproval of Christian leaders and teachers. At times, I’ve brought up men like Joel Osteen to address, what I think, is a seriously misguided reading of Scripture. But I try to deal with their ideas, not their person. I hope I never get into the business of character assassination. We all hate those political commercials that try to tear down the opponent, rather than deal with the real issues at hand, don’t we? So why have so many been so quick to jump on the “Out with Mark Driscoll” bandwagon?

Should Mark have been called out for his aggressive and insensitive leadership style? Absolutely. If those he is trying to lead are feeling this way, then this issue certainly needs to be addressed. I just wish we would have let them address it as a church, rather than bringing out the pitchforks and torches and getting thousands to join in on what should have been a private issue for Mars Hill leadership to deal with.

It saddens me to see Driscoll step down from a church he started from nothing 18 years ago. Let’s be honest: His church is reaching people that very few other churches are reading, and they’re doing it in a place that is notoriously secular and closed off to the gospel. If anything, I think we need more Driscolls who will have the courage to speak straight, even if people don’t want to hear it. I believe that the truth must always be spoken in love, but sometimes tough love can be a good thing. The audience Driscoll was speaking to seemed to think so to, and he was seeing results because of it.

So let’s all be slow to anger and to speak, and quick to listen and build up. Driscoll made it clear that he was not forced out of his leadership position, and I’m glad for that. I hope and pray that whatever he does next, he will learn from this and continue to allow God to shape his character and his leadership style. He’s definitely got some rough edges. But you know what? So do we.


Did you see the news that Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris are splitting up? Sadly, it’s not surprising that another Hollywood couple is getting a divorce. Rarely do their relationships outlive the relationships of their on-screen characters. However, this break-up is different. In fact, let’s not even use the icky word “divorce.” Instead, let’s call it “Conscious Uncoupling.” Is that politically correct enough? What does that actually mean?

I don’t know Miss Paltrow, and while I have no ill will towards her, her life philosophy seems to be on some pretty shaky ground. Especially if it is based on anything written in this article ( Right below her “Conscious Uncoupling” announcement is arguably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read in my life. Written by Dr. Habib Sadeghi and Dr. Sherry Sami (doctors of what, I wonder?) is a New Agey, evolutionary way to sanitize divorce. In short, it’s about as steaming as what our dogs left on the side of the road this morning (sorry for the mental picture!).

In this article, they try to describe why there is such a high divorce rate in our culture (typically cited as 50%). Their answer? We are living longer than our ancestors, and we have not evolved a sense of commitment to go along with our longer lifespans. That’s right. They tell us that our cave-men ancestors lived much shorter lives, and so it was easier to stay committed to a single relationship. However, now that we live longer, we basically get sick of each other and need to shake things up a bit (Hey, a guy’s got needs, right?). Therefore, our relationships must eventually come to an end, so that we may enjoy one or several more over the course of our lifetime. And this is OK, because that’s what evolution has made us to be. Thanks evolution, for again providing a shallow and ridiculous answer to one of our most important life questions.

They go on to make some metaphorical statements about why bugs didn’t evolve to take over the world because of their exoskeletons. Humans, however, are more flexible, and can therefore adapt easier. This is what we must now do with divorce, apparently. Of course, being soft on the outside also makes us more vulnerable to be hurt physically…and emotionally…blah blah blah. They also go on to say we should see our partners as our teachers, helping us to evolve into better, more “spiritual” (helloooooo New Age, Oprah spirituality!) beings. Thanks Dr. Sadeghi and Dr. Sami, but I just don’t buy it.

If you want to read the rest of this garbage, follow the link above and check it out for yourself.

I’m a newly married man (since June 15th), and so I would be foolish if I claimed to be anything but a rookie when it comes to marriage. I am heartbroken over the statistics, especially the fact that Christians seem to be getting divorced at the same rate as everyone else. I believe this has killed our credibility to speak into a culture that is struggling to figure out how real relationships work.

However, here are a couple things I’ve learned over the last several months. 1) Marriage is difficult and takes work 2) Marriage is totally worth it. What we don’t need is some sort of pseudo-scientific spirituality fluff that sticks the blame on evolution, thus allowing us to break free of our “till death do us part” commitments. In a culture that continues to struggle over understanding what marriage truly is, we need real answers based on solid foundations.

I know many will disagree with me, but I find that what God has spoken through His Scriptures is still the most solid basis for marriage you will find. Not just “one man and one woman for life,” but also “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” and the entire born-again, Christ-centered, God-honoring, biblical worldview that comes with it. People are struggling in their marriages because they are struggling with all the other things the Bible tells us to do. Does this mean we throw in the towel and quit, blaming it on our long lives, of all things? Funny, I would think that most people who get divorced aren’t the 70-year-olds who have “outlived” their commitment, but rather those who simply gave up along the way.

Now, hear me out, I understand that we live in a broken world, and that divorce is sometimes a sad reality as part of our lives. There is definitely not a “one explanation fits all cases” when it comes to divorce. My heart loves and breaks for many friends of mine who have gone through this tragedy. However, just because the world (and Dr. Sami and Dr. S-whoever) sets the bar so low the ants can crawl over it, doesn’t mean that we must live that way. Instead of blaming evolution, or old age, or any other of the million scape-goats we could find, let’s just commit to live by a higher standard. We won’t all achieve it. In fact, chances are when you set the bar high you will fall more often than not. But let’s at least aim for it. Who knows? With God’s help, we may actually reach it.

I have never been a “Cat Person.” For as long as I can remember, I have been incredibly allergic to them, plus, they just always seemed a little stuck up to me. I prided myself on being a “Dog Person” over one of those “Cat People.” Well, that’s not entirely true. My roommate before getting married was a rabbit named Sir Nicholas. I guess I’m a “Rabbit Person” (whatever that means!). Then I married someone who loved her two dogs only slightly less than she loved me! So I quickly learned to become a “Dog Person” (I think it was part of our marriage contract). However, when we experienced a problem with rats getting into our home, we came up with the idea of getting an outdoor cat to guard the perimeter of our house. When Sarah drove to Pet Smart to purchase the appropriate supplies for caring for a feline security guard, there happened to be a man with a box of kittens in the parking lot. He had found the litter in his boat and was now seeking homes for the little orphans. A blonde, furry little face peered over the box and won Sarah’s heart (much faster than it took me to do, I might add!).

I decided that if we were going to become “Cat People” then we would at least have an AWESOME cat. We named him Thor, and set him up with his own little bachelor pad around the back of our house, with a full deck over his head and a fence for protection. The world was his playground, and he loved it! I’ll admit, he started to win me over every time we met. For starters, he would definitely be considered an extrovert! It would take all of 3 seconds for us to step outside before Thor would come scurrying around the corner to crawl up our legs and into our arms. Then he would purr, and not stop purring until we put him down. When we walked the dogs, Thor would follow along in the ditch. When we left the dogs in the back yard, Thor would play and tease them, often running up a tree in the nick of time. The dogs loved him. WE loved him. Then one day my aunt Gina (the female version of Dr. Doolittle) took a closer “inspection” and informed us that Thor was, in fact, A GIRL. We laughed, and changed her name to “Thoraline.”

Then one day she went missing. It happened after several days of extreme rainy weather, and we feared the worst. It was not like Thoraline to be gone, and every day we came home, we hoped to see her waiting for us at the top of the driveway as she had so many times before. Days became weeks, and our hearts continued to sink.

I wish I could say this story has a happy ending, but tonight we finally were given closure for our beloved pet. While walking our two dogs, I greeted a lady walking down the other side of the street. She asked about our dogs, and then asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. “Do you guys know anything about a little blonde cat?” After further description, I realized she was indeed talking about Thoraline. Apparently Thoraline had come up to her during her walk (being the “people person” she was) and this woman had not known where she had come from. Taking her first to our house and finding nobody home, she went door to door looking for its owner. Having no luck, she reluctantly brought her back to where she had found her. The next day the storms came, and a couple days later, again on her walk, our neighbor found Thoraline. She had been hit by a car.

Heartbroken, and still not knowing who this animal belonged to, our neighbor tearfully wrapped Thoraline up, brought her to her own home, and respectfully buried her in her own garden. While the shock of this set in, the “chance meeting” crystallized in my heart as not “chance” at all. For weeks we had been haunted by thoughts of the worst possible scenarios. I had worried about predators dragging our cat into the woods behind our home. We had prayed for weeks for God to give us answers. The truth was bad, but not as bad as my imagination. God had allowed our questions to be answered by a neighbor I had never previously met. As she emotionally told me how sorry she was, I thanked her for her kindness, and walked back up the driveway to our home.

Animals are funny. I think God created us with a certain love to be expressed and received by the animals He allows us to care for. It’s not by accident that God surrounded Adam with animals in the Garden. While ultimately humanity shares a bond with each other that cannot be found anywhere else, for us “Dog People” or “Cat People” or (dare I say) “Rabbit People,” our pets become part of the family. They give us experiences that strengthen our bonds together, and when it’s their time to go, it hurts. A lot.

God gave us a little cat that won the heart of the most unlikely “Cat Dad,” and blessed Sarah and I with some sweet memories in our first year of marriage. Thoraline didn’t live long, but she left a mark on a couple of human hearts. She also did the unthinkable. She made this guy a “Cat Person,” and she will be sorely missed.

RIP Thoraline.


ImageOn Saturday night, my wife and I were able to see the new Jesus movie called “Son of God.” It’s being billed as the first time Jesus has appeared on the big screen since 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ.” With the runaway success of The History Channel’s “The Bible” TV series, producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett (creators of shows like The Voice and Survivor) had a pretty solid foundation of viewers to build on, so making a movie seemed like a pretty good idea. Having not seen any of the TV series, I didn’t really know what to expect apart from what the trailers showed me.

First, let me put my bias out on the table. Everybody has biases in their worldview (though rarely do people recognize them), and these especially seem to rear their heads when it comes to “religious” movies (Passion of the Christ, Son of God, the upcoming Noah movie, etc). So here it is: I’m a Christian pastor who believes in the Jesus of the Gospels so much that I’ve based my entire life on its truth. How’s that for being honest? The reason I mention this is because I’m invested in the story more than I’m invested in the movie, but obviously one will affect the other. You can almost always tell when a movie reviewer is a non-religious person, because it will come out in the way they review religious movies. I’m convinced many of the poor reviews on Rotten Tomatoes ( are due to the biases of the reviewer, not the objective content of the film itself. Also, if I hear one more person complain that a Christian movie is “preachy” I think I’ll bang my head against the wall. Just take a glance at this year’s Oscar nominations for “Best Picture” (which include the Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Her, 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyer’s Club etc). So you’re telling me none of these movies are “preachy?” Please. The problem is not that a movie is “preachy,” but that a reviewer will either agree or disagree with what is being “preached.” Every movie preaches, it’s just the message and the blatancy of it that changes.

With that out of the way, here’s what I thought of “Son of God.”

What Could Have Been Better:

1. The special effects. Though some scenes were surprisingly good (ex. The prologue), the wide shots of Jerusalem were kind of a cross between a 4th Grade diorama and a low-budget video game. They could have definitely borrowed whoever Peter Jackson used for his Lord of the Rings films to beef things up a bit.

2. The editing and flow. Many reviewers have already commented on this, but the filmmakers seem to be presupposing a certain amount of Bible knowledge from their audience from the beginning. Scenes often have the feel of checking off certain events in the story (Feeding 5000? Check. Sermon on the Mount? Check., etc.). This is especially the case in the scene of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We are introduced to Martha and Lazarus and get no explanation of who they are, or what their relationship is to Jesus or Mary. It could have really helped the emotion of the scene to provide further details on why this occasion lead to the famous “Jesus wept” verse in John 11:35. Instead, the miracle is used to further the plot of angering the political authorities who are out to get Jesus. They could have done more with that.

3. The resurrection. This is undoubtedly the climax of the whole Jesus story, and yet it seems rushed or even tagged on to the end of the movie. Even though the resurrection scene in “The Passion of the Christ” was probably less than a minute long, it gave a sense of excitement and anticipation for what would follow. In this version, I think they blew their opportunity to capture the meaning, magic, and magnificence of the greatest event in human history. I don’t know why Jesus films continue to spend so much more time on the death than the resurrection. The two go together and cannot be separated, so let’s at least give them equal treatment!

4. The accents. It’s weird to hear First-century Jewish people talking in British accents.

5. The clarity of the message. Why must Jesus die? What is significant about Him being raised from the dead? Jesus was more than just a political trouble-maker. People will definitely feel the horror of crucifixion, but the resurrection feels more like the end of “The Prestige” in which a grand magic trick has been pulled off, but the significance is not really explained to us. As a pastor, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing to really hit home the importance of everything the viewer just invested in for 2 hours.

6. Slow middle. I think scenes like turning over the money-changers tables could have been used to greater effect to bring out the excitement of the story. To be honest, the middle of this movie drags a bit. The beginning is exciting because things are just getting started and Jesus is gathering His followers, and the latter 1/3 is a slowly building tension filled with suspense. The middle could have used some help in tying things together.

What I Liked:

1. The authenticity. I know, I know, probably no one in 1st Century Palestine had that white of teeth or spoke in proper British accents, but did you really want to watch a movie where they spoke Greek and Aramaic? I loved the costumes and the way they infused the movie with Jewish culture and practices. This is not your typical Christmas pageant with “shepherds” dressed in their dad’s bathrobes! I felt the same way about “The Nativity” movie and its attempt to bring the culture of that age to life. For the most part, the actors look fairly Jewish as well (props on not casting a pasty white Jesus, although Diogo Morgado still looks more white than Jesus probably was. For the record, the actor is Portuguese, and there is no record of what Jesus actually looked like, so there is some room for creative imagination).

2. Cutting out Satan. In any movie portrayal of the gospel story, you’ll be forced to either make a 10 hour epic, or cut certain scenes from the final product. I actually like that they cut out the Obama look-alike devil for a couple reasons. For one, they are trying to avoid unintended controversy in order to reach the broadest audience. If you want the devil scenes, you can always watch them on The Bible dvd set. Also, I feel like the devil scenes in “The Passion of the Christ” made it seem like a battle was being fought between Satan and Jesus, when the main driving force for Jesus was not to defeat the devil, but to obey His Father’s will. In this version, Pilate sums it up well in a scene when he states, “It’s almost as if He believes that these things must take place.” Jesus was obedient to His father, even to the point of the cross. That’s powerful.

3. Peter walking on water. I’ve never really imagined what this scene would look like, but I think they did a great job with it. It’s just downright cool.

4. The disciples. I really enjoyed their take on this band of men (and women) who followed Christ. Obviously you can’t show the back story of each disciple, but they do show a couple, and my favorite was Matthew. We’re not given much info in Scripture on the call of Matthew, but this film puts it into the context of the Pharisees condemning the “tax collectors and sinners” while Jesus speaks about God’s love for them, prompting a weeping and socially awkward Matthew to leave his tax booth and follow.

5. The crucifixion. I think they did a great job of showing the horrors of crucifixion without displaying all the wince-worthy gore like Mel Gibson’s version did. I tend to think Gibson accurately portrayed the violence of what happened, but this version is obviously aiming for something a little different. You still appreciate the pain Christ went through, while also not alienating those who might not attempt to see the movie because of the violence. I thought it was tastefully and carefully done.

6. The music. Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception, pretty much every other awesome movie made in the last 15 years…) is a genius. Some people might be overwhelmed by his score, but I think it adds to the scope and mood of the movie, making it much more “epic” than it would have been in the hands of a lesser composer.

7. It’s just good to have a well-made Christian film out there that gets people excited and interested in Jesus. Here is my bias rearing its ugly head. You’re never going to make a movie about Jesus that pleases everyone, and I’m so tired of the Christians who slam any Christian movie that does not line up with their “infallible” interpretation of how these events went down. So what that Jesus here is kind of portrayed as a surfer-dude hippie, sticking it to the Roman Empire and the Jewish Pharisees? There is going to be artistic interpretation in every work of art, and the producers of this film are not creating a tract, trying to replace Scripture, or writing a theology text book. They are making a movie with the hopes of renewing an interest in Jesus for an American culture that could really use that right now. To that, I say, “props to them.” If you’re putting your hope in this movie to fulfill the Great Commission, then you’re misguided. If you’re worried that an unfaithful adaption of the gospel might somehow “ruin” what people think of Jesus who don’t know any better, I say “Then you go and tell them differently.” It’s our calling anyway. Burnett and Downey are using the platform they have to do what they can for a cause they believe in. We would all be wise to do the same with whatever platform we have, before criticizing the choices of others. Few of us know the pressures of Hollywood life, so it’s easy to judge, but much harder to go out and do something positive ourselves.

So what’s my final take? I think the film stands up pretty good. I’m especially glad to see Bible movies being made again in an industry that nominates garbage like “The Wolf of Wall Street” for a best picture oscar. It seems nothing is off-limits for Hollywood these days, and if they’re going to package pornos like “Blue is the Warmest Color” as “entertainment art,” then I’m grateful for people out there who give us other options.

The script is definitely more “The Message” than “King James” translation, but I think it’s faithful to the source material (probably even more faithful to its source than the recent Hobbit movies!). Does it have the grandeur and special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster? No. If you’re looking for a visual “wow” factor from a Bible film, wait for the new “Noah” to come out. I encourage non-Christians to see it and judge it on its own merits as a movie, whether or not you agree with the story as history. I encourage Christians to check it out too before they criticize it. Do not expect it to replace Scripture for you, but rather see it (as I did) as a visual and artistic representation of the greatest (true) story ever told. And you know what? Maybe enjoy it simply as a movie to, because that’s what it is.

p.s. Sarah and I saw it at the Cinebistro in Atlanta, where they valet park your car, seat you in amazing chairs, and sell you pretty good dinner and dessert options on your own personal table, so I think I would have enjoyed any movie under those conditions!

2013 in the Rear-View Mirror…

Posted: January 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Well, it has been a long time since posting a blog! I thought looking back on 2013 might be an appropriate way to re-enter the wonderful world of blogging. Below are what I consider the top 10 highlights for me of 2013, in no particular order (except #1). This was a good year, and God did some incredible things. Sometimes, it’s just good to look back before you move forward. So here it goes…

1. Getting married to Sarah Elisa Bernard. This definitely ranks as my #1. Though the story is much too long to recount here, I could not have asked for any better. Sarah is the Robin to my Batman (actually, she’s more like Batman and I’m more like Robin…). She is the perfect compliment to me and I already forget what life was like without her. What an incredible thing to have her show me a list of “Future Husband” qualities (and not the shallow kind, mind you) she wrote while in college and realize that I meet all of them (except “athletic” and “southern gentleman” haha!), with obvious room for improvement of course! Although I never made such a list, she is exactly everything I should have put down. I prayed a lot about who my future wife would one day be, and as Pastor Larry Lawrence says, “God always chooses best for those who let God do the choosing.” Amen to that, brother.

2. Writing and publishing my second book. For someone who never dreamed (or even desired!) to be an author, this has been a unique blessing. What a privilege to take the iconic Experiencing God principles of my grandfather and (with the help of brother Daniel and uncle Tom) put them into a book for teenagers. My goal is to see it sell 10,000 copies. Last word I got showed that we were getting somewhat close to that. If God uses that book to change the life of even one teenager, it was worth the many (often grueling!) hours writing it. If you’re interested in helping us reach that 10,000 goal, go here…

3. Signing a 3rd book contract. The process that resulted in #2 above is well underway again! This time I have the privilege in writing with my dad and my uncle/pastor/boss Mel. It’s an apologetics book that I hope and pray will be useful to those who are seeking a relationship with God for the first time or who have difficult questions regarding faith. A goal for 2014 is to finish the darn thing!

4. Finishing my 4th semester of PhD work. For a guy who needed his dad to convince him to take a 4 year bachelor degree after high school because “I can’t see myself being in school for another 4 years!”, this is an accomplishment! It has been difficult, and has shown me time and time again that there is nothing that God calls you to do that He won’t also equip you to accomplish.

5. Celebrating Cafe on Main’s 3 year anniversary. On Thursday, Sept 9, 2010 we took an old cafe on Main Street in Jonesboro and desired it to become a place where young adults could come and find community and experience God. To date (although I haven’t counted the total visitor cards in a while), we’ve had over 300 college-aged young adults come through our doors for the first time. We’ve had church kids, gang members, druggies, college students, felons, atheists, missionaries and everything in between. We’ve had people from Cambodia, Africa, Honduras, Haiti, Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, Greece, and many other places from around the world. We have rearranged the place, built a sound booth, built a new coffee bar, painted the walls, hosted concerts, and served our community for the Jonesboro Christmas parade. To say that I love this place would vastly understate my feelings about it. Related to this, what a blessing to see 60+ young adults fill the home of our pastor’s house for the annual Christmas party, many of them having first connected to our church through Cafe on Main.

6. Preaching my 201st sermon. Though I am currently at 253, this number is significant. On May 25, 2003, Mel Blackaby stepped aside and allowed his 17 year old nephew to preach his first sermon. On July 11, 2011 he did it again (this time in Georgia instead of Canada!) and allowed me to preach my 101st sermon. On February 17, 2013, he again let me stand behind his pulpit to preach #201. Whenever #301 approaches, I’ll be sure to let him know.

7. Seeing my sister Carrie get engaged. For one thing, it allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief that I at least beat my baby sister to the altar! For another, what a special time to see God complete our family by adding the last piece of the puzzle (“Until grandchildren!” I can already hear my mother say…). Sam Camp has been my right-hand man ever since I came to Jonesboro and is a HUGE reason why #5 on this list ever happened. If I could have hand-picked who I wanted my baby sister to marry, it would have been him (actually, I believe it was him who I had in mind!).

8. Preaching alongside Francis Chan in Maui. While technically I’m not sure he was even in the same room when I preached, we were at least listed alongside each other as conference speakers! To meet him afterwards and tell him personally that God used his message at Passion Conference the year before to set our ministry goal for 2013 was a great honor! For the record, he comes up to about my shoulder, but man can he communicate!

9. Taking 30+ young adults on a mission trip. What a joy to go into the most culturally diverse part of Atlanta and lead after-school programs for kids right there in their apartment complexes. I felt like a proud parent watching our young people (some of them new Christians) spread their wings and let God use them in amazing ways. Also got to watch 3 of these young men eat the hottest pepper in the world, and I don’t know that I’ve laughed that hard before OR since!

10. Taking a 4-week swing dance class. Ok, sometimes it’s just good to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Especially when your fiance asks you to…

BONUS. Going on a 7 day cruise for our Honeymoon. I guess technically this goes along with #1. However, this was the perfect honeymoon (even though I had a cold, stomach flu, and pink eye during the course of it!). Going to Harry Potter World in Orlando, eating at Rainforest Cafe on Downtown Disney, cruising with Royal Caribbean, driving a jet ski in Haiti, etc. all with my new bride was the perfect way to let loose after many months of wedding planning. If I could, I’d make honeymoon’s (specifically on cruise ships) an annual thing…

So 2013 was a pretty good year. I’m reminded over and over again how good God is. The more I walk with Him the more I see how undeserving I am that He would walk with me. I’m not sure what all lies ahead in 2014. I’m currently in the process of thinking and praying through a list of goals for this next year. All I know is life as a Christ-follower is always an adventure, and as the great J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Happy New Year!

A Friendly Reminder

Posted: August 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Wow, it has been forever since I’ve posted a blog! Many of the thoughts I might have written have actually been going into a book I am currently writing with my father and uncle (called “Discovering God: A Conversation about Faith, Truth, and Stuff that Really Matters”). However, a recent experience seemed like the perfect story to share. So here it is…

Do you ever get to times in life where you just need a little reminder that God cares and that He is watching out for you? Although I think God is constantly at work in and around our lives, we often miss it. However, every now and then we get a clear message that says “Don’t worry, I’m looking out for you.”

Ever since our wedding in June, Sarah and I have tried to be as “cost-conscious” as we can (apparently weddings aren’t cheap!). When several dishes arrived in the mail from Macy’s, we discovered they had broken in the shipping process. A couple weeks ago, we finally got around to taking them back to the store in order to exchange them for non-broken ones (those dishes always seem to work so much better!). We also grabbed a $50 Macy’s gift card we had been given, so that Sarah could get a back-to-school outfit for her first day back (she teaches 5th grad math, I guess opposites really do attract!).

When we got there, the process involved returning the dishes and getting a full refund put on a gift card. Then, we would just re-purchase replacement dishes with that card. However, because of the back-to-school weekend sales they were having, everything in the store was 20% off, and so the customer service lady graciously gave us the discount. This meant that when we bought our dishes back, we ended up with $12.62 still on our card. On to the dress section!

As I sat in the waiting area, letting Sarah try on her selection of dresses, me and another tag-along kept blissful silence between us as we engaged in man’s best friend: the iphone. Occasionally, his girlfriend would come out and model some clothing, to which he would say, “Looks good baby.” Then Sarah would come out and model a dress, to which I would reply “I like it, let’s go.” Eventually, she narrowed it down to “The One” (a title I had previously reserved for myself!) and we went to pay (I’m not sure when the other guy finally got to leave!).

Now, Sarah has the spiritual gift of “frugality.” She saves money better than anyone I have ever met (which is good, because I spend money about as fast as she saves it!). She had shopped around to find the dress she really wanted, and once all the discounts had been put into place (including a coupon she had on her phone), the dress came out really cheap! “Oh wait,” said the clerk, “let me put in the 20% store-wide discount. That brings your total to…$12.62.” Sarah and I just laughed. She looked down at the $50 gift card, and then to me. “On to the shoes!” Needless to say, we came out of there with a dress and shoes, and still about $3 on our gift card. God provides for your needs, and we really needed that confirmation.

A few days later…

“Our new dishes came…but some of them are broken again.” Sarah informed me, before her eyes lit up. Looks like we’ll have to make another trip to Macy’s, who knows what might happen this time?

Let this encourage you that if you put your time and energy into serving God and being obedient to everything He has called you to do, He will look out for your needs. I’m not saying He’ll make you rich and famous, but He will provide for your needs. Sometimes I forget that, and it’s nice to get a friendly reminder.

The Game misses The Gospel

Posted: December 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

the_game_rapI recently found out rapper The Game now publicly claims to be a Christian.

Now, it is important not to judge too quickly when it comes to celebrities “finding religion.” As it is often quoted (usually out of context), Christians are not supposed to judge at all.

That isn’t true.

1 Corinthians 5:12 says “For what is it to me to judge outsiders? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.” We, as Christians, are supposed to judge those inside the church. Obviously, the final judgement of a person’s soul is given by God, and we are all in the same boat there. But we are not called to simply accept sin in a person’s life without question (i.e. what culture today calls “tolerance”). Now, does this mean we should go around being jerks to people? Of course not. It does, however, mean that you care enough about your fellow brothers and sisters to call them out if need be. Let’s just say, if I was walking towards a cliff and didn’t realize it, I would want somebody to say something! It wouldn’t need to be “You’re walking towards a cliff, you stupid idiot!” but I sure wouldn’t mind someone coming alongside me in love and saying “Mike, there are some things in your life that worry me, because I think they will ultimately hurt you in the end.” There are different ways to judge the fruit of someone’s life, and it doesn’t take a genius to know which way gives Christians a bad reputation.

That being said, what did The Game actually claim? In a radio interview, he explained his upcoming album “Jesus Piece” (which will be released on Dec 11) like this: “I’m calling it ‘Jesus Piece’ ’cause last year in August I got baptized and so I’ve been going to church, but I still been kinda doing me out here. I still love the strip club and I still smoke and drink. I’m faithful to my family, so I wanted to make an album where you could love God and be of God, but still get it poppin’ in your life.” He believes he has a special message that may connect to people in his shoes. He continues, “‘Jesus Piece’ gives me an opportunity to speak about situations that people like me who love God but are still street and still wanna remain themselves…”

Jesus PieceThe new album’s controversial artwork features a depiction of Jesus as a gang member. Needless to say, he has come under some criticism. In response to those who have questioned his faith claims, he said, “I don’t want to feel like I can’t love God or appreciate Jesus and have to put down that blunt. I want to smoke, maybe shower up, then go to church. Get the word, walk out of church, maybe smoke again, maybe hit up a strip club or two and do me, but I don’t want to be ridiculed.”

So what should we think about all this? The Game is certainly not the first celebrity to claim allegiance to Jesus in the public sphere. In fact, recently Angus T. Jones (the kid from the show “Two and a Half Men”) recently made it public that he has committed himself to the Seventh Day Adventist church, calling “Two and a Half Men” (America’s long-running #1 comedy) “filth” and urging people not to watch it. Rapper DMX was recently ordained as a deacon and hopes to put out a gospel album this Christmas. So are these people legit?

Only time will tell, but there often seems to be little by way of understanding the gospel when celebrities use the public spotlight to promote their personal beliefs. It is not uncommon for celebs to thank Jesus in acceptance speeches or in liner notes of their latest album. In this sense, the spotlight can be both a blessing and a curse. It gives you the world as your platform when you are trying to figure out your new faith as a spiritual infant. When Brian “Head” Welch (formerly of the band Korn) gave his life to Christ, it was an incredible moment for him. As with most new believers, he was excited to tell everyone! The problem was, he began speaking about things he didn’t quite have a full grasp on. He had the basics, and he had zeal, but he wasn’t ready to be a public spokesperson to his former world quite yet. Can anyone think of a more antagonistic subculture to faith than the entertainment industry?

The Game seems to have some sort of belief in God. The question becomes, “What is the gospel by which one must be saved?” The Bible certainly doesn’t say you have to clean yourself up before coming to Christ. The whole point of the gospel is that you can’t do that, which is why you need help! However, Jesus was very clear on what it meant to be His follower. He said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matt 16:24) This means that you can’t choose to add Jesus into your life and then continue living in your sin. How can The Game justify going to the strip clubs while also following Jesus?

We must be careful not to turn the gospel into moralism or legalism, that says you must act a certain way to be a Christian. However, someone who believes they can follow Christ and yet make no lifestyle changes does not understand repentance. To follow someone means you have to leave other stuff behind. Picking up your cross does not mean encasing it with gold and hanging it around your neck as you indulge in sin. It doesn’t mean glorifying sin in your music and throwing out racial slurs and curses. It means a radical release of one’s life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If we miss that, we miss the gospel. Jesus did not die for us so that we could embrace the very things that drove Him to the cross. The Game seems to desire a relationship with God. Pray that he discovers the beauty and freedom of releasing everything to the Lordship of Christ. May we do the same.

Larry Taunton is a man I have admired for a while now. He is the founder and executive director of Fixed-Point Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to engaging a secular culture with the truth of Christianity ( Larry also hosts a radio show called “The Larry Taunton Show,” which you can find as a podcast on iTunes. I had the opportunity to hear him recently at an apologetics conference in Greenville, SC. While I was there I picked up his book, “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse The Corruption of Unbelief.” In its pages I found a book on apologetics unlike any I had previously read.

grace-effectAs a historian, Taunton is greatly concerned by the dangers of an atheistic worldview. Without an ultimate authority, where might this type of thinking lead us? One need only look to the 20th Century. Atheism was the driving force behind Communism, which made the 20th Century the bloodiest in human history. Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett note,

The body count from the two great barbarisms of the twentieth century, communism and Nazism, is extraordinary on its own. Communism’s toll ran to perhaps 100 million: 65 million in China, 20 million in the Soviet Union, 2 Cambodia, 2 million in North Korea, 1 million in Eastern Europe and 10 million in various other spots around the globe…Adolf Hitler’s death machine was equally effective, but ran a much shorter course.” (Vincent Carroll & David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry, San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002, pg109)

In his book, Taunton recounts a conversation he had with the late Christopher Hitchens. These two men, despite their radically different beliefs, had become close friends. Taunton met Hitchens while sponsoring a debate. Their friendship grew, and Hitchens would eventually call Larry to let him know he had just been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. Hitchens had not even informed his family yet. In the following months they would engage in private debate (while driving through Yellowstone National Park, reading through the book of John) as well as public debate (see the dvd “God or No God?”). Larry recounts in his book that, on one occasion, he asked an interesting question of Hitchens. They had come to an agreement that man, at his very nature, is evil. Larry then asked, “Then it seems to me…that the question is this: which philosophies or religions restrain our darker impulses, and which ones exacerbate them?” (pg 4) At this point, one would expect Larry to go into an apologetic of the evils of atheism throughout history (of which there are many examples) and the goods of Christianity (of which there are many examples). While there are many books on this subject, and while Larry does indeed discuss some of these topics, the book takes an unexpected turn at this point. Rather than turning into an “Oh yeah, well your worldview…” kind of argument, he tells the story of how his family adopted a young girl from Ukraine. Her life would become the ultimate apologetic.

Larry’s wife had taken their three sons on a mission trip to Ukraine, on which they worked in a filthy orphanage known simply as #17. It was here they met Sasha, and they immediately fell in love with her. The process of adoption was soon put into motion, and it would be a journey that would impact all of them forever. I will not go into detail of all that they experienced, but let’s just say, read this book before you consider adopting a child from Ukraine! It will make you clench your fists in anger at the corruption, bureaucracy, and incompetence of the Ukrainian adoption system, and will tug on your heart to consider adopting a child out of this horrible atmosphere. It is a society that does not care for the poor or the needy. In fact, it is a culture built on the worldview of atheism. Larry’s experience in Ukraine taught him two things: 1) The hopelessness of atheism 2) The hope of Christianity. The story of how Sasha is brought from one world to another paints an excellent picture of how Christ brings us from death to life when we accept His grace.

Larry explains how “The Grace Effect” simply refers to the difference Christianity makes in a society. What he is not saying is that atheists never do good things or Christians never do bad things. His point is that Christianity gives a moral fiber and foundation to society that cannot come from anywhere else. True, because we have God’s law written on our hearts (another way of saying “We have a basic conscience that helps us determine right and wrong”) we can do “good” things while not necessarily out of a Christian faith (although I would argue even these “good” things are not good in God’s eyes if they are done out of unbelief). However, does society benefit more from atheism or Christianity? Hitchens, while he was still alive, claimed that religion makes the world worse but atheism would lead us into a sort of utopian society. Larry, having witnessed and experienced a culture in which Christianity is suppressed and actively pushed aside, would say the opposite. Many atheists in America today claim to offer a morality apart from Christianity, when in fact they are drawing from what the Bible teaches. Upon a worldview of Darwinism, there is no such thing as morality. There is simply pain and pleasure. Who is to say that one thing is “good” and another “bad?” Only God, as Creator of everything (including the very idea of morality, which is whatever aligns with His perfect character) can give a society an objective moral compass.

Now, at this point, objections may come like “Yeah, well then how do you explain the Crusades, or the Inquisition, or the Salem Witch Hunts? Christianity has done much evil!” I would say that Christianity has not done this evil. Nor has Jesus. People have done evil in the name of religion. But this does not disprove the truth of the religion (just as the fact that atheist have done evil doesn’t alone prove that atheism is false). It merely shows that we do not live up to its standards. I believe the only reason we can even discuss morality is because God has created us with this concept in our nature. Where does morality come from if atheism is true? The question is, as Larry mentioned, Which worldview suppresses evil and which one encourages it? A worldview that says “Survival of the fittest” or one that says “Love your neighbor?” These are the kinds of observations Larry notes while describing the frustrating, eye-opening, but ultimately deeply fulfilling process of adopting Sasha out of the horrors of her atheistic culture.

If you are looking for an inspirational story, as well as a thought-provoking critique of worldviews and their effect on society, read this book. It is written in an intelligent, yet accessible manner. Whether you are a scholar, a skeptic, or simply a layperson in search of truth, you will benefit greatly from this book. You may not agree with everything Taunton says, but you will be forced to wrestle with some of the most basic questions of life and morality. You may also find your heart increasingly softened towards “the least of these” who suffer in our world, and who are in desperate need of love that Christ alone can offer.

Other books you might be interested in on this subject:

“Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry” by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett

“Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God” by Paul Copan

“Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” by David Bentley Hart

“The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith” by Peter Hitchens

“Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians” by Mark Coppenger

Also see these debates on dvd (available at

“Can There be Morality Without God?” Peter Singer vs. Dinesh D’Souza

“God or No God?” Christopher Hitchens vs. Larry Taunton

“Is God Great?” Christopher Hitchens vs. John Lennox

“Can Atheism Save Europe?” Christopher Hitchens vs. John Lennox