The last post!

Some of you might have been wondering why it’s been so quiet on the blog here recently. Well, the main reaons is that we have been working on a new blog connected with the City Bible Forum main website. Well, the new website is finally up and running and we are establishing our new blog there. The new home page for the new blog is: http://www.citybibleforum.org/articles

Some recent posts there have dealt with some of our recent discussions. Check out, ‘The F word’ and ‘How the stamp collecting analogy fails’. We welcome the same type of robust discussion that we’ve enjoyed on this blog here.

I will be moving some of our ‘classic’ posts from this blog and reposting them on the new blog over time. So we look forward to asking the bigger questions on the City Bible Forum main webpage. Enjoy!

FF@L 5 Aug – Amazing healings: children’s stories, or more?

Friday Forum @ Lunch

The second in a series, ‘A Glimpse of More’ .  The full text of the presentation can be found here: Amazing healings or more

A brief summary of the presentation:

A Glimpse of more

Many atheists in our world claim there is no evidence for any kind of God. Carl Sagan writes, ‘You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief isnot based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.’ The big question remains, is there any credible evidence for the existence of God?

Where would we go for such evidence? Two weeks ago John Lennox was in Melbourne and he claimed his most powerful evidence for God was the person and works of Jesus Christ. So let’s investigate Jesus further, perhaps Jesus gives us a glimpse of more?

Jesus: a glimpse of more?

How could Jesus support his claim to be God? Jim Carrey in ‘Bruce Almighty’ was endowed with the powers of God, he could do incredible things, like parting soup (or cars) like the red sea, moving the moon and making his colleague speak gibberish. These ‘miracles’ helped us believe that Bruce really had the power of God.

So what does Jesus do? Jesus demonstrates extraordinary power. Jesus demonstrates power we’d expect from God.

Jesus was a great miracle worker

In Mark 3:1-12, Jesus does the remarkable – he heals a man with a withered hand. This can not be a spontaneous remission or placebo. Jesus’ desmonstration of power is remarkable. Jesus is fully confident in his healing ability. Furthermore, Jesus was well known as a miracle-worker, even Josephus reconised Jesus as one who ‘was a doer of wonderful works’.

There were other miracle workers in the Ancient world (e.g. Honi the Circledrawer, Apollonius of Tyana and the Roman Emperor Vespasian), but they weren’t very common and Jesus stands out by the sheer number of miracles and their ‘quality’.

Jesus does the kinds of works we’d expect from someone who claimed to be God.

Some people will never be convinced

The story in Mark 3:1-12 shows another group who will never be convinced. They witnessed the same miracle and didn’t want to worship Jesus as Lord, instead they wanted to kill him.

This same refusal to engage the evidence is similar with many modern atheists. Some are ready to accept Jesus, but reject his miracles. Why? It can’t be on the evidence because Jesus’ miracles occur in multiple different sources, including non-Christian sources. It seems it’s based on a preconceived godless naturalistic worldview that fails to accept miracles. David Hume  pretty much assumed the same. So the accecptance of Jesus comes down to your worldview. Does your worldview allow miracles to occur or not?

Jesus’ miracles point to more – Jesus is the Son of God

Jesus miracles reveal him as the Son of God. He is the one who gives a glimpse of a new kingdom, a kingdom where sickness disease and death no longer reign. They give a glimpse of more.

The red A

Recently I was handing out flyers for our lunchtime series at Parliament station when I noticed someone walk past with a red atheist, ‘A’, pinned on his lapel. The red A is a fairly defining feature of the New Atheism. It is a symbol used quite widely and is endorsed by Richard Dawkins.

This prompted me to think about one of the claims of the new atheists that atheism is not a ‘belief’. The analogy is often posed against stamp collecting, the argument runs like this, atheism is as much a belief as not collecting stamps is a hobby. Richard Dawkins suggests the same logic in his book The God Delusion. On page 278 he asks who would ever go to war for the absence of a belief. It implies that atheism isn’t really a ‘belief’.

I find this hard to accept, and the pinning of the red A on the lapel confirms it. Why would anyone pin a red A on their lapel for the absence of a belief? The logic breaks down. Atheism is a belief and I find the attempts to reject this frustrating and illogical.

FF@L 29 July – Jesus: the best of men, or more?

Friday Forum @ Lunch

The first in a series, ‘A Glimpse of More’ .  The full text of the talk can be found here: Jesus best of men or more

A brief summary of the presentation:

A Glimpse of more

Many atheists in our world claim there is no evidence for any kind of God. Sam Harris writes, ‘every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which it has no evidence’ (The End of Faith, p23). The big question remains, is there any credible evidence for the existence of God?

Where would we go for such evidence? At the big debate last week, John Lennox claimed a glimpse of God through modern scientific discoveries, intelligence and rationality. Yet his most powerful evidence was the person and works of Jesus Christ. So let’s investigate Jesus further, perhaps Jesus gives us a glimpse of more?

Jesus: the best of men

Jesus is widely regarded as the best of men. He is the most written about figure of history and HG Wells describes him as the most dominant figure of history. Even Richard Dawkins believes Jesus as ‘supernice’. Jesus is the best of men – but is he more?

Jesus did what God did – forgive sins

In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus does the remarkable – he claims to forgive sins. Jesus demonstrates he has the authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic. This is a titanic claim, the forgiveness of sins belongs to God alone, yet Jesus is claiming the authority to forgive sins. Jesus is assuming the place of God.

Jesus was claiming to be God

Jesus was exercising the functions of God with the authority of God.

But anyone can claim to be God

But anyone can claim to be God. There have been many people over the years who have done this. CS Lewis has provided a helpful way of determining these god claims: they are either lunatics, liars or the Lord.

Applying these tests to the self -declared divine of the 2oth century, they are generally regarded as lunatics.

But not so Jesus. He does the things that one would expect from a God – he heals the sick, performs miracles and even death posed no barrier to Jesus.

Jesus: a glimpse of God?

Jesus may indeed give us a glimpse of God. Jesus also offers forgiveness and hope. Jesus was indeed the best of men, but he was much much more.

God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?

Professor John Lennox – God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?

Melbourne City Conference Centre (22nd July 2011)

Professor John Lennox spoke on the alleged conflict between faith and science. We will be shortly posting a summary of the presention and some comment, but we are seeking reactions from those who attended. What were your reactions to the presentation? Where were the strengths or weaknesses of his presnentation?

My hope for the debate

This week is a big week for the City Bible Forum here in Melbourne.  We are helping promote and support the big debate happening on Wednesday night, ‘Is there a God?’ between Peter Singer and John Lennox. Ticket sales for the event have been very strong and can be purchased here.

I’m eagerly anticipating the debate and I want to share some of my hopes for the evening. I hope that these principles are adhered to by Peter Singer and John Lennox and by all who attend. I also hope that this debate stimulates some sensible and thoughtful engagement of these really important questions.

1. Consider the strengths of the opponents. One of my frustrations with watching debates at different times is that I am astounded that astonishingly weak arguments seem to win the day. In any sensible and thoughtful debate the strengths of the ‘opponents’ position need to be considered and countered where appropriate. I hope that at the very least the debate stimulates people to realise why ‘opponents’ think differently to them and hopefully may respect the alternative position.

2. Play the arguments and not the man. There are some who delight in not dealing with the arguments of the opponent, but instead insist on ‘playing the man’. They make up personal attacks and ridicule opponents. I was once in a blog conversation with someone who refused to deal with any of the arguments rallied against his position. Instead he was content to mock his opponents. I really hope this is not the outcome of the debate on Wednesday night.

3. Accept that you might be wrong. One of the difficult things about a debate like Wednesday’s topic is that there are going to be some people who will be wrong. The answer to the question, ‘Is there a God’ is a simple yes or no answer. So someone is going to be wrong. The most intellectually virtuous position to take is to consider that you might be wrong and then let the arguments/evidence persuade you.

4. Disagree respectfully. Many people enjoy the exchange of ideas in a debate, but I would suggest that suggest an exchange be conducted respectfully.

5. May the truth win! Many of us seek the truth and debates are one of the forums in which the truth can be analysed and dissected. We hope and pray that the outcome of the debate is that the truth will become plain for all to see. May the truth win!

Adios Mexico

Our trip is finally drawing to a close. This morning we got up early, packed our vehicles and drove across the border. We left Mexico. We spent two hours in the queue waiting to get across into the United States. The queue was quite long even at 8am in the morning.

We had a nice day in the US. First we enjoyed some magnificent pancakes at IHOP (International House of Pancakes). It was a lovely breakfast!

Then we hit the outlet mall in San Diego for some shopping. Some of the team members bought a lot and even needed new suitcases to fit in the extra discounted clothes purchased. One of our team members, Anne Taylor, even found a shop with a familiar name! Unfortunately she didn’t get a discount.

We had a quick look around San Diego on a gorgous summer’s afternoon. It is a lovely city.

We then drove up the Interstate 5 to Los Angeles where we spent our last evening together as a team. It is a little sad to be going our separate ways.

The trip has been very challenging and eye opening for everyone. Everyone has grown personally and spiritually. Our world views have been expanded and the experiences and the friendships will certainly endure. Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed the trip and we’ve also had a good number of laughs.

We are planning another trip in 2012 and we will confirm dates soon. So it is now adios from our Mexico trip. We will resume normal blogging services soon and we have some great events coming up in July which are sure to challenge and inspire.

Ensenada

Yesterday we had a real change of pace. It was a gorgeous day and so we headed down the coast to another coastal city, Ensenada. On the way we stopped at some interesting sights. We passed Baja Studios (formerly Fox Studios Baja) where some filming for Titanic had been done and we spied a ship used in the film Master and Commander.

We soon stopped at an old mission where we hopped out and enjoyed the lovely old whitewashed buildings. There is a small Titanic museum there and we discovered some of the filming for the movie was done here. We got a team photo of us where some of the movie was shot.

     

We also saw beautiful views of the Baja coast.

As we continued driving south we even saw Jesus on the hill!

But we kept driving and the views just kept getting better.

We eventually arrived in Ensenada and enjoyed some lunch and a wander around the shops. Some of us enjoyed magnificent churros. We eventually capped off a great day out with a fantastico night at La Fonda, a wonderful bar and restaurant right near the beach a little south of Rosarito.

A lovely day and a real change of pace.

Orphanage visit

Last night we visited an orphanage on the outskirts of Rosarito/Tijuana. It was a very poor orphanage and they don’t get many visits. It is so poor that when we arrived they had no money to pay for electricity, so the power was off.

We visited and met some of the children. We were also entertained by some of the guys from Baja Christian Ministries (the group who oversee the housbuilding project). We were astonished when we met them in the car park of Wal Mart to see that they were all dressed up as clowns. It was quite an entertaining to see them drive through the streets of Tijuana. We could quite easily say that there were four clowns in the car in front of us. Nevertheless, the clowns provided excellent entertainment to the children. They danced, joked, played games, gave a drama and shared a message. They were fantastico!

     

We finished the day with a pinata. You might recognise the pinata doll! We thought it was hilarious that the Mexicans like Speedy Gonzalez. Whilst the little kids loved the pinata, some of the older boys were more interested in playing football.

 

It was another very moving experience to see these happy children in very humble surrounds. Whilst the children were very happy, their presence in such a place made us realise that things had not always been so happy for them in their past. Many of the team members were deeply moved. Another wonderful and touching experience.

Day 3 of building

On our final day of building we finished the house. It was remarkable that we could build a complete house in just three days. We sanded the plaster and painted the interior.

We even put the plaque for the very first Australian Break Free team. It is a wonderful moment for the Melbourne City Bible Forum to have made such a huge difference to the life of Veronica and her family.

We had a dedication of the house. This involved prayer and some people sharing what it meant for them to build the house for Veronica. It was a very emotional time for everyone concerned. There was hardly a dry eye in the group.

The youngest member of our team, Natalie, then handed the keys to Veronica and she opened the door to her new house and her new life.

 

Then it was party time! We had a great big cake and a pinata, which the children really loved. You might recognise the pinata doll!

 

It was a very emotional, satisfying and life changing day. We made a huge difference to Veronica and her family, but the trip also made a huge difference to us. One of the team participants said it was the best thing she’d ever done.

     

The completed house!