Thursday, June 23, 2022

FINAL- Developing and Implementing a System of Justified Belief Within the Context of Biblical Education

Developing and implementing a system of justified belief within an educational setting flows out of the ultimate mission of a school. Our philosophies and techniques in most classrooms are heavily influenced by the best practices of all kinds of schools and it is incumbent that Christian schools learn from those practices.

Schools move too quickly in my opinion from one trend to another. It is my personal observation that a school can be too out front in those trends but also can fall too far behind as well. We see it in football all the time, schemes do change. But the best programs evolve at a good pace and ask great questions. These programs also are really good at evaluating and tweaking as well.

Training in epistemology can help high school students develop critical thinking skills and enhance their ability to reason and evaluate information. 

I don't think we are talking about a separate class per se' (though teaching logic/fallacies/ higher order thinking like compare/contrast- cause/effect/ unintended results  needs to appear in multiple locations in scope and sequence of writing, debate, career prep, etc).

There are things that could be included across all departments.

Introduce key concepts: Begin by introducing key concepts in epistemology such as knowledge, belief, justification, truth, and skepticism. Use clear examples and encourage students to ask questions and share their own ideas.

Focus on critical thinking:
Emphasize the importance of critical thinking in evaluating claims and arguments. Teach students how to identify logical fallacies, evaluate evidence, and distinguish between good and bad arguments.

Explore different perspectives
: Encourage students to explore different perspectives on knowledge and truth. Discuss different theories of knowledge, such as empiricism, rationalism, and constructivism, and help students evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Use real-world examples: Use real-world examples to help students apply their critical thinking skills. For example, you could analyze the validity of news stories or advertisements, or evaluate the claims made by politicians or activists.

Engage in reflective practice
: Encourage students to engage in reflective practice by thinking critically about their own beliefs and assumptions. Encourage them to ask themselves questions like "How do I know what I know?" and "What evidence do I have to support my beliefs?"

Foster discussion: Encourage discussion and debate in the classroom to help students develop their reasoning and argumentation skills. Encourage respectful disagreement and help students learn how to argue effectively without resorting to ad hominem attacks or other fallacious reasoning.

By employing training in epistemology for high school students, you can help them develop the critical thinking skills they need to navigate the complex world of information and ideas they will encounter both in their academic and personal lives.

When it comes to a sound epistemology we must keep important principles in mind.

A person can have belief without knowledge. But John Frame and others have made an interesting assertion that you really can't have knowledge without belief (see Chapter 4 of Frame's The Knowledge of the Doctrine of God for a good analysis of this). 

It is also true that a student may not be able to articulate the warrant for belief, but that does not mean that the grounds do not exist.

What my ultimate goal is in this exercise is to see if we can better teach how to articulate the grounds. Teach students how to develop strategies for the justification of belief, and then help them navigate  through information with an ear for truth. The final step is to show them that this system works for believers and non-believers thus giving them confidence to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

We can't get too caught up in the vicious cycle of giving reasons for the reasons- if that happens, as Frame says, 'the process of justification would require infinite chains of reason justification" and that produces frustration or "a hopeless task". 

A few quick 'reminders as I close this series:

This is NOT just for Bible classes. These strategies need to work through all academic disciplines and also all co-curricular activities as well.

This is NOT 'dumbing down' epistemology, though it may require a more strategic vocabulary and emphasis on concepts and not lofty academic equations that end up in dissertations without any real world application.

This comprehensive and coherent strategy must be developed as age appropriate and gives room for doubt, questions, and growth over time. We can't just wait until the senior year to throw out apologetic arguments and hope they stand up to the scrutiny of the elites who demand answers to questions that they really don't have an answer for as well.

The system also must stand firm in Biblical authority. The worst thing a student can do is abandon the standard or THEY become the standard. 

The strategies don't have to be statements, I believe questions are more effective and protect us from being abused by the so called 'elites'.

If we do teach statements, they don't have to be complicated. In a strange way, Christians are cheaters. We already have answers, the world just doesn't like them.

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” [25] He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.(John 9:24–25 ESV)

Finally, we leave it to God to win. All we need to do is teach our students how to compete and how to persevere.

A young student of the Bible can be a torrid force for good. If he lives in consistent alliance with his beliefs (not perfection) then his life presents a 'coherent truth'. This is important because most of what is coming down to us from the ivory towers of college ideology fails in the practice of those platitudes. In reality, if you remove God from any ideology there really isn't a philosophy that can pass simple day to day human needs. And also there isn't a solid ground for logical analysis.

I think the mistake we have made is to present a theology devoid of the gospel. Too often we want to sanitize a brand of Christianity that robs the gospel of it's true glory. We wring our hands when a Christian falls thinking it has hurt the name of Christ when actually it confirms the need for Christ!

I spent too many years teaching apologetics as a debate with atheists. That is a error from the beginning. The Bible points out time and time again that persuasion is impossible without the Word and Spirit of God. I am not proposing that we teach students to win arguments, I want them to find the adventure of winning people!

So here is an example- this plan that is inspired by my studies of Princeton Seminary from its early beginnings to the early 20th century.

Some of the motivation:

Princeton produced 114 clergy during John Witherspoon’s administration of 26 years. Other grads founded ten colleges. 13 became college presidents, One president of US (James Madison), 1 VP,  9 cabinet officers, 21 US senators, 3 supreme court justices, 12 state governors, 39 judges.

A Vision of a School- What this could look like:

Our aim in this task is to promote the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom; and to raise up qualified and caring ministers for every aspect of life. We desire to raise up godly men and women who will be useful in all learned professions. We want to produce ornaments of the State and Church. We want an environment where God’s Holy Spirit produces consecrated Christian students with an integrated and thoroughly Biblical world view. Our faith is the grand concern to us all- whatever our calling or profession.

We need to constantly challenge ourselves to subtle but significant change!

We need to always evaluate ideas and ask God to give us the freedom to be what we say we are endeavoring to be and to train our students to discern. We need assessment and execution to create an expectation for our students to live by the values we hold dearly as disciples of Jesus Christ.
God’s Holy Spirit is crucial to growth.

Hallmarks of this approach:

The teachers and staff are full of faith and the Holy Spirit.

The students are friendly and serious about embracing the mission

One of the traits here that everyone possesses is 'particular politeness'

We are not all alike, but we speak the same thing, and there are no visible divisions among us. Our unity is a product of our closeness and our common spiritual faith.

We will teach theology as we find it in the Bible and it will honor the faith and findings of Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster Standards. We not only teach it, we live it. We will make mistakes, but we seek to stand squarely in the great stream of historic Christianity and orthodox Calvinism.

“ A rule is prescribed to all God’s servants that they not bring their own inventions, but simply deliver, as from hand to hand, what they have received from God.” John Calvin

A place for spiritual pilgrimage where revival is prayed and prepared for:

1- Study, Preaching and Commitment to Practice the Bible

2- Corporate Worship

3- Vigilant and vigorous discipline

4- Prayer and witness of students themselves, resulting in conversions

“It was said in our time that no class in Princeton ever passed through its four years without experiencing a religious revival. Our class formed no exception. Our revival came near the end of our Junior year. Almost all students remarked at some time of the “means of grace’ – ‘seminary of learning’ and ‘school of life’.” BB Warfield- student 1868-1871

The Supremacy of God’s WORD

“I admonish you again and again, that you read the sacred Scriptures in a far different manner from which you read any other book: that you approach them with the highest reverence and the most intense application of your mind; not as the words of a man, nor an angel, but as the words of the Divine majesty, the least of which should have more weight with us, than the writings of the wisest and most learned men in the world.” Von Molsdorf

The Bible students should be possessed of sincere and ardent piety. They should be students “taught of God”, “conscious of their own insufficiency, but confident of the help of the Almighty. Those that seek to understand the Scriptures therefore ought not to lean on their own understanding, but by continual and earnest prayer should look unto the Father of Lights from Whom proceeds every good and every perfect gift; who has promised to give wisdom to those who lack it, and ask for it.” Dr. Archibald Alexander, Princeton 1812

Religion without learning or learning without religion are equally injurious.

Dr. Archibald Alexander, Princeton 1812

A challenge to prepare for mission, not career prep.

”A job is not a mission. I have been put on this earth by God for something special. Something beyond what I can dare dream or imagine.”

Curriculum and Academics

The Bible Department must be the Fountainhead of the school
Encourage and explore a better relationship of scientific theory and faith
Always include leadership training and public speaking
Adopt a class for forensics training
Inspire “Culture Changers” where students are prepared to lead and win in marketplace with sound, systematic theology

The Goal

“What is proclaimed here will be the old truth which has been from the beginning; which was shown in the shadow of the Old Testament; which was fully exhibited in the New Testament as in a glass; which has been retained by the one true and universal church in the darkest ages; which was long buried, but rose again in the reformation; which was maintained by the grand old theologians of Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland; and is being defended with great logical power in this academy.”
Dr. James McCosh, Princeton, 1868.

A comprehensive and coherent epistemology will help a school prepare students to embrace and defend the faith like Princeton college and seminary accomplished in its golden age of effectiveness.

Questions help us compete in the marketplace of ideas:

Continually ask students to evaluate worldviews with simple questions.

Can anyone live consistently, logically, and practically with this worldview?

Does it inspire service and help to humanity?

Does it allow for forgiveness and reconciliation?

Does it have comfort for those who have died or facing death?

How does it explain the dichotomy of humans who act in ways that both hurt and help?

Does it have roots in space, time, and history?

Does it extol pride and power or humility and service?

Does it protect the weak or destroy them?

Does it promote care and protection of children and the elderly?

Does it rely on our own capacity or something bigger than ourselves?

The explosion of INFORMATION has forced us to change the very nature of what education is designed to do. We must produce a product where students are taught fundamentals and principles of learning, the discovery of truth, discernment in a world of deep fakes and bold leadership to face the challenges. Our culture is descending to disorder and division... we can't hesitate and yes, we must pray like there is no tomorrow!

Day 4- Developing and Implementing a System of Justified Belief Within the Context of Biblical Education

This post comes with a warning. But also an understanding that we are nowhere close to a 'warrant' for justification of belief. Everything to this point is still preamble and foundational.

If what the Bible says is true, then we have to pause and reflect about the main problem at hand. The Biblical account of man is NOT a good report. And this reality complicates our thinking, our actions, our motivations, our conversations, and even our listening.

If we are not careful, we begin to think about the enemy outside the gates, but pay no attention to the enemy residing in our own hearts!

To quote John Frame:

"Objectivism" continues to be a danger in orthodox Christian circles. It is all too easy for us to imagine that we have a higher task than merely that of helping people. Our pride constantly opposes the servant model.

And as Frame fleshes this out, it is clear that he is most burdened to make sure we keep a high view of Scriptural authority but we also need to make our proclamations and educational pursuits to be evaluated in whether we are helping or hurting people in the long run. We can't be so right that we are dead right. Scripture is spot on in this pursuit... it is our theological bents and rants that lose the balance.

I found this out the hard way as a Bible teacher in Nashville for 7 years. I was so concerned about fencing the standards that I often won a lot of debates, but lost students along the way. I forgot that spiritual enlightenment is a process that the Lord accomplishes through His Spirit. It is unrealistic to expect the level of sanctification in a 16 year old that can only be attained as a 40 year old.

Don't get me wrong.... I'm trying to get there. But it is similar to coaching Qb's. I don't expect an 8th grade QB to run an offense in the same way I expect a seasoned senior to run it. God allows time for theory to sprout roots and finally fruit. If God is patient... then why aren't we?

"Reasoning , even with unbelievers, must be obedient and godly." I have taken that to heart... 'obedience' is my obedience and 'godly' means that I express kindness, gentleness, patience, and perseverance in my interaction with others.

Let's use an example the most basic theme verse of apologetics. I'm going to wrap it in with the entire thought to keep some important points of context as we consider this point:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [17] For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13–17 ESV)

And we quote this all the time- "do it with gentleness and respect". And do you know what brings tears to my eyes when I think about the context? This is a passage about suffering... and I mean REAL PERSECUTION. The original recipients of this letter were being stripped of everything they owned or loved. They were subject to disdain and violence. Peter is exhorting the readers through God's Spirit to have such a disposition of peace and love that people will have to ask, "Why do you still have hope!?" And the persecuted ones are to give a defense with gentleness and respect... while on the way to their imprisonment and death! And we get upset by a snarky post on twitter!

Let me close this out... what am I saying and why is this important.

When it comes to competing and building the Kingdom of God in this "Domain of Darkness", we CAN"T divorce the message from the messenger. 

I know a lot of people within the context of the so-called "Apologetics Circuits" and unfortunately I get too many comments about how a person may be a great debater, brilliant, tough, etc... but oh, by the way, he is also a real jerk.

We all know Christian jerks and sadly,  we all play the role of Christian jerks on too many occasions  (and we also wonder out loud about how we are going to get along in heaven one day).

But before we start getting into the meat and potatoes of this strain towards  epistemology, let's keep reminding one another... if we do this without love then we are just a rude noise. Let's read I Corinthians 13 together before we start designing powerpoint slides.

If our system of Justifying Belief doesn't have empathy for others, it will NOT resonate with this current generation of young minds and hearts. Students today are HIGHLY empathetic to others, which is a GOOD thing.

Where we can help them is to show how proper disciple is true love. Proper warning is helping others. Good news is good in light of bad news. 

But it isn't wise to think we can rally our future theologians, physicians, ministers, counselors, and parents by playing 'whack a mole'.... we aren't going to beat sense into them, and we aren't going to mortify the flesh enough to wash away sin.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Individuals have gone through some real agony throughout the history of the church to rid themselves of sin, the sting of condemnation, and the fruit of consequences that result from a life apart from God.

Some of us are familiar with the practice of mortification: The old belief that if a person mortified (destroyed) the flesh they could save the soul. This doctrine came out of a mis-application of texts like “cut off the hand”- “gouge out the eye”- or “you haven’t resisted to the point of shedding blood”.

 Monastic Orders were set up to arrest sin by severe lifestyle changes and extraordinary vows of pain and discomfort. The problem is this… it doesn’t work. A man can take vows of silence and chastity and still find evil lurking in the depths of the human heart. John Calvin comments on this practice of mortification:

There are some good and holy men who when they saw constant overindulgence wanted to curb and correct it, but thought there was no other way than to allow men only the bare necessities. This is godly advice but unnecessarily severe, because it binds our consciences in closer fetters than they are bound by God’s Word. Necessity, according to them, meant abstinence from anything desirable, so that bread and water was the rule.

We now come back to Paul’s glorious comment on gospel truth and application. 

He first gives the imperative ’Do not let sin reign’- this indicates an active participation by the believer in the process. This is the battle of the believer. When we are slaves to sin, we think we are free, but we are dead. We run away from becoming a ‘slave to God’- but ironically, this is where true life and liberty is found. 

So how do we find success in this battle against sin? It is not in mutilation… it is found in re-dedication.

 Our society simply says to ‘Say NO- and ‘Education is the key”- but the Bible recognizes the emptiness of this message. We don’t simply say ‘NO”- we learn to say “YES’ to Christ and we need His Spirit to win. 

Are you struggling with pornography? Don’t destroy your computer… re-dedicate it. Use the time to honor God. Set up accountability, of course. But use the time to seek out positive info. 

Are you weighed down with an unhealthy addiction? Don’t destroy your body.. instead push your addictive nature into the things of God. Ask yourself the obvious question in verse 21- What benefit does sin ultimately give you? 

We, of course, need to address another foolish fix the world suggests- REMOVE GUILT. 

Some liberal sociologists and others suggest we remove the standard. They say, “We need to stop saying these things are wrong, just get rid of the guilt” Just remove the shame. Come on now! Please!.. No matter the semantics, we know how we feel when we let someone down or fail in our own pursuits. Verse 19- When you offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity you are lead into ever increasing wickedness (this is the ‘handing over’ in Romans Ch.1). 

So what do we do? Everyday offer yourself to Christ. Get up and say, ”Lord, take me today. Read His Word. Walk around your house and give Him everything. “Take this Lord and use it for Your glory.” Give Him your heart, your dreams, your pain- let Him be the boss for a change. In the middle of the day, stop and pray. “Lord, show me how to give it all to You”. Share this with someone you trust. Ask them to help you in your desire to live for Him. At the end of the day- review. You will see how you messed up. Pray “Lord, forgive me, I need You to take me, help me be dedicated to You”. Preach the gospel to yourself’ I am saved by grace” Read, watch, and pray. Begin again tomorrow. Be patient. This change happens in fits and spurts- 1 step forward- 2 steps back- 3 steps forward- 1 step back. 

Spiritual change takes place in decades.. not days. After a while, I promise, you will begin to see a change… from the inside out. Sanctification begins with a new dedication- it is a new direction. I am confident in this “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completeness in Christ Jesus”.

Until we make this effort... our words will ring hollow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Day 3- Developing and Implementing a System of Justified Belief Within the Context of Biblical Education

Even though a first step in a system of justifying belief is acknowledgment of God. It can never really flow without creating earnest  and heavy depth of that step by a submission to the Lordship of that God in your life. And submission means obedience when obedience isn't fun, free, or easy. And a test of that Lordship is the brokenness experienced in the context of disobedience.

John Frame, whose influence can be noticed in almost all of my apologetics writings developed the Lordship motif in a typical Frame triad of control, authority, and personal presence.

And it is the personal presence that creates distinctively Christian epistemology.

He always says it much better than I can:

"The non-Christian can accept an absolute only if the absolute is impersonal and therefore makes no demands and has no power to bless or curse".

So when I am beginning to develop a system of justified belief, I find it to be much more poignant when thought of as less of a 'system' and more of a relationship.

In the long run, I am justifying belief in a Person more than dogmatic principles.

Most men feel a sense of failure when they fall short of goals or core values. The Christian experiences it more in the let down of a Person they care about. A personal absolute is much more persuasive and heart felt.

Though post-modernity has long swept past as the 'favorite flavor of the month' philosophy- we still play in the foul dust of its deconstructionism. But we forget that the ease at which post-modern philosophers swung sledgehammers at the canopy of tradition was due primarily from their detachment from a personal God of accountability. Once you lose your mooring, drift isn't easy... it is inevitable!

Relationship. In Biblical terms it is even a 'covenantal relationship' which is played out in bonds and oaths all across human custom. Sadly, marriage should still be our best on-ramp to understanding sacrificial bonds, but even that has drifted into mere irrelevance in non-religious circles. 

And a key to any relationship is 'language'. Dare I even say 'love language'?

Our Creator instilled a lot of 'L' words that are hard to explain as a part of natural development absent from a personal Creator. Each word connects us to the comprehensive coherence that forms the basis of existence as we know it.... want some examples?

Take a personal God out of the equation... is it easy to explain?:

LAW- fixed principles of how things 'ought' to be? 

LIBERTY- innate desire for freedom.

LOGIC- fixed standards by which we compare and contrast within higher order questions and complexities?

LANGUAGE- I even think multiple languages- they all point to common realities...both concrete and abstract

LOVE- come on now.... no God?... then how do you even get a concept of agape love?

Now, this isn't a slam dunk...OH how our enemy influenced, born into sin, pride ravaged, victim playing selves fights these ideas.

Without a change of heart...we

1) Deny it

2) Ignore it

3) Repress it.

4) Insincere, lip service it.

5) Misinformation it.

6) Mock it.

7) Just flat oppose it.

Sadly, we were on a level playing field for some time where at least there was an honest debate. 

At some point we were contending in the field of rationalism, but unfortunately mysticism and irrationalism has removed that arena of competition.

So- here is where we are so far:

A system of justified belief is rooted in an individual's relationship with a Personal God- 

A God big enough to be beyond the creature- in majesty and mystery.

But also close enough for an intimate and involved relationship where the creature makes the Creator Lord over his life.

We can't rebel against those ideals and truthfully justify our beliefs.

When Thomas Paine rejected God and wrote "my own mind is my own church" he lost important ground to justify that belief. The God he rejected wasn't the God that Bible believing Christians believe in.

When I say a 'system to justify belief'... this isn't for the Christian only. It isn't a one sided problem.

All men need to justify belief, play the cards as they see them, and see where the trump cards stand.

And those cards need to hold up as the last enemy creeps in.

A problem we all deal with!

To be continued....

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Day 2- Developing and Implementing a System of Justified Belief Within the Context of Biblical Education

It starts with God. No system of justified belief can survive without some serious exploration of the possibilities associated with a majestic transcendent creator of some sort. Any human who rejects that thought experiment will be severely handicapped to any real movement to justify belief.

If all I have is me...then I am trapped in a very small box of knowledge, experience, and certainly confidence. I find it also interesting that no one really believes in what just he can possible know. We all 'trust' in ideas and facts that we have inherited from others.

The more a person trusts in himself as the governor of all that is true, fair, good, and right... the more dangerous and likely more error prone is such a worldview. In the deep recesses of his heart, he suppresses thoughts like 'what if I am wrong?' until the callouses harden.

A dangerous man.... because the less healthy skepticism we have in the choices we make, the more we have to suppress, control, dominate, and remove others who hold beliefs that say- "You are wrong".

I have always heard it this way... 'the smallest package in all the world is the man who is all wrapped up in himself." 

The prideful man laughs in mockery when asked, 'what is tucked away behind the planet Pluto?' He hasn't been there, but he prides himself in an educated guess. And possibly is even afraid to look.

The humble man isn't upset by the same question. He says, 'I don't know, but God does' and he is never afraid to look. He is never concerned that something may be there that he did not expect. He is free to say, "Well I'll Be! Look, there is a salamander there! Boy, was I wrong and what a wonderful surprise!"

Unfortunately, we have made idols out of science and logic because we refused to place them under the authority of a transcendent Creator. Look how hard it has been for 'scientists' to admit wrong ideas about Covid origins, treatments, or procedures. In fact, the history of science has a poor track record of how it handles dissent.

Pride lifts up man, pushes out any notion of God until he himself takes the place of God.

The Bible teaches a completely different idea.... humble yourself, entertain doubts, admit mysteries, give up on a right to know it all, and you open a way to discover treasure troves of truth.

A man who rests in something BEYOND himself actually has a chance to make it through the rough and tumble world where mighty iron wills turn outside of his control.

“In the enormous scene of the universe- amid the whirl and hiss of jagged iron wheels- amid the deafening hammer blows- man, a helpless and defenseless creature, finds himself- not secure for one moment- any second an imprudent wheel may seize and rend him, a hammer may crush him to a powder- and worse- the sense of abandonment is awful.” David F. Strauss

A step to acknowledging the existence of God actually starts with an honest admission- "I don't know"... and that is a very freeing concept!

Now, we must also admit that Christians can get caught up in pride as well. The church also has a poor history of treating scientists who discovered scientific facts that challenged prevailing theological systems which usually were casualties of poor exegesis.... humility must cut both directions!

I always find encouragement from some of my early Princeton heroes! 

Archibald Alexander: “Science and the Bible are allies in establishing truth. God is author of both revelations. The truth has nothing to fear from the truth”.

Charles Hodge “Science gives us the full accord of facts. It costs the church a severe struggle to give up one interpretation and adopt another, but no evil need to be apprehended. The Bible still stands in the presence of the whole scientific community, unshaken”. 

OK- back to meditating on the possibility of the existence of a majestic Creator who is transcendent. What does that help me do? It allows me to contemplate a very wide narrative with coherence!

Sure, the skeptics argue that it is the "God in the gaps" mumbo jumbo that pacifies passivity and intellectual laziness. Might as well call it 'pixie dust' and stay a Neanderthal forever.

No no- not at all. 'God in the gaps' buys me time and tickles our quest to discover. But it is a much easier narrative to digest.

God isn't hiding gifts of truth and knowledge... He is excited and eager for us to find them. The 'discoverability' of great truths both large and small are likely proofs of His existence.

Some of the sentiment here can be seen in this famous (and often misquoted) line by Lewis:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.” (C.S. Lewis essay “Is Theology Poetry?” found in The Weight of Glory) 

A big God allows for a coherent narrative... and guess what? We can be included in that story!

So there- a proper epistemology is birthed by a quest to know God. A quest that He Himself births in us.

But this is just a micron... because just as important as the transcendence is.... ah..... even more so ... is His eminence.

He is not absent, watching us from a distance. He draws near to us as sons. Yes, I need to feel the majesty of His transcendence... but the sweetness of His eminence raptures my very soul!

Ok- enough for now... baby steps to a system for justifying belief!

Developing and Implementing a System of Justified Belief Within the Context of Biblical Education

In the grand Jayopsis tradition of rushing in where angels fear to tread, I will spend a few posts this summer on rediscovering tools of Epistemology as we seek to prepare disciples in a culture oversaturated in information and dangerous philosophy. 

Epistemology is "the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion".

And the predisposition behind my project is a reluctant admission that we are losing the messaging war.

“Worldliness is what any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness see strange” G.K. Beale

And we are ALL subject to this issue- yes, that includes ME as well.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. [17] And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.   (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)
My early interest in this began by reading the  writings of Os Guinness, especially ‘The Last Christian on Earth” and "The Call"
This is no shock....we live in a culture of growing secularism- and it is a slow sleep of death..... and I see it not only in my life (especially this post-Covid, isolation) but also in the worldview of students and young adults.
Guinness calls this, “The Sandman Effect” or putting the church to sleep through worldliness. ‘The Sandman Effect’ is presented as an enemy tactic versus the church.
In this tactic, the church digs its own grave because a lot of Christians are sleep walking.
The major premise of the Sandman Effect is to infiltrate the church by use of worldliness- which exposes the defensive vulnerability of the church. Instead of the church becoming more aware of the damaging effects of popular culture, she falls into a deeper and deeper sleep.
The first experiment with this tactic is confusing the nature of belief. The impact of the enlightenment produced unexpected and unintended results.  We live in a world that lives by a false notion“Christians live by faith and secularists live by reason”.
The pomp and pressure of those who present themselves as the intellectual elite offer much promise, but have only produced exclusive caste systems and cynicism. The ultimate fruit of intellectual oppression is a quest for power and the greatest use of that power is cynical, dream killing, skepticism. Our kids are not being captured by vision and our more mature Christ followers are not dreaming of faithfully building God's kingdom as we eagerly yearn for His return.
I love how Guinness describes this: “Yes, there was brilliance (among the elites), but its darker side was the empty rhetoric, the hypocritical poses, the shabby compromises. the betrayal of friends and causes, with some people fellow-traveling with the communists, and others more or less sleeping with fanaticism…The legacy of this kind of general mood became a more effective inoculation against faith that a hundred (Voltaires)”. 
Along the way, a desire for truth has gone out of fashion….. which opens doors for post-modernism anxiety, which is not a clear philosophy… it is more like a mood.
And here is where we (Christians, especially in the south) go wrong- we fail to see what has happened among those who are not the traditionalists. Traditionalists have a strong sense of right and wrong- they have a foundation of TRUTH. But our response is not the best... instead of longing for "the good ole days" (which were never that good), we need to find a way forward that honors the Word of God and presents it in a more productive way.
We are increasingly living among those (especially the young- media savvy- who tend to think by sight and act by impulse) who judge truth NOT by objectivity, but degrees of plausibility.
In Guinness’s words- “we have created a climate in which a thing’s seeming to be true is often mistaken for its being true.”
And what is the means of this change? By changing the definition and standards of ‘belief’.
We allow and even applaud people who believe or disbelieve on non-rational or psychological grounds.
I love Guinness’s analogy here: "we accept a person who is an atheist- not because they have weighed truth and fallacy- but simply because their father was a religious hypocrite who alienated the family from God as much as himself."
Unfortunately, we fall into this trap when we begin to elevate Ted-talk smooziness or Disneyfication logos and themes over Scripture. This causes us to only accept interpretation and application of Scripture as it fits the latest 'cool factor' marketing schemes..
See how subtle it is? We agree with truth if the delivery system is sleek. But if that delivery system is cheesy, it automatically becomes harder to believe.
“Coach it with care and and plausibility will upstage credibility”– this statement scares the fire out of me!
Unfortunately, the visible church currently has a heart suffering from fibrillation – the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers- and the result is infighting. We waste a lot of time shooting at ourselves over things that in the end do not matter.
One spasmodic side of this disunity is the Christian philosophers- who expound the theoretical- and the other side of the dysfunction is the ‘just give me Jesus’ anti-intellectual crowd who throw out doctrine.
The result is mission drift.... and just like the end of Judges-"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)"
Guinness shows how the Apostle Paul provides a framework for the fight. He knows that the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth… not theory. “Paul would have believed his faith was objectively true if he had been the last one convinced of it.”
And though the truth of Christianity is NOT dependent on perfect followers,  a church without unity hides TRUTH because it seems less credible, and a less credible church is a less plausible church.
A Two-Legged Stool
Guinness outlines a problem when he shows  how apologists only use 2 of three tools of analysis in unveiling this issue.
Leg 1- The history of ideas
Leg 2- The climate of culture and custom
and the missing…Leg 3- the justification of knowledge (epistemology... get it now?)
This missing leg is what we have to find if the next generation is going to compete in this crazy world of endless opining and shallow, snarky tweets, and loveless emails.
In the post modern world- cultural pluralism and relativism offers confusion in leg 2 and the rapid flow and dynamics of information makes Leg 1 seemingly archaic and irrelevant (and BORING). But if we pressed more into Leg 3 and make the post-modern man justify his knowledge beyond the perspective of personal experience and evaluate truth claims in a more logical framework- we would see some progress and usefulness of the other 2 legs.
A huge roadblock in this mess is the frenzied pace of communication technology and global mobility. 

I love the quote about the Kenyan saying “All westerners have watches…  but Africans have time.”
“A culture of mobility plus convenience leads quite naturally not only to (drive-in food) and banks but also drive-in churches”
See how it works? Overlay upon overlay- the effect of molding lives through culture has all the advantages of a revolution and none of the disadvantages of intellectual sweat.
As our children see belief as a feeling of plausibility and relevance- as they are spun dizzy by infinite activity- as they are enticed by the promise of convenience- as they are distracted by new cool tools of transport of information tsunamis- they cannot understand that TRUTH is TRUE even if no one ascribes to it. ‘When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?’ He won’t, if we have lost what ‘faith’ means. What will He say when we respond “It just didn’t ‘seem’ right… It didn’t feel true”?
If we succumb to worldliness.. it not only keeps us from being effective for the Lord, it also hinders our calling in life..
Ask any invading army and they would agree: ‘Subtle compromise is always better than sudden captivity’.
A church without distinction is a church that has lost its ability to be ‘salt and light’. But Jesus states very clearly in Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
What can help us ‘stay awake’ in a culture where the church is ‘sleeping in the watchtower’ while the enemies ravage the gates?
Here is a random start:
  • Find the balance of being “in the world’ but not ‘of the world’.
If the Bible teaches us to be ‘in the world’ but not ‘of the world”- how do we manage that? Sadly, we miss this delicate balance and find either we are in the world and OF the world or we become so isolated that we are ‘out of the world’.
Paul addresses this in I Corinthians 5:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—[10] not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
and later:
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
(1 Corinthians 5:19-10 and 12-13 ESV)
Think about how far removed we are from this Biblical concept. We rail against outside sin and ‘wink’ at inside sin. We strike at those on the outside who know no better and we shrink away from those on the inside who do know better.  OR we say we want strong church discipline but wail when it happens.
  • Diligently keep God’s Word as the ‘true north’ of our moral compass and mission
As the Word has dwindled in our midst, the clear and reasonable boundaries have become cloudy and confused. Without the Bible, a believer has NO HOPE of staying in between the ditches on both sides of the road.
But as reading has dwindled, so has strong Bible study fallen away. Most of our Bible knowledge comes from listening to others, But even listening to a popular preacher without personal Bible reading has huge pitfalls. We tend to only remember what fits our presuppositions. Even ‘devotionals’ are no substitute of the NEED of deep, solid Bible study.
  • Gospel Integrity must be authenticated with lives committed to personal holiness and discipline.
When I say 'holiness' most people associate it with clean living check lists... I'm good and the world is a bunch of sinners. Not only should we not be railing against outside sin (though we do lovingly and patiently warn about the penalty of sin and follow up with gospel truth)- we should be railing against our own personal sin. It does no good to wallow is a pity party over how sinful our culture is. It can be addressed in simple questions... Do I love my wife? Am I encouraging others? Do I demand my way? Am I willing to give others a second chance? Do I pray for my enemies? 
Remember how Jesus addressed it in Matthew 7?
[3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
  • LOVE toward sinners must be visible in word and deed.
Staying alert and awake is helped when we initiate activity. Our society is confused.. calling good “evil’ and evil “good”. A way to help is patiently and lovingly learning how to ‘hate sin’ but ‘love sinners’. Christians who serve and pray for people who  throw insults or mistreat us is the greatest authentic statement of gospel truth in the world today.
Now here is the tough one- we must love them enough to not be ‘co-dependents on their behavior’. Christian love is quickly running to provide a ride for a friend who has had too much to drink.. but it is NOT being the designated driver every weekend.
  • Humble, but firm stances on God’s moral law.
My advice is to ‘keep it business like’. We don’t cover our eyes and ears and scream in shock when we find sin. We point to God’s moral law and say, “This is what the truth is”. We cannot compromise when those areas of clear sin come up. I love how Tim Keller speaks. He says to ‘non-traditionalists’- “I hope you will empathize with us Christians. We have to support what the Bible says. If the Bible says, “Jesus is the only way” then we have to stand by that.” And he says it in as a ‘disarming’ way as possible.
  • Bold Confrontation to those IN the church regarding false teachers.
As gentle as we are in all things.. we cannot and MUST NOT allow those who profess to be Christians get away with false teaching. Any wide reading of the New Testament epistles will show that urgent warning to oppose any alteration or perversion of the gospel.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. [2] And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. [3] And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [27] but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. [28] Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. [29] How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” [31] It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV)
  • A love for evangelism and corporate worship.
Again, corporate activity is a vigorous, godly exercise program that keeps us awake and in shape. It is hard to fall prey to the ‘Sandman Effect’ if we are actively taking opportunities to share the good news of Christ and making effort to passionately participate in worship. These two distinctives keep us in the stream of adventure where we HAVE to rely on God’s Spirit.
So I will seek to dive into this a little deeper in the context of Christian education over the next few (several?) posts.
Maybe it will inspire parents and educators along the way.
Finally, you won't find answers in nightly cable matter the political agenda. All the news does is push another crisis to increase ratings. I'm hoping to investigate winning strategies.
Turn off the screen and open up your Bibles... and celebrate the grace and presence of God. He is still there on the throne. He is still the only One who will always be there... even in the darkest moments of despair.
The meek will still inherit the earth!

The Evolution of PACE in Our Football System

The term "NASCAR" pace was introduced to me in early 2002 as I was sitting around with some coaches at the University of Tennessee where I used to help in their summer football camp. It was late at night and we had been discussing pro's and con's of no huddle and talking about different signal and wristband systems.

I loved the concept and found myself fully embracing the idea- GO FAST- wear the defense out.

But we always ran into problems with our CODE RED or NASCAR offense.

One, wristbands are slow. It meant me thinking of what I wanted to call, finding it on my master sheet, signaling the number, having the players find it on the wristband, get lined up and snap.

I credit Gus Malzahn for getting out a systematic approach to implementing, practicing, and improving the PACE offense. And I do think the PRACTICE is the biggest key along with calling plays quickly.

By the way- as we got better at a NASCAR  pace, we found that we could push  practice reps to WARP speed! I distinctly remember a 10 minute team screen period where we easily ran through 25 screens in that time! I takes a lot of moving parts, ball spotters, etc.... but it was impressive to watch and helped create a sense of urgency.

Are there problems with pace? Sure- just like anything there are pro's and con's. One issue is that you can wear your own defense out in a game. If you are scoring or punting every 2 minutes, you can have your defense on the field for a long time.

Most pace teams do not shift or motion- so the defense gets an easy adjustment, though they have to be fast. More shifts and motion slows the pace down.

And there are times to slow down the pace. You might want to slow down to eat clock right before halftime or toward the end of the game. Some pace teams get bad in those situations. And I think you can get sloppy in technique- if speed is preeminent, you can rely too much on getting the opponent tired and mis-aligned and really not develop sound fundamentals.

But I found THE BIGGEST problem with pace is that you cannot go as fast in the game as practice. The officials are slow- the chain guys are slow- and in high school, the wide receivers have to be inside the numbers when the play clock starts. The change to the college 45 second play clock did help that that a good bit and so far, there is no 'hold up the play so the defense can sub'. But primarily in a game there is always that awkward delay as they get set, check with officials on alignment, and be still a count before the ball can legally be snapped.

Also- true pace teams are usually sloppy on film. They have used speed as a covering for poor alignments, stance, starts, and fundamentally pace teams can look out of sync.

2011- Fire Alarm, Fast Huddle Offense

In 2011 we adopted a 'modified pace' system where you get the chaos of lining up fast and snapping, but not giving the defense too much of a personnel and formation 'pre-read'.

Here is what it looked like:


 I first began thinking about a full time attack huddle watching Auburn, Clemson use it to line up for tricks or shots- especially short yardage situations. We began using it like that as well. I noticed that the fast huddle break and line up actually created a little more chaos on the defensive side. Why not do it all the time? Run base stuff as well.

In that system- you stay in the huddle as long as you want- the key was to explode out of the break, line up and snap it as fast as possible. The receivers have time to get lined up as well.

Here is what I tried to do with this:

1) Be able to get in multiple formations using the same personnel. I have drawn up over 20 alignments- balanced and unbalanced- that we could use coming out of this huddle.

2) A more effective "Freeze" or "Check" play. Run to LOS fast- bark a cadence- check.

3) Run plays from shotgun and under-center- everything from 3 back to no back- 

4) Study tendencies and break tendencies- the goal is to make the defense just 'play ball'.

5) Use option and screen game as blitz control.

We were a very difficult team to play that season, especially in our overload or unbalanced sets.

But we didn't sustain it in 2012 and found we were doing too much...but also, we had a hard time on assignments because we were snapping the ball at times without the defense lined up and we were guessing at the best way to attack them.

So what has that lead to?

We feel like a change in tempo is a better, happy medium for an effective attack.

There are times to GO FAST with quick plays, and fire alarm huddle breaks, but we also have to have a variety of ways to go slow, and use pre-planned menu plays to check to the best play versus different alignments.

We still also employ the 2 minute rules and 4 minute rules to help us manage end of half and end of game situations:




1)    HUSTLE




5)    ‘CLOCK IT’






















14)   RUN ON THIRD AND PASS DEEP ON 4TH - (this is an old BCS positive territory tradition)




Note- in situations, use an intentional off sides play- sometimes the refs will run the game clock by mistake and you get an extra down