Monthly Archives: January 2016

Is Religion a Private Matter?

private-property-1109273_1920

No religion allowed past this point

Should you stick your religion in people’s faces? Or keep it to yourself like a nice, polite Christian?

The world asks believers those questions. And we must be prepared to answer.

This topic was recently brought to my attention by a young lady who is a very skilled competitor and a regular reader of this blog. She messaged me and asked:

I’m traveling to a tournament tomorrow, and am finishing up apologetics cards, but I’m stuck on C4S3 (Stoa): How would you respond if someone told you: “Religion is a private personal matter”? Wondering if you’d have any thoughts?

I spent some time thinking and replied with my comments. Since at least half of you are Stoa competitors, perhaps my musings will prove helpful. (And for those of you in the NCFCA, you can likely tie these thoughts into one of the Category 4 topics. “Why does man need salvation?” would be an excellent choice.)

So without further ado, here are 3 reasons that religion is not merely a private personal matter, but a public interpersonal matter.

1. Religion deals with ultimate reality.

The most important questions we could ever ask are all religious questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is right and wrong, and how can we know? Where did the universe come from? What will happen after I die? What is the meaning of life?

All of those questions are religious questions. Every human being is concerned about them. How are we ever supposed to figure out the answers if we’re prohibited from discussing them together?

I’m using definition #1 of “religion” from Dictionary.com in these answers. It seemed good enough for the purpose: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Plus, that definition alludes to a lot of the questions I listed above.

2. Religion is an eternal matter.

Assuming that one religion is right and the others are wrong, it matters a lot which one you choose. If you follow a wrong religion your entire life, you end up in hell.

Unless the universalists are right, in which case no big deal. (Sorry, theology joke.)

Because the effects of who you conceive of God to be and how you relate to him matter for all of ETERNITY, religion is the most significant discussion topic we have.

If your neighbor’s house is on fire, do you consider that to be a “private personal matter” for him to take care of? No. You shout at him to get out! Similarly, if we’re only here for a few short years and then eternity, it’s foolish to say “deal with religion yourself”. We should talk about religion publicly NOW because it matters a great deal LATER, for eternity.

3. Keeping the true religion to yourself is unloving.

Penn Jillette (of the magic duo Penn and Teller), an atheist, made this point well in a YouTube video a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwm7EwijOY4. If we really believe that unbelievers go to hell, why don’t we evangelize? He shares the story of how he really respected someone who gave him a Bible.

Unbelief in eternity is the only justification for keeping religion personal and private. If you believe in eternity, not sharing the truth is unloving.

The Answer

I began this post with a rather biased set of questions:

“Should you stick your religion in people’s faces? Or keep it to yourself like a nice, polite Christian?”

Let’s rephrase them. The difference between shading and illumination is the angle of the light; likewise, change the angle of the question and it moves from dark to bright.

“Should you keep the most precious message in the world hidden? Or share it with other needy people?”

Answer the question to yourself.

Then go—don’t keep the message to yourself.

Lyrical Apologetics (Part 2)

Hymnbooks, obviously for use in Apologetics speeches

Songbooks, obviously for use in Apologetics speeches

Last time I introduced the concept of Lyrical Apologetics, and answered a lot of preliminary questions. What on earth is it? Why is it useful? How can I do this?

But I left some questions unanswered:

“When in your speech should you present the songs? What songs have I personally used? What songs would I recommend to other Apologists?”

In this post I’ll answer those remaining questions. Let’s jump right in and get to it!

When should you sing?

Anytime.

Really, there’s no bad time to introduce a song. You can start with it, make a particular point with it in the middle of your speech, or end with it.

Personally, I tended to use songs at the end of Apologetics speeches. The lyrics give a nice oomph and sense of conclusion.

Let me illustrate with two examples of songs I’ve used in Apologetics.

What songs have I used?

This first one is from my card on the Immutability of God. These are the last lines on the card:

  • I’d like to leave you with one stanza from a hymn by Charles Wesley“And all things as they change proclaim / The Lord eternally the same.”

Short and sweet. I only quoted two lines, but that was sufficient. You don’t necessarily have to sing an entire verse, especially if it’s lengthy—like this next one.

Here I chose to present an entire verse, despite the length. The card is for the topic of Jesus as the Messiah. Again, this is the very end of the card.

  • Jesus is who he said he was, the savior of the world or the chosen one; the Messiah.  The great hymn In Christ Alone summarizes the true meaning and significance of Jesus Christ’s role as the Messiah.
  • “In Christ alone, Who took on flesh, / Fullness of God in helpless babe! / This gift of love and righteousness, / Scorned by the ones He came to save. / Till on that cross as Jesus died, / The wrath of God was satisfied; / For ev’ry sin on Him was laid— / Here in the death of Christ I live.”

Those are a few songs I have personally used. Now you might be wondering what songs you could use for other topics. Without further ado, here is…

Caleb’s Definitive List of Apologetics Songs

Category 1: Existence and Nature of God

  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • All Creatures of Our God and King
  • Doxology
  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness
  • How Great Thou Art
  • O Worship the King
  • 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)

Category 2: Scriptures

  • How Firm a Foundation
  • Ancient Words (Michael W. Smith)
  • Speak, O Lord (Keith and Kristyn Getty)
  • Every Promise of Your Word (Keith and Kristyn Getty)
  • O Word of God Incarnate

Category 3: The Nature, Purpose, and Destiny of Man

  • Before the Throne of God Above [would be good for ending on a happy note, if you’ve given a rather depressing speech on the sinfulness of man]
  • I Need Thee Every Hour
  • Kyrie Eleison (Keith and Kristyn Getty)
  • Jesus, Thou Know’st My Sinfulness
  • All I Have is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music)

Category 4: Salvation or How to Know God

  • Amazing Grace
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • It Is Well
  • Jesus Paid It All
  • Rock of Ages
  • Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling
  • There Is a Fountain
  • When I Survey

Category 5: The Person of Christ

  • In Christ Alone
  • Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?
  • Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery [this is my favorite Christian song of all time—it’s really fantastic]
  • Crown Him With Many Crowns
  • O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  • Christ is Risen (Matt Maher)

You can find lyrics to many of these songs at this website: http://popularhymns.com/.

You’ll notice that most of these songs are hymns, not contemporary worship songs. This is not because I have some inherent aversion to contemporary worship songs, but because they can rarely match hymns in verbal punch and lyrical skill.

Hey, I love 10,000 Reasons as much as anyone. But unfortunately it’s the exception, rather than the rule. Most contemporary worship songs rely on the music to boost up adequate lyrics. Since you don’t have a band with you, your options become more limited.

Exceptions: Keith and Kristyn Getty write modern hymns, all of which are incredible. Some modern songs have powerful lyrics—you just have to choose carefully. Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Matt Boswell (lots of Matts!), Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, Rend Collective, Sovereign Grace Music, The Village Church, Michael Card, Kings Kaleidoscope, Citizens, and Rich Mullins all write good modern songs.

My absolutely favorite Christian musical artist is Matt Papa. If you do nothing else from reading this article, PLEASE go listen to some of his music. If you don’t know where to start, go with “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery”. Basically every song in at least his last two albums is phenomenal.

So, we come to the end of this article. Go find some songs! Go sing some songs! And be amazing in Apologetics.