podcast

Ends, Means & Evangelism (blogcast)

This article was originally posted on Joel Settecase’s pastoral blog.

My son has been in the hospital for over two weeks now. My wife posts updates on her blog, but I have not written much about him (outside of social media). However, as Lukas has been hospitalized, I have been doing a lot of thinking about God’s sovereignty, and I want to share my thoughts. Specifically, I want to talk about how I think the Lord is using my son’s health crisis to accomplish his mission for our family.

What does it mean that God is sovereign?

When believers say that God is “sovereign,” we are saying that God is completely free in his ability to act in every area over which he has authority, which is to say, over all of creation.

One of the entailments of God being sovereign is that he has not only the authority to plan and declare intended outcomes, but also the ability and power to make those outcomes happen. This is true on the cosmic scale (“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4)), but it is also true at the personal level. The circumstances of each person’s life have been predestined in advance by God (Psalm 139:16 says each person’s days were written in God’s book before they ever happened).

This truth, that God exercises sovereign control over human lives, is wondrously seen in the way he brings sinful people into saving relationship with himself. The Bible teaches that, apart from a powerful work of God’s grace on an individual’s mind, no one would ever naturally turn from his sin and love God (Romans 8:6-8). Therefore everyone who is justified–forgiven and declared to be righteous before God–is done so not by his own power but by God’s (Romans 4:5).

Again, God is sovereign, and we see the beauty of his sovereignty in the way he forgives sinful people and gives us new life in Jesus.

God’s sovereignty over the ends and the means

So then, does God know whom he will justify, whom he will save? Yes, he does. In fact, he has already pre-planned ahead of time, determining in advance to save his people.

Not one sinner upon whom God has set his sovereign sights will be left out of God’s saving plan.

Because of the intricacies of God’s plan (which involves every detail of his spiritual, natural and human creation), in order to effect his desired outcomes, he must also exercise sovereign control over every detail leading up to those outcomes. As apologist James R. White and others have stated, “God ordains the ends as well as the means.

When it comes to his plan to save his chosen people God has included, as means, the prayers and proclamation of his word on the part of believers. If you have become a Christian, that probably happened through someone teaching you the Gospel at some point. Someone was also likely praying for the Gospel to take root in your heart and mind, and God heard those prayers and granted you repentance and faith. In sending that person to you and answering those prayers, God was working out what he had determined in advance to do. He was accomplishing his intended ends through the use of his intended means.

So what does God’s sovereignty have to do with Lukas’s stay in the hospital?

In September 2018, Aliza and I were commissioned by Cru as missionaries to carry out Cru’s mission of winning, building, and sending disciples of Jesus. As we have worked to develop our new ministry, we have specifically committed ourselves to the mission of equipping believers with knowledge, engaging them in conversation with non-believers, and encouraging them to share and defend their faith. We want to communicate the Gospel to non-believers ourselves, and we want to empower Christians to do the same.

We have been praying for the Lord to bless our ministry. We believe getting the Gospel out to hundreds and thousands of people is one of the ends God has intended for our life. We also prayerfully believe that he will use our work to bring many sinners to repentance and faith. What we most certainly did not expect were the means by which God was going to do this. What do I mean?

What I mean is that the Lord is using our time here in the hospital to encourage Christians and to evangelize non-Christians. Aliza and I have had opportunities to share the Gospel with nurses and parents of other patients. Aliza’s blog is getting thousands of views–and she is sharing the Gospel in every post. Literally thousands of people are reading and hearing about Jesus Christ through our family’s pain and suffering.

Does this mean we want to go through this? From a human perspective, of course not! However, this is what we take wonderful comfort in: we know that whatever happens here at the hospital (and we are of course praying hard for a complete and timely recovery of our little guy), that our sovereign God is watching over us (Psalm 121:5), walking with us (Joshua 1:9), and working out every detail of our lives for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

We do not have full insight into God’s plan as to why he has allowed us to enter into this trial. However, we are not afraid. Rather, we are “bold as lions”(Proverbs 28:1) because we know whom we have believed (2 Timothy 1:12). So we pray that God’s word would prove true: that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), and that by the means our tribulations, our Sovereign God would accomplish his ends of saving many souls.

Pray for Superhero Lukas on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pray-for-Superhero-Lukas-379691506187358/

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What is the Gospel?

Over the last decade or so, there's been a resurgence of robust theology in many local churches, and all kinds of exciting, Gospel-centered movements have sprung up. 

However, in the last year and a half, there has been a disturbing trend of many of those same churches turning away from making the Gospel their top priority and turning instead toward cultural and social activism. Churches chasing after societal improvement seek to address supposed social and political needs, in order to help people live better lives in the here and now. However, while these desired social outcomes are said to be "Gospel issues," there is a real danger that churches are chasing them at the expense of the Gospel.

Certainly, the Gospel has implications for how Christians will function within the broader society, and there is no shortage of social problems to address. Yet our weapon is the word of God--the Bible--and the heart of the Bible is the Gospel. 

The Gospel is the cure for sin, and this is what we must bring to the sinful world. 
With all the talk about the Gospel, it would help to know what it actually is. So, do you know what the Gospel is? Can you explain it? How well can you articulate it? 

First we will talk about the need for Christians to understand the Gospel, followed by what our attitude ought to be toward it, according to Scripture. Then we'll give a very clear and biblical definition of the Gospel and get practical by outlining five ways to communicate it. 

We pray this helps you get equipped and encouraged to communicate the best news on earth and the greatest story ever told. Welcome to the Think Podcast. We hope it makes you think.

In this episode we mentioned the Changing Face of Evangelism training. If you want to get this training for your church, contact Joel Settecase: https://thethink.institute/contact. Visit churchmovements.com for more information.

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Does the Universe Have a Wonderful Plan for My Life?

Is there an overarching plan for your life, the universe and everything? And if there is, just whose plan is it anyway? It has been popular in recent years to personify "the Universe," as though the matter-and energy, space-time reality we inhabit is somehow personal and even governs our lives in some way. In this episode I discuss that trend and how the personification and even deification of "the Universe" is a cheap substitute for the biblical presentation of God as the sovereign Lord over his creation (including us and the universe too).

During the time that I was a pastor at a local church (actually at a couple of local churches), I used to blog on my personal Wordpress site, Settecase.Wordpress.com. I got a lot of traffic over there, and I still do (at least by my standards), but now I write exclusively on the Think Institute site, Truthinconversation.com, so I’m faced with a dilemma. I want to preserve that blog, but I also want to deliver that content to the folks I'm serving through the Think Institute, yet without simply reposting the article onto the T. I. blog.

How do I introduce the articles, resources and content from my personal blog to the new audience of the Think Institute, and the churches I want to partner with for equipping, engagement and encouragement in Gospel ministry?

The answer is this: I’m taking some of my most popular articles from my personal blog and bringing them over to the Think Institute in audio format--i.e. as podcast episodes. I did that already with "30 Questions for Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, which was one of the articles on my personal blog that had gotten the most hits. And now I’m doing it with this article. I hope it's helpful and "I hope it makes you think."

Take your study further:

  • Ravi Zacharias on the four questions of a coherent worldview: https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/a-coherent-worldview

  • Cornelius Van Til on God’s Transcendence and Immanence: https://corneliusvantil.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/transcendence-and-immanence/

  • A helpful diagram of God’s Lordship Attributes (John Frame's concept) by Neil Robbie: https://transforminggrace.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/john-m-frame-on-the-lordship-attributes/

  • “One or Two?” by Peter Jones: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/one-or-two/

  • “The Universe Has A Plan, Kids” – a blog post by Virginia Pasley that helped inform this post: https://thoughtcatalog.com/virginia-pasley/2013/11/the-universe-has-a-plan-kids/

  • Read the original article on Joel Settecase’s personal blog: https://settecase.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/does-the-universe-have-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life/

#20 - How Should Christians View the Law of Moses? with Dan Osborn

When did Christianity really begin? The church began at Pentecost in or around the year 33 A. D....right? It was then that God sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus. Yet the church's roots go back much further; it is also the continuation of the special relationship with God that believers enjoyed for thousands of years before Christ.

Those B. C. believers put their hope in the same Messiah that A. D. believers (i.e. Christians) hope in today. They were looking forward to his first coming, whereas we look back on his first coming and forward to his second coming. There is continuity between the Church of Jesus Christ and the believers who came before (as a particular example, Christians are said to have the same faith as Abraham).

Enter the Old Covenant Law (A. K. A. the Law of Moses). The nation of Israel, the covenant people of God in the B. C. era, were given 613 laws and told to obey them in order to maintain the terms of their covenant with God.

As believers today, this side of the events of the life, death, resurrection and reign of the Messiah, how should we view those commands? Should we obey them all? Is that even possible today? Should we keep some but not others? Should we unhitch from them all? And how do we know? In this episode, Dan Osborn and Joel Settecase sit down to address the question of the Law of Moses and Christians today. We hope it makes you think.

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Sons of Thunder 2: Atheism vs. Evolution (Analyzing Two Arguments from C. S. Lewis and Alvin Plantinga)

The SONS OF THUNDER (Joel and Parker) are back, and there are many things the brothers can't agree on.

For starters, which one of them is the host, and which one is the "co-guest"?

Second, should these Sons of Thunder episodes fall under the auspices of the Think Podcast, or is this its own separate thing?

And the third thing they can't agree on is what should be the catchphrase at the end of each Sons of Thunder episode? (You'll have to listen to the end to see what they came up with--also, in the spirit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe we may have left a few "post credit scenes" for you to enjoy as well).

Alright, so these guys might not see eye-to-eye on everything, but one thing they absolutely, unequivocally *do* agree on is that Christian Theism is correct, rational and satisfying, while atheism (naturalism, materialism, and every form of "physicalism") is, well, not so much any of those things.

There are many excellent arguments Christians may use to support the truth of the Christian message, but in this episode the brothers analyze two similar arguments (so similar that they're sometimes thought to be two versions of the same one), one from philosopher Alvin Plantinga and the other from author C. S. Lewis. Plantinga's "Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism" and Lewis's "Argument from Reason" both make the case that, if God did not exist, then (for reasons illuminated by the arguments) human beings would have no reason to trust their conclusions (including their conclusion that God does not exist!). It gets technical, but it's a fun and engaging conversation, and (probably) overly-inflammatory as well, which is what you expect from a couple of guys intentionally calling themselves the Sons of Thunder.

Parker does a lot of the heavy philosophical lifting on this episode, bringing to bear his study of the two arguments and two men making the arguments.

He also makes a shameless plug for his pretentious, pretentious blog (his words), which you can locate, read, educate yourself with at http://www.trendsettercase.wordpress.com. Seriously, his blog is incredible, and you'll want to check it out.

Follow along with the Think Institute on Twitter (@ThinkInst), Facebook and Instagram (both are @TheThinkInstitute), or get more articles and resources to help you get equipped with knowledge, encouraged to share and defend the Christian message, and engaged in conversation with unbelievers as you seek "Truth In Conversation" at http://www.truthinconversation.com.

The Story of the Cosmos with Daniel Ray

Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.

So it sounds like the more we study the heavens, or outer space, the more we ought to come to glorify God. We might expect modern scientists to be the most devout Christians, and yet many of the scientific fields are dominated today by atheists and unbelievers.

My guest today wants to change that situation and show everyone how astronomy and astrophysics, which unravel the mysteries of the universe, bring glory to God.

On this episode of the Think Podcast I speak with Dan Ray. Dan is a former schoolteacher and lay astronomer. He earned his Master’s in Christian apologetics from Houston Baptist University and his thesis explored the contemporary relevance of C. S. Lewis’s cosmological imagination in the Chronicles of Narnia. He also hosts an excellent podcast called “Good Heavens.”

This was an important discussion because of the nature of Dan’s book, the Story of the Cosmos, which recently debuted on Amazon and made a big splash. It’s a new book that brings over a dozen different scientists, apologists and thinkers together to answer the question, what do the heavens teach us about the glory of God?

Over the next hour you’ll hear us discuss: how the book came together, the Hubble Deep field photographs, which amazed me as a kid, the awe and wonder of looking up at the night sky filled with stars and realizing how truly tiny we are, human significance… or is it insignificance? (we get into that), the meaning and purpose of stars from a biblical perspective, the importance of connecting various fields of study and “taking every thought captive” and the unity of the church as we examine the glory of the heavens and unite around the truth, and we even delve into spiritual warfare and how cosmological studies play a role in that.

We also bring up the founders of modern science, men like Kepler, Brahe, Galileo--and how their faith contributed to their pioneering scientific efforts.

Before our dialoguoe ended we did get into some apologetical argumentation, using the Cosmos as our jump-off point, talking about how modern science, at least when done naturalistically, assumes the intelligibility of the universe w/o a reason. And we talked about how this led to a dilemma for Albert Einstein.

Dan ended with recommending to our listeners the value of having a personal encounter with nature, of just Looking up at the night sky in a dark sky park, and he might even motivate our listeners to invest in a telescope. I know I’d be considering it if I didn’t live in the light-polluted metropolis of Chicago.

He makes some really valuable recommendations for those who want to take their study of the night sky further, so make sure you listen all the way through.

Follow Dan Ray:
https://thestoryofthecosmos.com/
Podcast: “Good Heavens! A podcast about the universe with Wayne and Dan.” https://www.patreon.com/GoodHeavens

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30 Questions for Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics

We are changing up the regular routine of weekly podcasts in order to post this bonus episode offering (what we hope will be) a really useful resource.

*****

The other day I received a comment on one of my posts from a friend of mine who identifies as an atheist. He was offended by my post (it was about how science is not accounted for by atheism), and his comment really made me think.

My goal isn't to offend anyone, but in the course of putting so much content out on apologetics, it's bound to happen. 

I want to equip believers to be ready for any questions that they encounter about their faith. I talk about how to answer questions a lot, but in this episode I want to change things up a little bit, and talk about how to go on the "offensive" without being unnecessarily "offensive," and ask a few questions of our own.

Of course, it’s common for Christians to be confronted with questions and objections from non-Christians about the Christian message. We need to be ready for such questions (1 Peter 3:15). But we also need to be equipped with questions of our own.

After all, we aren’t the only ones presenting a worldview. The atheist, agnostic or skeptic also has a worldview. And like most everyone, there are likely to be aspects of that worldview he or she hasn’t fully thought through.

Encouraging an unbeliever to really examine their own worldview can be a powerful apologetic tool.

The goal is not to win the argument but to engage in meaningful dialogue, to seek "truth in conversation" (the Think Institute motto) and, if the Lord gives the opportunity, to point the person to the Good News about Jesus that alone can give them forgiveness and eternal life. I hope you enjoy this and, of course, "I hope it makes you think." 

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Help us spread the word about the podcast and get more listeners, so we can equip, encourage and engage more Christians to know, share and defend their Christian faith.

If you like the Think Podcast, give us a 5-star rating and write a review on Apple Podcasts. It takes one minute and really has a big effect on our visibility. We may never reach the popularity level of Joe Rogan or Serial, but we can't help but think that the more believers we can get our content in front of, the greater impact we can have for Christ's kingdom.

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Apologetics and the Local Church: A Conversation with Chaseton Hahn

Does your church have an apologetics ministry? Does it need one? How well-equipped do you think your church’s members are when it comes to being able to articulate what they believe and why it’s true? Or even more importantly, how confident are you that what your fellow members believe about God, truth, the Gospel, Jesus, sin, and salvation actually is true? These are all topics we are going to get into in this episode of the Think Podcast.

Yes that’s right, welcome to the Think Podcast, freshly renamed from This Is Apologetics. Why the name change? We are branching out now beyond apologetics into the areas of worldview, theology and evangelism. We're seeking truth in conversation with pastors, missionaries, thinkers, and others every week.

Tonight, however we are continuing with the common theme of apologetics. Joel Settecase & Think Institute contributor Chaseton Hahn discuss the benefits of a local church having an apologetics ministry. It's about more than just outreach.

The ever-increasing secularization of Western culture has been accompanied by a rapid decline of esteem for Christian morality and ethics. Followers of Jesus in the United States must come to grips with a rather unfortunate reality: we are living in a post-Christian nation.

Our culture and its guiding ideas are constantly changing. Because of this, the need for the prophetic voice of the Church in the world has never been needed with greater urgency. Apologetics helps the church build discernment—an essential skill that must be cultivated in order for Christians to be fully prepared to give account of their hope in Christ when the culture comes demanding an answer.

The definitive purpose for including apologetics in your church is that it points to and glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can read the full article by Chaseton Hahn and Joel Settecase at /thethink.institute/articles/top-10…-of-your-church.

Follow along on Twitter (@thinkinst), Instagram (@thethinkinstitute), Facebook (@thethinkinstitute), and online (www.truthinconversation.com). 
Connect with Chaseton on Facebook or on Twitter: @Chaseton_Hahn.

Hey! Want to help the Think Institute grow the Think Podcast and equip more believers to know what we believe, share the Gospel, and engage in meaningful conversation with non-believers? There is a really important way that you can help.

Help us get the word out about this ministry and podcast by writing us a review and giving us an honest, 5-star review on Apple Podcasts.

It takes two minutes tops and really helps us grow our audience, so we can equip, engage and encourage more believers. This also helps us connect with more pastors and local churches, so we can partner for worldview, evangelism and apologetics trainings.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Science.

Last updated on July 23, 2019 (fixed the links).

Science & Religion: BFFs or best frenemies?

This is a topic that I've been getting very much into lately, and that is the intersection of science and biblical faith.

We talked about how the biblical worldview provides the foundation for scientific inquiry by way of a three-fold basis: the cosmos which was given in order to be studied, the human mind which was given in order to study it, and God's revelation which was given in order to make sense of them both.

In true Presuppositional fashion, we examined the biblical data first, then we stepped into the unbelieving worldview for the sake of argument, demonstrating that it does not provide the basis for its own conclusions (namely that it is possible to do science and to know that God does not exist).

We also saw how the same Bible that reveals the basis for science also reveals our sin and our need for the Savior, so we got into the Gospel a little as well.

For further reading:

The Story of the Cosmos: How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Paul M. Gould and Daniel Ray, general editors).

The Physics of Einstein: Black Holes, time travel, distant starlight, E=mc^2 (Jason Lisle).

"An Argument From Science" (Joel Settecase).

If you enjoyed this episode, please help us get the word out about the content we're creating each week. "Like" the Think Institute page and share it with your friends.

Do Christians "Need to Calm Down?"

Taylor Swift's new single calls out conservatives (and, apparently, Bible-believing Christians) for supposedly opposing the freedom and dignity of her friends. We look for the presuppositions being brought to the table and what kind of worldview best supports the values she promotes in her song, then we commend the biblical worldview and the Gospel. The hope with this episode is that believers will be encouraged to talk about these issues with their non-Christian friends, and that nonbelievers who listen would hear the truth, that sin is a serious matter, but there is true freedom and abundant life with God, through Jesus.

How to Destroy Every Argument Against God

It's the premier of the SONS OF THUNDER, a podcast-within-a-podcast that has been years in the making.

In this "unnecessarily inflammatory" (and much longer than usual) episode, Joel and Parker Settecase lay down the groundwork for talking about apologetics--the defense of the truth of the Christian faith. They get into how to get apologetics wrong and how to do it right--in a way that stays true to Scripture and honors Christ. This episode delivers way more content than "This Is Apologetics" typically goes, but sometimes it's fun to drink out of a firehose (or so they tell me).

How to Raise Kids Who Can Defend Their Faith

How can you prepare your children to have the kind of faith today that will answer tomorrow's challenges? We look at three keys: Principles, Practice and Prayer.

A shorter episode tonight, but packed with a lot of really practical recommendations.

A sampling of them:

Catakids (Kindle): www.amazon.com/dp/B07SW1SQ9F

The Rizers (YouTube): www.youtube.com/user/therizers

Dana Dirksen (Amazon Music): music.amazon.com/artists/B0014B30…Id=ATVPDKIKX0DER

How to Share and Defend Your Faith to Muslims

Did you know nearly one out of every 3.5 people on earth is a Muslim? Christians have been commissioned to disciple the nations, yet historically we have sent precious few resources to bring the Gospel to this incredibly massive portion of the human population.

In episode 10, Joel Settecase and N. G. (name withheld to avoid it coming up in search results) pull up a couple of chairs to discuss the goal, motivation and method of sharing the Gospel and defending the Christian message to Muslims. They get deep and wide in this conversation, which ranges from the theological to the practical. We hope it makes you think.

Does Christian Hypocrisy Disprove the Christian Message?

Does Christian hypocrisy mean that Christianity is false?

Joel Settecase gives some initial comments related to recent pro-life legislation and a now infamous tweet about Christian hypocrisy that unleashed a massive conversation last week. Then he does an internal critique, from the biblical perspective, of the idea that hypocrisy discredits the messenger or voids the message. Finally he analyzes whether the unbelieving worldview can account for the kind of moral standard needed in order to condemn hypocrisy as immoral.

Stream via the SoundCloud player above or get it on your favorite podcast app here.

What Makes Christianity Unique?

Pastor Brandon Cooper joins Joel Settecase to discuss what makes the Christian worldview stand out from all the rest. The two old friends get into metaphysics, the exclusive claims of Christianity and Pluralism, Hinduism, eschatology, and why the biblical Gospel is truly unique.

If you're a Christian, this will help you articulate and defend what you believe. If you're not, it will challenge your assumptions and encourage you to entertain new ideas you perhaps hadn't considered. Either way, we hope it makes you think.

Brandon Cooper is the Senior Pastor at Cityview Community Church in Elmhurst, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @FollowAfterMin or on Facebook.

What is Truth?

In this epic episode, Joel Settecase and Alan Kern discuss the nature of truth and whether the concept of truth makes any sense without God.

This was a very interactive video, both between the two of them and with the viewers. The guys directly addressed questions from the viewers, including one who asked how he can know which God is the true one.

How to Get Into Spiritual Conversations

Talking to strangers can be a scary thing. But for Christians, it can be a very rewarding endeavor. Joel Settecase introduced what spiritual conversations are and why we ought to seek them out. Then he looked at some biblical examples and two or three examples from my own life. Finally, he shared two stories of spiritual conversations I had recently, both on airplanes and discussed the benefit of having a "captive audience."

What About the Bible's Crazy Stories?

Tonight I addressed the Dreaded Question: "Do you *really* believe all those crazy stories in the Bible?"

The Bible says that a donkey talked, a man got swallowed by a fish and lived to tell about it, and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. 

How crazy are these stories really? Does the Bible provide any good reasons for believing them? Are there good reasons to doubt them? 

I hope tonight's episode fortifies your faith and challenges your doubts; in short I hope it makes you think.

Liar? Prophet? Son of God? Who Is Jesus?

Pastor Dan Osborn (Park Community Church, Forest Glen, Chicago) has been teaching through the "I Am" statements of Jesus in the John's Gospel.

He joins Joel Settecase to discuss the biblical identity of Jesus and challenges to that identity. Could Jesus have been a mere prophet? Was he a great moral teacher but nothing more? Was he in fact a liar or perhaps delusional? And what do we do with all those fantastic claims he made about himself? Check out this episode and find out!