Be Shrewd As Snakes and Innocent As Doves

I sometimes wonder if I’m becoming naive. It used to be that I was really jaded and suspicious of most everyone. That’s the only way to be a good Batman. My journey so far swings in extremes, I’ve gone the complete opposite to break out of old patterns and now finding equilibrium.

I once saw a pastor write ‘love everyone, but trust is earned.’ Even Jesus wouldn’t have his disciples to be so trusting. He wasn’t.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16

That’s the balance I’ve been working on, part of it is setting boundaries, and finding where I will not bend. In studying this verse, I looked into a thesaurus for synonyms for shrewd and innocent.

It didn’t make it much easier. Using what I found, Jesus says to be sharp, clever, and knowing while simultaneously being pure, impeccable, and sinless. It reminded me of John 2:24-25.

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

It cross-referenced John 6:61, 64.

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, Does this offend you?

Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.

Jesus could read people, knew their motives and levels of belief. We should too. The world is dangerous and will only get more so.

How Firm Is Your Christian Foundation?

You’re scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or the internet in general, and you see something that makes you stop. An atheist, or antitheist, meme, or something that questions your beliefs, pops up. What do you do? How do you respond? Do you even know how to counter it?

How firm is your foundation?

Most come to their faith experientially. Something happened. That’s what happened to me. I saw things falling into place over the course a year after a desperate plea to a God I wasn’t sure existed as my world crumbled. If you see me in public, feel free to ask me about it.

I converted from an agnostic to a believer. However, I have really smart friends who love to play the devil’s advocate, on top of their posts shaking me as well. So I looked at the case for Jesus and God.

It’s broader and stronger than you’d think. I wrote two posts in a brief series titled Investigating Christianity.

Now memes don’t shake me. I can counter most of them since they’re rhetorically powerful, yet intellectually weak. Others are a source of curiosity, others a struggle, I admit. We all have questions, like understanding the problem of evil inside and out. I can address it, just not as well as I’d like.

Are you ready to give an answer for your faith?

A former atheist, cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace has a series of books chronicling his journey to the faith. He did it by applying his detective skills to the Gospels in Cold-Case Christianity. Then again in God’s Crime Scene. His last one in the trilogy is Forensic Faith, where he makes a case for making a case for Christianity.

Why is it important? First, for your own foundation. You have to have a thoughtful Christianity, if you know it’s true, you’ll more likely live like it. Secondly, what if someone asks you a question that you don’t know how to answer?

That’s a lost evangelism opportunity.

Wallace has on his website, forensicfaithbook.com, a test to check your readiness. A stress test with seven common questions and objections offered by skeptics. You have 21 minutes to complete it. The test is at http://forensicfaithbook.com/can-you-pass-the-test/ with his instructions and analysis.

The questions are:

  1. Why are you a Christian?
  2. What evidence do you have to believe that God exists?
  3. Why do you trust what the Bible says about Jesus?
  4. Why would God send people to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus?
  5. If God is All-Loving and All-Powerful, why is there so much evil in the world?
  6. If God is the creator, who created God?
  7. Why would a loving God command the total destruction of all of Israel’s enemies?

I finished in 20 minutes. But I didn’t get to flesh out my responses as much as I could due to the time limit. Some I struggled with.

Don’t panic, they’re not unanswerable. Wallace has links to his answers on the page above. The Simplified Systematic Theology series is working through them. We just finished the Doctrine of the Bible, and are on the Doctrine of God now. A one-stop shop for it all is Dr. Geisler’s book, The Big Book of Christian Apologetics; An A to Z Guide.

My question is, are you ready?

What Is “Thoughtful” Christianity?

At the start of the year, I began categorizing a lot of posts under Thoughtful Christianity. What do I mean by it?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thoughtful as careful reserved thinking. Dictionary.com defines it as careful, heedful or mindful. How is this different from intellectual?

Because it’s not solely a mental pursuit driven by reasoning and curiosity. It is related to it by study, reflection, and speculation, but should also impact life itself.

An agnostic, Julian Barnes, wrote, “What’s the point of faith unless you and it are serious–seriously serious–unless your religion fills, directs, stains, and sustains your life?”

The Christian Paradox

Christianity is a paradox in that the Gospel is so simple that a child can grasp it, and scholars continue to debate it’s finer points. The lens I view the world is in how is Christianity relevant here, what would help, what’s going on, and what am I to do? That’s the steady hum of thoughtfulness going through my mind.

We like to build narratives to make sense of our lives, little mini-narratives, but there is a meta-narrative. Creation, The Fall of Man, Redemption, and Restoration. That encompasses the Bible thematically.

The Fall explains why the world is the way it is, and why humans are so self-centered that we can’t be left unchecked. Not even a multitude of laws can fix it.

Deeper inside is how it applies to us. My favorite is the Wisdom books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes along with the entire New Testament. In the Old Testament, you have a people trying (or not) to live according to God’s standards, and being unable to. Their lives are examples of good and bad decisions. Later in the New Testament, a hope is developed and brought to fruition in the New.

Immerse yourself in the story.

“But it’s just a story.”

It’s more, you can pursue a strong apologetic foundation to cement it in place. There are types you can pursue, the best when you can overlap them and it makes sense. Here are the different approaches:

  • Classical Apologetics: It focuses on arguments for the evidence of God along with historical evidence supporting the truth of Christianity. Two steps characterize it, theistic and evidential arguments. (My preferred area)
  • Evidential Apologetics: Focuses on the need for evidence: rational, historical, archaeological and experiential. It’s broad in scope.
  • Presuppositional Apologetics: Like it states, this area starts with a few presuppositions, like Christianity is true, and then argues the case. It’s broken into four areas itself: relational, rational, systematic consistency, and practical.

A blend is best. But my point is that you can go deep with Christianity. Want philosophy, go to reasonablefaith.org. Want to blend that with existential, go to rzim.org. Popular level classic apologetics, go to str.org and coldcasechristianity.com.

When you trust that it’s true, you’re more likely to live it. Just like you trust that if go on a trip, you’ll get there. You don’t know what’s along the way, only what you’re bringing with you, and where you’re going.

Breaking It Down

When you have the big picture, know the background, the cultural context, explore the areas that systematic theology explores; it opens up. A thoughtful Christianity is hard to shake. The deeper you dive, the stronger your foundations, the more it comes alive.

A simple way to start is to just ask yourself, “how does the Bible apply here” in various situations. Not just in commands, like most think, but an explanation for life. Why did that person do that? What is happening here? And so on.

You can go as deep as you want from there, the only hitch…you have to know Scripture. Go on and try it, let me know what you get.