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Hello again from the Ambassadors Forum!

These continue to be unique and dynamic times in our world today. Just two months ago we were focused on preparing ourselves to have face to face table talk discussions at Portland State University with hard-core atheists. Now our short-term attention is on helping people know the truth about God when some feel that He may be absent in our desperate time of need. Whether our focus is on “outreach”, or “inreach”, God’s truth is sufficient in all things, and we look forward to walking with you during these difficult circumstances and seeing God work in our midst.

We held our first ever Zoom meeting Friday Forum on Apr-24. Jason Washburn spoke on “Eastern World Views and Religions”. Thank you to everyone who showed up, we still had strong attendance even though it was an online experience. Our next Zoom meeting Friday Forum will be this week on May-22, with Adrian Toader speaking on “The Case for Christian Values”. Click this link on Friday at 7PM to join us. We will be able to take your questions during and after the talk, so we are looking forward to the interaction. See below for our current schedule of additional Friday Forums which will also be live-streamed online through Zoom for the foreseeable future; we will add more topics and speakers soon to fill out the summer schedule.
  • May 22 – The Case for Christian Values, by Adrian Toader
  • June 19 – Defending Key Doctrines: The Trinity, by Rob Pryor
  • July 17 – Information and the Origin of Life, by Caleb Rogers
Also, we still plan on having our annual conference in October with Josh McDowell. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in Oregon we are considering what changes we may need to make to the venue and format. Stay tuned through these newsletters for more details, we are hard at work to serve you and grow together.
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Hard Questions

With the current COVID-19 government imposed restrictions many Christians are asking questions about a myriad of potential future scenarios: What if church services continue to be prohibited, even when other types of social events are allowed? What if mandatory vaccines are required for my kids to return to school? What if mandatory customer tracking is required for me to re-open my business? What if my “non-essential business” continues to be shut down indefinitely? In light of this environment, this month’s Hard Question is particularly timely:

When is it okay for Christians to disobey the government?
This is a difficult question, and we do not feel there is a clear cut answer for all Christians at all times. The proper response is a combination of biblical principles and personal conscience. Nonetheless, progress can be made towards a solution. It is often helpful to ask the right questions and review relevant examples when thinking through complex issues such as this.

Let’s start with the Word of God. Two Bible sections are often referenced when considering this topic:

Rom 13:1-2 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

God created the world and governs it by His supreme unquestioned authority. If society would acknowledge and submit to that one plain truth our laws and governance would be so much simpler!

The crux of this question has to do with whether or not the commands from the government are “legitimate”. The thoughtful Christian will ask certain kinds of questions as they reflect on difficult subjects like these: Do the government commands contradict their own foundational rules? This was the case with the American Revolution, and why many Christians at the time felt they had a duty (or at the very least a right) to take up arms. Do the government commands reach beyond the authority that God has assigned it as an institution? [the other institutions being the family and the church] This was the case for homeschooling in Oregon, which was originally outlawed in some areas but today enjoys widespread freedom and acceptance. In this example, the ultimate responsibility for the education of children has been assigned by God to parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, 6:7).

Two relevant examples from the life of Daniel are also instructive. The first involves refusing to do something the state has required: worshiping an idol (Daniel 3). The second involves doing something the state has forbidden: praying to God (Daniel 6). In both instances obedient followers of God willfully and deliberately disobeyed orders from the state. And in both instances there were grave and serious consequences: in the first it was a fiery furnace, in the second a lion’s den. Finally, in both instances the result was a clear testimony of God to the civic leaders who were moved and influenced by the obedience of brave and godly people and by the power and provision of God.

In closing, Peter and the other apostles did defy the ruling authorities in the events of chapters 4 & 5 in the book of Acts. But it is important to note that these apostles were “beaten” as a result of their actions (the same word used to describe the scourging Jesus endured in Luke 22). If we do decide to disobey the government we need to be ready to accept the consequences, whatever those consequences might be. As Christians we will sometimes suffer righteously for God, but our suffering has a purpose. Jesus gave us this reminder:

Mark 13:9 – But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them.

Youth Corner

My name is Hope Jackson. I am an undergraduate at Emory University, a Junior Ambassador with the Ambassadors Forum, and have been studying apologetics for about 5 years.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take a philosophy class on religion at my secular university. Though it was a small class of fewer than twenty students, it was filled with diverse worldviews, including Orthodox Judaism, Daoism, and postmodern Christianity. On top of that, each person came from a unique background, culture, and heritage. When I mentioned on the first day that I was taking the class because I was interested in Christian apologetics, even the instructor had questions. Throughout the term, I had multiple opportunities to express the importance of concepts commonly found in apologetics, such as absolute truth and objective morality. By having a strong background in apologetics, not only was I able to have conversations with my peers about biblical truth, but I was also able to formulate bible-based ideas on topics I had never previously considered. Understanding apologetics has allowed me to recognize when thoughts, including my own, are based in truth and logically consistent or mere opinions that hold little weight.

I have found that apologetics has been a great tool to understand God, the Bible, my own faith, and the beliefs of others. Oftentimes, apologetics is seen as a way to interact externally with other people. However, by integrating it into the way I think, I’ve also found it to be an excellent way to strengthen my own internal thinking patterns and beliefs.

Worldview Corner

It is easy to focus on all of the negative changes we are experiencing during this pandemic: isolation from loved ones, loss of dignity (people dying alone), devastation of our income and finances. Even the Los Angeles Times and other news agencies have recently reported that the economic devastation due to the coronavirus lock down could end up killing many more people than the virus itself (up to tens of millions worldwide).
But there are also positive opportunities in front of us. One of them is the sudden focus on the sanctity of life, from a fresh new angle. Everyone has suddenly become “pro-life” with the coronavirus. Even “pro-choice” politicians are (correctly) saying that every life is precious and worth protecting, no matter the cost. This stands in STARK philosophical contrast with their pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia agendas from just a few months ago. As Biblical Apologists we have a duty to point out logical contradictions wherever we see them. By focusing on the facts at this critical time we can calmly move the conversation forward without all of the emotional baggage and triggers of the previous political battles.

The whole world is currently uniting around an effort to save lives. No one today is saying “my body, my choice”, they are all wearing masks and cancelling weddings & graduations. No one is saying “only save the COVID-19 patients who are ‘wanted’ ”, they are frantically working to save everyone. No one is saying “only those who have contracted COVID-19 can understand the pandemic and contribute to its resolution”, they have opened the net to welcome all people to work together to help protect the most vulnerable. We know that these actions are motivated by an ethic created in all people by a loving God. Though they may not immediately recognize the source of this motivation, we can help people understand this truth that has been “unsuppressed” by our current circumstances. We can point them to the Author of that very life that they feel so passionate to protect.

One parting piece of tactical advice: now is a time for compassion and grace. When we kindly walk people through the obvious contradictions in their worldview, we need to do so in a spirit of humility and an attitude of love. It is much more powerful when people own the error in their thinking themselves, and we are there to gently offer them an alternative to consider. Let’s pray for the work that God is doing in people’s hearts, and be available to Him to speak the truth when the time is right.
Bible reading

Personal Application Corner

So, thanks to the virus you’re stuck at home with no Blazers, no NCAA tournament, no theaters, and no restaurants. Whatcha’ gonna do? We think you should spend time reading, and here’s a book recommendation – the Bible.
Why not recommend an apologetics book?-- Two answers.

First, the Bible is *THE* foundational apologetics document and knowing what it says will sharpen your interactions with nonbelievers. How do you answer those who say Old Testament laws are immoral? Study Leviticus. What did Solomon say was the meaning of life? Read Ecclesiastes. What about the ‘contradictions’ between Samuel and Chronicle and Kings? Read those books and reconcile the ‘contradictions.’

Second, even more necessary than persuading others to Christ and answering objections to Christianity, apologists need to know God. We need to know Him as He is in all his glory. We need to know Him in a way that changes our hearts and minds and entire lives, and we know Him best by reading what He has said about Himself through His most specific and direct revelation – the Bible. It’s great to know how presuppositionalism works, but it’s more valuable to know how justification works. It’s great to know More Than a Carpenter, but it’s better to know Ephesians. The Bible is living and active, sharper than even a sword. If we read it with focused devotion, He Himself will tell us what it means through His Spirit. Sadly, too many in apologetics today skip this vital practice. The world needs informed apologists, but it needs biblically immersed Christians even more.

Legal Corner

COVID-19, PART 2: May government constitutionally prohibit church gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, but maybe not for much longer. Government officials have broad temporary “police powers” to protect public health and safety in a crisis and may justify “substantial burdens” on religious expression when enforcing “a neutral law of general applicability”, but such powers are not unlimited.
Oregon churches are mounting legal challenges for two reasons: (1) “science” may no longer justify ongoing restrictions; and (2) officials are no longer following the rule of law and applying “neutral laws of general applicability” in managing the crisis.

Few doubted restrictions imposed almost 60 days ago based on limited data and computer models predicting terrifying exposure and infection rates, but recent data has shown much lower numbers of infections and deaths, tragic as they are. Trouble awaits when limitations on reopening churches defy data and experience in many places. While many embrace “science” and “experts”, ”science” and “experts” do not agree about closing churches (and businesses) indefinitely.

Are officials abiding by the rule of law and enforcing “neutral laws of general applicability”? Governor Brown’s executive orders all rely on certain statutes; they do not mention Oregon Constitution Article 10-A, Section 6 limiting executive orders in a crisis to 30 days, which can only be extended by two-thirds of both houses of the Oregon Legislature. “Neutral laws” are in doubt as well. Governor Brown’s EO-12 enforces Oregon Health Authority “guidance” imposing civil and criminal penalties for serving communion in any form, but a church member denied communion can drive to McDonald’s for takeout. Some stores are open while others selling the same goods are closed; store parking lots are full when church lots are empty. None of the “phases” for reopening mentions churches, saying only that “mass gatherings” will not be allowed for an unspecified number of months.

Should churches advocate for equal treatment that may also benefit businesses and groups? Should they obey or challenge government authority that shuts them down? How should they balance protection of their constitutional rights with legitimate protection of the health and safety of members and the public? Now is the time for churches to stand firm while considering their witness to public officials and the broader community.
Disclaimer: The above column should not be regarded or relied upon as legal advice. The reader should consult legal counsel for specific guidance in particular circumstances.

Science Corner

One of the phrases that has become prevalent during the current COVID-19 crisis is “Trust Science”.
As a scientist/engineer active in the semiconductor industry for over 20 years I have found that many people have grossly misunderstood what science is, and worse yet that many more have carelessly applied unscientific methods towards unscientific conclusions in the very name of “Science”.

Here are a few facts from one of our lectures about science that we hope you keep in mind during these tumultuous times:

1. In its shortest form, the Scientific Method is simply:
  • Observe something.
  • Guess why it happened.
  • See if you’re wrong.
2. Therefore… Science never creates knowledge, scientists do (through their guesses).
  • God created scientists with the ability to reason logically.
  • More importantly, He created the world to be consistent (a reflection of his nature) so that our careful observations can accurately describe it.
3. The scope of science is very limited.
  • The scientific method can only discover truth that is material, observable, measurable, testable (for example, science doesn’t cover morals, values, ethics, philosophy, etc.)
4. Science never proves anything. It can’t. It can only disprove things.
  • The scientific method never tells you if your guess is right, only if it’s wrong.
  • You finally assume you’re “right” only after you’ve tested your guess every possible way you can think of and never been wrong.
This is why the view on COVID-19 has been constantly changing (wear masks, don’t wear masks… kids are carriers, kids are immune… fatality rate is 10%, fatality rate is 0.1%...), because scientists are constantly learning as they: make observations, guess why that is happening, see which guesses are wrong, and make new guesses.

In the end, when I hear someone say we just need to “Trust Science”, I gently remind them of what science really is and I encourage them to do two things:

1. Trust the worldview which makes science possible (ONLY a Biblical worldview).
2. Trust the Author of the order and structure in the universe that science seeks to describe.

We pray that you have many opportunities to do the same.

Current Events

Ravi Zacharias (74) has been fighting a rare form of aggressive bone cancer and has been told by his doctors that there is nothing more that can be done from this side of heaven. By all appearances, God is calling Ravi home.
According to the RZIM web site, Ravi has accepted this calling. This is important to the world of apologetics because Ravi has been one of its giants, seldom paralleled in his work to bring God’s truth and reason to the masses.

Ravi was a skeptic and on the verge of suicide when he encountered God’s word at the age of 17. John 14:19 “Because I live, you also will live” was a message that changed his life and set his direction. God guided him to claim John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life” as the basis of his apologetics mission.

Ravi founded RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) in 1984. The rest is history, as his ministry has grown to include 80 speakers, radio and TV programs, podcasts, and publications that minister around the world. A prolific writer, Ravi authored over 25 books.

The world of apologetics will feel this loss, as many thousands of people have benefited from his presentation of the truth and many have come to Christ over the years. At the same time, we congratulate him for a job well done. Ravi will have the pleasure of hearing those coveted words from Matthew…”Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”

Well done Ravi; we’ll miss you!

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