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Greetings in the glorious name and resurrection power of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Wow, what a month it’s been. When our last newsletter went out (Mar-12) information about a novel corona virus was escalating on the world stage and everyone was wondering what it might mean in the daily lives of Americans. Later that day Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued guidelines restricting gatherings of 250 people or more for a period of four weeks and closed Oregon schools (temporarily). She later urged social distancing and closed many businesses. Later more businesses were closed, social distancing became mandatory, and the rest of the school year was officially cancelled. In the space of one month all of us have adjusted to a “new normal” that none of us could have ever predicted just three months ago.

Our ministry cancelled the Friday Forum scheduled in March - "Eastern Worldviews and Religions" by Jason Washburn, and postponed many of our planned events: Portland State University table sharing, chapel speaking at Christian Schools, weekly fellowship and conference planning meetings, etc. But we continue to see God at work in the midst of this crisis and want to continue to fulfill our mission of “Making God Known, As He Is”, even if that might require a different approach.

Therefore, we will resume our regularly scheduled Friday Forums, starting with Jason’s talk on Eastern Worldviews and Religions, intercepting our next date of Apr-24. The content will be live-streamed over Zoom and people will be able to interact during the lecture and afterwards during the Q&A. Click on the link below to accept the Zoom meeting invitation.

Zoom Meeting Link

Below is a schedule of the next several Friday Forum events planned. We will be making announcements specifically for each talk about whether they will be live-streamed or return to the in-person format at Southwest Hills Baptist Church (depending on the government’s lifting of social distancing sanctions):

  • Apr. 24 - Eastern World Views and Religions, by Jason Washburn
  • May 22 - Christian Values or World Values?, by Adrian Toader
  • June - Understanding the Trinity, by Rob Pryor
  • July - Information and the Origin of Life, by Caleb Rogers
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Hard Questions

What is a good response to someone who says, “Aren’t guilt, truth, morals, and beauty all just social constructs?”
Good question. As with many things, it is ALWAYS helpful to ask clarifying questions in the beginning of a conversation. Anytime someone embeds an assertion in their question (that “these things are all just social constructs”) you should ask that person what evidence THEY have to support this. As Christians we often think that since we claim to have THE truth, that it is our duty/responsibility to chase down every assumption or assertion delivered to us. First of all, this is not ultimately beneficial for the questioner, and second, it is certainly not sustainable for us. For example, in this question several very different types of claims are being lumped together.

Let’s start with: truth. Are they saying that truth itself is a social construct? Does that mean nothing is actually true, i.e. reality doesn’t really exist? This philosophy is called relativism and it just doesn’t hold up to honest and rigorous intellectual analysis. A simple illustration is the person who makes the statement, “There is no absolute truth”…is that statement absolutely true? It is easy to spot the internal contradiction of this kind of nonsense. No one actually lives like they believe there is no absolute truth, i.e. they acknowledge objective things like gravity, magnetics, electricity, etc. Even though everyone lives like there is absolute truth, Christians actually have an intellectual justification for the existence of truth: God defines it.

Next, let’s consider: morals. Morals are a measure of our behavior against a standard. Are morals a “construct”? Yes. A “social” construct? It depends what you mean by “social”. Most people think of morals as “right and wrong”, not just “different”. It really comes down to what defines the standard. If it is just a tally of people’s opinions, then adherence to that standard doesn’t seem very compelling. Guilt is a subset of morality. When you know your behavior doesn’t meet the moral standard you feel bad, i.e. “guilty”. Christians have a clear standard of a moral standard: the Bible.

Finally, let’s look at “beauty”. If beauty is objectively defined as proportion, balance, complimentary colors, etc, then it is objective. If not, then “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. If the elements of beauty are simply sterile metrics of physical properties, it isn’t very meaningful. But Christians believe that God created the world to be beautiful and for humans to be able to recognize its transcendent beauty as a means to point us to Him. This certainly isn’t the first place to start with in an Apologetic proof, but it is another supportive proof that makes the most sense in a biblical worldview.

At the end of the day, a lot of Apologetics is asking good questions to clarify what is really being asked, which often results in a better final question, and ultimately a more productive conversation. As 1Thessalonians 5:21 says,

“Test all things, and hold on to what is good.”

Youth Corner

Hello everyone, my name is Mitchel Laine and I am a senior in high school and a Junior Ambassador with the Ambassadors Forum.
At first I was having a very hard time with the whole staying home thing because of the virus: it is hard to watch your youth group get cancelled, then church. When the governor cancelled in-person school, for me life almost stopped moving. For athletes like myself the cancelling of school also meant that our shot at playing varsity, or going to state, also went with it. I had a shot at playing really well this year on the varsity golf team for Southridge, but I think that even though this was important to me I know that when one door closes then another opens somewhere for us to seek God and find where that new door leads.

During this time please remember that you are not alone, because through all of this God is on our side and we are all in this together. For all of the bad things that are happening during this pandemic there are people out there stepping up in their communities to help one another and to help to slow the spread of this virus. One instance that I personally witnessed was a man who is a member at the golf club I work at who went to Whole Foods and bought $110,000 worth of $75 gift cards. Then he walked around Portland asking people if they needed grocery money and passed out these gift cards for hours.

I would like to encourage you to find something that you can do to support someone in your life that needs it right now. Even after this virus is finished and everything goes back to somewhat normal I want all of you to continue to reach out to others in the same way that you are doing now.

Worldview Corner

Are all major religions basically the same?

Many folks assume that all major religions are basically the same -- they all teach there is a greater reality beyond our own, and they all help us to be good people.
If you line up all the big world religions and take a 5 second glance at them, this might seem true. But if you think critically, even just a little bit, their differences immediately become apparent. How is Christianity different than other religions? There are at least three ways:
  • The Incarnation -- In Jesus, God condescended to become a man, yet remained fully God. He shared in our suffering; He was tempted like we are; He lived a perfect life as a human. (Jn 1:14)
  • God’s Grace, not Our Achievement, Gets us to God -- In world religions, we achieve nirvana/heaven/paradise by accomplishing tasks or attaining a higher spiritual level through OUR works. In Christianity, God does the work. Our responsibility is to trust in what He has revealed to us and accept HIS work.
  • The Resurrection -- Jesus died then came alive again. He defeated death. Major religions around the world don’t feature this. (1 Cor 15:21)
So the next time somebody claims all religions are the same, politely ask if they really don’t see any major differences at all, then help them improve their discernment by offering these 3 examples.

Legal Corner

Is it constitutional for federal and state governments to prohibit churches from meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they did in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic?

Yes, with some qualifications. First, it is generally recognized that government officials have greater authority to act in a time of crisis under so-called “police powers” to protect public health and safety. Such police powers under the Fourteenth Amendment are temporary, lasting only as long as the crisis does.
Church closed
Second, when it comes to “substantial burdens” on religious expression, the controlling test is whether the government is imposing “a neutral law of general applicability” under Employment Division v. Smith, 4949 U.S. 872 (1990). To the extent government entities impose the same requirements on everyone, and they are reasonably related to a legitimate government purpose, they generally pass muster under a rational basis test.

Some argue, however, that the appropriate test when religious expression is involved is "strict scrutiny", which used to be the prevailing test under Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963) prior to the Smith decision. The strict scrutiny test was restored as a matter of federal law in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 USC §2000bb, et seq (1994), but it does not govern state or local action. Strict scrutiny requires that the government demonstrate a compelling government interest and “narrow tailoring” to utilize the least restrictive means available to accomplish that compelling government interest. If the government can establish those elements, the limitation on religious expression is allowed. Most religious constitutional scholars agree that in the current COVID-19 environment, federal government action likely meets the strict scrutiny test as well, and churches can be closed in response to the pandemic in the same manner as other locations open to the public.

Now for the fudge words. As we all know, not every business open to the public is closed, with an exception made for “essential businesses” to keep operating. The critical questions are what standards govern the determination of “essential”, and why aren’t churches essential when pot shops and liquor stores may remain open? “Essential” is largely defined by example in Governor Brown’s executive orders, without clear or published standards. Perhaps those government-licensed businesses can regulate the number and flow of customers more easily than a church could. In addition, businesses selling essential food and beverages arguably could include liquor stores, and pot shops arguably provide medicine as a pharmacy does. Churches and religious organizations providing food and other services are still openly functioning; those providing fellowship and worship only generally are not open due to distancing requirements.

In summary, while freedom to gather is an important part of our religious expression that should be protected and vigorously defended, it is good to remember that our faith is not dependent upon a place but upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, which can never be annulled.

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.
Immerse Bible

Current Events

Back to the Bible?

Tyndale House has reported that sales of their “Immerse Bible” have increased by 60% compared to March 2019. This is similar to their 9/11 experience in which sales increased by 57%. An executive at Tyndale commented that it’s their experience that “people turn to the comfort and clarity of the Bible in times of trouble and uncertainty.”
Why is it that people begin to seek truth in God’s word when their world is being shaken? We can find the answer in Romans 1:19 – 20

“For what can be known about God is plain to them (people), because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

In other words, God has instilled THE Truth in the hearts of all human beings that walk the earth. Unfortunately, due to the advancement of modern popular world views, this truth is suppressed (Romans 1:18) often to the point that is irretrievable (Romans 1:24 – 25).

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit speaks to us, even to those of us who are not close to God at the present time, and causes us to know deep down that “there is real truth that is accessible”. That motivates us to seek out the source and clarity of what we already inherently know to be true. Hence, increased Bible sales.

A major mission of the Ambassadors Forum is to help people achieve a better understanding of God’s truth, and to Make God Known God, As He Is! As you search a deeper understanding of God’s truth in His word, we invite you to engage with us by checking out our web page where you can keep track of events and even ask questions that we will do our best to answer.

We pray that God will keep and protect you all during this difficult time.

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