Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I picked up a copy of the Phnom Penh Post today.  I usually don’t buy this paper, but this one had an 8-page insert inside, a “magazine” for Cambodia’s youth.  The topic of this particular issue:  youth and religion.  On the back page, one of their reporters (I think he either IS cool or was trying to BE cool…not sure) wrote an article called “5 Cool Things”.  I think the point he was trying to make was that there are cool idols, icons, and items in every religion.  In fact, I think by recognizing 4 of the world’s main religions, he was trying to say that it’s cool to be cool with religion.  Gettin’ chilly yet?

Besides learning how cool religion could be, I also picked up some good news and some bad news out of this article.

First the good news.  Anyone who has preached the Gospel in Cambodia for any time at all knows that many Cambodians (especially young people) know next to nothing about Buddhism.  They know how to quote a few slogans, they know the holidays, and they know how to perform some of the expected rituals.  But to a large degree, they are practicing their religion by rote.  Why do I say this is good news?  Because a person who is well versed in his religion is very difficult to reach.  On the other hand, a person who doesn’t really know what he believes is often more open to the truth.  In this article I read today, the reporter classified two items associated with Buddhism as “cool”.  Here is what he said.
“Incense is cool.  Incense is not only useful for Buddhist prayer; it can have a wide range of uses…Adding incense to the rooms in your houses can not only make them smell a lot better, they can keep away mosquitoes and other bugs.  If you own a shop, restaurant or bar, incense can help attract more customers and also make them feel more comfortable once they are there.  Incense can even replace a clock when you are meditating or relaxing.”  (Phnom Penh Post, May 5, 2010)
Pretty cool, huh! 

I’m not trying to sound insensitive, but does that sound like a really pious person with a solid faith in what he believes?  Well, let’s move onto the next cool thing.
“A small Buddha statue in your car is cool. While putting decorations on the dashboard or rearview mirror of your car is common practice in Cambodia, nothing beats having Buddha in your car. Many people believe that being accompanied by Buddha will help make you safer in your car, and he will look out for you on your travels. Whether or not it actually makes a difference, you will feel better knowing that if you become distracted, someone will still be watching out for you.”  (Phnom Penh Post, May 5, 2010)
Did you catch the phrase, “Whether or not it actually makes a difference…”?  This phrase encourages me in my work of trying to win Cambodians to Christ.  Yes, the population is predominantly Buddhist, but contrary to what some may think, not all Cambodians actually believe in Buddhism.  At the very least they have some doubts, and that should not surprise us.  How could a false god possibly give true peace and assurance?  There is an emptiness inside of every man who does not know the true God, and no pretender will ever truly fill that void.

Now for the bad news.  The Christian item that was labeled “cool” was cross necklaces.
“Cross necklaces are cool.  The cross necklace has become a trend for youngsters, regardless of their faith.  If you go into trendy clothing and jewelry shops around Phnom Penh, you can’t help but notice the presence of the Jesus cross.  The cross can represent Christianity, but many of the youth around the city just wear it because it looks cool and makes them feel hip.”  (Phnom Penh Post, May 5, 2010)
Now wherever did they get that idea?  I don’t think they came up with that on their own.  My guess…this nonsense is the outgrowth of so-called Christians inaccurately portraying the cross and what it means to be a Christian.  The true cross of Christ is not trendy, cool, or hip.  In fact, the Bible says that the cross of Christ is a stumblingblock, an offense, and foolishness to those that believe not.  It grieves my soul when I see Cambodians picking up a false view of Christianity.  It breaks my heart when I hear that Cambodians are watching Joyce Meyers television show every morning at 5:00 am, and everything they know of Christianity, they learned from her.  God save us from a “Joyce Meyers/Joel Osteen/prosperity Gospel” kind of Christianity!  The true cross of Christ was about blood, pain, agony, suffering, sin, shame, and death.  And yet for all of its negative connotations, it is the cross of Christ in which we are supposed to glory.  Why?  Because it is by the blood of his cross that we have made peace with God!  Oh, it represents our wonderful salvation, but there was nothing cool or hip about it.  It cost my precious Saviour his very life!  

When the unbelieving world lays claim to the “Jesus cross” as a way to be cool and hip, I fear we are failing to fulfill the mandate of John 3:14.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.”  May the people whom God brings across our path either believe on Christ or reject Him.  May they either embrace the cross or despise the cross.  At least we will know that we told them the truth.


  1. Great encouragement to see less of a Bhuddist stronghold in Cambodia, and an open door for Christianity, just pray that Islam doesn't find a foothold there as it has in so many Asian countries. Go forward and keep up the good work Bro Benefield!

    Eric Rader
    LBC Lemon Grove, CA

  2. I was just recently mentioning to Dad how it seems more and more US churches are using the cross as some type of cool logo. It will be real jagged, or stylistic, or abstract as if it makes a great marketing tool. The Bible also says that anyone who hangs on a tree is "cursed". Not really the makings of a trendy marketing scheme. I feel that the churches who SHOULD know what the cross represents and then treat it so casually are greatly disrespecting the value of Christ's sacrifice.

  3. Great article. Oh, how telling it is of the minds of many we meet here.

  4. It IS good news to hear that Buddhism is losing its grip on the people of Cambodia. Thank God that "the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds"! I know God will continue using you and your family to build "heavenly fortifications" here below as you remain faithful to Him!
    Keep up the good work!

    Oliver Abreu
    Big Bear City, CA

  5. Stephen, I find the way in which you use religion as the only way of gauging one's intelligence and understanding of the world around them to be remarkably narrow-minded. As the editor of Lift, I can tell yo that Tith Chandara, the writer of the article "5 cool things" is a 20-year-old Cambodian who is incredibly talented as journalist, writer, student and English speaker. His work ethic is unmatched among his peers as he has manages to attend two universities, direct multiple documentaries and contribute regularly to LIFT. He is the type of person who every mother, father, teacher or pastor would hope to help raise. I would imagine if your children showed the sort of motivation and drive that Dara shows on a daily basis, you would be thrilled.

    But he is not Christian. He does not misunderstand religion, he just doesn't have the same opinion as you, and therefore does not attach the same importance to Christian symbology. You are clearly a dogmatic Christian while Dara is a cultural Buddhist, these are different perspectives. It is selfish and arrogant to think that one form of religious practice is better than the other. You have chosen your way and he is choosing his. It seems useless to apply your values to his writing. This is not intelligent debate it is intellectual intolerance.

    Choose your targets more carefully, Dara is an incredible young man who lives his life in a self-less, motivated and good way. To take his relatively light-hearted article about what is cool and turn it into a case against Buddhism and Cambodian society is in poor taste. Frankly, your post reeks of condescension and intolerance.

    You must be able to step back from your agenda of conversion and realize when a young man - who has overcome hundreds of obstacles on his way to academic success - deserves praise and not ridicule.

  6. I just want to clarify that, although I am employed by the Phnom Penh Post, my comments on this blog are mine, and are in no way representative of the Phnom Penh Post or the Post Media Corporation.

  7. Wow, Colin, that was a very intolerant rebuttal to Mr. Benefield's post. Having re-read the article, I cannot see how you think Stephen was leveling a personal attack at the writer of that article. He was obviously merely pointing out that the article describes many things that he experiences with the Cambodian people on a weekly basis, having been here for nearly 10 years.

  8. mymuster wrote: "Wow, Colin, that was a very intolerant rebuttal to Mr. Benefield's post"

    It appears that Mr. Meyn is a religious relativist. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Their system of belief requires tolerance of all "opinions" [a word from his post] except belief in absolute truth. Logically, this must be rejected because it opposes all other opinions declaring them false, thus denying religious relativism as a system.

    Mr. Meyn, as an experienced writer, you ought to know better than to attack a straw man (Mr. Bennefield's supposed ad hominem attack on the writer of the article). Mr. Bennefield's article is clearly about ideas. Should you reply further, please join the discussion in the arena of ideas. Can you defend religious relativism as an ideological system? Can you defeat Mr. Bennefield's belief in absolute truth?


  9. I am intolerant of the idea that missionaries know what is best for Cambodian people.

  10. The defense of absolute truth is circular. The bible is an incredible book with invaluable lessons and stirring narratives; but it is not fact. If we begin with this understanding I am happy to enter the "arena of ideas."

  11. Mr. Meyn, I find it interesting that you, as the editor of a newspaper, would not capitalize the word "Bible." It is elementary grammar to capitalize a proper noun. Could it be that you did not capitalize it on purpose? I find it hard to believe that a professional like yourself would make such a mistake. If indeed you did not capitalize it on purpose, that would be a very intolerant gesture.

  12. Furthermore, Mr. Benefield is simply obeying the command of Jesus Christ, the One Whom he worships, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every person, regardless of skin color or religious background. It was Jesus Christ Himself Who claimed that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that nobody can go to the Father except through Him. If a person has a problem with missionaries, his problem is actually with Jesus Christ. The missionary is simply obeying. Also, a missionary cannot force anyone to believe the Gospel. A missionary is simply a messenger.

    The reality is that Mr. Benefield is a man who knows what he believes, and he was writing about a man who does not know what he believes. Now, I do not wish to slander Tith Chandara's work ethic. I am always impressed by a young person's motivation to rise above the status quo. But regardless of Tith's diligence and hard work, he, just like you, me, and the rest of the people of the world, have an inherent sin problem that cannot be solved by a Buddha statue, or even a cross on a necklace. This sin problem can only be solved by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ: His substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection as the final sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

  13. Colin,

    You wrote, "If we begin with this understanding..." I cannot agree to your terms because I do not share your negative bias against the truth claims of the Bible. In fact, I do have a negative bias against your truth claims, and with good reason (see below). Nonetheless, I’ll presume that we may continue the debate in the arena of ideas.

    You wrote, "The defense of absolute truth is circular." Apparently you are unaware that your own system of reasoning is circular as well. Ultimately, the authority for your assertion that truth is relative returns to you. You arbitrarily choose the "reality" (though it is not; see below) that truth is relative. For example, you wrote, "I am intolerant of the idea that missionaries know what is best for Cambodian people." By this statement, it is obvious that you consider yourself to be a worthy judge of who knows what is best for the Cambodian people. You have executed that authority by declaring that missionaries are not those people. Who made you the judge of these matters, you or some higher authority? My guess is that it’s you. Your reasoning has become circular at some point.

    Thus, we may only discuss the legitimacy of one’s *source* of authority. God claims Himself to be authoritative; you claim yourself to be authoritative. God claims that He is transcendent and thus has the right to authority (what it means to be the Creator). Obviously you can make no such claim because, as we would say, you are a creature. You “were born”—a passive verb. It happened to you; you did not create yourself or any other thing. You are thus finite in existence, as well as in knowledge and comprehension of the universe and its realities. Therefore, it is questionable whether you can make any legitimate claim to authority.

    Finally, I’d like to see just one relativist live by their line of reasoning. If you sincerely believe that truth is relative, go around living like 2+2=5 or that lying, stealing, rape and murder are in fact virtuous! Quit eating, since it is not absolutely true that humans need food to live, or even enjoy eating. (That is to say, define humanity for yourself, if you can.) You and I only *say* different things about the nature of truth, but practically speaking, we both *live* according to the reality absolute truth. And by clinging to the reality of absolute truth in life, you betray the transcendent Creator behind absolute truth.


  14. @ Chad and Linda Phillips - I apologize for not capitalizing Bible. I understand that it is not only a grammatical error but also quite offensive.

    A missionary may not force people to believe, but there are certain ways of presenting information, without simultaneously providing competing ideology, that are leading and intellectually incomplete. Presenting uneducated people with a choice between belief in Jesus Christ or an eternity in hell certainly pushes them in one direction doesn't it? If you really want people to "choose" Christianity, teach them about all the religions in the world and let them choose which one is convincing to them. Perhaps they will choose Christianity or perhaps they will choose not to choose at all.

    The rest of your points rely on a belief set which I do not subscribe to. Good people will be rewarded in this life or the next, regardless of their beliefs. I have never understood why people must agree with your beliefs or burn in hell. It seems utterly self-fulfilling.

  15. @anonymous - Firstly, I believe that Cambodians know what is best for Cambodians. Please don't put words in my mouth.

    I have never claimed to be a relativist. If you wish to label my beliefs, something which I find unnecessary, call me a humanist (although I wouldn't call myself that). Were I a relativist I would find your argument quite offensive. Why would a relativist call murder and rape virtuous? Virtue is no more a part of relativism than sin.

    I believe that humanity has the strength and wisdom to protect itself and continually improve society. I believe that great humans are the saviors of humanity. I also believe that looking to a higher being for guidance often causes people to forget to celebrate what is happening on the ground and recognize the power of the human spirit.

    However, I also realize that religion has helped many people find meaning in life and religious groups have done great humanitarian work around the world. This can be said for all religions. I refuse to accept that yours is the only truth and that humans will not be rewarded for good deeds unless they accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Since you have admitted to your logic being circular I foresee dizziness in our future exchanges.

  16. Mr. Meyn, I sincerely appreciate your clearing up the misunderstanding about not capitalizing Bible.

    In response to your comment about teaching all the religions in the world, I must reiterate that I, as well as Mr. Benefield, subscribe to the belief that Jesus Christ is Who He claimed to be. I do not consider Christianity, that is, true Christianity, to be a religion at all. It is relationship with Jesus Christ. Missionaries are not religious educators, but rather we are ambassadors for Christ. A simple comparison of the major religions of the world with Christianity gives some light: in Christianity, salvation has already been purchased- the work is done by Jesus Christ. The other religions of the world are works-based systems in which sinful people are trying to reconcile themselves to either one God or many gods, or in some cases their ancestors.

    Concerning your comment about "good" people being rewarded in this life and the next, I'm not sure which "good" people you are talking about. Some people mask their sins better than others, but we are all sinful people who have come short of God's perfection and holiness. God calls our righteousnesses "filthy rags." A person who rejects Christ and relies on his own "good" works will also have to answer for his own sins, both the exterior sins and the internal, secret sins of the heart. God does not wish for anyone to go to hell. His desire is that all people from every race and tongue be reconciled to Himself through His redemptive work on Calvary.

    You have been presented with the Gospel of Christ, and just as you have claimed to reject it, any other person, regardless of his educational background, can choose to reject it. The Cambodian people are not mindless simpletons. I have known many poor, uneducated people who have chosen to reject Christ rather than place their faith in Christ, and that is their choice. When a person has been presented with the Gospel, he has the opportunity to accept it or reject it, whether he is a university student or a person who never finished the fifth grade. I am not trying to be offensive to you, but it seems like your categorizing the Cambodian people as "uneducated people" is implying that because of their lack of education, they do not have the ability to choose the same way an "educated" person would choose. I believe some uneducated people would find that offensive.

    I have worked with Mr. Benefield before, and he is a sincere man. He and his family have given their lives to help the Cambodian people. Go visit the church he pastors. You will see some of the happiest people on earth who have chosen to follow Christ. They are not there against their will, and they thank God that Mr. Benefield came to Cambodia.

  17. Colin,

    First, I observed in my first post that you are a relativist and asked you to correct me if was wrong. You did not. In any case, I still believe that you are a religious relativist. Please reconcile these statements:

    (1) “I have never claimed to be a relativist. ... Were I a relativist…” [A denial that you are a relativist.]

    (2) “I refuse to accept that yours is the only truth” [Actually believing like a relativist, denial of “the only truth.”]

    You also wrote, “Please don't put words in my mouth.” I never did that. By your statement, you claim the right to be judge in certain matters. I merely identified that fact using a quotation of your own words.

    More importantly, you have not answered my charge that as a creature [one who’s coming into being was a passive act, one who owes his existence to something else], you have no legitimate claim to authority. In your last two posts you repeatedly wrote, “I believe… I believe…” But you cannot arbitrarily choose reality any more than you could choose your own coming into being, or that which brought you or the universe into existence. You are exercising rights that you don’t actually have. Were you the creator of the universe, I would grant your right to choose reality or judge for Cambodian’s who knows what is best for them.

    Rather than dodging the bullet again, I’d really like to see an answer to these things. I answered your first charge (my system is circular). Please make this a fair debate and do me the honor of answering mine. From where do you derive the legitimate authority to decide in such matters?


  18. Colin,

    You wrote, “Virtue is no more a part of relativism than sin.” Well said, and it’s true that relativists espouse this notion. But then again, the relativist does not live like there are no virtuous or sinful acts. He still calls murder sin and helping the poor virtuous. However, he cannot point to any valid authority for calling them so except his own wish to do so (circular reasoning as we have already said).

    Thus, as I asserted before, he *says* one thing, but *does* another. He believes truth is relative but lives as if 2+2=4 in all cases and that murder is evil. He espouses the worldview of the atheist, but lives daily in the world of the theist. That’s what I call “dizziness!”


  19. "The rest of your points rely on a belief set which I do not subscribe to. Good people will be rewarded in this life or the next, regardless of their beliefs. I have never understood why people must agree with your beliefs or burn in hell. It seems utterly self-fulfilling."


    Your statment above begs at least two questions:
    1. What is a "good" person? By what criterion do you judge (or believe men will be judged) good and evil? This is the very point that MDC is making. Your criterion is relative. It returns to your opinion. You are the authority.
    2. Who or what will be the rewarder of these good people? Do you believe in some sort of karma or that a god will be the rewarder. I know you cannot answer these questions *with authrity*, for you have none with which to answer them.

    Assuming you were not using a figure of speech in saying "I have never understood...", let me explain. First of all, it has been clearly worded in these comments, that we that believe the Bible as God's Word do not require people to agree with *our* beliefs. This is where you greatest error lies. The Bible clearly states, and we therefore believe, that it is Almighty God's very words. It is not *we* that require men agree with *our* beliefs. It is the *Creator* that requires men to agree with *His* words. If, Colin, you believed that the Bible had the authority of Almighty God's words, you would immediately understand how He could demand men agree with him or be cast from His prescence forever. And if God's Word is true (and we are convinced it is), then only His authority will remain when the curtain of time has closed.

  20. You see, the central issue is authority. You have rejected the authority of God's Word, choosing the authority of your own opinions to supplant it. People that believe the Bible do not rest in the authority of their own philosophies, but in the authority of words of the living God. I strongly urge you to reconsider your opinion of the Bible, for your opinion now is nothing short accusing the One who claims to be its Author a bald-faced liar.

  21. @Chad and Linda Phillips

    I have nothing to say to most of these points because your support, the Bible, means very different things to both of us. You believe that there is one truth and I believe that you are wrong. This opinion in itself does not define my set of beliefs, it is a specific belief that I have towards evangelical Christians. I have the authority to know what I believe. I do not ask others to believe as I do.

    You said "I am not trying to be offensive to you, but it seems like your categorizing the Cambodian people as "uneducated people" is implying that because of their lack of education, they do not have the ability to choose the same way an "educated" person would choose. I believe some uneducated people would find that offensive."

    When you are presented with information, or a problem, such as "you are on your way to hell what are you going to do about it?" critical thinking is a crucial tool in navigating that situation. If you have not been taught to think critically and gather evidence to find a solution, you are much more apt to accept information being handed to you. If you believe that education does not influence ones ability to make better choices then what is education for? Furthermore I never categorized Cambodians as uneducated - you did - I spoke of uneducated people in a general sense. The majority of Cambodians in my life are quite well educated.

  22. @MDC

    I said that Cambodians know what is best for Cambodians. Do you disagree with this?

    I have the right to decide what I believe. The only reality that I know is my own. I know what I believe, but unlike you, I do not claim that my beliefs are universal truths and I do not devote myself to convincing people that my beliefs are true - although obviously I enjoy arguing their merit.

    I am not sure why you insist on calling me a relativist, I suspect that it is because this is a ideology which you are comfortable arguing against.

    I am not sure what bullet I dodged. I think that each person should have the right to choose their own path - without the threat of an eternity in hell.

  23. @mymuster

    I have no idea who the author of the Bible is. I have never read a convincing piece of research regarding his/her identity. I suspect that their intention was to create a text which would convince people to join their religion. That has worked quite well. I bet the author was quite brilliant. I am not calling them a liar, but I wouldn't hesitate to do so if your interpretation of the text is what they intended. I have claimed authority over my own beliefs. That is all.

  24. Colin,

    The Person that lays claim to the authorship of the Bible is God Himself. This is of utmost importance. For, if this one claim is true, then ALL of the claims of the Bible regarding every subject are completely true and authoritative, simply because of its Author. My interpretation of the Bible is irrelevant. The plain statements of the Bible are very clear and unambiguous. If you really wanted to know the true Author of the Bible, you would read its contents and seek Him for yourself. I sincerely hope this is what you will do. Now, in these comments, NO ONE has said that you do not have the freedom to choose what you believe, or as you say "authority over my own beliefs." You have this liberty. However, the point I have tried to make is that the authority upon which you base these beliefs that you have is totally inept, because it issues from your own finite and sinful opinions. These persuasion are just as impotent as those of this writer too! However, if the Author of the Bible is the infinite, perfectly holy, just, omniscient, and kind God that the Bible claims, then resting in its words is as sure of an authority as could ever be. No one that has commented to you in this thread desires your soul to perish in hell. Rather, everyone here desires that you come to know the true and living God, your Creator, from whom you have been estranged by your willful and offensive acts of sin these many years.

  25. Colin,

    You wrote, “I am not sure what bullet I dodged.” Actually, in your last response to @mymuster you answered my question. “I have claimed authority over my own beliefs.” You make circular reasoning a test of legitimacy when it comes to the authority of the Bible, but then use it to justify your own (another logical fallacy called contradiction). For a man so sensitive to the logical fallacies of others, it doesn’t seem to bother you when you are the one committing them. (Remember that you started this entire discussion by building a straw man.) There is indeed a lot of fuzziness going on here.

    You do in fact espouse what is called relativism. A quick read of the Wiki article on relativism and a review of your posts here make this abundantly clear. More fuzziness.

    But I actually agree with you. You are not in fact a relativist. But you cannot actually live by relativism. (This is its chronic problem). You merely speak like one to conveniently deny the source of absolute values.

    You in fact live comfortably in a universalist world where absolutes abound, providing you with a framework to make life intelligible (less fuzziness). You rely upon absolute values every minute of every day. Though you live like a universalist, you speak like a relativist because you cannot concede to universalism. For doing so would require you to identify some source of authority transcendent to the absolute values that make your life experiences intelligible and congruent with mine. And apart from conceding the existence of God, I doubt that you can point to any source of absolute values. Why does A=A and A≠non A? Why does 2+2=4 in all cases? Why is murder evil and giving to the poor virtuous? Why stars and not something else? Why do you exist?

    The Bible says of those who reject God, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). This is not intended to be an insult, but descriptive of the non-acquisition of rationality. For example, espousing one system of belief while living like it’s polar opposite is true.

    You wrote, “I said that Cambodians know what is best for Cambodians. Do you disagree with this?” On whose authority do you say that Cambodians know what is best for Cambodians? I hope you are not asking me to submit to yours.


  26. Colin,

    I don't have much more to say, because the matter in which we disagree is so fundamental in nature that future debate would be a waste of time for both of us. You said, "You believe that there is one truth and I believe that you are wrong." The fundamental difference is this: it seems that you believe truth is something that comes from within us, and that it comes in different forms for different people. In other words, you believe in relative truth, at least that is how it seems.

    I believe not in relative truth, but in revealed truth. Truth is not merely whatever I believe to be true. I could convince myself all day long that 5+5=11, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter what I believe about it. 5+5=10 whether I believe it or not. People can try to convince themselves that marriage between two men is fine and dandy, but that does not change the truth that marriage was intended for one man and one woman. People can try and convince themselves that their good works will earn them eternity in Heaven. But the Bible says in Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us..."

    The bottom line is that you place your faith in yourself. You are placing your faith in your own finite, mortal self. I am placing my faith in a source that is greater than myself. Your truth is relative. The truth that I believe is revealed truth, and it is absolute truth.

    I have heard men say, "There are absolutely no absolutes." Now, isn't that an absolute statement?

    Concerning education, I do believe in the importance of education as long as it is done properly. But the Gospel of Christ crosses all educational, racial, and geographical boundaries. I have witnessed those who have been educated extensively trust Christ as Savior, and I have seen the poorest, most uneducated people outright reject Christ, and vice versa. This may be strange to you, but the Gospel is not merely intellectual in nature; it is primarily spiritual in nature.

    Lastly, I want to remind you that evangelical missionaries, as much as you despise what they are doing, are simply obeying what they believe to be true, just like the Cambodians are obeying what they believe to be true. The only difference is that Buddha, to my knowledge, did not ask his followers to go into all the world and preach his teachings. Christ did. I believe the reason for this is that Christ is the only true remedy for sin, and the only way to salvation. People get angry about Christians "proselytizing." Interestingly, Penn Jilette, respected performer and outspoken atheist, posted on his YouTube account about a Christian who gave him a New Testament as a gift after one of his shows in Las Vegas. Penn said the man was kind, respectful, and sane, so he took the New Testament graciously. Penn, an atheist, went on to say that he had no respect for a Christian who did not proselytize. He said that if Christians really believe that they have the truth, and do not attempt to share it with people, then they are the most hateful people on the planet for not sharing what they believe to be the truth.

    You may not agree with what evangelical missionaries are doing. But I want to remind you that your real "beef" is not with them- it is with Christ. Christ is the One Who claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. Christ is the One Who gave the commission to His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Colin, with all due respect, your disagreement is with Jesus Christ Himself.

  27. Well said, Colin. While I understand and accept that many people (indeed, most) find inspiration in the idea of a higher power, I find much more inspiration in the idea that we humans are responsible for the choices we make and the beliefs we have (an idea that I don't expect others to share--it's just what I find works best for me and my happiness). And I absolutely agree that the only way to "choose" the path of Jesus Christ (or any path for that matter) is to become educated enough to choose--otherwise it's blind acceptance. And to accept ideas or philosophies without thinking is to betray ourselves, and to do the world around us some serious damage. So how about we all believe what we want to believe and treat each other with kindness and respect? I think humans are intelligent enough to know kindness from cruelty, acceptance from intolerance.

  28. Anonymous,

    You apparently didn’t read the entire thread. Like Colin Meyn (who seems to have exited the discussion), you accuse Christians of irrationality. He calls it “dizziness,” you call it “blind faith.” Both of you assume of yourselves a philosophically superior way of reasoning. Furthermore you wrote, “And to accept ideas or philosophies without thinking is to betray ourselves, and to do the world around us some serious damage.” I couldn’t agree more! The point made here is that you have not thought through your own philosophical grid to see if it’s truly coherent or even superior to the worldview of the Christian scriptures. Your philosophical grid is fraught with logical inconsistencies and problems that you’ve never investigated. (I guess you’ve merely assumed that you have not problems.) Mr. Meyn has not answered some very important questions: (1) How does he answer the charge of circular reasoning in his own appeal to authority? (2) How does he account for the absolutes he experiences in daily life? I’d love to see either of you answer these questions before calling others irrational.


  29. I have still been reading the discussion, but I have come to realize the futility of it all. I have become dizzy, although I never called Christian belief "dizziness." I do not believe that the Bible is fact. My position is well supported by the vast majority of scientific research that has been done to investigate the factual truth of the Bible. I believe that there are truths in the text, but that much of it is lost in the dogmatic following which has been adopted by evangelical Christians and many other Christian groups. Murder is bad...of course. Noah took two of every species on earth and housed them on a boat on the top of Mt. Ararat. I'm just not so sure about that one

    @MDC 1) I appeal to no authority because I believe each person has the power to think and speak for themselves and find their own truth. I see no need for greater or universal truth, and I certainly am not tempted to borrow someone else's truths and call it my own. I prefer to strive towards improving myself and finding my own path. If your path is Christianity more power to you. Just don't tell me I am going to hell if I choose not to follow.

    2)As far as relativism or whatnot, which is where you often take this line of reasoning, no sane person would ever believe that murder and rape are "good" things to do. Many a Christian has committed these sins as well. If you believe that relativism leads to murder than you have no faith in humanity. We should not say that one belief system (Christianity, relativism, Buddhism, Islam etc.) leads to a higher rate of crime, because I just don't believe it is true, and if you try to prove it you are just fostering hatred and reaching for moral superiority. All religions - and non-religions - have people who are criminals and people who aren't. Rather than push your religion as a panacea, why not try to figure out what is leading Christians and non-Christians towards terrible decisions and try to stop those social ills. It is clear that accepting Jesus Christ does not make you a good person, so how do we encourage all people to care more about each other?

  30. And why hasn't Mr. Benefield taken part in this discussion. Isn't the point of a blog to engage readers in thought and discussion? I would like to hear his take.

  31. Colin,

    These are assertions of your beliefs, and in no way answers to my questions. I'm not asking "what" you believe (which is how you answered) but "how" you can justify your beliefs.


    “(1) *HOW* does he answer the charge of circular reasoning in his own appeal to authority?” And to correct the statement in your previous post that "I appeal to no authority...", in an earlier post you made a clear appeal to your own authority: “I have claimed authority over my own beliefs.” The question is *HOW* you can do so without falling into circular reasoning as you charge the Christian.

    “(2) *HOW* does he account for the absolutes he experiences in daily life?” Of course no sane person would believe that murder and rape are "good" things to do. I assume that and so do you. But that’s not the point. The question is *HOW* do you account for the reality that murder and rape are evil? What makes this so? What stands behind the laws of logic, mathematics, morality and the like?


  32. Colin,

    You said, "I appeal to no authority because I believe each person has the power to think and speak for themselves and find their own truth."

    Suppose someone, after searching for their own truth for many years, came to the conclusion that it was fine to have inappropriate relationships with children (sadly, many in this world do, especially in places like Cambodia). For this person, having these kinds of inappropriate relationships are fine and dandy, and he has convinced himself there is nothing wrong. In his mind, he is perfectly justified in what he is doing.

    Now, I'm sure you would strongly disagree with a person who believed this way, and you may even go as far as to say that he is wrong. But really, you have no right to say that he is wrong according to your own beliefs. That individual has "the power to find his own truth." In his life, he has found that to have premature relationships with children is okay- to him, that is truth. You might say, "Come on, don't be ridiculous. We all know that it is wrong to have inappropriate relationships with children." But Colin, if that were your response, then you would be admitting that there IS a universal truth out there that is bigger than all of us, regardless of what we choose to believe about that particular subject.

    What you say may sound okay on the surface, but I don't believe that your belief that we "all have the power to find our own truth"- in other words, determine what is true for ourselves- really holds water, and when put to the test, it falls apart. Why? Because we all know that there are truths out there that are true regardless of what anybody thinks about them. If you believe that we should all determine what is true for ourselves, then we may as well just throw out laws, and allow anarchy to rule.

    I don't know if you received my Facebook message, but I want to make it very clear that I am not writing from an angry or condescending spirit. This discussion has caused me to search my own heart in several areas. I look forward to hearing your response, should you feel led to give one.

  33. Colin,

    I also wanted to recommend a good book that you might find interesting. It is called "New Evidence that Demands a Verdict". The author is Josh McDowell. I'm sure if you google it you will find it with no problem. It has a good deal of scientific evidence that supports the veracity of the Bible.

    *Just a side note- Noah did not take two of each species. That would mean he took two cocker spaniels, two collies, two golden retrievers, two German shepherds, etc. The Bible records that he took two of each kind. (This is referring to the unclean animals. The clean animals were taken by sevens.) That means Noah simply took one male and one female dog (we are not told what species the dog was.) Of course, over the course of the past 5 to 6,000 years, microevolution (change within a certain kind of organism, as opposed to macroevolution, which is the supposed change from one species to another species) has produced the various species of dogs that we see today. I just wanted to make that distinction.

  34. I will admit a deficiency in my understanding over the accuracy of the Bible and my understanding of the arguments within it and the theories around it. As I said before I think dogmatic belief in the Bible has led many people to spend huge amounts of time and energy missing the point of Christianity.

    As far as my beliefs on "authority," here is what I got. People do not form their beliefs on an island. When I say that people have the power to form their own truths, they are using all of the information around them to make this decision. Your situation is a huge part of your truth, people who grow up around actors are more likely to be actors, people who grow up around basketball will be more likely to play basketball and people who grow up with Christianity will be more likely to be Christian. Regardless of their influences, they will still have to decide for themselves how they want to behave, and here is the first point where I differ.

    I do not believe that people who make bad decisions think that they are "fine and dandy." Rapists, poedophiles and murderers do not have a fine and dandy attitude; they are either mentally ill or willing to live with the guilt in order to receive whatever deranged pleasure is derived from the act. The idea that people can not navigate the difference between right and wrong is where I disagree with you, and why I call myself a humanist. People, given society as the context for their upbringing, can discern what is right and wrong. How closely they choose to follow this guide is the real issue, and also the crux of my second point.

    The outward acceptance of Christianity is in no way an indicator of how one will live their life. Of course, people who actually live the teachings of Jesus are good, he was an amazing man. However I would argue that the teachings of the Bible lay out the same ideals as scores of other religions and - in my belief - conclusions which most people reach through life experiences and the guidance of their parents, teachers, coaches, whoever. If someone were to fully embrace the teachings of Gandhi they would also be sure to live a good life. Accepting Jesus has nothing to do with the chances that someone will become a morally upright person. Consciously making each decision selflessly and without spite, anger or jealousy is an enormous task which does not require a dogmatic leap of faith but a concerted effort in every moment of your life. It takes great personal strength but it doesn't take Jesus. Once again, if you feel that Jesus gives you the strength to live this way fantastic, but don't tell me that if I am seeking alternate routes to the same ends I am going to hell. If good people are being sent to hell what is the point of Christianity.

    And, to pre-empt this course of argument, how we define good is not the point. We learn what is good from all around us and people, Christian or otherwise, knowingly act against good on a regular basis. People are tempted by sin, that is why the Bible and thousands of other religious texts exist. Not to tell people what is good and bad but to remind them of the importance of living well and the benefits of that behavior. Christianity is a belief structure which encourages good behavior, but Christians break it all the time. Children who grew up in loving, strong families do bad things as well. It is difficult to say why, they just do. Humanity is not perfect and neither are humans who believe in Christianity. I think we should work to understand each other rather than working to get everyone to believe what we do.

  35. So...if all religions are equal, it's just as good to sacrafice a virgin to an Aztez god, as it is to stap on a bomb to blow yourself up and others who dissagree with you, as it to build schools, ophanages, and hospitals as Christians have done around the world.

    Either God created the heavens and the earth, or He did not. Where are the scientist that have observed non-living things becoming living things? Either Jesus Christ, who claimed to be the God-man, and rose bodily from the dead, is a liar, lunatic, or legitemate. The fact of the matter is that their is in history the rise of Christianity with for 300 years endured ten major persecutions by the Roman Empire. Many died in the arenas as they were fed to the lions for the entertainment the thrill seekers. All they had to do to avoid that death was to offer a simple sacrifice worshipping Caesar. The effect,that is the rise of Christianity must have cause. That cause the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead which was prophesied by Israel's King David 1,000 years before Christ was born.

    Historic Biblical Christianity is not just a religion, it is a personal relationship with a living Lord, now in heaven, but coming soon. No other worship system has a founder who conquered death.

  36. As soon as i read this comment "stap on a bomb to blow yourself up and others who dissagree with you, as it to build schools, ophanages, and hospitals as Christians have done around the world." I stopped reading. That is a hateful and ignorant understanding of Islam.

    It is worth noting that Christians have killed in the name of Christianity many times throughout history and here are some links about muslims who are building orphanages, schools etc.

    I have enjoyed the thoughtful debate with MDC, Chad and Linda and others but this post is thoughtless nonsense.

  37. Colin,

    I recommend that your read the Quran and the Bible for yourself. I know you have completely missed the point of the Bible's message. You have presumed upon the teachings of the Bible from a humanist perspective. And, thereby, you have completely missed the fact that the Bible is about the One true God and how He has reconciled we sinful mankind to Himself in Jesus Christ. As for the it. It is THAT RELIGIOUS TEXT that commands people to lop off the heads of infidels. I think the rest of the post you said you stopped reading is the crux of the whole matter.

  38. If the crux of the whole matter is the question of whether or not there is One true God who has reconciled we sinful mankind to Himself in Jesus Christ than I was missing the point all along. I don't believe that to be true. You can't prove it is true and I can't prove it isn't true. If this is the point of the argument we have no where to go.

  39. I wish that Stephen Benefield would jump in this conversation. Not sure why he will respond to praise but not criticism. I would think it is just as important to defend yourself as it is to commend yourself.

  40. Hi Colin,
    When I posted that comment on the "ABCs" article, I was thinking to myself, "Colin is not going to like it if I comment here without commenting on the "Cool" article". I was hoping to slip it by you, but no such luck! :) (Just kidding)

    Seriously, I don't see it as an issue of responding to praise but not criticism. In every other post on my blog there have been nothing but positive comments, praise, encouragement, etc. I have never responded to any of them. My comment on the ABC's post was the first comment I have ever made on my own blog. That comment was not driven by a desire to "commend myself", but rather it was a friendly comment to four other friendly comments (2 from my siblings and 2 from people I have known my whole life). Nevertheless, there is no way you could have known that, so I can see why you would say what you did.

    There are several reasons why I have not responded to your comments yet. One of the reasons is simply that the blog is not my "day job" so to speak, but a hobby. As a pastor, a father of 6 children, and a man with several time-consuming projects on my hands right now, I have simply not had the time necessary to respond in an appropriate way. Yes, I could have whipped out a couple of quick one-liners here and there, but I would have regretted that later. My intention has been (since reading your first comment) to give a kind, thoughtful, and thorough reply. That is still my intention, but again, it is not the top of my priority list. I don't mean that disrespectfully at all, but am just trying to be up front with you. I will TRY to get to it this week.


    Stephen Benefield

  41. I have been asked twice to jump into this conversation. I have now done so in a new post entitled "The Missionary's Message". The comments I had did not even come close to fitting in the allowable space of this comment box, so I just posted it as an entirely new article. I hope it is not a problem to anyone. It was for logistical reasons only. Of course, comments may be left on either one of these articles.