My dog, Bailey, is the best pet I have ever had the privilege to live with. We’ve had a number of dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, lizards and guinea pigs over the years, but in my mind, Bailey sits at the top of the list. As I enjoy her company (now that I’m working at home more than ever before), I can understand why so many of us hope that our pets will be part of our eternal life with God. I’m convinced from scripture that animals have souls, but I still have my reservations about whether or not the souls of animals are eternal. I’m not sure that the Bible is emphatically clear on that issue. One thing is certain, however: we humans are different. According to Genesis 1, we have been created in the “image of God”; we are His last creation, placed carefully in our world after God prepared our environment and filled it with other creatures. Much can be said about what distinguishes us from the other creations of God, but three characteristics of humans seem to stand out as the key to understanding what it means to bear the image of God:
Humans seem to be uniquely capable of measuring difficult and weighty moral issues. We understand the value of sacrifice, even when a noble cause may cost us our lives. As humans, we are able to move beyond survival mechanisms and base desires. We have the capacity to distinguish between what “is” toward what “ought to be”. This ability defines us as humans and it is something that we share with our creator. In fact, this innate understanding of morality comes from the creator (Romans 2:14-15). God’s moral law is not written for animals. We don’t assign or recognize moral culpability on the part of creatures other than humans, and the Old Testament also recognizes this difference between animals and humans (Exodus 21:35-36). Humans are held to a different standard; a standard that is a direct reflection of their ability to comprehend and act on the moral law written in their hearts.
from Cold Case Christianity
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak to (and train) a number of Christian apologetics clubs on the campuses of high schools and universities across the country. One student I’ve trained over the past four years recently graduated high school and is now leading an apologetics group at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She contacted me to see if I could speak to her group next year. In the short time she has been on the campus she has already grown a sizable group of students united as a community and preparing themselves to defend what they believe as Christians. I was impressed with her immediate success in forming this group; not every Christian apologetics group grows this quickly. Why are some groups more successful than others? I think the answer can be found in a short video I received from Sean McDowell recently. The key to growing a Christian case making group lies in our ability to unite the mind with the heart. In our efforts to strengthen the life of the mind we must never forget the importance of community.
Tony Campolo is a popular Christian speaker. His son, Bart Campolo, is an atheist who serves as the humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California (USC). In a recently posted YouTube video Bart spoke at the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) annual conference and explained why he was once part of a Christian youth group. In his talk, Bart urges the SSA to become more influential on college campuses (and to do a better job of raising support) by recognizing the power of community. He described the powerful impact Christian community had on him as a young man. Watch the video, particularly from 8:48. Bart makes several important points. Much can be said about Bart’s experience in Christian youth groups, and I will not take the time to evaluate whether or not Bart was ever truly a Christian, because that’s not what’s so important about his comments here. Regardless of his standing as a believer in the past, Bart makes several important observations we can apply to our efforts to grow apologetics groups in a variety of settings. If you’ve ever struggled to form a Christian case making presence in a high school or university setting, Bart’s advice may apply to your effort.
After watching the video, I came away with three important realizations:
Jesus often referred to His followers as “sheep”. When he was saddened to see His people disheartened, the Gospels tell us “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Those who hadn’t yet trusted Jesus were also described as sheep: Jesus said he “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). When I first read the many “sheep” passages related to the teaching of Jesus, I was encouraged and inspired. In many ways, Jesus seemed to be talking like a police officer. Law Enforcement officials (like military officials) tend to divide the world into two distinct categories: “sheep” and “wolves”. Jesus also recognized this distinction. When commissioning His disciples to preach in neighboring communities, he told them, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus understood the distinctions and the dangers. In a similar way, police officers know there are those who prey and those who are preyed upon. As law enforcement personnel, we are charged to protect one from the other. In this pasture filled with sheep and wolves, we are sheepdogs. Now, as a Christian case maker, I’ve come to see the role Christian apologists make in the Church. We are also sheepdogs, commissioned to help protect the sheep from those who seek to draw them away from the Shepherd. While I accept this responsibility happily, I’ve discovered an even greater opportunity. As a sheepdog (both from a law enforcement and Christian case making perspective), it’s my duty to create more sheepdogs.