Welcome to Pondering Peniel! This is one blog of many millions of blogs. This could turn out to be a completely inconsequential endeavour. Yet I’m writing this anyways. Why?
I hope to join in a surge; a sort of new surge. Really, it’s a very old surge. But it seemed to have been forgotten. Now, through this blog, I hope to engage in the renewed surge of Christian apologetics that has been happening over the past half century and bring that into my small sphere of influence. This blog’s primary goal is to help equip the Church apologetically (note the capital C).
Now, if you’re not a Christian, you might be thinking this is not for you. However, that couldn’t be further from my intentions. My audience will always be assumed agnostic unless I specifically state otherwise, and I hope this blog will be a resource for the committed Christian and searching skeptic alike. We’re all here trying to figure out what the point of it all is. We’re all here struggling to make sense of life’s joys and tragedies. We’re all here together trying to figure out the way reality actually is. So let’s wrestle with this stuff. We’ll all be better for it. Plus, you’re reading a blog. You’re either avoiding something better to do or have nothing better to do. Either way, you might as well stick around.
So, what, by Brent Burn’s boisterous beard, does apologetics mean? It has nothing to do with saying sorry. The term “apologetics” stems from the greek word apologia. It’s simplest definition is “a defence”. It’s a lawyer term. It simply refers to defending your position. Do you believe things? Do you think something is, in fact, the case? Would you allow the phrase “because…” to be at the end of any sentence you say? Then you’re an apologist! Isn’t this fun? For example, I just provided an apologia for why you’re an apologist because I reasoned for, or defended, the position.
Of course, everyone is an apologist in this broad sense. Even people who claim there is no truth give reasons for why that’s true. So let’s narrow the scope a little. I hope to equip the Church in regards to Christian apologetics. This involves defending primarily, but not limited to, the twin pillars of classical apologetics. Namely, God exists and Jesus is Him. I will present cases for these claims, as I believe they are the best explanation of the evidence. I hope to do this both directly and indirectly.
By directly, I mean writing and commenting on various arguments for or against these positions. Whether that is writing a series on a Moral Argument for God’s Existence, performing worldview analyses, contemplating Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument, wrestling with the Problem of Evil, deliberating on the Problem of Heaven (you read right), or discussing the historical credibility of the resurrection of Jesus, I hope you will find this a good spring board to further research. This doesn’t necessarily mean my writing style will always be formal. I will be precise and technical when that is called for, which is quite regularly in this field. But I generally will try to keep my writing to a more accessible style; I might even throw in a story or two.
I must emphasize, especially when it comes to directly tackling philosophy, science, history, or theology, that I am by no means a credible resource. This is a blog. It is not peer reviewed (although I’d love feedback!) and it is written by a layman. Do not believe what I say. Research what I say. This is a starting point with links to helpful material. No more. On that note, I have provided links to helpful resources, organizations, and blogs that I particularly enjoy, find helpful, or are good causes on the various menus of this site. I hope you find them useful. As a disclaimer, I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse the views of these sites and I take no responsibility or liability for their words or actions. It should be assumed I am agnostic towards their positions unless otherwise stated.
By indirectly defending the twin pillars, I mean by sharing pastorally. I’m not too fond of that description, since I’m not a pastor and I wouldn’t be particularly good at it if I was. But I think it encompasses what I’m trying to say. Often, Christian apologists focus heavily on philosophy, or science, or history, or what-have-you. That’s needed and we need more, or at the very least we need more advertising (hence this blog). But often the intellectual side is the mask. What a skeptic or struggling believer actually needs is tougher to define. It’s emotional, or volitional, or psychological, or some different other-than-purely-factual thing. The mask needs to be dealt with. What’s under the mask cannot be dealt with unless the mask is dealt with, thereby showing it is, in fact, a mask. Then it needs to be taken off.
In this spirit, I may reflect on a passage of scripture or a theological concept. I may just offer some form of encouragement. I plan to write out my testimony and post it. This type of stuff typically does not fall into the category of Christian apologetics. Strictly speaking – at least how the term is most often used nowadays – I would agree with that. But the point of Christian apologetics is not to win a debate for its own sake. There’s people involved. People whom the Maximally Great Lord of the Universe cares a great deal about. So I shall encourage and edify as well, as best I can.
Despite the primary goal, I will by no means be limited to it, as you might expect from the subtitle of this site. However, variances will be few and far between, I suspect. But you never know. Continuing a miscellaneous theme, feel free to let me know if I ever have any typos or broken links. It would help a lot! And if you’re interested where the site’s main header photo comes from, it’s here. It’s a small piece of Rembrandt’s famous painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, located somewhere between the younger and elder brother – I’ve been both. The site logo is the father in the same painting, and the background continues that motif. There will also be a Quote of the Day section. It won’t update every day because I have to do that manually. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So take “day” perhaps with a more era-like definition.
Now, a little about the author. My name is Aaron. My undergrad degree is in Environmental Systems Engineering. That is a strange and not-so-common engineering degree. It’s basically a Civil Engineering degree, with less focus on structural engineering and more focus on all things water. The university I attended felt like being rebels by not having the traditional program, I guess. Despite my chosen degree, I found I wasn’t too fond of all things water. Fortunately, identical to civil, enviro’s also have a focus on Transportation Engineering, at least at my university. I happen to very much enjoy transportation, especially road design and transportation planning. Hence, my occasional rant on how great roundabouts are. Engineers are famous for being horrendous writers; wordsmiths comparable to a chimpanzee. In that spirit, I live by the saying “when in doubt; semicolon.” This blog will in no way alleviate the reputation. I hope you’ll bear (bare?) with me anyways! Now, in case someone wishes to consider my blogs about transportation engineering as engineering advice, I have neither confirmed nor denied any professional engineering designation or career. I have confirmed a degree, but that is all. Please don’t be stupid and use this blog as an engineering source.
More personally, I am passionate first and foremost about the King of the Universe, Jesus of Nazareth; the Christ. He is my saviour, love, parent, brother, co-heir, shepherd, lord, Lord, LORD, and more. He has used and is using Christian apologetics in remarkable ways in my life. If someone were to ask me why I’m a Christian and I had one sentence to answer, I’d say because it’s true. As I said earlier, I plan to share my testimony of God’s work in my life, which will provide greater details about me and how I have come to believe what I believe and why I believe what I believe. That thought is terrifying, as I will be laying myself bare, including some of my many failures, before the cold eyes of the internet. But stories are powerful things. They will hopefully help and encourage you as you seek, and will give you a better understanding of the broader context of my writing. For those reasons, I feel compelled to share, even if it petrifies me. On a lighter note, I love my family, friends, the Lord of the Rings, reading, researching, hockey, football, and sports in general. Plus I’m Canadian! So that’s exciting.
What’s in a name? A great deal, I think. Peniel comes from a story about a man named Jacob. You can read about his life starting in Genesis 25. Jacob was a fairly shady guy. His name meant “grasps at the heel”, a Hebrew idiom for deceiving, and he lived up to that calling. Putting it bluntly, he was a lying, slimy, manipulative coward. Late in his life, he finds himself wrestling with a stranger on the shore of the Jabbok River. You can find the story in Genesis 32:24ff. The stranger, as Jacob realized, happened to be God. Surprisingly, Jacob did quite well, seemingly winning the match! I guess he was slimy in more ways than one; although, he did end up with a dislocated hip. Afterwards, God blessed Jacob and changed his name to Israel, meaning “he wrestles with God,” changing his identity from a liar forever. Israel named the location of his match Peniel, which means “face of God.” The nation that would arise from Israel’s descendants certainly did their wrestling as well. They constantly struggled with God and His will, falling constantly. Not unlike a certain author.
I named this site “Pondering Peniel” because I wrestle. Not literally, though. I’ve never actually formally wrestled. I wrestle with ideas. I struggle. I doubt. I continually wrestle with God. Through this site, I want to share my past and present wrestlings. I want to encourage others to wrestle.
Friend, wrestle with these experiences we have. Wrestle with the arguments. Wrestle with the One who calls you to everlasting joy. Ponder the face of God. You might even find yourself with a new identity one day.