Ponzi Schemes, Debating Bart Ehrman, and should a Christian speak at a Seventh-Day Adventist venue?

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Dinesh D’Souza and Bart Ehrman face off in debate over suffering

Dinesh D’Souza, served as senior domestic policy analyst in the White House in 1987-1988. He is the best-selling author of Illiberal Education, The End of Racism, Ronald Reagan, The Virtue of Prosperity, What’s So Great About America, and The Enemy at Home. His most recent book is What’s So Great About Christianity.

On his blog he writes,

The atmosphere at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was electric on the evening of October 7, 2009. Memorial Hall was filled to capacity with 1,500 students, and there was an overflow room for those who couldn’t get in. Bible scholar Bart Ehrman and I debated the issue of whether God is to blame for the suffering and evil in the world.

I’ve been debating several leading atheists over the past two years–Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, Peter Singer, and so on–but this was my first time debating Ehrman. Ehrman doesn’t identify with the “new atheism” and he calls himself an agnostic, not an atheist. Christian students, however, often report that Ehrman is a bigger threat to their faith in part because he comes out of the Christian world. He knows how to use Christian vocabulary to dismantle Christian beliefs. That’s why I wanted to debate Ehrman on his home turf, before his own students. I wanted them to see that his arguments could be met, and that there is an intelligent case to be made on the other side.

Ehrman has credibility with Christians because he used to be one of us.

– Source / Full Story: D’Souza and Ehrman face off over suffering, Denish D’Souza, Oct. 14, 2009 — Summarized by Apologetics Index

See also D’Souza’s article, Unmasking Bart Ehrman

Seventh-day Adventism

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel to speak at Seventh-day Adventist venue

Former atheist Lee Strobel, author of the award-winning books “The Case for Christ,” “The Case for a Creator,” and others, is scheduled to speak on Oct. 30 at one of the most prominent Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) churches in the United States: the University Church at Loma Linda University in California.

This has fellow evangelical Christian apologists puzzled. As Paul Carden, Executive Director for The Centers for Apologetics Research, points out on the AR-talk list,

The Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches that the heretical Ellen G. White was a true prophet of God, affirms that it is God’s special remnant end-time church, that Christ’s atonement is incomplete and entered a new phase in 1844, and a host of other serious doctrinal errors. Yet it poses as a group that can enjoy an easygoing ecumenism with evangelicals–even as they work to empty our churches, both here and abroad, through deceptive proselytizing.

Another AR-talk participant said he’d just read, ‘Why I Speak to Other Groups and How I Decide‘ — a blog entry by Ed Setzer, who among other things serves as research team director and missiologist at the North American Mission Board.

Setzer says, “I do not go to places where my presence would cause me to legitimize some agenda or strategy. In other words, if I get to teach the Gospel, that’s great. I’m in. If you want to use my presence to confuse what the Gospel is, that’s another story.”

The first comment on the blog is from a guy who writes, “I am a former Seventh-day Adventist who now has planted a gospel centered, evangelical and missional church. I sometimes get invitations to speak at SDA events but generally turn them down due to their lack of gospel clarity and other doctrinal issues.”

Note that over the past few years several factions have formed within the Seventh-day Adventist religion — ranging from those who wish the movement would fully enter into the ‘evangelical mainstream’ to those who prefer to hold on to various heresies.

In our view, Seventh-day Adventism is, theologically, a cult of Christianity. We believe that Seventh-day Adventists who are unhappy with the movement’s unbiblical teachings should leave and renounce Seventh-day Adventism, and join a Biblically-sound church instead.

Ponzi Scheme

Ron Mainse appears on 100 Huntley Street to speak about alleged ponzi scheme

Last May, Canadian newspaper The Hamilton Spectator wrote

A Freelton man who describes himself as a software developer and aspiring screenplay writer is accused in a California court of running a $14-million US Ponzi scheme.

Gordon Driver and his company, Axcess Automation, are alleged to have defrauded more than 100 Canadian and American investors since 2006 by promising them weekly returns on their investment as high as 5 per cent, based on special software he says he developed to trade futures.

Among those who invested in the alleged Ponzi scheme, court documents say, are Ron and Reynold Mainse, sons of David Mainse, founder of Burlington’s Crossroads Television and 100 Huntley Street.

– Source / Full Story: Local man accused in $14m Ponzi scheme, Steve Buist, The Hamilton Spectator (Canada), May 21, 2009 — Summarized by Apologetics Index

If you’re not familiar with 100 Huntley Street, reportedly the top Canadian Christian TV show, blogger Mark Petersen’s description may tell you all you need to know:

To be honest, it’s the type of ministry that in my mind speaks to the choir … aka a certain segment of the Christian community, and thus doesn’t qualify as something of interest to our granting committee. To me, Huntley is an in-house conversation complete with jargon (bless you, sister), strange rituals (prayer lines, JIMBee music, tithing) and big hair. All of this may be meaningful to certain insiders, though it’s obscure and foreign to me. But when the show is transmitted in the public sphere, it sets up Christian faith for mockery, or at least bewilderment, by those who don’t share it. Which is the majority of the Canadian population. As a result, I find that the typical images, tone, and approach are frequently a barrier for effective communication of faith, not a help.

– Source / Full Story: A donor drives down Huntley Street, Mark Petersen, Open Hands: Mashing up faith and philanthropy, June 20, 2009 — Summarized by Apologetics Index

That aside, “Ron and Reynold Mainse were taken off 100 Huntley Street in June after being named as finders in the alleged Gordon Driver/Axcess Automation/Funds ponzi scheme,” Canadian blogger Bene Diction writes at Bene Diction Blogs On (which I think you read on a regular basis).

Bene Diction has covered the entire affair, and has now posted some notes regarding Ron Mainse’s interview.

It’s disconcerting to see how many Christians find themselves, one way or another, involved in Ponzi Schemes.

Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s. Ponzi thought he could take advantage of differences between U.S. and foreign currencies used to buy and sell international mail coupons. Ponzi told investors that he could provide a 40% return in just 90 days compared with 5% for bank savings accounts. Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors, taking in $1 million during one three-hour period–and this was 1921!

– Source / Full Story: Ponzi Schemes, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

A love of money tends to make people blind — especially when the person claims to be a fellow believer. One believer scamming another is called affinity fraud:

Affinity fraud refers to investment scams that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are – or pretend to be – members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.

– Source / Full Story: Affinity Fraud: How To Avoid Investment Scams That Target Groups, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

See also: Religion-based scams take Lord’s name in gain

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Category: Ai's Apologetics Roundup

First published (or major update) on Thursday, October 15, 2009 Central European Time (CET).
Last minor update: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 at 1:11 AM CET   

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