The City Podcast: Joy in Prison and Other Epiphanies

by Timothy Motte on July 21, 2014

No one knows a text better than a scribe.

When you painstakingly transfer a text word-by-word from one medium to another, you develop a deep familiarity with it. The slowness of the process allows you to ponder and meditate upon what it says. The exactitude required means that you don’t miss any details. 

That’s what Rachel Motte does. As the editor of, it’s her job to transcribe Dr. Sloan’s vast archive of recorded sermons and adapt them for easy reading in a text format. Because he is both a very learned New Testament scholar and an excellent communicator, she reports that living with his preaching so intimately has taught her volumes about the Bible.

In this podcast, Rachel sits down with Dr. David Capes (another New Testament scholar at HBU) and shares some of the insights she has gathered while working on Dr. Sloan’s series on Philippians.

What do you do when you want to learn a text well? Have you tried copying it word-by-word?

Featuring: Rachel Motte, Dr. David Capes

The City Podcast. Smart. Sane. Spiritual.


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On Debating Dan Barker

by John Mark Reynolds on November 22, 2013

Originally posted at Wheatstone Writes. John Mark Reynolds is a Founder of Wheatstone Ministries. He blogs, advises, and speaks for Wheatstone regularly. Visit for more information.

I was excited to debate Dan Barker. Why? First, Barker’s story is very much like my own, but with a different conclusion. We had similar childhoods and followed a pathway into Christian ministry. Right about the time his first book came out, I was deciding whether to remain a Christian. [click to continue…]

Advice to My Son 4: The World Is Full of Magic

by Lou Markos on September 19, 2013

Ever since you were a boy, I’ve tried to convince you of one simple truth. The world is full of magic: you just have to have eyes to see it and ears to hear it. That’s why I spent so much time reading fairy tales to you and your sister. Fairy tales remind us that there is magic, deep magic, in every tree, every rock, every sunset, and especially every person.

Western religions have traditionally focused on the transcendence of God: God exists outside of time and space and is radically other than us or our world. Eastern religions, on the other hand, have put their focus on the immanence of God: God does not dwell outside the world but exists in and through it. [click to continue…]

The City Podcast: Mere Christianity in a Mythic Moment

by Timothy Motte on April 30, 2013

The City, a podcast of Houston Baptist University: Smart. Sane. Spiritual.

Featuring: Mary Jo Sharp, Dr. Holly Ordway, Cate MacDonald, and Dr. John Mark Reynolds

HBU is in a mythic moment.

There are many factors contributing to this, and that is why Dr. Reynolds brought in amazing apologetics professor Mary Jo Sharp to discuss it.

The melting pot nature of the city of Houston, and the mere Christian mission of HBU bring to light the ways in which Christians from vastly different denominations can work closely together while still maintaining their doctrinal distinctiveness.

Also, in this episode, you will find out which Lord of the Rings character Dr. Reynolds thinks President Sloan looks like.


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A to Z with C.S. Lewis: T is for Tao

by Lou Markos on April 18, 2013

Laozi and Kong Fuzi

Mere Christianity is Lewis’s best known and most complete work of apologetics.  In it he begins with a general argument for theism (the existence of God) and then expands that argument into a specific defense of the Christian gospel.  From there, he goes on to explain and support the central moral and theological principles of Christianity.

Although Lewis believed firmly in the authority of scripture, he knew that many of his modern readers did not share his belief.  Accordingly, Lewis carefully builds his apologetical arguments on common ground: on facts and observations about our world and ourselves that all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, can see, understand, and acknowledge.

That is why he begins Mere Christianity with an unexpected statement that seems, on the surface, to have little to do with a defense of the Christian faith.  Did you ever notice, Lewis writes, that when two people disagree about something, they argue about it rather than fight?  Though most of us likely did not notice this phenomenon before, the moment we read Lewis’s statement, the truth of it becomes apparent. Of course we argue instead of fight!

And that’s when Lewis hooks us.  Whether we realize it or not, two people cannot argue about something unless they agree (often unconsciously) to a fixed standard that transcends them both.  When we argue, we take that standard for granted and then make a case (sometimes rationally, sometimes irrationally) that our side of the argument better approximates that standard.

In a case where two former business partners are suing each other for fraud, neither party says: “yes, I swindled my partner, and I was right to do so.”  If he did, he would not be sent to jail; he would be sent to an asylum.  Now, one party might partially confess to fraud, but then he would follow the confession by offering mitigating circumstances to show that the “fraud” was actually justified.  In other words, he still holds to the accepted standard that fraud is wrong.

On the basis of our shared experience of such ethical debates, Lewis posits that a universal, cross-cultural moral code exists and is binding.  In The Abolition of Man, he gives that law code a name: the Tao.  Many Christians are confused by this: why should Lewis borrow a word from Taoism (a branch of Buddhism) to bolster his case for the Christian faith?  The answer is simple: to show that all people (east and west) recognize the Tao, even though they continually break it.

Many relativists will balk against Lewis’s assertion of the Tao, claiming that morality veers wildly from culture to culture and is a man-made (rather than a divinely-given) thing that alters from age to age.  But those same so-called relativists will quickly change their tune if someone robs them.  “It was wrong of you to do that,” they will say, and if the person who robbed them says, “in my culture it is OK for me to steal,” the relativist will not accept the excuse.

The fact is everyone knows the Tao exists, for whatever our own personal ideology, we expect other people to treat us in accordance with the Tao.  Indeed, if there were no Tao, then no court could have tried the Nazis or Saddam Hussein or the perpetrators of apartheid.  The Tao does exist, but if it exists, then it makes necessary a director of the Tao who transcends all times and cultures.  It requires, in short, a super-natural Creator who inscribed the Tao into our conscience.

Christmas at Baby Seal’s House

by John Mark Reynolds on December 17, 2011

My daughter Mary Kate discovered the Baby Seal god. Baby Seal is a fluffy, huggable, plush deity that mirrors all her opinions and gives her encouragement.

The Baby Seal god looks at a Holiday and says, “May all your dreams come true!”

The real God is not like Baby Seal in this regard. People had many dreams about the Messiah before He came and almost none of them came to pass at Bethlehem. People wanted to be freed from the Romans, but Jesus got killed by them. They wanted a Prince, but Jesus was born in a stable. They longed for bread and circuses, but He gave them His Body and a Cross.

Is the real God mean and the Baby Seal god good?

If you think of your dreams, you will know that God is good and Baby Seal is wrong.

God knows your dreams and how they would turn out if they became reality. Whatever is good about them—and daydreaming can be pleasant—comes from their virtual reality. Made real, they would sometimes be good for us (those will come true anyways), but often would destroy us.

Visions of sugarplums dancing in one’s head are one thing, but too many actual sugarplums rot the teeth in one’s head.

We imagine in our dreams what might be and this is good in its creativity, but then we must ask if what might be good is good. Baby Seal never asks that question: he gives us the desires of our heart and so rots our heart. It is not wrong to dream, but it is wrong to fantasize as if all our imaginings should be.

This is not because God is like Scrooge, but because God is a good parent.

God wants to give us a better heart with higher desires that will make us fully human. God insists we gain liberty and grow up. Baby Seal god insists on nothing. God saves, Baby Seal placates.

This Christmas I can hope to get what I want or pray to get what I need. I might settle for a new Kindle, but God wants to give me a greater capacity for love. I might long for Madden 2012, but God wants me to long for goodness, truth, and beauty. When God gives small gifts, as He did with Madden 2011, it is because He knows I will enjoy it and it will be good for me. When God does not give me the “desires of my heart,” such as the starship I wanted as a child, it is because God knows that no twelve year-old should have a starship.

The better news is that some Christmas I will have been changed so that all I need is all I will want and then all my wishes will come true. God knows now I would settle for too little and so God transforms the dreams of my heart to something Walt Disney himself could not have imagined.

I gladly give up my dreams—Baby Seal can keep them—and look for His dreams for me. Baby Seal will only sate, but God makes merry.