Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Truthbomb Apologetics!

"The Bible is most of all a Story.  It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back His lost treasure.  It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves His palace, His throne-everything-to rescue the one He loves.  It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is-it's true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story.  And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers His name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle-the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture." [1]

Merry Christmas!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:

1. Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 17.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Parents and Santa Claus

I grew up believing in Santa Claus.  I vividly remember getting up early Christmas morning, much to my Dad's chagrin,  and running out to the living room to find presents under the tree and Candy Canes hung all over the Christmas tree (this was something "Santa" did every year at my home).

I also remember the day that I found out Santa Claus didn't exist.  I believe I was around 7 years old and I was in my Grandmother's kitchen.  I started asking my Mom questions about the Easter Bunny [who I always believed was creepy!] and she allowed my questions to lead me to the logical conclusion that the Easter Bunny didn't exist.  I quickly drew the conclusion that Santa must not be real either.  My Mom confirmed that my reasoning had led to a sound conclusion.

I remember feeling disappointed and I wondered why parents would allow, or even encourage, their children to believe in things that don't exist; however, I cannot say that I was crushed or horrified. [1]

Now I have my own children and my wife and I had to decide what to teach them about Santa Claus.  We decided not to teach them that Santa Claus is real.  No flying reindeer with glowing red noses.  No strange man coming into your house at night, eating all the sweets and then leaving through the chimney, unless you don't have one, in which case I was told by one child that Santa simply turns into magic dust and goes through the keyhole!

The main reasons my wife and I decided not to teach our girls about Santa are:

1. I have no good reasons to believe that a man exists who flies around in his sleigh guided by magical reindeer delivering presents to boys and girls all around the world.

2. It would be a lie.  I also want my children to know that everything my wife and I say to them is true to the best of our knowledge.

3. Santa is strangely "god-like" in many of the popular stories and myths that circulate about him.  For example, claiming that "He sees you when your sleeping; he knows when you awake" seems to make him omni-present, an attribute which can only be properly used to describe God.

I believe that it is for each family to decide what they will teach their kids about Santa Claus.  Parents may want to consider simply teaching their kids about St. Nicholas.  Here are some great resources that are available to aid you in doing just that:

1. DVD- Buck Denver asks...Why Do We Call It Christmas?- This video discusses various Christmas traditions such as the origin of the name "Christmas," why we put trees up and who was St. Nicholas?

2. Veggietales DVD- St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving- The story of St. Nick told Bob and Larry style!

3. Book- The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Mackall

4. Book- Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer

Are there any resources that you would recommend?  Do you have any thoughts on Santa that you would like to share?

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wintery Knight has also blogged on Santa here.

Footnotes:

1. It should be noted that I did not grow up in a Christian household.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Using "Merry X-mas" to Witness

I have a relative who used to be agnostic.  He has since become a theist.  He used to jokingly say things like, "Merry X-mas" to me in an attempt to get under my skin.  I also recall a very godly woman I knew, who has since gone on to be with the Lord, telling me that she would never say, "Merry X-mas" because it was an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas.  However, is that the case?

According to gotquestions.org, no:

"In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for “Christ” is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter that is essentially the same letter as the English letter X. So, originally, Xmas was simply an abbreviation of Christmas. No grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas. Just an abbreviation."

So, the next time someone tries to be clever and wish you a "Merry X-mas" in an attempt to "X" out Christ, share with them the real meaning of "X-mas" and the life changing message of the gospel.

Merry X-mas!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, December 03, 2012

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves


God is Love.  Through acceptance and abiding in this Love we learn to love aright in a fallen world.  From it we worship in spirit and in truth.  It is the foundation upon which we function as a disciple of Christ.   We grow in knowledge from the overwhelming awe this love invokes within our hearts and mind.  God, being Pure Love, gives sinful creatures the ability to love Him.  It is truly breathtaking when one takes the time to meditate, pray, and study out God as love.  But not many Christians embark on such a spiritual journey.  Why?  Because one word will ultimately surface when studying God as love because it cannot be avoided:  Trinity.  The oddity, the complexity, the mystery of the Trinity is alluring to many who believe in the God of Bible, but those same things which attract can cause one to regard it as a part of faith best left unknown.  Yet if there is one area of truth which the church needs today in this world of relativity, it is the Trinity; known and understood to the best of our ability this side of Paradise.  Not just for our own faith, but to share with all who will hear that our God is the only God who loves, and thus because of the Trinity. 

As someone who spent a few years curiously picking up random literature with a focus on the Trinity, and putting them down because of their complexity, I was delighted to have Michael Reeves book arrived in our mailbox.  As soon as my husband opened the package and showed his excitement over the content, the book was snatched from his hand to mine and the pages were turning.  It came at just the right time, as I had felt a pressing need to delve into the truth of the Trinity for months, but I wasn't sure with which book to begin.  And here it was, delivered to our house.  It was just what this disciple of Christ needed to begin her journey with the Trinity, and Love.

With witty writing, strong evidence from the writings of early church fathers and historians, as well as clear and precise explanations to accompany historical writings, Reeves has written a book that is easy to read, yet makes the reader stop periodically to ponder the content.  I would describe it as Trinity 101.  I hope the following details of the book will encourage you to read it for yourself and use it as a springboard to study the being and nature of God. 

I begin with a quote from the Introduction:  “….what we assume would be a dull or peculiar irrelevance turns out to be the source of all that is good in Christianity.  Neither a problem nor a technicality, the triune being of God is the vital oxygen of Christian life and joy” [p. 18].  Reeves goes on to say that his hope and prayer, as the reader goes forth into his book, is that the “knowledge of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will breathe fresh live into you.” 
[p. 18] If read with the full intent to know God more, the answer to his prayer will find its fullness in you.

Throughout the book, Reeves adopts a writing style of repeating and building, repeating and building.  For some this may seem a weary read, but I argue that it is necessary.  What is continually repeated is that the Father loves the Son, and that love is through the Spirit.  This is repeated in every chapter and built upon so that one understands: if the Father were God alone, there would be no love because it would be a selfish love; the Son has always existed with the Father so that there is One who loves and One who is loved; there cannot be love with a mutual Spirit of love.  Love is found pure in the Trinity; and because the love the Father has for the Son was so beautiful and pure, it was shared through creation and given to the creatures made in His image.  In that love we have the beauty of creation.  We have the beauty of salvation.  We have the beauty of a Christian life empowered by the Spirit, given by the Father and Son, because of love.

Brilliantly, Reeves takes the reader into the final chapter (and the 5th one at that!) to challenge atheistic arguments such as those found in Christopher Hitchen’s book God is Not Great (that God is a Ruler, a Big Brother, a Stalin-in-the-sky) as well as the New Age and neo-paganism dislike and foundation that God is greedy, selfish, and a huge bore.  Reeves also addresses evil and God’s wrath in this chapter.  We quickly come to understand that the Trinity answers these counterfeit claims of God’s being extremely well and Reeves allows the reader to build strong support for such claims.  This is accomplished through the repeating and building of the book from the introduction to the conclusion.  The last paragraph of the last chapter thus begins, “And so we come to where we started: Jesus as the bright lane to knowledge of the true God. As the Glorious Spirit-anointed Son, he reveals the Father.  He reveals God to be Father, Son and Spirit – and thus he reveals the only God who is love, and he shows us the true glory of that love on the cross.  In him we see a God far beyond the bores and tyrants we all rush to reject.  In him we see the good God.  And how good he is" [p. 128]!

A strong and full introduction, five chapters written with wit and wisdom, and a challenging conclusion to the one who names himself a disciple of Christ comprises this book.  It allowed this reader to finally begin to truly grasp that God is love.  We live with dim reflections here in this fallen world, but we do have a choice as to how dim that reflection is by how much we delight and desire to know God.  This book will allow the dimness to decrease a few more degrees; it will allow the reader to see more fully the God who allowed him to see in the first place.

This book review was written by Danielle Gross.  She holds a Master's Degree in Elementary Education and is a homemaker.  She also home schools our two girls.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Counterpoints: Antony Flew and Francis Crick

Francis Crick: "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." [1]

Antony Flew: "Those scientists who point to the Mind of God do not merely advance a series of arguments or a process of syllogistic reasoning.  Rather, they propound a vision of reality that emerges from the conceptual heart of modern science and imposes itself on the rational mind.  It is a vision that I personally find compelling and irrefutable." [2] 


You can find our other "Counterpoints" posts here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad 


Footnotes:
1. Francis Crick, What a Mad Pursuit, (1988), p. 61.
2. Antony Flew, There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, 112.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Documentary- The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism


Video Description:

"More than a half century ago, famed writer C.S. Lewis warned about how science (a good thing) could be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom. In this documentary "The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism," leading scholars explore Lewis's prophetic warnings about the abuse of science and how Lewis's concerns are increasingly relevant for us today."

Learn more about the film, and the book by the same title, here.

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Movie: The Case for the Creator with Lee Strobel


Here is the film based upon Lee Strobel's book The Case for the Creator.

In the film, Strobel interviews:
  • William Lane Craig
  • Jay Richards
  • Michael Behe
  • Jonathan Wells
  • Guillermo Gonzales
  • Robin Collins
  • Stephen Meyer
Big Bang cosmology, the fine-tuning of the cosmos, biological machines and biological information are just some of the evidence for a Creator discussed.

This film is a great, entertaining way to learn about much of the scientific evidence that points to an Intelligent Designer of the cosmos.

Learn more about Strobel here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Resources from Stand to Reason

What is the history behind Thanksgiving?  Were our Founding Fathers deists, atheists or Christians?  Does it even matter?

Check out Greg Koukl's responses to questions such as these here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review- C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason by Victor Reppert

It was with much anticipation that I began reading Victor Reppert's book C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason.  Shortly after discovering the discipline of apologetics, the Argument from Reason (AFR) was one of the first arguments I remember coming across and I recall wondering, "Why don't more apologists use this argument?"

It was with this question, and others like it, that I began reading Reppert's book and not only did I find the answers to a number of my questions, but it became apparent to this reviewer that the AFR is a much richer argument than I had previously imagined.  However, I want to be sure to point out that this book is not just for those interested in the AFR.  Lewis enthusiasts will also greatly benefit from it's pages as Reppert addresses questions about Lewis's apologetic methodology and further dispels some of the various myths that surround Lewis and his history.  These include Lewis's supposed loss of confidence in apologetic arguments and the popular claim that philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe demonstrated Lewis's AFR to be invalid.

In Chapter 1, the author makes a case that Lewis and his arguments should be taken seriously and while Lewis was not a professionally trained philosopher, he possessed "outstanding philosophical instincts" [p. 12]. It is Reppert's conviction that "great thinkers are always the ones that make us think harder for ourselves, not thinkers who do our thinking for us" [p. 13] and he clearly includes C.S. Lewis among them.

Further, this reader strongly agrees with Reppert's contention Lewis's work has been "underutilized."  He states:

"The way one honors Lewis's apologetic achievement, it seems to me, is not simply by repeating what he says, but by developing his ideas, asking probing questions of them and developing the discussion in ways that reflect one's own thinking as well as Lewis's...I believe that despite Lewis's enormous popularity, subsequent apologists have underutilized the resources that he has provided for them" [p. 14-15].

Indeed.  As a teacher myself, I sometimes develop lessons from ideas called "lesson seeds."  These are brief, core ideas that one must take an develop into a lesson of their own.  In the same way, while Lewis's arguments are sometimes presented as the final answer, it would seem that many times, according to Reppert, Lewis's arguments would be better served if treated as "apologist seeds."  Core ideas that the apologist can take, develop and make their own.

In Chapter 2, Reppert addresses the question, "What constitutes a successful apologetic argument?"  Further, he assesses whether or not it is best to view Lewis's argument from the perspective of fideism, strong rationalism, or critical rationalism.

In Chapter 3, the author points out [and this reader would tend to agree] that "one phenomenon that is sometimes neglected in the development of theistic arguments is the existence of rational thought.  Does our very thinking provide evidence that theism is true" [p. 45]?

After briefly surveying other thinkers who have used some form of the AFR, Reppert begins to formulate the AFR as presented by Lewis and addresses the criticisms raised by philosopher Anscombe and other scholars.

In Chapter 4, this reviewer was surprised to learn that, as Reppert explains, "...the argument from reason is indeed not one argument but several" [p. 72].  The author proceeds to lay out each of the arguments in their logical forms and then briefly expounds on each one.  They are as follows:

  • The Argument from Intentionality
  • The Argument from Truth
  • The Argument from Mental Causation
  • The Argument from the Psychological Relevance of Logical Laws
  • The Argument from the Unity of Consciousness in Rational Inference
  • The Argument from the Reliability of Our Rational Faculties
In Chapter 5, Reppert builds on the several arguments presented in the previous chapter and contends that when one analyzes these arguments, "these phenomena require explanatory dualism" [p. 85].  The author's main contention here is that "some events in nature can be explained in terms of purely mechanistic causes, the elements of rational inference...cannot" [p. 87].  Reppert thoroughly explores whether or not our reasoning capabilities, that both the naturalist and the theist have to assume are reliable to conclude anything, fit better in an atheistic universe or a theistic one.

Readers will especially enjoy Reppert's treatment of the commonly proposed Darwinian explanation that evolution would select for rationality as opposed to irrationality.

Reppert concludes:

"...the force of the arguments from reason is to show that the fundamental fact of the universe must be rational.  Theism is a worldview that fits this requirement, though I have not attempted to show that it is the only one that does.  Naturalism, theism's chief rival for the mind of the West, does not" [p. 104].

Finally, in Chapter 6, Reppert deals with what he has coined "the inadequacy objection."  As the author explains, this is when one claims that to invoke souls or God as an explanation is to explain little to nothing at all.

For example, Reppert deals with the claim by prominent "new atheist" Daniel Dennett that by invoking God to explain rationality, one is guilty of question begging.

Reppert retorts:

"Explaining reason in terms of the inherent rationality of God is no more question-begging than explaining physical states in terms of prior physical states.  If the foregoing argument is correct, then explaining reason in terms of unreason explains away and undercuts the very reason on which the explanation is supposed to be based" [p. 122].

This reader also enjoyed the author's treatment of Scientific Fideism.  Here, Reppert proves to very fair minded toward both the theist and the naturalist and is candid about the fact that various factors contribute to how one chooses which worldview is true.

Further, Reppert proves to be very restrained regarding his own conclusions and successfully models what I would call a "humble apologetic:"

"...I am not going to defend the claim that the arguments from reason close the case against naturalism.  Nor do I seek to sow that any naturalist who pays attention to these arguments can remain a naturalist only at the cost of patent irrationality.  Single arguments are rarely sufficient to bring about a worldview change in reasonable people.

However, I contend that the arguments from reason do provide some substantial reasons for preferring theism to naturalism.  The "problem of reason" is a huge problem for naturalism, as serious or, I would say, more serious, than the problem of evil is for theists.  But while theists have expended considerable effort in confronting the problem of evil, the problem of reason has not as yet been acknowledged as a serious problem for naturalism" [p. 128].

Conclusion

Although C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea only weighs in a meager 132 pages, it is packed full of great insights.  Honestly, this reader was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned from Reppert.  While I ordered the book expecting to learn much about C.S. Lewis's AFR, there was so much more to gleam from it's pages.

Reppert's book is one of the most fair minded I have read.  Absent are the many times bombastic claims of both the theist and the atheist.  The author gives both sides of the debate a fair hearing and represents them honorably.  Further, he allows the arguments to speak for themselves and doesn't attempt to stretch the conclusion of his arguments.  Sometimes I wished he would have!  This reader found Reppert's conclusions sound, but humble.

This work has given me a new appreciation for the AFR and the breadth and depth the argument actually covers.  Victor Reppert has written a fine book that I highly recommend and for those who want to understand the history, development and progress of the AFR should place it at the top of their reading list.  However, naturalists beware.  The AFR, made popular by C.S. Lewis, is a more dangerous idea than this reader previously imagined and in C.S. Lewis's Dangerous IdeaVictor Reppert demonstrates why.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

* Many thanks to Intervarsity Press for the review copy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Video: What Does It Mean To Love God with All Your Mind? with J.P. Moreland


For more from "The One Minute Apologist," go here.

For more from J.P. Moreland, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Missionary Ray Thorne on Sharing the Gospel in America

"If we Christians don't continue to share the gospel and push the envelope, the envelope will close in on us.  If we maintain a 'silent witness,' there will be no witness, and Christianity will die in America." [1]

- Ray Thorne

Footnote

1. Extreme Devotion: The Voice of the Martyrs by the Extreme Writing Group, p. 196.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Parable of the Atheist and the Theist

An atheist and a theist went for a walk in the woods and came upon a glass ball about eight feet in diameter. They both wondered where it came from and agreed that someone or something must have put it there.  The theist then asked, "If the ball were sixteen feet in diameter, would it still need a cause?

"Of course," replied the atheist.  "If little spheres need causes, then so do larger ones."

"Ah, so," said the theist, "then what if it were eight thousand miles in diameter-would it still need a cause?"

The atheist paused and said, "Yes, if little spheres need causes and larger ones do too, then a really big one would also need a cause."

Then the theist said, "What if we make a ball as big as the whole universe: would it still need a cause?"

"Of course not," snapped the atheist.  "The universe is just there!" [1]

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:

1. Norman Geisler, If God, Why Evil?, p. 15.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Video: What is Apologetics? by William Lane Craig



The Church at BattleCreek, Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States – July 27, 2012
Dr. Craig opened the 2012 On Guard Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the subject "What is Apologetics?" The conference was presented by The Reasonable Faith Tulsa chapter and held at The Church at BattleCreek.
From the "What is Apologetics?" description:
The term “apologetics” comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “to give a defense.” In 1 Peter 3:15, Christians are urged to engage in this task: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” People often have challenging questions about Christianity that deserve a thoughtful, respectful and gentle response, including
• How can an all-loving, all-powerful God allow so much suffering?
• What about all of the contradictions in the Bible?
• Does science disprove Christianity?
• Why did Jesus have to die on a cross?
• Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
• Is Jesus the only way to God?
This introductory session on the important role of apologetics will be presented by one of the world’s leading philosophers of religion and arguably the foremost Christian apologist in the world today, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review: Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It by James K. Beilby


When I first laid eyes on this book I was excited to read it. Being a novice in Christian apologetics, I was expecting it to lay a foundation which would help keep my focus and effectiveness as a Christian apologist sound. And it did not disappoint.

Chapter One:  What is Christian Apologetics?

In this chapter, Beilby adeptly covers the following six areas:

1. A Basic Definition.  The very first sentence of the book defines apologetics. From there, Beilby shifts to Christian apologetics by providing passages where the noun form of apologia appears in the New Testament. These passages reveal that “Christian apologetics involves an action (defending), a focus of the action (the Christian faith itself), a goal (upholding Christianity as true), and a context (the circumstances in which apologetics occurs)” (p. 13). 

2. Making a Defense. The two different aspects of apologetics (responsive and proactive) and where we see them carried out in the New Testament are discussed in this section. From the examples in scripture, Beilby provides a succinct picture of the activities that take place in apologetics with the phrase “defending and commending the faith” (p. 14).

3. Defending the Christian Faith.  What is meant by the term Christian and what about the term Christian does apologetics defend? These questions are examined in this section resulting in the key idea:  “The proper domain of apologetics is the defense of dogmas [defined as core Christian claims], not doctrines [defined as attempts to explain, apply and flesh out dogmas]” (p. 20). Brackets mine.

4. The Goals and Limitations of Apologetics.  Beilby explains that the goal of apologetics is as follows:

“...to offer sound reasons to believe the Christian faith, reasons that (1) accurately represent the gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) are presented in a Christ-like manner, (3) address our interlocutor’s questions and current spiritual disposition, and (4) help the interlocutor move from a position of basic mistrust (of God, Christianity, etc.) to a position of basic trust-a position that will allow the person to eventually commit his or her life to Jesus Christ” (p. 24).

Three limits of apologetics are also determined. First, apologetics cannot and should not provide a revision of the fundamental ideas and concepts of Christianity. Second, apologetics cannot compel belief in Jesus Christ. Finally, apologetics cannot create commitment to Christ.

5. The Apologetic Audience and Context.  The potential audiences (person or persons to whom one is speaking to) and contexts (the environments in which one’s apologetic conversations occur) are examined in this section. The definition of Christian apologetics is provided at the end of this examination as “the task of defending and commending the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a Christlike, context-sensitive and audience-specific manner” (p. 31).

6. Apologetics and Related Disciplines.  This section ends the chapter with a discussion of Christian apologetics and its relationship with the disciplines (in ascending order of importance) of meta-apologetics, philosophy of religion, evangelism, and theology.

A highlight for this reader, is a quote from James Sire found in the notes of the chapter:  “The success of any apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts but whether it is faithful to Jesus” (p. 201).

Chapter Two:  Patristic and Medieval Apologetics

In this chapter, Beilby discusses the various ways Christianity was defended and commended during the period starting with the early church through the Reformation and the notable individuals who impacted apologetics during this time frame.

Chapter Three:  Modern and Contemporary Apologetics

In this chapter, Beilby discusses the various ways Christianity was defended and commended during the period starting with the Enlightenment through the twentieth century and the notable individuals who impacted apologetics during this time frame.

He then ends this chapter with a brief discussion of three current and future issues he sees in apologetics in the twenty-first century: 

1. Objections to apologetics. Particularly the persistence of the line of thinking which holds that “the assertion of a particular position is inherently intolerant to those with whom you disagree and that arguing for your religious belief and against others exhibits a lack of respect for the views of others.” (p. 84)

2. Postmodernism.  “Christians must seek to articulate pictures of truth, rationality and knowledge that acknowledge the postmodern critique of the excesses of modernity. At the same time, they must remain faithful to the Christian concept of God as an objective reality, not merely a social construct, and human knowledge of God and his expectations of humans as possible even if not complete or final” (pp. 84-85).

3. The globalization of Christianity. Beilby advises that with the number of Christians increasing in places like Asia, South and Latin America, and Africa, Christian apologists must learn how to contextualize the defense of the gospel in non-Western settings.

Chapter Four:  Varieties of Apologetics

This chapter focuses on the different strategies of apologetics:  evidentialist; presuppositionalist; experientialist.  Beilby examines why different methods exist and what each of them are. He then goes on to evaluate each of them by presenting the objections to their use.

At the end of the chapter he poses the possibility of a “eclectic apologetic approach” which was used by Augustine, Anselm, and Pascal and is used today by many contemporary apologists such as Edward Carnell, C. Stephen Evans, and Alvin Plantinga. Of note is a quote from Carnell who said:

“There is no ‘official’ or ‘normative’ approach to apologetics….The approach is governed by the climate of the times. This means, as it were, that an apologist must play it by ear.” (p. 109)

Chapter Five:  Philosophical Objections to Apologetics

In this chapter, Beilby tackles objections to apologetics such as skepticism, postmodernism, and religious relativism.

Of particular note to this reader (by the mere fact that I had never heard of it before) is the white and Western objection. He sums it up this way, “The basic idea is that apologetics is tied to white and Western modes of thinking” (p. 129). He writes that the objection is difficult to articulate because some object to apologetics because it “assumes patterns of theological belief, persuasion and logic that are either inappropriate or ineffective in non-white and non-Western contexts” or for some, their objection “lies in the fact that apologetics is implicated in a long and tragic history of colonialization” (p. 129)

To answer this objection, Beilby writes that Christians must acknowledge past mistakes and seek to distance themselves from them. They must also deal with the “assumption that racial and cultural identities are the sole determinants of religious and moral beliefs. While the ethical and theological beliefs of the West are not true just because they are Western, neither are they false just because they are Western” (p. 130). Finally, the objection assumes a common truth and value across cultures-that oppression and exploitation are wrong.

Chapter Six:  Biblical and Theological Objections to Apologetics

This chapter tackles the objections to apologetics presented by Christians. Beilby ends the chapter highlighting the value and importance of apologetics for four reasons:

1. Apologetics is commanded by God. 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Jude 3, Titus 1:9 are presented as supportive of the discipline. He clarifies that “all Christians are called to do lifestyle apologetics. But only some Christians will be called to the task of developing arguments for the Christian faith and being on the front line of the dialogue between Christianity and the exponents of other belief systems” (p. 151-152).

2. Apologetics is necessary in our culture. He lists ideas that are prevalent in our culture:


i. Real knowledge comes from the five senses.


ii. Faith is “believing what you know ain’t so” (Mark Twain).


iii. Belief in God’s existence is for the uneducated and weak-minded.


iv. What we call miracles are just unique events that science has yet to explain.


v. Believing that your religious beliefs are true and those of others who disagree with you are false is inherently arrogant and intolerant.


vi. Jesus Christ was a good moral teacher, but most of what is said about him in the Bible was made up by the church.

“These ideas will not just go away if ignored. Like weeds in a garden, they need to be extracted and destroyed….The ground also needs to be cultivated in a way that encourages authentic expressions of the Christian faith and interactions of Christianity with contemporary culture to flourish” (p. 153)

3. Theological education requires an appropriate emphasis on apologetics. “Without a conviction of the truthfulness of the Christian message and without some capacity to answer the questions that arise when teaching about the good news of Jesus Christ, theological education quickly loses both its theos and its logos” (p. 154).

4. Meaningful dialogue requires a perspective that is supportive of apologetics. “Meaningful dialogue is only possible between people who acknowledge both the importance of truth and the possibility that one (or both) perspective represented in the conversation might fail to be true” (p. 155).   

Chapter Seven:  Doing Apologetics Well

This chapter states that an effective and appropriate apologetic must have three things:

1. A proper understanding of the nature of Christian belief.
2. A proper understanding of the nature of unbelief.
3. Combining a proper approach to apologetic conversations with effective apologetic arguments.

Beilby offers six principles to implement in order to obtain item 3 above:

1. The quality of your arguments matters. “People are not generally persuaded by sloppy reasoning and fallacious arguments” (p. 174). He continues by stating that a good apologetic argument requires significant knowledge of Scripture and theology, passion and conviction, careful study and research, a willingness to test one’s most cherished beliefs, consideration of all available evidence and potential objections, and the proper presentation.

2. Who you are is more important than what you say. “Being a person of character is a necessary part of being an effective apologist, but it is not sufficient by itself. If an apologist is a person of character, then the character itself functions as a kind of an argument for the truth of Christianity” (p. 175) Beilby also writes, “Being comfortable with who you are, being able to control your emotions, and having a natural ability to connect with and relate to people are absolutely essential skills for effective and appropriate apologetics” (p. 176).

3. It’s not about you. Apologetic encounters should not be about impressing the conversation partner or other Christians or about winning the argument.

4. It is about them. An apologist must be audience-focused. This involves the following:  understanding the relational dynamics of a conversation; understanding the beliefs of the conversation partner and why they disagree with the Christian faith; speaking in a language the partner understands; understanding how the partner views you; listening more than speaking and understanding more than being understood.  

5. Set the correct goal. Moving a conversation partner a step closer to relationship with Jesus through the proper arguments, attitude, and actions.

6. Acknowledge the role of the Holy Spirit.  Beilby writes:

“In our apologetic encounters, we must see ourselves as part of a process-a process in which the most important player is not us, but the Holy Spirit. As apologists we must baptize all our apologetic endeavors in the conviction that unless the Holy Spirit has prepared the ground for our conversation, is with us in our conversation, and will continue the work of conviction long after the conversation is needed, our efforts will come to nothing” (p. 182)

Finally, there is a bibliography of works on Christian apologetics at the end of the book.

Conclusion

If you are entering the world of Christian apologetics I recommend this book. With precision and fervor, Beilby:  provides a clear definition of apologetics and its history and varieties; defends the importance of apologetics and; ever emphasizes that the task of apologetics is to defend and commend the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that honors him and expresses his love to a world that needs to see it and that its goal is to draw those who disbelieve it or doubt it a step closer to a relationship with Jesus.            

Stand Firm in Christ,

Chase Deener                                                                                                                                                                                            

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Article: Understanding the Trinity by Peter S. Williams

In this featured article, Peter S. Williams deals with many of the common misunderstandings and objections that come up when discussing the Trinity.

The article is admittedly a demanding read, but well worth your time and effort.


You can find it here.

For more from Peter S. Williams, see here.

For more great apologetic resources, including outstanding audio and articles, visit bethinking.org.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Video: The Ontological Argument (The Introduction)


The Ontological Argument is possibly the most misunderstood argument for God's existence.  I have always found the argument to be fascinating.

The above video is quite possibly the best I have seen on the topic.

The Ontological Argument is as follows:

1. It is possible that God exists.
2. If it is possible that God exists, then God exists in some possible worlds.
3. If God exists in some possible worlds, then God exists in all possible worlds.
4. If God exists in all Possible Worlds, then God exists in the actual world.
5. If God exists in the actual world, then God exists.

Before rolling your eyes and claiming that it's ridiculous or thinking that this argument is to difficult to grasp, I encourage you to watch the video; perhaps more than once!

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Video: Eastwooding Richard Dawkins featuring William Lane Craig


From the video description:

"On September 29th, 2012, William Lane Craig participated in the Contending with Christianity's Critics Conference held at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX. Dr. Craig uses the technique of Eastwooding to deal with Richard Dawkins' attempted refutations of the cosmological, moral, teleological, and ontological arguments for God's existence."

For more of Dr. Craig's work, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Jesus and the "Christians are Hypocrites" Objection

I have always found the objection that "Christians are hypocrites" to be a strange one.  You've heard it before- "I wouldn't want to become a Christian.  Christians are hypocrites!"  (I appreciate what one speaker once said in regard to this: "We got room for one more!  Come on down!")

Jesus Himself objected to hypocrites and didn't mince words when dealing with them:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weighter matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.  These you ought to have done, without neglecting others.  You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!  

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:25-28; Emphasis mine).

For other verses where Jesus deals with hypocrisy, see here.

So, it would seem to me that the person offering up the hypocrite objection is attempting to argue something like this:

1. I think it is wrong to be a hypocrite.
2. Christians are hypocrites. (Keep in mind, this says nothing about the truth or falsehood of Christianity.)
3. Therefore, I reject Christianity.

However, in reality, they are arguing:

1. I think it is wrong to be a hypocrite.
2. Jesus also thinks it's wrong to be a hypocrite.
3. Therefore, I reject Jesus.

Clearly, this is fallacious.

One should accept or reject Christianity based upon the person and claims of Jesus Christ.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, September 24, 2012

Announcement: Dr. Frank Turek will be at Mt. Airy Bible Church on November 18, 2012

Mt. Airy Bible Church will be hosting Dr. Frank Turek of Cross Examined on November 18, 2012.  Dr. Turek will be speaking on The Problem of Evil.

To learn more, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife?

The media has been ablaze regarding a 4th Century Coptic Manuscript that claims Jesus had a wife.  

Blogger J.W. Wartick shares the following regarding the text:

"Apart from the fact that it is 4th century and therefore a few hundred years after the events and during primetime for Gnostics making up facts about Jesus to undergird their own theological leanings, many seem to think this is somehow evidence against Christianity."


Wartick goes on to offer an outstanding collection of resources responding to the discovery here.


To her credit, Karen King, the Harvard Scholar who unveiled the fourth-century papyrus, admitted:


"This is the only extant ancient text which explicitly portrays Jesus as referring to a wife. It does not, however, provide evidence that the historical Jesus was married, given the late date of the fragment and the probable date of original composition only in the second half of the second century." [1]


Of course, to my knowledge, many of the major media outlets didn't feel the need to report that.


Added 9-22-12

New Testament Scholar Dan Wallace weighs in on "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" here.

HT: Apologetic315 via twitter

Added 9-28-12

Video: Did Jesus Have a Wife?  -William Lane Craig

Enjoy!


Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Source:


1. Karen King, Jesus said to them, 'My Wife,"  http://news.hds.harvard.edu/files/King_JesusSaidToThem_draft_0917.pdf, 2012.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Announcement: Defending the Faith Conference at Mt. Airy Bible Church in Mt. Airy, MD


Mt. Bible Church is hosting an apologetics conference entitled Defending the Faith: A Firm Foundation for Sharing the Gospel, Friday, October 5, 7 – 9:30 p.m. and Saturday, October 6, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

There is no cost to attend but donations will be accepted.  

The conference features philosopher Dr. Gregory Ganssle, Cross Examined instructor Steve Schrader, Larry Moody, Pastor Marvin Patrick and Craig Shaffer and others.

I am grateful to be speaking on the topics of "Jesus the Intellectual" and "In Defense of Apologetics."

The agenda is as follows:

FRIDAY NIGHT:
          Intro/Music 7:00 – 7:15

Plenary 1 7:15-8:15 Reaching Professionals and Doubters (Larry Moody) [multipurpose room]

Plenary 2 8:30-9:30 True for You but Not for Me? (Steve Schrader) [multipurpose room]

SATURDAY:
Intro/Music 8:30 – 8:45

Plenary 3 8:45-9:45 The God Question: Creator or Crutch? (Marvin Patrick) [multipurpose room]

Breakout Sessions 10:00-11:00
• Jay Auxt: Sideling Hill – A Witnessing Tool [room 301]
• Chad Gross: In Defense of Apologetics: Why Apologetics is Biblical and Necessary [room 224]
• Bob Perry: Defending the Pro-Life View [room 250]
• Jack Keebler: Your Apolo-moment: Making a clear case for your faith in 60 seconds or less [cafeteria]
• Dr. Gregory Ganssle: Biblical Pictures of Apologetics [multipurpose room]

Plenary 4 11:15-12:15 Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? (Craig Shaffer) [multipurpose room]

Lunch 12:15-1:45

Q&A Panel 1:45-2:15 [multipurpose room]

Breakout Sessions 2:30-3:45
• Chad Gross: Jesus the Intellectual [room 224]
• Pastor Marvin Patrick: The Problem of Evil [room 250]
• Joshua Moody: How to transition from small talk to spiritual things [cafeteria]
• Jay Auxt: Global Warming – A Witnessing Tool [room 301]
• Pastor Robert Welty: How Can a Loving God Send Someone to Hell: A Response to Rob Bell's 'Love Wins’ [multipurpose room     ]

Plenary 5 4:00-5:00 Thinking About God (Dr. Gregory Ganssle) [multipurpose room]

You can email the Mt. Airy Bible Church office at office@mabcmd.org to sign up.

I hope to see you there!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Common Objection #18- "Jesus Never Existed."

When someone makes the claim that Jesus never existed, you may be tempted to respond like this.

Then, you may want to follow that up with this.

However, the best way to respond to such claims is always with good evidence and when it comes to Jesus' existence, we have more than enough data to satisfy the honest inquirer that Jesus did indeed walk this earth.

In Lesson 10 of TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable?, Dr. Stephen Meyer presents some of this evidence:


"In religious sources, in the Bible itself, you’ve got the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which now look increasingly like very significant historical sources in their own rights.  We don’t just need extra-Biblical sources to corroborate them—they’re very significant pieces of historical writing.  We have the Acts of the Apostles, the NT letters, the ancient creeds of the Christian church; we’ve got the apocryphal literature.  We have the Gnostic gospels that come later that are maybe not as historically valuable, but still mention Jesus as well.  We have the writings of the early church fathers.  We have the Mishnah, a Jewish source, which gives an unflattering picture of Jesus, but one which nevertheless establishes his historical existence. 

Jesus of Nazareth as a Historical Person
:


  • Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  • The Acts of the Apostles
  • New Testament letters
  • Ancient creeds
  • Apocryphal literature
  • Gnostic gospels
  • Early church fathers
  • The Mishnah (ca. 70-200 A.D.)
  • Historians of the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.
And we have all the historians of the 1st and 2nd century.  I just mentioned a few, but in addition to Joesphus and Tactitus, there’s Bar-Serapion and Justin Martyr, we’ve also got Suetonius, Pliny the Younger Lucian, Celsus. 

Historians Mentioning Jesus

  • Titus Flavius Josephus, Yosef Ben Matityahu (ca. 37-100 A.D.)
  • Publius Gaius Cornelius Tactius (ca. 56-117 A.D.)
  • Mara Bar-Serapion (late 1st century A.D.)
  • Flavius lustinus, Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165 A.D.)
  • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 69-130 A.D.)
  • Pliny the Younger, (ca. 61-113 A.D.)
  • Lucian of Samosata (ca. 125-180 A.D.)
  • Celsus (late 2nd-century A.D.)" [1]
For those interested in a more in-depth look at the ancient non-Christian sources attesting to Jesus' existence and deeds, please see here.

For a look at more of our answers to common objections, see here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Resources:

1. TrueU: Is the Bible Reliable?, Lesson 10: The Trial of Jesus with Dr. Stephen Meyer.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Dallas Willard on Logical Thinking

"...one can be logical only if one is committed to being logical as a fundamental value. One is not logical by chance, any more than one just happens to be moral. And, indeed, logical consistency is a significant factor in moral character. That is part of the reason why in an age that attacks morality, as ours does, the logical will also be demoted or set aside--as it now is."

You can checkout a great article by Willard [one of my favorites] entitled "Jesus the Logician" here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lecture: Can We Be Good Without God? by William Lane Craig


From Dr. Craig's website, Reasonable Faith:


School of Oriental and African Studies Christian Union, London, UK – October 18, 2011
Dr. Craig was invited by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Christian Union, London to give a lecture titled "Can We Be Good Without God?"
The lecture formed part of the Reasonable Faith Tour in October 2011. The Tour was sponsored by Damaris Trust, UCCF and Premier Christian Radio.
For those interested, you can also find Dr. Craig's article "Can We Be Good Without God?" here.
You can also checkout his articles, pod casts, debates and other resources here.
Courage and Godspeed,
Chad