The Difference Between Christian Grace and Mormon Grace

Words matter. Ideas have consequences. In the years that I have been engaging Mormons about matters of faith, I’ve learned to define terms very carefully. Christians and Mormons use many of the same terms: “grace”, “heaven”, “Jesus”, “God”, “salvation” and many more. But when the definitions of these terms are examined, it’s apparent that we are talking about extremely different ideas. These differences matter. They separate Mormons and Christians and demonstrate that we are not worshipping the same God.

Christian Mormon Grace

As an example, I’ve been in conversations with Mormons and have talked about the nature of grace and salvation. Maybe you’ve had similar conversations:

You: “As a Christian, I believe that we are saved by faith alone.”

Your Mormon Friend: “As a Mormon, I agree!”

You: “Huh?”

Your Mormon Friend: “Mormons know that ‘salvation’ as you put it, is a gift from God.”

You: “OK, but we believe that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and that He alone saves us.”

Your Mormon Friend: “We agree! We believe that Jesus died for us and that without His gift of salvation, none of us would be ‘saved’ as you are calling it.

You: “OK, but Christians believe that Jesus’ work ALONE saves us; we don’t believe that our own efforts can save us at all.”

Your Mormon Friend: “We feel the same way! We know that Jesus alone makes it possible for us to be reunited with Heavenly Father; we don’t believe that ‘salvation’, can be achieved with our good works.”

Wow, it sure sounds like your Mormon friend holds a Christian view of salvation through faith alone, doesn’t it? I’ve had many conversations that are very similar to this one. The Mormon doctrine of salvation is NOT the same as the Christian doctrine, but unless you take the time to ask good questions and sift through the answers, you may not see the distinctions clearly.

What Do We Mean When We Use the Term, “Heaven”?
Let me try to describe the difference between “Christian grace” and “Mormon grace” with an illustration that I’ve used hundreds of times training Christians to discuss their faith with Mormons. Before we begin, however, we need to define a foundational term: “heaven”. Christians sometimes ask their Mormon friends, “If you died today, would you be in heaven?” or “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” Unless we define the term “heaven” this approach will not help us understand the differences between the two faith systems. I never use the term “heaven” when talking to my Mormon friends and family. Instead, I focus on “the greatest gift that God can offer us after death”. For Christians, this is, in fact, heaven; the realm of god we will share for all eternity. But the Mormon heaven is divided into three levels and virtually everyone is going to get into one of these levels. Any of these heavenly “ranks” could accurately be called “heaven”. So we need to be more specific with our Mormon friends; for them, the “the greatest gift that God can offer us after death” is not just “heaven”, it’s exaltation in Celestial Kingdom. This exaltation results in deity for the Mormon believer. They become Gods just like Heavenly Father.

Is Grace A Ladder or a Lifeline?
So, the real question is, “What must you do to be exalted in Celestial Kingdom with Heavenly Father?” Now, with this question clarified, we can talk about grace and the contribution that Jesus makes to this process. So, here is the illustration that I typically use: imagine that you are a Mormon who wants “the greatest gift that God can offer after death” (heaven). How can you achieve exaltation in Celestial Kingdom? For the Mormon, Jesus makes this journey possible because he visits us here on earth and, in essence, provides us with a ladder we can climb to heaven. This ladder is a free gift. It is given as an act of “grace” according to our Mormon friends. But here is the problem: the Mormon has to climb the ladder on his or her own. This climbing is done through a lifelong series of good works. Jesus may give you the ladder, but he doesn’t climb it for you.

This is an important distinction to understand. Mormons will tell us that they cannot get to “Celestial Kingdom” without the free gift offered by Jesus. That’s true. Without the free ladder, you can’t begin to climb. Mormons will also say that Jesus alone makes it possible for them to attain the “greatest gift that God offers us after death”. That’s true. Only Jesus has the ladder. Mormons will also say that they could never ascend to Celestial Kingdom on the basis of their own good works. That’s also true; “climbing” isn’t possible unless there’s a ladder to climb. Mormons can’t get to Celestial Kingdom with their own good works alone; they need that ladder.

So, What’s the Difference Between Mormon Grace and Christian Grace?
The Christian view of grace doesn’t involve a ladder of any kind; in Christian theology, Jesus doesn’t bring us a ladder to climb. Instead, Jesus drops us a lifeline, a rope He climbs down and ties to each of us. Jesus then pulls us up on his own, in spite of our own inability. It doesn’t matter how heavy we are or where we are in our journey toward sanctification. We simply have to trust him to tie the lifeline. Mormonism is a works based religion, like many other world religions. In fact, in this one regard, Mormonism is like every other world religion. Christianity stands alone as the only religion that offers true “grace” to its adherents. Salvation is not the result of anything we do. God offers it as a free gift; not a free opportunity to work hard for our salvation, but a truly free gift that needs no additional contribution on our part. This distinction is critical and it separates Mormonism from Christianity, not as a separate denomination, but as a completely separate notion about the nature and saving work of God.


J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

How Do I Motivate Students Who Don’t Seem to Care?

One of the most common—and frankly one of the toughest—questions I receive is how to motivate students who are apathetic. How do you make students care? If you are expecting an easy answer, then you might as well click away now. Students are not robots and so we can’t force them to care about anything! But there are a few things I have learned from my experience and research that may help you motivate students who don’t seem to care about spiritual issues:

Students Apologetics Motivation

  1. Build a relationship with students. When students sense that an adult really cares, they are much more likely to listen. When I taught high school full time, I especially focused on building relationships with the students who seemed apathetic. I took time to listen to them, encourage them, and go to various events they found important (school plays, dances, sporting events, etc.). I wanted them to know that I genuinely cared. I knew that was a key ingredient in motivating them to care about spiritual issues. If you want students to care about spiritual things, they need to first know that you care about them.
  2. Take students out of their normal environment. One of the reason camps can be so powerful is that it gets kids out of their everyday routine. Sometimes kids need to be away from their daily lives to consider spiritual truths in a fresh way. It’s amazing how open students’ hearts often are when they just slow down and step outside their normal environment. But it doesn’t just have to be at camp. Some of my best conversations with students have been on car rides to sporting events, at barbeques, on mission trips, and over coffee.
  3. Use pop culture illustrations in your teaching. Students love movies. They love social media. That’s the air they breathe! In my experience, students seem to come alive when I teach biblical truth with examples from pop culture. That’s why I used to teach an entire worldview unit through the lens of film (my favorite text was Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa). To be motivated to care about spiritual things, students need to see the connection between the secular and sacred worlds. Teaching biblical truth through film is one great way to do this.
  4. Challenge students. Many students are unmotivated because church (and by extension God) bores them. Yet, I have found many students respond when they are challenged and provided a practical way to make a difference. You can do this in three ways:
    1. Challenge students to serve: One year I took some students to visit a veteran’s hospital. The hospital requested DVDs, and so we did a DVD drive for the veterans. Once the students saw that they could practically make a difference, many stepped up and served.
    2. Challenge students to have spiritual conversations. Consider taking students on to a college campus, or to visit another religious site, to have spiritual conversations with people of different faiths. Just prep your students carefully, and use these surveys by Brett Kunkle at Stand to Reason to start conversations.
    3. Challenge students to defend their faith. I love to role-play with students. They tend to come alive when I role-play an atheist, Muslim, pro-choicer, or a host of other positions. I force them to think, put them on the defensive, and provide no easy answers. You can also consider bringing in someone of a different faith to engage your students, but just use wisdom if doing so.
  5. Ask questions rather than give simple answers. Jesus asked a lot of questions, even when he knew the answers. Why? He wanted to elicit faith in people. We do a disservice to students when we give simple answers rather than asking deep questions. In fact, when ministering to students, questions are almost always better than answers. I want students to gain a love for wisdom, and to learn how to think, which only comes when we refuse to give simple answers. Asking timely and thoughtful questions can often help elicit spiritual interest in students who are otherwise apathetic.
  6. Have a long-term perspective. Often times youth leaders beat themselves up for “failing” to motivate certain students. But here’s the reality: there may be nothing you can do to motivate certain students whose hearts are not open to spiritual things. I had a student who graduated from my class who went to the local JC. His goal in my class was to get the minimal passing grade (If I remember correctly, he got a C-). And yet the year after graduation he came back to sit in my class and to encourage other students to pay attention. Why? He was challenged in his faith by professors and started taking his beliefs more seriously than ever. I asked him what I could have done differently to motivate him in high school, and I will never forget what he said: “Nothing. I wasn’t ready spiritually. But I did learn more than you probably realized.” Even if a student seems apathetic, you might be surprised how much he or she is actually learning. Don’t give up!

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


 

Three M’s That Naturalism Can’t Provide

 

Everyone has a worldview; all of us experience and interpret the world through a collection of beliefs that guide our understanding. As an atheist, I accounted for my experiences through the lens of naturalism. I believed everything I experienced and observed could be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. I never thought deeply about the inconsistencies in my view of the world, or the fact that my naturalism failed to explain three characteristics of my daily experience:

Naturalism Provide

Mind
If naturalism is true, some form of physicalism or materialism must rule the day. The “problem of mind” (as philosophers and researchers commonly describe it) is only a “problem” because the material limitations of naturalism strain to account for immaterial consciousness. Naturalism can explain the existence of the brain, but little more. Our “minds” are an illusion created by the physical processes that are occurring in our material brains. But if this is the case, our thoughts are merely the result of a series of physical causes (and resulting effects). You might believe you are thinking freely about what you just read, but in reality your “thoughts” are simply the consequences of neural “dominoes” falling, one against the next. In a world of strict causal physicalism, free will (and freely reasoned thoughts) are simply an illusion.

Morality
If naturalism is true, morality is nothing more than a matter of opinion. All of us, as humans, have simply come to embrace those cultural or personal mores that best promote the survival of the species. There is no transcendent, objective moral truth. Instead, cultures merely embrace the values and moral principles that “work” for them and have resulted in the flourishing of their particular people group. If this is the case, one group of evolved humans has no business trying to tell another evolved group what is truly right or wrong from a moral perspective. After all, each group has successfully arrived at their particular level of development by embracing their own accepted moral standards. Arguments over which moral truths provide for greater human flourishing are simply subjective disagreements; there is no transcendent, objective standard that can adjudicate such disagreements from a naturalistic perspective.

Meaning
If naturalism is true, life’s meaning and purpose are simply in the eye of the beholder. If your son tells you that he thinks meaning is found in playing video games ten hours a day, there is little you can offer as an objective rebuttal. After all, if there is no transcendent author of life, each of us gets to write our own script. While you may believe your son has missed the point of his existence and has forfeited the opportunity to experience life fully, you really don’t have any objective authority upon which to ground an alternative. As a naturalist, you are inventing your own meaning as well; purpose and significance (from a purely naturalistic perspective) are nothing more than opinion and personal preference.

As an atheist, I chose to cling to naturalism, in spite of the fact that I lived each day as though I was capable of using my mind to make moral choices based on more than my own opinion. In addition, I sought meaning and purpose beyond my own hedonistic preferences, as though meaning was to be discovered, rather than created. I called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism. As a Christian, I’m now able to acknowledge the “grounding” for these features of reality. My philosophical worldview is consistent with my practical experience of the world.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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9 Truths about Sex and Marriage from Genesis 1-2

Critics have sometimes claimed that marriage is not that important to God. But interestingly, the Bible both begins and ends with a marriage. In fact, marriage is the defining metaphor God uses to illustrate His love for the Church, His “bride.”

sex marriage genesis

The natural place to begin an investigation into what God thinks about marriage (and sex) is in Genesis 1 and 2, where scripture describes God’s creation of the world and everything in it. Here are nine truths about sex and marriage from the first two chapters in Genesis:

1. Sex and marriage are a creation of God. Sex is not the result of a blind, evolutionary process that lacks meaning and merely exists to propagate the species. Rather, God is the one who created sex with a purpose for how it is to be expressed and experienced. The first explicit attribute we learn about God in the Bible is that He is the Creator (Gen 1:1), which implies there is a purpose for what He creates, including sex.

2. People are created as gendered beings. Gender is not accidental to the creation story. Rather, God intentionally made human beings male and female (1:27-28) so they could populate the earth. The creation story emphasizes distinctions between day and night, land and sea, as well as male and female. Gender is fundamental to what it means to be human.

3. The biblical design for marriage is monogamy. The pattern in Genesis 2:24 is that a man leaves his household, which consists of his father and his mother, and then “clings” to his wife. When God called Adam to name the animals, “there was not found a helper fit for him” (2:20b). The clear implication is that Adam was looking for one partner. Populating the earth only requires one man and one woman. Although many biblical leaders embraced polygamy, the clear design for marriage is monogamy.

4. The two sexes are equal in value. Even though there is contrast between Adam and Eve (male and female), there is no hint of ontological superiority for the male. Both are equal image bearers of the divine (1:27). While egalitarians and complementarians differ over the roles of men and women in the family and church, both agree that men and women have equal value.

5. Marriage is an exclusive relationship. Genesis 2:24 says a man shall leave his father and mother. The Hebrew term for “leave” is a strong term that is often translated as “abandon” or “forsake,” and is sometimes used to indicate that Israel has forsaken the God of Israel for false gods (e.g. Deut 28:20). Richard Davidson explains: “This leaving also implies the exclusiveness of the relationship: husband and wife, and no other interfering party, are bone of each other’s bones, flesh of each other’s flesh.”[1]

6. Marriage is meant to be permanent. According to Genesis 2:24, man will “hold fast” to his wife. The language of this same verse, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” expresses a marriage covenant vow. Holding fast and the one-flesh union indicate permanence in the relationship. Jesus affirmed the intended permanence for marriage (See Matt. 19:3-4).

7. Marriage is heterosexual. Both Genesis 1 and 2 indicate that marriage is gendered. The man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife. While marriage entails much more than gender differences, it entails no less. Paul affirms that marriage is gendered (See Eph. 5:22-33).

8. One of the primary purposes of sex and marriage is procreation. After indicating that males and females are made in God’s image, Genesis indicates that they are to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Thus, one of the primary purposes of marriage is procreation. Not all couples can have children, for a variety of reasons, but part of the divine design for sex and marriage is procreation.

9. Sex is good and beautiful. Over and over again the author of Genesis 1 makes it clear that creation is good: “And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31). Sex is part of God’s original good creation. Sex is only bad when we abuse God’s intended design. But in the marriage relationship of one man and one woman, sex is meant to be experienced without fear, shame, or regret and is both good and beautiful.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


[1] Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament (Peabody, MA Hendricksen, 2007), 44.

 


 

The Power of “Nice” and the Importance of “Good”

“Why are you always involved in these missions trips to other religious groups?” Claire’s mother stopped me after a Sunday youth service and pulled me aside. I’ll never forget our conversation. Her question was more accusatory than inquisitive. “I’m not letting Claire go on this trip. I know lots of Mormons. We have several really good friends who are Mormon. They are incredibly nice people. Why would you want to challenge what they believe when they are so nice?” I received many similar complaints and questions from parents when I first began taking students on trips to Salt Lake City. Why would we want to challenge and upset people who are that nice?

nice good

“Niceness” is a persuasive apologetic. Several years ago, on a missions trip to the University of California at Berkeley, I observed the power of “nice” firsthand. An atheist student from SANE (Students Advocating a Non-religious Ethos) impacted our group more powerfully than any of the other atheists we encountered. This student was young, attractive and incredibly “nice”. His demeanor made his worldview attractive, even before he opened his mouth to try to defend it. “Nice” can be incredibly powerful.

But “nice” is not the same as “good”, even though we often confuse the two. “Nice” is an adjective that means “pleasant,” “agreeable,” or “satisfactory”; we might use it to say, “We had a nice time”. It can also be used to describe someone who is “pleasant in manner” or “kind”. In this sense “niceness” describes an appearance based on outward performance. The young man from SANE behaved in a way that was observably pleasant and kind. He was a nice young man. Why would anyone try to persuade someone to change his or her beliefs when their worldview has clearly resulted in such a nice disposition? His behavior was a commanding advertisement for his worldview and our students were powerfully impacted by his presentation.

That’s where the question of “niceness” vs. “goodness” becomes important. “Good” can also be used as an adjective, as when it is used to describe something “to be desired or approved of”, but it can also be used as a noun: “That which is morally right; righteousness”. “Goodness” is a moral evaluation. It seeks to describe the unseen motives that drive our visible behaviors. It’s quite possible to be pleasant and kind for an underlying evil purpose; people can be pleasant and kind to accomplish something vile. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly as a homicide detective.

“Niceness” is determined by one’s personal experience. We typically declare an experience or person to be “pleasant” if we experienced personal enjoyment. Your “pleasant” might be different than my “pleasant”. It is subjective. But “goodness” is grounded in something bigger than both of us. I can have a subjective opinion about what or who pleases me, but deciding if this thing or person is “righteous” is another matter altogether. Righteousness is a standard that transcends my personal opinion; it’s not subjective, it’s objective. To be “righteous” is to “act in accord with divine or moral law.” That’s a law that transcends our personal opinion. I’ve known committed gang members who were able to be “nice” to one another or in order to fool a victim. “Niceness” is one thing, “righteousness” is another.

When we behave “nicely” because we hope to achieve something for ourselves, even when the reward is our spiritual salvation, the moral value of our actions is compromised. If I give you $10.00 because I know it will result in my receiving $100.00, my actions can hardly be called “good”, even though you might think it was “nice” at the time. I wasn’t trying to be “nice” at all; I was just trying to accomplish a selfish goal of increased income. People who are outwardly “nice” because they are convinced this behavior will earn them salvation are in a similar situation. That’s why “work-based” theological systems can produce “nice” people who aren’t necessarily “good”.

That’s also why we take the time to share the Christian truth about grace with people who are still working hard to earn their salvation (like Mormons) or who reject the transcendent source of “good” altogether (like atheists). We interact with people who seem incredibly “nice” because we understand the difference between “nice” and “good”.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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Are Questions Better Than Answers? No Question About It!

Although it might surprise you, given that I grew up with a famous apologist father, my parents asked me more questions than they gave me answers. My parents did not want me to believe something simply on authority, but because I had good reasons for believing it was true. They certainly wanted me to become a Christian, but they were also deeply interested in helping me learn how to think critically for myself and to confidently arrive at truth.

questions better

Jesus also asked dozens of questions even though he knew the answers. Why? While there could be other reasons, it seems to me that he wanted to elicit faith in people and to help them arrive at a personal knowledge of the truth. When it comes to helping people arrive at a biblical worldview, Jesus knew questions were often far more powerful than statements. In fact, he knew the most important question of all is, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

As I look back on my life, it was often the people who asked me the most timely and insightful questions who have had the greatest impact on my life. For instance, as a grad student in philosophy, I read a ton of books on postmodernism and, to be honest, was quite confused about the nature of truth. I remember thinking: How can I ever know the nature of truth if I can’t step outside my own perspective and examine it firsthand?

I asked for guidance from one of my philosophy teachers at Talbot, Dr. Garrett Deweese, and he simply asked me a question back: “Is it possible you’re confusing the metaphysical and epistemological issues related to truth? Ponder that for awhile and let me know what you think.” Boom! His question got me thinking on a whole new level and opened up clarification in my worldview between the nature of truth (metaphysics) and how we know truth (epistemology). This distinction continues to serve me well to this day.

The Question Explosion

Even though information is expanding rapidly, people are asking questions at an even greater rate. Every year humans ask the Internet 2 trillion questions. On average, American adults asked four questions per day online. But most of these questions are for a place to eat, sports facts, or how to fix something that is broken. Most are factual questions that have easy answers.

But there are other kinds of questions that lead to life change. What is the key to asking transformative questions? This is a question I have been thinking about for some time. Becoming a better question-asker is one of my ongoing goals as a teacher, parent, coach, apologist, and follower of Christ. If you want to genuinely influence other people, a key skill to develop is the art and science of asking good questions.

What Makes a Transformative Question?

I was recently reading The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly. If you’re interested in future technological and cultural trends, this is a must-read book. Towards the end of the book Kelly has an entire chapter titled, “Questioning,” in which he talks about how culture is moving from the rigid order of hierarchy to a state of flux where new possibilities will be opened up for those who ask the right questions. Kelly got me thinking, “How can I be confident that I am asking the right questions?” How confident are you?

Kelly lists fourteen marks of a good question. Here is my top seven:

  1. A good question cannot be answered immediately.
  2. A good question challenges existing answers.
  3. A good question creates new territory of thinking.
  4. A good question is a probe, a what-if scenario.
  5. A good question cannot be predicted.
  6. A good question is one that generates many other good questions.
  7. A good question is what humans are for.

Take a minute and reflect on these points. End by asking yourself a few questions for reflection:

What is the most significant question someone has ever asked you? What made it so significant? What is the best question you have asked someone else? Do you tend to make statements or ask questions? Why? How can you become a better question-asker?

If you want to make a lasting difference in the lives of people, these are critical questions to ask.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

8 Major Worldviews (Part 2)

By Bryan Chilton

In our last article, we presented the first four of the eight major worldviews. As we noted, this is a revision to a previous article that only listed six. The first article in this series presented the worldviews known as atheism/naturalism, agnosticism, pantheism, and panentheism. This article will provide the last four. To keep from confusion, the last four worldviews will be listed as #1-4 in this article even though they represent #5-8 on our list.

Major Worldviews

  1. (#5) Polytheism: Several Gods Exist.

The term “polytheism” comes from two Greek terms: “polu” meaning “many” and “theos” as we have already defined as the term for God. In the polytheistic worldview, it is held that many gods and/or goddesses exist. Certainly, aspects of Hinduism meet the worldview. But, Hindus hold that the universal God manifests in various avatars. Polytheism is better represented in pagan religions, Greek and Roman mythologies, as well as Mormonism.[1]

The trouble with polytheism is found in necessary beings. Even if it is possible that there are many universes populated by Mormon men and women, one would be forced to push their existence back to a Prime Necessary Being. As noted earlier, all material, physical universes must hold a starting point. The universe demands an explanation for its existence. According to the BVG theorem, there cannot exist eternal material universes. Therefore, even if there are multiple universes populated by multiple gods and goddesses, those universes and beings become contingent upon the necessity of a transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being we know as God. Because of the concept of Ockham’s Razor,[2] polytheism fails as gods and goddesses are not necessary beings, whereas God is. The Christian apologist will need to use the issue of necessary and contingent beings among other areas as a starting point with polytheists.

  1. (#6) Dualism: God and the Physical World are Irreparably Separated.

Dualism is the belief that the spiritual and physical realms are irreconcilably separated. One must not confuse the dualist worldview with the dual nature of mankind (soul/body). A form of dualism in the human person can be demonstrated biblically.[3] However, the dualist worldview takes the distinction between the soul and body to extreme measures. Dualists will claim that the spiritual dimension is good and the physical dimension is bad. Thus, resurrection is not accepted nor is recreation of the new heaven and new earth presented in Revelation 21. Ancient Gnosticism, Platonism, and New Age philosophies often fit within the dualist paradigm.

The trouble with dualism is twofold. On the one hand, not all spiritual beings are good. Angels are considered spiritual beings. However, Satan and his demonic cohort are certainly not good. Rather, they are the epitome of evil. So, dualism fails to account for the fact that not all spiritual entities are good. On the other hand, dualism fails to account for the historicity of Jesus’ literal bodily resurrection. God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), created the physical world. The grand theme of Scripture is God’s restoration of the world and humanity. This includes the physical world. The Christian apologist will need to describe these distinctions and will want to provide the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection to the dualist.

  1. (#7) Deism: God as a Deadbeat Dad.

Deism is unique in that it takes its name from a Latin word rather than Greek. The Latin term “deus” is the word for “God.” Deism holds much in common with theism. Deists generally accept the existence of a transcendent God who is worthy of worship. The deist also accepts that this God is worthy of praise. The key distinction comes in God’s current involvement with creation. Deists reject the idea that God is immanent. They hold that God created everything at the outset but does not interject or intervene in creation since that time. Think of a wind-up toy. A person winds up the toy and releases it. The toy continues until it winds down without any involvement from the one who wound it. God is presented much like a deadbeat dad—that is, a dad who is uninvolved with his child’s life. Thus, deists reject the miraculous, revelations in any form except for reason, and personal relationships with the divine. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Locke are among the more famed deists.

Deism fails if one miraculous claim can be proven. If one miracle can be demonstrated, then deism fails because the miracle serves as evidence of God’s involvement in creation. Craig S. Keener’s two-volume work Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts will help the Christian apologist defeat deist claims. Also, the apologist will want to demonstrate the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection as evidence of God’s involvement.

  1. (#8) Monotheism/Theism: God is Omnipotent, Transcendent, and Personal.

Finally, we come to the final worldview. The last worldview is monotheism or theism. Theists hold that one God exists. God is both transcendent (separate from creation) and immanent (works within creation). Thus, God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing). But, God is also omnibenevolent (all-loving) and omnipresent (in all places). God is beyond the scope of the universe and is not constrained by the laws of nature. Yet, God is also personal and reveals himself to humanity. The three classic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are considered theistic in scope.

Theism triumphs in many ways. Theism best explains the necessity of God’s being, the creation of the universe, the miraculous, personal revelation, and the substance dualism of humanity. However, one must note that while all Christians are theists, not all theists are Christian. The Christian apologist will want do demonstrate the reliability of the New Testament, then illustrate the reliability of the Old Testament, in addition to providing evidence for the life and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In doing so, the Christian apologist will show that God has ultimately revealed himself in Jesus.

Conclusion

Everyone has a worldview of some sort. The first step in presenting the gospel message comes by understanding where the person’s worldview currently resides. Understanding a person’s worldview comes by listening. Apologetics and evangelism are not a quick process. As Douglas Groothius claims, the Christian worldview is argued as the best hypothesis “carefully, slowly, and piece by piece…this means paying close attention to the components and implications of the Christian worldview, with an eye for detecting false stereotypes and caricatures.”[4] The process takes time, but if a person comes to faith in Christ, it’s worth every moment spent.

  Notes

[1] Mormons hold that God the Father is wed to a divine mother. Jesus is believed to have been the first spirit child. Mormon theology also holds that Mormon men and Mormon women wed in Mormon temples are able to become gods and goddesses of their own celestial universe and will produce their own spirit children.

[2] That is, the simpler explanation is preferred.

[3] See the works of J.P. Moreland, especially his book The Soul, for more information on substance dualism.

[4] Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos), 50.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.

 


Resources for Greater Impact

IDHEFTBAA book standing w SHadow

I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

IDHEFTBAA workbooks set

Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)

The Story of Reality: Apologist Greg Koukl Discusses His New Book

Although I first heard of Greg Koukl as an undergrad at Biola University in the mid 90s, we became good friends in the early 2000s as students in the M.A. Philosophy program at Talbot. Greg is one of the leading apologists of our day and has had a huge impact on my personal and professional life.

He gave me the honor of endorsing his recent book The Story of Reality, and I can honestly say that it’s fantastic. In the words of Tim Challies:

“Koukl promises to tell the story of reality. He does, and he does it beautifully. You’ll benefit by reading his telling of how the world began, how it will end, and all the important stuff that happens in between.”

the story of reality

Greg was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his new book. Check out his answers and then think about getting a copy of The Story of Reality. It is perfect for a believer who wants to go deeper in his or her faith, a small group, or for a seeker genuinely exploring the Christian faith. Enjoy!

SEAN MCDOWELL: Greg, what motivated you, in particular, to write The Story of Reality?

GREG KOUKL: Two important things come to mind immediately. First, I wanted to offer a kind of primer on Christianity’s basics—each of the critical, essential elements at the very foundation of our worldview—the kinds of things that are so important, if you took any one out you wouldn’t have Christianity anymore, but something else.

But I didn’t want to write another theological textbook. Rather, I wanted to show how the important pieces fit together in a fascinating drama. I wanted to give a wide-angle view so Christians—and others—would never get lost in the details again.

Second, I wanted to continually press the point that what I describe in the book is not my personal spiritual fantasy, my religious wishful thinking, or my make-believe-to-make-me-feel-happy kind of story. The Story doesn’t start out “Once upon a time” for a reason. It doesn’t mean to be telling a fairy tale. Rather, I wanted the reader to understand that the things the Story describes actually exist and the events in the Story really happened (or, in some places, are yet to happen). It is an accounting of the way the world actually is.

Nowadays, people have a habit of relativizing religion, reducing it “your truth” versus “my truth” versus “their truth,” and that’s the end of it. But as I say in the book, “If the Story is not accurate to reality, it’s not any kind of truth at all. So it can never be ‘my truth’ or ‘your truth,’ even though we may believe it. It can only be our delusion or our mistake or our error, but it can never be our ‘truth.”” (32) I want people to see that Christianity claims to be true in the deep sense, and if it isn’t, then it solves nothing at all.

MCDOWELL: What was the writing process like for this book?

KOUKL: I wanted to engage my reader in a way that was memorable and accessible. The structure is simple. The book is built around five words that tell the most important details of Christian Story in the order they took place: God, man, Jesus, cross, and (the final) resurrection—beginning to end.

I also wanted the reader to enjoy the journey, so I adopted a storytelling “voice” for the narrative. I wanted anyone who picked up the book to feel I was talking directly with them, that I was personally walking them through the account of how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.

MCDOWELL: What makes this book unique?

KOUKL: The Story of Reality is a kind of Mere Christianity for a new generation, if the comparison doesn’t seem to bold. It’s a wide-angle look at the Christian view of the world and the meaning of the drama of human history, in a voice that’s conversational and not religious, with what I call “soft apologetics” mixed in—thoughtful reflections that are friendly appeals to common-sense insights we all have about the world that point to the truthfulness of the Christian take on reality—without being overly argumentative.

I also wanted readers (especially Christian readers) to see that the two biggest objections to Christianity—the problem of evil and Jesus being the only way—are not the problems for us that people think they are, that a proper understanding of the Story shows how these two fit together perfectly, complementing each other in a remarkable way. One of our deepest concerns about the world is, “What went wrong?” The Story answers that question, and gives the singular solution, God’s rescuer. Indeed, the problem of evil is what our Story is all about—and the Story is not over yet.

MCDOWELL: You title the book The Story of Reality? I can imagine people thinking, “How arrogant. This guy thinks he has the corner on reality.” How would you respond?

KOUKL: This is a popular challenge nowadays, but it’s an odd one when you think about it. Everyone has their own take on reality, it seems, and everyone thinks his or her own view true, right? So I don’t see why I should be faulted for offering my perspective, especially when I’m careful to give my reasons for it. As I say in the book,

It has always struck me as odd when some have been faulted simply for thinking their views correct. They’ve even been labeled intolerant or bigoted for doing so. But what is the alternative? The person objecting thinks his own views correct as well, which is why he’s objecting. Both parties in the conversation think they’re right and the other wrong. Why, then, is only the religious person (usually) branded a bigot for doing so? (24)

MCDOWELL: How do you hope people will use, or benefit from, this book?

KOUKL: Every writer would like to say his book is for everybody, but in this case I think that’s not too far off.

Most Christians who have been around for a while have their Story in bits and pieces, but have never seen how powerful it really is when assembled as a whole. This book is for them. Many are young Christians just putting it all together for the first time, so this book is for them, too, to help them get a solid start. Some older Christians know the Story, but don’t know how to tell it succinctly and memorably for their congregations, their Bible study groups, their youth groups, or their own disciples. This book is for them, too.

On the other hand, many non-Christians don’t take the Story seriously because, for one, they’ve never seen how well it fits together and how it offers tremendous explanatory power regarding the world as we actually find it. That’s why every time I sat down to write, my chief thought was reaching out to the moderately-interested skeptic in a way that would not offend him with condescension and empty slogans, would hold his interest and get him thinking, and would help him see that a chief reason for taking the Christian Story seriously is that it simply is—as I often say—“the best explanation for the way things are.”

MCDOWELL: Any final thoughts?

KOUKL: I think The Story of Reality will help many readers understand Christianity in a way they never have before. They will see how it all fits together, how it resolves the problem of evil, and why God’s solution is the only solution. Even better, though, they’ll see why they can be confident that Christianity is actually “true Truth,” as Francis Schaeffer used to put it—that is, God really does exist, Heaven actually is real (along with Hell), Jesus really did exist and did the things the historical records—the Gospels—say He did, the resurrection of Christ really happened, and there really is hope each of us can count on for “the kind of perfect world our hearts have always longed for.” (83)

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


Resources for Greater Impact

Story of Reality FINAL

The Story of Reality (Paperback)


8 Major Worldviews (Part 1)

By: Brian Chilton

Before the website transferred from pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com to bellatorchristi.com, I had written an article on the major worldviews across the globe. I presented six major worldviews at the time. While I still think the previous article treated the most major of worldviews, I have come to realize after reading Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, that other major worldviews exist that should be discussed and incorporated into the list.[1] So, let’s revisit the major worldviews in this article. The goal of the article will be to notify the reader of each belief and will show how Christian theism triumphs. In addition, the Christian apologist will need to understand the starting points that must be taken with each worldview.

Worldviews

  1. Atheism/Naturalism: Rejection of God’s Existence, Only the Physical World Exists.

The term “atheist” is taken from the Greek term “a” meaning “no” and “theos” meaning “God.” Placed together, the term means “no God.” The atheist, therefore, is one who does not believe in the existence of God. Atheists are often termed “naturalists” as they only accept the existence of the natural/physical world, thereby rejecting the existence of things like God, spirits, the human soul, angels, and demons. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are good examples of atheism.

Atheism holds a problem as it pertains to the immaterial world. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of human consciousness. Even if the consciousness could be shown to derive from material means, naturalism (or materialism) faces a great problem as the human consciousness is a non-material thing. A scanner can see brainwaves, but not mental thoughts and the like. Naturalism holds two additional problems. On the one hand, naturalism cannot answer why anything exists. It has been mathematically demonstrated by the theorem of Borg, Vilenkin, and Guth (i.e., the BVG Theorem) that there cannot be an infinite regress of material worlds. Every material world must have a beginning point. On the other hand, naturalism fails to account for the mounting evidence of near death experiences.[2] Atheism and naturalism hold great problems serving as a cohesive worldview. The Christian apologist will need to demonstrate the reasonability of God’s existence and the means by which naturalism fails.

  1. Agnosticism: God’s Existence is Unknowable.

Agnosticism comes from two terms: “a” the Greek term meaning “no” and “gnosis” the Greek term meaning “knowledge.” The agnostic does not necessarily reject belief in God. The agnostic claims no knowledge on the issue. There are at least two forms of agnosticism. Atheistic agnostics incline to reject belief in God, but are open to the possibility of God’s existence. The atheistic agnostic claims that it is impossible to know whether God exists or not. Bart Ehrman and Neil deGrasse Tyson are examples of atheistic agnostics.

Theistic agnostics are individuals who are inclined to believe in God’s existence. However, they are doubtful whether individuals can know anything about God. The theistic agnostic may either reject divine revelation altogether and claim that no religion is correct, or the theistic agnostic may reject exclusive revelation and will claim that all religions are correct. When I stumbled into my time of personal doubt, I became more of the theistic agnostic (one who claimed to be spiritual but not religious). The Ba’hai religion and Morgan Freeman may be considered examples of theistic agnosticism.

The trouble with agnosticism is with divine revelation. If God can truly be shown to exist, then atheistic agnosticism begins to wane. If one can demonstrate that God has revealed himself to humanity (particularly through Jesus of Nazareth), then theistic agnosticism begins to fade. The Christian apologist will need to understand, first, that agnosticism can cover a wide variety of flavors. Second, the Christian apologist will need to describe the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth’s life, miracles, and resurrection.

  1. Pantheism: The Force is With You.

Pantheism comes from two Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all” and “theos” meaning “God.” Pantheism may look quite a bit like panentheism and even theistic agnosticism. However, generally speaking, pantheism is the belief that God is an impersonal force. Buddhism is the greatest example of pantheism. The Star Wars idea of the “force” is another example of pantheism. Buddhists claim to be agnostic concerning God’s existence. Yet, the Buddhist believes in impersonal forces (i.e., the force behind reincarnation). The goal of such a worldview is to become nothing. In fact, the Buddhist concept of Nirvana means that one has become so enlightened that he or she escapes the wheel of reincarnation and becomes nothing.

The trouble with pantheism is diverse. On the one hand, the pantheist will speak of such forces in such a way that intelligence is necessary. For example, why is there a wheel of reincarnation? Why is it that good behavior elevates one to a higher level and vice versa? On the other hand, pantheists have great trouble in explaining why anything exists at all. Much more could be said on this issue as it pertains to the trouble of pantheism. The Christian apologist will need to describe the internal inconsistencies of pantheism as a starting point as well as note the personal nature of the divine.

  1. Panentheism: Everything is God.

Panentheism comes from three Greek terms: “pan” meaning “all,” “en” meaning “in,” and “theos” meaning “God.” Therefore, panentheism is literally defined as “all in God.” Panentheists hold that God penetrates everything. While the Christian may initially be inclined to agree, one must understand that panentheists believe that everything is God. Thus, the panentheist would agree that Jesus of Nazareth is God. But, the panentheist would also agree that you are God, he is God, everyone is God, and even your kitchen sink is God. The panentheist does not distinguish between the personal God and the physical creation. Hinduism is the greatest example of panentheism.

Panentheism, however, holds issues as it pertains to the world. If the world is God, then why is there so much evil? God is certainly good. So, if everyone is God, then wouldn’t everything be perfect? To accept such a claim, one must have a flawed idea of God’s nature. With the panentheist, the Christian apologist will need to begin by teaching the distinction between the personal divine being of God and the physical, material creation that is the world.

We have investigated the first four of the eight major worldviews. In our next article, we will describe the final four: polytheism, dualism, deism, and monotheism/theism.

Notes

[1] See Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011), 50.

[2] Here, I do not mean heavenly or hellish experiences. I am addressing the scientific verification of such events in this world. For instance, if one were to see something that could not have been otherwise seen after one’s death, then this would serve as a verification of the soul’s survival past death. Soul survival discredits naturalism.

© 2017. Bellator Christi.


Resources for Greater Impact

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist (Paperback)

IDHEFTBAA workbooks set

Why I Still Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Set)


The Verse the Culture Misquotes Most Regularly in an Effort to Quiet Christians

As a Christian, I’m often at odds with the culture around me. As our society embraces a growing number of unbiblical behaviors and attitudes, I find myself becoming more and more vocal in my opposition. I’m not alone; many other conservative Christians are also taking a stand for what the Bible teaches, particularly when it comes to moral behavior. Maybe that’s why I seem to hear Matthew 7:1 tossed around so frequently by those who want Christians to quiet down:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”

do not judge

Whenever we, as Christians, speak out against something in the culture, one of two labels is immediately employed in an effort to silence us: we are either branded “intolerant” or “judgmental”. To make matters worse, the second label is often attached to the teaching of Jesus Himself. Are we Christians defying the words of our Master when we speak against the behaviors, attitudes or worldviews affirmed by others? Did Jesus command us to be silently non-judgmental?

This selective use of scripture by the opposition is perhaps the finest example of what we at Stand to Reason are addressing when we caution people to “never read a Bible verse.” Matthew 7:1, when read in isolation from the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, may seem to command a form of silent acceptance and tolerance advocated by the culture, but a closer examination of the verse reveals Jesus’ true intent. If Jesus was advocating some form of quiet tolerance, how do we explain the following statements?

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (verse 6)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (verses 13 and 14)

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (verse 15)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (verses 21, 22 and 23)

Wow, Jesus seems vocally judgmental in these passages. Some people are dogs and swine, unworthy of our efforts. Some people are wrong about the path they choose. Some people are false prophets. Some people are true disciples and some are not. Jesus sure seems comfortable making judgmental statements about people in these passages. How could Jesus say such things when he began this part of the sermon by saying, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged”? Maybe we should revisit the first verses of Matthew 7:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

It turns out that Jesus is not prohibiting vocal discernment in these passages, but is cautioning against a certain kind of unbecoming behavior: hypocritical judgmentalism.  We are called to live differently so that we can effectively identify and address unbiblical behavior in our culture. I cannot be a practicing thief and effectively caution against thievery. I cannot be an active adulterer and effectively advocate monogamy. I’m going to have to “first” stop and assess my own behavior (take out my own “log”) before I can “then” caution others about their behavior (help them take the “speck” out of their eye). This is a “first / then” commandment. Both sides of the directive are important; Jesus is commanding two equally critical actions. First, we must change our behavior; become people of God who are above reproach. Second, we must actively engage others about their behavior. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some prophets are true and some are false. Some people are right, some people are wrong. We are called to make statements about such things after we eliminate hypocrisy in these areas of our own lives. We, as Christians, are called to (1) live righteously, and (2) speak out about unrighteousness. We are less likely to do this, however, if we allow folks misquote Jesus in an effort to silence us.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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Resources for Greater Impact

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Cold Case Christianity (Paperback)


Book Review: The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl

By Timothy Fox

I’ve waited for this book for a long time. I’ve been listening to Greg Koukl – one of my personal apologetics heroes – on the Stand to Reason podcast for years and he would occasionally mention this book he was working on, The Story of Reality (originally entitled Credo). I had been (not so) patiently waiting for it ever since.

In a sense, I felt like I’ve read the book before since it contains ideas Greg weaves throughout all of his podcasts and talks. But now we have a full survey of the Christian worldview in one location. And it’s fantastic.

Story of Reality Koukl

Content

The Story of Reality is obviously about a story. But not just any story, the Story, with a capital S. Greg argues that Christianity is not just a mere religion; it is a complete understanding of all reality. And as any story is comprised of four major components – introduction, crisis, resolution, and ending – so does the Story: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. If any of those pieces are missing from your understanding of the Story, you have an incomplete view of Christianity.

So what is the Christian Story? Greg explains it through the five parts of his book: God, Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection. The Story begins with God because He is the main character, the creator of all things. This part explores competing explanations of what reality is composed of, Matter-ism (materialism) and Mind-ism (pantheism).

Part 2 tells how God crafts man in His own image, which makes humans beautiful and valuable. But man disobeys God, triggering the crisis of the Story and bringing pain and suffering into the world. So now mankind is both beautiful and broken. This explains what every human knows about reality: there is something deeply wrong.

Part 3 introduces us to the Hero, Jesus Christ, the God-man, who came to fix what mankind broke. It answers two important questions: Who is Jesus? and What did Jesus come to do? Greg also briefly discusses a common modern objection that Jesus never existed as an actual person of history.

Cross teaches how the Hero saves us, by sacrificing Himself through a brutal crucifixion. Jesus bears the punishment we deserve by making a divine trade with the Father. All we do is place our trust in Him and accept God’s saving grace.

In Part 5, Greg uses what is known as the minimal facts approach to show that Jesus’ resurrection is a true historical event. The resolution of the Story shows mankind’s two alternatives: perfect mercy or perfect justice. We can either accept God’s offer of salvation or face his wrath as a just God.

Assessment

In my opinion, The Story of Reality offers the best way of explaining Christianity: as a complete Story or worldview. You cannot take the parts you like and leave the ones you don’t. Similarly, there may be aspects of reality that are difficult to understand but best fit within the Christian Story and not into others, like the pieces of a puzzle.

Greg tells the Christian Story simply and thoroughly, packing a ton of truth in under 200 pages. Every part is divided into multiple chapters which span only a few pages each. If you have ever listened to Stand to Reason, you know how skilled Greg is at explaining complex topics, which also applies to this book, making it very readable. This book is appropriate for Christian and seeker alike, so buy a copy for yourself and your unbelieving friend.

Conclusion

Greg has created a hard decision for me. Whenever anyone asked for a recommendation for an apologetics book, my number one choice without hesitation was always his previous book, Tactics. That is the book to learn how to navigate any conversation with ease and grace. But now I’m torn because The Story of Reality is so foundational. It surveys the entire Christian worldview simply and thoroughly while handling common objections.

Maybe next time some asks for my number one apologetics resource, I’ll just flip a coin. But either way, the top honor belongs to Greg Koukl.

―Tim Fox (FreeThinkingMinistires.com)


To purchase “The Story of Reality” visit STR.org

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5 Attitude Changes That Will Transform Your Christian Parenting in the New Year

By Natasha Crain

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to write a post because my nose has been buried in writing my new book (if you’re new to the blog or missed what I’m working on, you can read about it here!). My deadline is March 1, so my ability to write new blog posts will continue to be sporadic for the next couple of months, but then I’ll be back to writing more regularly again…and I can’t wait. Writing the new book has brought so many important subjects to mind for the blog!

Christian Parenting New Year

In the meantime, I did want to end the year with a post on New Year’s resolutions. I’ve always been a person who loves setting goals, but I’ve noticed that I set fewer and fewer goals as years go by. It’s easy to get complacent and set in our ways, isn’t it?

One of the reasons I think it’s so hard to actually reach the goals we set is that successful changes in behavior require corresponding changes in underlying attitudes. For example, I’ve been trying to stop biting my nails since I was 15. It’s never happened. The problem isn’t that I can’t physically reach that goal; It’s that, deep down, I’ve never truly believed that this is an important problem that really needs my attention.

Despite the importance of our underlying attitudes in reaching goals, we rarely think of goals in terms of attitudes. So, rather than writing a post about New Year’s goals framed in terms of behavior, I’m writing a post about important attitude shifts we should aim to make.

With that in mind, here are 5 important attitude changes that can truly transform how we disciple our kids. For each one, I’m also giving an example of a behavioral resolution—an action point. But rest assured that unless we first take the attitude changes to heart, those behavioral resolutions will quickly fall by the wayside.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #1

From: The Bible is important.

To: The Bible is so important, I need to read it with my kids regularly—and if I don’t, their spiritual development will be significantly compromised.

 As Christians, it should go without saying that the Bible is important. We shouldn’t give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back for such a belief. But it’s what we do with that belief that will really impact our kids’ spiritual lives. Don’t think for a second that simply paying lip service to the importance of God’s Word will ignite your kids’ interest in it. Without a strong foundation of how to read the Bible, what the Bible says, and why it matters, kids won’t learn how to depend on the source guide for their faith. Instead, they’ll learn to depend on what other people tell them about Christianity.

That’s very dangerous in a world saturated with false information.

So, if you don’t currently read the Bible with your kids, make this the year to start. And don’t depend on devotionals as a substitute—they can be a helpful addition to your family’s spiritual life, but they should never be the starting point.

Behavioral resolution: Pick a Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and commit to reading one or two chapters per week with your kids (decide on the number of chapters based on how much information your kids are able to take in on a given night). For example, you could decide to read the book of John two nights per week over ten weeks. After that, pick another Gospel, or choose one of Paul’s epistles.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #2

From: My kids’ bad behavior will dictate how much time and energy I can spend on their spiritual development.

To: The time and energy I spend on my kids’ spiritual development will have nothing to do with how bad they’re being at any given time.

This is not a conscious attitude for most parents…we don’t set out to let our kids’ bad behavior drive anything. But it sure is easy to let it happen, right? This is something I noticed in my own home this year. I struggled a lot with the constant fighting between my two daughters, which often left me with less than zero energy by the end of the day. They would be mad at each other, or mad at me, or I would be mad at them…and, honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was making the effort on those nights to switch gears and bring it back to God.

But when we start relegating our kids’ spiritual development to the small (who am I kidding…tiny) slivers of time when everyone is in a good mood and feeling like sitting down to discuss what really matters in life, we’ll never make headway. Because it’s so easy to fall into this trap, it’s critical to 1) be aware of the danger and 2) put a plan in place to avoid it (see below).

Behavioral resolution: There’s one key way to support this attitude change—schedule family spiritual time. Start with finding a set time of just 30 minutes to put on the calendar each week. Kids might fight it at first, but over time, if you’re consistent, it will become something your family just expects. And having it planned will help you not succumb to parental fatigue (as long as you don’t cancel it!). This is a great way to do your Bible reading (point 1).

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #3

From: I’ll talk to my kids about faith whenever good teachable moments arise.

To: I’ll proactively determine what to teach my kids about faith and when.

In case you’re behind on popular parenting lingo, a “teachable moment” is when you use an unplanned event to teach your kids about something. Taking advantage of such times is important. But if this is your primary strategy for teaching your kids about Christianity, it’s one of the most ineffective parenting attitudes you can have.

There’s a simple reason for that: Not everything your kids need to be taught will have a corresponding moment naturally arise. In my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, I chose 40 of the most important faith conversations parents need to have with their kids in a secular world. Maybe 10 of them would naturally come up in conversation. But when was the last time you saw a brilliant opportunity naturally arise for addressing whether or not the Bible supports slavery? Or whether or not Christianity is responsible for millions of deaths in history? Or how a loving God could command the killing of the Canaanites? Or what the historical facts of the resurrection that most scholars agree on are?

Yet all of these are highly important conversations to have, given the challenges our kids will hear from skeptics today. It’s our responsibility to know what conversations need to be had and to proactively have them. We can’t just wait around for a corresponding teachable moment to happen.

Behavioral resolution: Pick one faith topic each week to have a conversation about with your kids. If you have my book, this will be easy. Read/review a chapter each week yourself (just 4-5 pages), then ask your kids a corresponding question to facilitate conversation. You could have one night per week (e.g., Sunday) where you spend 30 minutes with your Bible reading time and another night per week (e.g., Wednesday) where you do these discussions. Alternatively, you could do your faith discussion over dinner on a given night of the week, or on your commute to school if it’s long enough.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #4

From: I need to work on my kids’ (collective) spiritual development.

To: I need to tailor my discipleship to the needs of each of my kids.

If you have more than one child, it’s tempting to mentally merge them into a single discipleship “target”—We are the parental unit (the disciplers) and they are the children unit (the disciples). The problem is, just as in non-spiritual matters, every child is unique in his or her needs. We shouldn’t effectively make our home into a one-size-fits-all church program. Kids are ready for and interested in different areas of faith development at different times.

This is where I think devotionals can be a good supplement to the other things you do as a family (the above points). If you’re doing set times for Bible reading and faith conversations as a family, you can choose devotional books to use with your kids individually on other nights. Just be sure to really spend time looking at the ones you pick, as many have very little “meat” and are hardly better than 365 lessons on being a nice person. (In the 5- to 8-year-old range, I’ve found Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment to be simple but solid. For about 7- to 10-year-olds, I’ve really liked The One Year Every Day Devotions: Devotions to Help you Stand Strong. No devotional is perfect, but I at least feel comfortable recommending these.)

Behavioral resolution: Write down three areas where you think each of your kids most needs to grow spiritually this year (Prayer? Learning to read the Bible independently? Understanding the basics of the faith? Studying apologetics? etc.). Then ask each child to write down three areas of their own. Compare your lists and decide on a final list of three goals for the year together. Make an action of plan of what you’ll do to work on those goals.

 

ATTITUDE CHANGE #5

From: I want to pass on my faith.

To: I want to help my kids develop their own faith.

While it’s common for parents to say they want to “pass on” their faith, it’s not necessarily a good way to think of our role in our kids’ spiritual lives. We have to remember that what we experience with God can never be exported to our kids; It’s unique to us.

I think one of the biggest reasons so many kids turn away from faith when they leave home is that parents spent too much time trying to pass on their own faith rather than helping their kids develop their own.

This attitude change will fundamentally alter how you think of your role as a Christian parent. It’s a lens through which to view all that you do. Are you continually just trying to express what you believe and what you do with that belief? Or are you teaching your kids why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is objectively true—why anyone should believe it? Changing our perspective on what, exactly, it is that we should be doing as Christian parents can make all the difference in the world.

Behavioral resolution: Reflect on how you currently see your job as a Christian parent, and the difference between passing on your faith and helping your kids develop their own. Commit to either beginning or continuing a study of an apologetics topic of interest (for those new to the blog, apologetics is the study of how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity). Need a reading plan? I’ve got a bunch for you: Click here.

 

Which of these attitude changes do you feel you most need to make next year? Share your thoughts below!

 

Top 10 Apologetics “Tips” of the Year

During 2016, I began tweeting an “Apologetics Tip of the Day.” Some have to do with apologetics content, while others are tips for doing apologetics more effectively. Many of these were taken from my book A New Kind of Apologist or simply my own experience. And of course, some generated much more interest than others. Here’s the top 10 “Apologetics Tips” from 2016 in descending order:

Apologetics Tips

10. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Remember, the Bible doesn’t approve of everything it records.

9. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Speak truth with gentleness. Avoid the temptation to compromise truth or speak harshly (Col. 4:6).

8. Apologetics Tip of the Day: You don’t have to have all the answers. Admit if you don’t know an answer, but then go find it.

7. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Don’t merely make the case that Christianity is true. Make the case that it is good and beautiful.

6. Apologetics Tip of the Day: We are called to make good arguments, but not be argumentative (1 Peter 3:15).

5. Apologetics Tip of the Day: You may disagree with others, but remember, people hold views for reasons they perceive as good.

4. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Approach others with the idea that you may have something to learn from them.

3. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Tolerance is no longer agreeing to disagree but the silencing of seemingly offensive views.

2. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Interpret your experience in light of Scripture, rather than Scripture in light of your experience.

1. Apologetics Tip of the Day: Make good arguments and defend truth, but remember, the deepest need of the human heart is for love.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


 

5 Apologetics Questions Every Christian Should Learn How to Answer: Christmas Edition

By Alisa Childers

In a previous post, I offered quick answers to 5 apologetics questions that I think every Christian should be familiar with. With many misconceptions and misunderstandings about Christmas, here are 5 Christmas-themed questions with “barebones” quick answers that can easily be committed to memory.
Christmas Questions

  1.  Was Jesus born on December 25th, AD 1?

Although we celebrate His birth on December 25th, there is no biblical evidence that this is the actual date He was born. “AD” is an abbreviation for anno domini, which means “in the year of our Lord” in Latin. When scholars came up with the BC/AD system, they intended to divide world history based on the birth of Christ. However, they miscalculated the year of His birth, and it wasn’t recognized until later that Jesus was actually born somewhere between 6-4 BC. (1) Matthew 2:1 records that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great.  History tells us that Herod died in 4 BC, so Jesus would have been at least 4 years old by AD 1.

 

  1.  Is Christmas a pagan holiday? 

Every year, I see the inevitable “Christmas was a pagan holiday so Christians shouldn’t celebrate it!” claim circulated on social media at Christmastime. Let’s put it to rest, shall we? Christmas was never a pagan holiday. However, in the Roman Empire, there were certain pagan winter ceremonies such as Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, celebrated on December 25th, and  Saturnalia, a week long festival that culminated around the same date.

In the early third century, Christians began to associate Jesus’ birth with December 25th. In the fourth century, they made it an official holiday. Why? Some argue it was because it coincided with the date of the Resurrection, others report that it was to challenge and contrast the existing pagan traditions.(2) Either way, it’s interesting to note that Dies Natalis Solis Invicti honored the Roman sun god, and in Malachi 4:2,  a prophecy about Jesus calls Him the  “Sun of righteousness.” I can’t think of a better way to contrast the festival than to laud the birth of the true Sun—the Light of the world!

  1.  We three kings of Orient are?

There are three inaccuracies just in the first line of this beloved Christmas carol.

  • Three? The wise men brought three gifts, but the Bible doesn’t specify how many actually made the journey.
  • Kings? Matthew 2:1 tells of “wise men from the East” who followed the star to see the boy Jesus. Because of their high standing in court, early church father Tertullian wrote, “The East generally regarded the magi as kings,”(3) but they were not actual monarchs.
  • From the Orient? The wise men did not come from as far east as the Orient but were more likely from somewhere a little closer like Babylon. That was where a certain captive named Daniel was taken centuries earlier and was eventually made “chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). The wise men would have likely been familiar with the prophecies about Jesus through the writings of Daniel.(4)
  1.  Is the story of Jesus’ virgin birth just a re-telling of ancient mythology?

This frequent claim on social media disintegrates when we actually examine the evidence. Consider the three most common examples—Buddha, Horus, and Mithras. None of the earliest and most reliable sources indicate that these figures were born of a virgin.(5)

  • The earliest sources on Buddha specifically mention that he was born of a royal human bloodline. Later stories record more unusual elements surrounding his conception, but they are nothing like the virgin conception of Jesus.
  • Horus was an Egyptian deity whose parents were Osiris and Isis, and early stories actually mention Osiris’ seed being in Isis to conceive him.
  • Mithraism is an ancient mystery cult with no surviving scripture. All we have are sculptures and paintings, which can be tough to interpret. The earliest version of the birth of Mithras portrays him emerging out of the side of a mountain, leaving a hole in the rock. Unless the mountain was a virgin, that is hardly a “virgin birth story.”
  1.  Was Jesus born in a stable?

Although it is commonly assumed, the biblical account doesn’t actually mention a stable, or a cave, as early church tradition suggests.(6)  However, Luke chapter 2 mentions a couple of important details—that He was “laid in a manger” (a type of feeding trough for animals,) and that there was “no room at the inn.” There’s no mention of an innkeeper, and the word translated as “inn” is the Greek word kataluma, which might be better translated “guest room.” In fact, Jesus uses the same word in Luke 22:11 in reference to the Upper Room, the site of the Last Supper.

As I’ve written previously, Mary and Joseph most likely did not attempt to stay at an inn, but it would have been customary for them to stay with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem. With the house overcrowded due to the government-mandated census and the guest room occupied, Jesus was probably born on the lower level of the dwelling. This is where animals were sometimes brought inside at night to keep warm and safe from theft, which explains why there was a manger.(7)

Have a well-informed and Merry Christmas!

 


Visit Alisa’s website here 👉 www.AlisaChilders.com 👈

References:
(1) Alden A. Mosshammer, The Easter Computus and the Origins of the Christian Era (Oxford University Press, 2008) p. 319-356.
(2) Lee Strobel, The Case For Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger (Zondervan, 1998,2005) p. 20.
(3) Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3:13.
(4) William Stob, “The Gospel of Matthew: Righteousness Through Obedience” The Four Gospels: A Guide to Their Historical Background, Characteristic Differences, and Timeless Significance (Ambassador Group, 2007).
(5) J. Warner Wallace, Was the Virgin Conception of Jesus Borrowed From Prior Mythologies? Cold Case Christianity Podcast #53, 2015.
(6) Justin Martyr, Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, LXXVIII.
(7) John McRay, Archaeology & the New Testament (Baker Academic, 1991) p. 80-82; Kenneth Bailey,The Manger and the Inn, 2008.


Three Tips for Parents Raising the Next Generation of Case Makers

If you’re a Christian Case Maker (a Christian interested in making the case for what you believe) and you’re also a parent, you’re probably interested in raising your son or daughter to become a Case Maker as well. I have four kids of my own, so I definitely understand this desire. I want my kids to have the tools and truths they’ll need to be good Christian ambassadors. I want them to understand their worldview and defend it against competing ideas. Parents often contact me to ask what they can do to raise up a generation of competent Christian Case Makers. Here are three quick tips to get you started:

Parents next generation

Don’t Defer – Be a Good Case Maker
It’s often said that some things are caught rather than taught, and that’s also true when it comes to transferring a worldview to the next generation. Our kids are watching us and copying our Christian example. That truth often scares me, but it’s the reality of our situation. What kind of Jesus follower are you in front of your kids? Are you someone who openly discusses your worldview around the dinner table? Have you provided your kids with examples of winsome Christian case making as you engage people with other beliefs? Do your kids know they can come to you for answers when they encounter objections related to their faith? Are you prepared to answer their concerns or questions? As parents, we can’t defer this responsibility; we can’t offer our kids a book or a video when they’ve come to us for an answer. We need to be good Christian Case Makers and the first line of defense for our kids.

Don’t Delay – Pick a Good Youth Group
OK, I’m going to say something controversial here: Whatever church you may be in right now, if it’s not a place that helps you equip your kids to make the case for what they believe, find a new church. I know how that probably sounds, but all of us pick a church for one reason or another. Sometimes we make this decision based on the teaching of a pastor or the style of worship. If you’ve got kids, I think it’s fair (at least for a season) to pick a church on the basis of its ability to train your kids. It’s quite likely a church that’s great in one area, may not be great in another. That means you’re probably going to have to sacrifice something for yourself in order to get something important for your kids. It’s worth it. Take the time to find the youth ministry doing the best job in this area and join them in this important mission.

Don’t Deny – Provide a Good Opportunity
You and I both know, however, that many youth groups are more concerned about eating pizza and playing games than they are about developing Case Makers. That’s just the sad reality we live in. As parents, we’re going to need to do something to pick up the slack. I began by volunteering in a youth ministry class; many of my friends began as small group leaders. Whatever it takes, be patient and begin to humbly offer your services until you’ve earned the right to help shape the ministry. In addition to this, consider the value of additional outside training like the Summit Worldview Academy. Yes, I know it’s more expensive than the average summer camp, but that’s because it’s not the average summer camp. I’m probably just like you; I’m living on one income as a detective (I’m a volunteer at Stand to Reason) and I have four kids (two still in high school). I’m often financially strapped. But I’ll do what it takes to get my kids the training they need, even if I can only do it once. I’m on the lookout for good opportunities to supplement what I’ve already taught my kids.

CCC4Kids Shadow LEADIf you’re a parent, you already know how quickly time flies. I can’t believe I have adult children, and I fret about whether I’ve done a good job equipping them over the years. That’s why Susie and I decided to write Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. Our experience as parents, youth leaders and pastors taught us that young people begin to question their faith in junior high. We wanted to provide a resource that would answer critical questions kids might have before they even begin to ask them. We wrote the book for two groups: (1) Parents who can read the material together with their kids, even as their young Christians work through the Cold-Case Christianity for Kids online Academy, and (2) Leaders (like pastors and teachers) who can use the book (along with the free associated teaching resources) to train up larger groups of kids in a classroom or ministry setting. In fact, we have a special offer for educators and ministry leaders to help them teach the case for Jesus. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s the need to be intentional. We need to model a rational Christian life for our kids, put them in a church setting that can help them grow and provide them with intentional opportunities to learn.

This podcast content is related to this blog post:

 

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

Comment or Subscribe to J. Warner’s Daily Email

 


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Jesus, The Bible, The Quran, and The Law of Non-Contradiction

By Derrick Stokes

In the Quran, the Gospel, or Injil, is considered to be from God and is incorruptible. The Bible says scripture is God-breathed. Yet, they contrast on what they say about Jesus. In comes the Law of Non-Contradiction. 

The Law of Non-Contradiction, or the law of the excluded middle, states that

(A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A) simultaneously.

It is logical to have different aspects of (A), but not contradictory aspects.
Example: John is a father. John is in New York. These are different aspects of the same person. However, logic demands that John cannot be in New York and not be in New York at the same time. This would be contradictory. This goes against logic.

Bible and Koran BLOG

According to the Bible, Jesus died a public death on the cross and rose three days later. All four Gospels testify to the crucifixion referenced below but for the sake of time we will look at John specifically:

Matthew 27:45-60
Mark 15:33-39
Luke 23:44-49

John 19:16-33
16. Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.
17. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
18. There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.
20. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
21. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
22. Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
23. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said, “They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” So this is what the soldiers did.
25. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”
27. and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
28. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
29. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
30. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.
32. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.
33. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

As you can see, according to the Gospels, Jesus died. In addition to this the Bible is clear on the importance of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven:

1 Corinthians 15 & 1 Timothy 3:16-17

In Islam, the Quran mentions Jesus more than any other Prophet. It states He was born of a virgin (Surah 19), had disciples (5:111-115), ascended into heaven (4:158), and will return as a sign of the end times (43:61). However, unlike the Bible, the Quran states that Jesus did not die:

Quran 4:157-158
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;

Now, we go back to the logic stated at the beginning. (A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A). Both can’t be true. Here, we have the Bible (particularly the Gospels) stating Jesus died and the Quran stating that He didn’t. Both cannot be true.

But wait, the Quran makes a couple other very important claims.
–God sent the Gospels

3:3
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)
5:46
And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah,

— The word God sends cannot be changed (corrupted)

6:34
Rejected were the messengers before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those messengers,

Yet, Muslims believe that the Gospels have been altered to show that Jesus died.

What can we say then? The last of the four Gospels, John, can be dated around 80 A.D. The Quran is dated 570 years later at around 650 A.D.

Jesus either did die or didn’t die. Both books can’t be right on this subject. However, looking at the Gospels and what the Quran teaches about the Gospels, the only logical conclusion on the matter is Jesus was crucified. Both texts affirm it when logic is applied!

So let us recount the sequence of events:

Logic: (A) cannot be both (A) and (non-A) simultaneously
The Gospels attest to Jesus dying on the cross
While Quran 4:157-158 says that Jesus did not die
But Quran 3:3 & 5:46 says God sent the Gospels
And Quran 6:34 states the word God sends cannot be changed (corrupted)
So we are left with two conclusions:

1. If the Quran is right about Jesus not being crucified, this would mean it is wrong about God’s word being incorruptible, so the Quran itself loses credibility since it states the Gospels and the Quran were both sent by God.

or

2. The Quran, which was written over half a millennium after the Gospels, is simply wrong about Jesus not dying because it changed the account of Christ’s death and resurrection.

If both texts logically affirm the Gospels; and the Gospels state Jesus died a public death, was buried, and raised on the third day, we have one more reason to believe in the authority of the Christian scriptures. We have more reason to place our faith in the atoning work of Jesus, the Son of God!

In his book, AT THE MASTER’S FEET, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Christian missionary, imagines a conversation between a disciple and Jesus in which Jesus says:

The cross is the key to heaven. At the moment when by My baptism I took the cross upon My shoulders for the sake of sinners, heaven was opened, and by means of My thirty-three years bearing of the cross and by death upon it, heaven, which by reason of sin was closed to believers, was forever opened to them.

By Derrick Stokes
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Yes, You Do Have Time to Learn Apologetics

By Melissa Cain Travis

Whenever I was in graduate school studying for my M.A. in Science and Religion, I was often the recipient of wide-eyed stares and exclamations of, “How on earth do you have enough hours in the day?!” After all, I was running a household, homeschooling two elementary-age boys, teaching intermittently at church, and nurturing my marriage all while working on a graduate degree. Post-graduation, I’m able to look back on those 3-and-a-half years with no regret and so very much to be thankful for. I would like to take this bit of space to encourage other busy wives and mothers (and husbands and dads!) by describing how and why I managed all of those responsibilities. Most of you are not considering graduate education, but what you should at least be planning is how to fit more learning time into your life, so that you can love and glorify God with your mind.

Learn Apologetics

Make no mistake; I sacrificed some things. But those things pale in comparison to what I gained, both in value and longevity. I had to give up mindless entertainment, but it was replaced with the life-long discipline of worshiping God on an intellectual level. I socialized a lot less, but whenever I did meet up with friends, the time was intentional and well-spent in deep conversation that grew those relationships unlike anything else could. I learned the value of rising early and making the most of every hour, yet I never denied myself a full night’s rest or a minimum of a half day’s rest each week.

Did my family sacrifice? In some ways, they did. My children did not get to attend every play group, birthday party, or kids’ church function that came around, but we did go to those things occasionally. We still did fun things like movies and park outings, but I had to economize my time in advance. My husband (who, incidentally, is my biggest supporter and most ardent fan) would often run an errand for me after work and we’d eat takeout a couple (or three) times per week. But you know what? He never once complained. He understood perfectly why I was doing what I was doing, that I was fulfilling God’s call on my life and investing my time in an important way. I asked him recently if he mourned the fact that I spend more time in books than I do in the kitchen. He laughed, then assured me that I was exactly the type of woman he wanted to be married to and to have as the mother of his sons. He sees the eternal value in what I am modeling for our children and what I’ve equipped myself to teach them before they face the world on their own. It is true that I almost never bake cakes from scratch, and my house isn’t always immaculate, but I can teach my kids how to be confident in their faith, and to defend their beliefs and worldview in the face of inevitable challenges.

Now that I’m finished with my degree, I have found that the extra time that became available to me has been naturally filled with self-study, writing, and teaching. I do participate in more leisure and social activities, but I’m still very intentional about how I spend my time. One of my sons saw me reading one afternoon shortly after graduation and he said, “Mom, what are you doing? I thought you were done with school.” To which I responded, “Sweetie, school ends, but learning should be life-long.” As parents, our actions speak so much louder than words.

Honoring God and fulfilling the command to reach the world for Christ is a mission that requires knowledge, including a good foundation in apologetics. We must always be prepared to give the reasons for the hope that we have! Sometimes, it will be the educated skeptic that demands answers. To be sure, coming up short in such a situation does not glorify the Lord. It isn’t possible for everyone to be an expert, and surely God has a different plan for each of us. But it is possible for every Christian to develop the discipline of study and to work towards having the conversational and research skills necessary to be an effective ambassador both to the world and to their own children.

Are you at a complete loss for where to begin? How about the most central doctrine of Christianity–the Resurrection of Jesus? There are fantastic resources available to you. For beginners, I would suggest Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace. I would follow this with a basic and broad apologetics overview, such as Douglas Groothius’ book, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (don’t be put off by the page count; it’s actually a relatively quick read arranged by topic). Don’t have  a lot of time to sit and read? No problem! There are many excellent podcasts available through iTunes that you could listen to in the car or during exercise. I personally like to watch apologetics and theology videos on my iPad whenever I’m folding a mountain of laundry or unloading/reloading the dishwasher. I recommend the podcasts and videos available through http://www.str.org, http://www.reasonablefaith.org, http://www.johnlennox.org, http://www.idthefuture.com, and http://www.rzim.org. Additionally, Biola University has a large selection of lectures available for free through iTunesU. This is only a fraction of the resources out there.

Just imagine the difference it would make if you were to give up a mere three or four hours of entertainment per week and replace them with high quality apologetics and theology material. I challenge you to try it for one month. I can guarantee that you will never be the same! Worshiping God with your mind is rewarding in a way that intensifies one’s motivation for it. I think of it as the ultimate perpetual motion machine!

 

Visit Melissa’s Website >>Here<<


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5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids… and 5 Signs You’re Not

By Natasha Crain

Since my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side, came out in March, I’ve been blessed to receive 75 five-star reviews of it on Amazon. To all who have taken the time to leave those reviews, thank you! It means a lot!

In addition to those 75 reviews, I’ve also received 2 one-star reviews…from people who haven’t read the book.

One headline says, “How to brainwash and indoctrinate your child instead of letting him/her think for themselves [sic]”. This is followed by his review, which simply says, “This whole concept is a little upsetting to say the least.”

The other one-star review says, “If you don’t trust your children to follow your religion on their own (without constant reinforcing) then either you don’t trust in your kids or in your religion.”

Clearly, neither of these commenters have read the book and are simply rating the idea of doing something—anything—to “keep your kids on God’s side.” I probably receive at least one blog comment to that effect every week: If you’re raising your kids with a Christian worldview, it automatically means you’re forcing your religion on them.

This is, frankly, nonsense.

Let’s take a minute today and consider what “forcing” your religion—or atheism—on your kids would actually look like…and what it wouldn’t.

Forcing Religion Kids

5 Signs You’re Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have a blind faith, whether you realize it or not.

A blind faith is one where a person accepts certain beliefs without question. I’m pretty sure that if you asked most Christian parents if they want their kids to have such a faith, they’d answer with an emphatic, “No!” Theoretically, everyone wants their kids to have a faith more meaningful than that.

But what many parents don’t realize is that you can inadvertently raise your kids with a blind faith by encouraging them to “just believe” in Jesus.  Is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But it has a similar effect—it leads to kids having a faith that exists just because yours does.

Atheists who encourage their kids to reject God without question (because believing in God is just so ridiculous) are effectively doing the same thing.

 

2. You answer your kids’ questions about God with disapproval.

When kids ask questions about God, it’s the Christian parent’s privilege and responsibility to take the time to offer accurate and thoughtful answers. If your kids’ questions are met with disapproval, however, you’re teaching them that they should just accept what you believe for the sake of believing it. Again, is this a heavy-handed or malicious forcing of religion? No. But, again, it leads to kids having (some kind of) faith just because you do.

Atheists who are determined to make sure their kids don’t fall for the idea of God and show disapproval when their kids express interest in religion are guilty of the same thing.

 

3. You trivialize other worldviews.

I’ve heard far too many Christians condescendingly laugh at the idea of evolutionary theory, the fact that Mormons have special underwear, or that Muslims believe virgins are waiting in heaven for faithful martyrs. We don’t need to believe that every worldview is true (that’s not even possible), but we do need to make sure we don’t trivialize the beliefs of others by treating them as intellectually inferior. When we do, we’re effectively pushing our beliefs onto our kids by trying to make other beliefs look “small.” Instead of issuing snide remarks, we should be focused on teaching our kids to fairly evaluate the evidence for the truth of varying worldviews.

Atheists who teach their kids that Christianity is an absurd belief system for uneducated or gullible fools should take the same advice.

 

4. You threaten them with hell when they question the truth of Christianity.

If your gut reaction to a child expressing doubt about the truth of Christianity is something like, “You better not stop believing or you’re going to hell!”, you’re strong-arming them into belief.

Yes, hell is a reality spoken of repeatedly in the Bible. Yes, kids must understand that there is real judgment that awaits all people. But trying to make kids believe in Jesus out of fear won’t lead them to a true relationship with God. Parents should meet kids’ doubts with an open willingness to talk about questions…not with threats.

Atheists get a pass on this one since they don’t believe in hell.

 

5. You tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

This is what it would look like to literally try forcing your religion or atheism on your kids. Obviously, that’s not happening. But people will keep using the word forcing anyway.

 

And 5 Signs You’re NOT Forcing Your Religion (or Atheism) on Your Kids

 

1. You encourage them to have beliefs rooted in good reason and evidence.

The opposite of raising your kids with a blind faith is raising your kids with a faith that’s deeply rooted in good reason. It’s helping them discover the evidence for God in nature—things like the origin of the universe, the design of the universe and of living things, and the origin of morality. It’s helping them understand that all religions can’t point to the same truth. It’s helping them learn the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s helping them understand the intersection of faith and science. By teaching them why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true, you’re making sure their beliefs are their own and are not just being pushed onto them from you.

(All of these subjects are covered in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. If you need help discussing these things, please check it out!)

Atheists can do the same by not simply expecting their kids to reject God, and by talking about the actual evidence they believe points to an atheistic universe.

 

2. You not only invite your kids’ questions, you raise questions they haven’t even thought of.

Parents shouldn’t see themselves as a Q&A machine. We need to be able to answer our kids’ questions, but we also need to teach them about the questions others raise about Christianity. As I’ve said before, if our kids are someday shocked by the claims of skeptics, we didn’t do our job. By proactively sharing those challenges, we demonstrate that truth has nothing to fear and that we’re not “forcing” them to see only one side of the picture.

Atheists should do this as well, by sharing with their kids the challenges theists raise to their worldview.

 

3. You proactively teach them about other worldviews.

It’s one thing to share the challenges to Christianity with your kids (point 2, above). But it’s another thing to study worldviews in their entirety. For example, you might address the common atheist challenge that miracles aren’t possible, but that doesn’t give your kids a comprehensive understanding of what the atheist worldview is and what its implications are. It’s important that kids get that bigger picture for the major worldviews today so, once again, they never feel we’re forcing them to see only one perspective.

Atheists…you knew it was coming…should be doing this too. If atheist parents just nitpick at Christianity by teaching their kids random snippets of Christian belief and never take the time to offer a comprehensive picture of the Christian worldview, they’re just as guilty of passing on a one-sided perspective.

 

4. You deal with your kids’ doubts by helping them find meaningful answers to their questions.

Parents who address doubts by helping their kids find meaningful answers to their questions—rather than personally threatening them with eternal consequences—are giving their kids the tools they need to make their faith their own.

If atheists have kids who are doubting their atheism, they should equally work to address those questions rather than casually brushing them off.

 

5. You DON’T tie them down with ropes and repeatedly yell, “You will believe the way I do…OR ELSE!”

Ironically, given those one-star reviews, my book is all about why parents need to not push a blind faith onto their kids…and how to, instead, help them make their faith their own.

It definitely doesn’t suggest we should effectively or literally force religion upon our kids. No ropes. No yelling. No threats. Not even a one-sided presentation of Christianity.

But the claims will continue to come because too many people don’t stop to think about what it actually means to force religion on kids…and what it doesn’t.

Fortunately, I now have this post to share and help them out.  I’m sure they’ll be very grateful.


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Apologetics 101: Having an Argument for the Existence of God

By Melissa Cain Travis

The Scene: Monday morning, your cubicle at work. You’re enjoying the last of your Starbucks joy-in-a-cup while reading your emailed daily devotion. You’re the first one in to the office, so all is quiet.

<Sound of door opening and closing. Footsteps somewhere behind.>

Coworker Joe: Hey, how’s it going?

You: Oh, morning Joe. I’m well, how about you?

Joe: Hating that it’s already Monday. Ugh.

<Joe throws down his briefcase and car keys in the next cubicle over, wheels his desk chair over to yours, and slurps his coffee noisily>

Joe: You’re not working already, are you? It’s not 9 yet.

You: No, I was just having some quiet time, reading a little devotional before it gets crazy in here.

Joe: What’s a devotional?

You: Oh…well…it’s like a mini Bible study type of thing. It has a few verses of scripture with a short commentary.

Joe: Hum. Here’s the only “devotional” you really need: Life is short. Party a lot, ’cause eventually you die. That’s it. I don’t buy into the whole God-business.

You: Oh. Why is that, Joe?

Joe: I’m a realist. If modern science ever proves there’s a God, I’ll rethink things. I don’t trust an old book that’s been re-copied and changed over thousands of years. Don’t get me wrong; if it makes you feel better to believe it, I say good for you. But it’s not for me.

You: Uh…okay…well…hmmm… So, how about those Cowboys yesterday?

<Fade to black.>

Apologetics 101

Ever found yourself in a scenario similar to this one? I have, multiple times over the course of my adult life. Like the character in the above dialogue, I failed. Miserably. I can still recall the names and faces of all the “Coworker Joes” that came and went in my life before I left my career to be home with my children during their preschool years. It is the haunting memory of my failures to give a reasoned response to those who sneered at my faith that eventually led me into what I believe to be my calling in apologetics education. At this point, I can only pray for those that crossed my path in years past, but my mission in life now is to make sure I’m better equipped and to encourage and empower others to equip themselves.

What I didn’t know way back when, and what you may not know now, is that there are excellent answers we can give to skeptics who don’t believe the Bible to be true (much less divinely inspired) about the existence of God. In this post, I’d like to focus specifically on one easy-to-learn argument that you can use in most any circumstance. (In a future post, I’ll present another stand-alone yet supplementary argument.)

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The overwhelming scientific consensus about the origin of our universe is that it is not eternal. In other words, it came into existence at some time in the past and is moving towards an ultimate end at some point in the future. There are several lines of evidence from astrophysics that make an excellent case for this. For example, we know from Edwin Hubble’s work that our universe is in a state of continual expansion, with the galaxies moving away from one another at a high rate of speed. In efforts to explain how our universe was first born, the event popularly known as the Big Bang, scientist have extrapolated backwards to estimate what triggered this Bang and what exactly went “bang.” The predominant view is that prior to the Bang there existed a tiny point of infinite heat and density known as the Singularity. Outside of this Singularity, there was no matter,  no space and no time. Nothing. Then, the Singularity exploded (for some reason) and expanded into our universe.

Basically, it is important to know that scientific consensus says that the universe had a beginning in the finite past. There have been multiple attempts to construct a theory that circumvents the idea of an ultimate beginning of the universe. Suffice it to say that those theories are problematic, highly speculative, and not often (if ever) endorsed by leading astrophysicists. For further reading on this, see Paul Copan and William Lane Craig’s book, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration.

Okay, so the universe (therefore all matter, space, and time) had a definite beginning. How, you may ask, does this get me anywhere with atheist Coworker Joe?

Enter: the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

1. Whatever comes into existence has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

The big problem for a naturalistic explanation of the primordial singularity and the Big Bang is that the known laws of physical science don’t apply in a realm devoid of matter, space, or time. What we do know from experience is that nothing comes into existence out of nothing. William Lane Craig says, “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quit doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic” (Reasonable Faith, p. 111).

From this, it is reasonable to deduce that there was, by necessity, a Creator of the Singularity and a Cause of the universe’s expansion out of that point. This Cause has to have existed eternally (without need for its own creator), outside of space and time, and have the power to choose to act with creative, causal intention. The only type of cause that meets these requirements is Mind; an omniscient, omnipotent, disembodied Mind; what we refer to as…

GOD.

Visit Melissa’s blog at www.hcchristian.wordpress.com


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11 Objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument

By Randy Everist

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the most popular cosmological arguments around today. The argument is fairly straightforward and enjoys intuitive support. It goes like this: “Whatever begins to exist had a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore, the universe had a cause.” The argument has several common objections, and eleven of them are listed here, along with some of my comments. I believe each objection can be satisfactorily answered so that one is justified in accepting the KCA.

objections kalam

1. “Something cannot come from nothing” is disproved by quantum mechanics.

Answer: This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the claim. The claim of the first premise is “whatever begins to exist had a cause.” It’s often demonstrated by listing the causal principle “something cannot come from nothing,” or ex nihilo, nihilo fit. Quantum mechanics does not in fact posit something coming from nothing, but rather things coming from the quantum vacuum–which is not “nothing.”

2. Truth cannot be discovered wholly from reason.

Answer: It’s true that one needs some level of empiricism in order to judge many things. However, one absolutely needs reason to judge all things. I just don’t see how this is an objection against arguments, for it must use reasoning (of some metaphysically-ultimate sort, even if it’s a brute fact) in order to tell us reason doesn’t tell us the whole story. Well, how will we know if the reasoning behind this claim is telling us the whole story? The answer: because this is the kind of claim that can be reasoned out. The KCA is just such an argument, by its very nature.

3. Some truths are counterintuitive, and therefore intuition cannot be a guide to truth.

Answer: This is a classic non-sequitur, on par with “some people have incorrect thoughts, therefore thoughts cannot be a reliable guide for truth.” The point is this: why should I doubt my intuition because someone else got theirs wrong? Indeed, why should I doubt my own intuitions even if I have been wrong in the past? I mean, if I am insane or intuiting on things I have frequently been incorrect on, or if there are necessary or empirical truths that overcome my intuition, or even if I have a competing intuition that I hold stronger than the original, then fine: I should abandon it. But otherwise, rational intuition is at the very core of reasoning. It is said that by rational intuition, we mean the way we know “if X, then Y; X; Therefore, Y” is true. Therefore, it may be argued that not only is jettisoning intuition wholesale unjustified, but actually irrational (by definition). “But wait!” I can hear one protest. “Just because you intuit this doesn’t mean I do.” Fair enough. But since I do, I am free to accept the ramifications, unless one of the conditions for jettisoning an intuition apply. In fact, we ought to accept our intuitions in the absence of these undercutters or defeaters, unless there is some reason to suspect our cognitive function is impaired.

4. Since science is not itself a metaphysical enterprise, the arguer cannot apply science to a metaphysical argument.

Answer: That science is not a metaphysical enterprise is, I think, absolutely correct. However, it does not therefore follow that science cannot be employed in a metaphysical claim. This is somewhat akin to claiming philosophy and science don’t mix, which is surely impossible (how can anyone come to a scientific claim or know anything without applying reasoning to what has been observed?). The KCA does not have science itself do the metaphysical work; rather, it simply uses the best and most current science to show that the universe most likely had a finite beginning and does not avoid it. It’s then the philosophy that takes over given this.

5. The first cause is logically incoherent because it existed “before” time.

Answer: First, it should be noted that this is not an objection to either premise, and thus one could claim this and still believe the universe had a cause. Second, the foremost proponent of the KCA, William Lane Craig, points out that the First Cause need not be in existence before time, as there is a first moment–the incoherence runs both ways. So what we have is a timeless, unchanging (because it is timeless) First Cause whose first act is bringing the world into existence. If the objector wants to insist this is impossible because the First Cause existed before time, he must remember that positing a moment before time began is incoherent, so his objection cannot get off the ground. The first moment is itself identical with the first act of bringing the universe into existence.

6. If some metaphysical truth is not well-established, one is unjustified in saying it is true.

Answer: It’s difficult to know what is meant by “well-established,” but it seems to mean something like “gained wide acceptance among philosophers.” But that’s a fairly poor way of evaluating an argument: a poll! Sure, philosophers are more likely than your average person to be able to evaluate the argument properly, but let’s not pretend this is the only way to discover truth. Moreover, this is an impossible epistemology. If no one is justified in believing some metaphysical claim to be true unless a majority of philosophers accept it, then either no such majority will exist (because the vast majority will stick with this claim) or if such a majority exists it will be a “tipsy coachman” kind of group (where they are right for the wrong reasons). Surely this is a poor epistemology.

7. There could be other deities besides the Christian God.

Answer: Again, it must be noted that this is not an objection to either premise and hence not the conclusion. It is an objection to the application of the conclusion. However, it must be noted that the KCA is an argument for natural theology, not revealed theology (cf. Charles Taliaferro, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, ch. 1). It is not the domain of natural theology to discuss, explicitly, the Christian God. Of course, we Christians happen to believe this being is identical to the Christian God ontologically. However, let’s take a look at some of the properties: timeless, spaceless, changeless (logically prior to the Big Bang), immensely powerful, and the creator of the universe. Hmm, sounds far more like the God of Christian theology and the Bible than any of the other alternatives, doesn’t it?

8. There are non-theistic explanations that remain live possibilities.

Answer: This objection attempts to state that although the universe had a beginning, some non-theistic explanation is just as possible (or even probable) as God. The multiverse, aliens, whatever. However, most of these examples (such as a multiverse) can really best be described as objections to the second premise, not the application of the conclusion. The multiverse, for instance, really doesn’t solve the problem, but merely places it back one step. One may reply the multiverse could be identical with Lewis’ plurality of worlds, so that every logically-possible world actually exists, and it was impossible that any such possible world fail to exist. However, this is extremely ad hoc, and there is literally no reason to believe that if there is a multiverse, it is as complete as Lewis claimed (in fact, there’s decent reason to believe such a state of affairs is impossible if identity across worlds holds).

9. Popular-level science teaches the universe had a beginning, but someone says the real science shows it doesn’t.

Answer: This is a bit of an odd claim. We aren’t given any argument as to why it’s really the case that a potentially-successful model for the beginning of the universe shows no finite beginning. We’re simply to take someone’s word for it, when we actually have physicists and scientists admitting these theories don’t work.

10. The KCA relies entirely on current science, and science can change.

Answer: It’s very true that science is changing, and any claim should be held tentatively (even gravity–seems dubious though, right?). However, two points remain. First, simply because some claim remains open to change does not mean that claim cannot be accepted as true. It seems bizarre to say that because some claim is in the purview of science, one should not claim it as true. Of course we can claim it is true! Second, the KCA does not rely entirely on science. In fact, the second premise (“the universe began to exist”) can be defended solely on rational argumentation. One may think these arguments fail, but to claim the KCA rests almost wholly on the science demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the basic defenses of the KCA’s premises.

11. There is some problem of infinite regress of a first cause.

Answer: Presumably, this is the “Who created God?” problem (I can’t for the life of me think of any other problem). I don’t see why this is a problem, given the formulation of the argument. “Whatever begins to exist had a cause.” God did not begin to exist. “Ad hoc!” one might cry. But they would be mistaken. There is a very good reason for stating this. The application of the conclusion demands that the First Cause precede, logically, all else. The First Cause’s act of bringing the universe into existence is the first moment. Hence, if the First Cause was not really the first cause after all, then the first moment of time would already have existed. But it did not exist. Hence, the First Cause was the first.

Each objection has been dealt with by providing an answer. This means that each Christian, and each person, is rationally justified in accepting the KCA. If that is true, then it seems that the KCA’s truth implies God–not just any God, but the God of the Bible!

 

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Rapid Response: “Did Jesus Think Jesus Was God?”

In our Rapid Response series, we tackle common concerns about (and objections to) the Christian worldview by providing short, conversational responses. These posts are designed to model what our answers might look like in a one-on-one setting, while talking to a friend or family member. What would you say if someone said, “I’ve read some of the Bible and I can’t find a place where Jesus actually said, ‘I am God’. I’m not even sure Jesus thought he was God.” Here is a conversational example of how I recently responded to this statement:

Did Jesus Think Jesus Was God

“You know, this is one of the claims I used to make with the Christians I knew because I wasn’t a careful reader of scripture. It wasn’t really until I started to use my expertise in forensic statement analysis (where we look at every little word a suspect says, his use of pronouns, how he introduces things and how he describes people), that I started to see things I used to miss. But you don’t have to be an expert in Statement Analysis to read between the lines of Scripture. In fact, anyone can do this by carefully reading the Bible.

Let me give you an example: When I first looked at the gospels and the Old Testament, I noticed the stark contrast between Old Testament prophets (I don’t care if it’s Ezekiel, or Isaiah, or if it’s a minor prophet like Amos), all these prophets in the Old Testament, when announcing a truth claim from God, would say, “Thus the Lord Almighty says” or “The Lord God says” or, they would always announce that this information is coming from the Lord Almighty.

But Jesus never ever did that. There’s not a single time you’ll find him in the gospels saying, “The Lord Almighty says.” Instead he’ll say something, at least in the King James, “Verily, verily, I say to you” or in the NASB, “I tell you the truth.” Jesus never says, “God says this.” Instead, Jesus says, “I am telling you this.” Think about that for a minute. The people who heard Jesus in the 1st Century were accustomed to the prophets in every generation announcing a proclamation from God as “Thus the Lord God Almighty says to you.” When they heard Jesus proclaim, “I say this to you,” they understood what he meant. Jesus’ words gave him away. Even if you didn’t have a direct claim from Jesus where he said, “Hey, by the way guys, I’m God,” he used statements that included personal pronoun use indicating that he considered Himself to be God. He never felt compelled to say, “God’s telling you this.” Instead, he said, “I’m telling you this.” Jesus understood himself to be the God of the universe, the Being who created everything.”

This brief answer was modified from my interview with Bobby Conway. To learn more and watch many other short answers to difficult questions, please visit the One-Minute Apologist website.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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