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.

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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
Theologetics.org

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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.


Visit Natasha’s Website @ www.ChristianMomThoughts.com 

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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How Did Christianity Prevail in Ancient Rome and What Can We Learn from It?

What was unique about Christian practices and teachings in the first three centuries of the church? And how did such a minority faith—which was considered irrelevant, extreme, and at odd with the role “religion” is supposed to play in a pagan society—ultimately prevail? In his recent book Destroyer of the gods, New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado focuses on the first of these questions. But his book also has powerful implications for the second.

Christianity Prevail in Ancient Rome

Hurtado explains how Christianity was viewed by pagans in ancient Rome: “In the eyes of many of that time, early Christianity was odd, bizarre, and in some ways even dangerous. For one thing, it did not fit with what ‘religion’ was for people then. Indicative of this, Roman-era critics designated it as a perverse ‘superstition.’”[1]

Interestingly, this is not too dissimilar from charges that are increasingly being raised against Christians today who refuse to embrace the progressive sexual agenda.

Although Christians in the early church aimed to be good citizens, and to show due respect and care for both their neighbors and the State (as Christians do today), their beliefs in Jesus as the one true God put them at odds with the prevailing culture (as Christian beliefs and practices increasingly do in our secular culture today).

In fact, as Hurtado observes, Christian beliefs were even considered more problematic to Rome than Jewish beliefs. How so? While Jews also refused to honor pagan deities, there is little evidence Roman-era Jews aimed to persuade the masses to abandon their gods. And yet this is exactly what Christians did. In other words, Christians were often allowed to hold Christian beliefs in private, but should expect to sacrifice those beliefs when they enter the public arena. Sound familiar? Chuck Colson saw this coming years ago.

Roman authorities had little problem that Christians worshipped Jesus as God. Their problem, however, was that Christians refused to worship other deities. While Christians considered worshipping pagan deities idolatry, Romans considered such behavior defiance to the state. Jews were often excused since their behavior could be “chalked up” as a matter of national peculiarity. But Christians could not appeal to any such ethnic privilege. As a result of their refusal to worship the pagan deities, Christians experienced popular abuse, intellectual condemnation, and persecution on a local and (eventually) statewide level. And yet, amazingly, Christianity prevailed.

There are many factors that can help explain the growth of Christianity. But as Hurtado points out in Destroyer of the gods, Christian distinctives must be taken into consideration as a piece of the puzzle. Consider a few Christian distinctives, which are often taken for granted today:

  • When people worship God, Christians claimed they should withdraw from worshipping the gods of their families, cities, and peoples. The exclusivist stance of Christianity was so offensive that Christians were often labeled “atheists.”
  • Christians emphasized that there is one transcendent God who passionately loves his people and can be related to personally. Pagans often spoke of the love of gods toward humans in terms of philia, which indicates friendship. But Christians spoke of God with the Greek term agapē, which connotes a deep love and firm commitment to the one loved.
  • Christianity was a “bookish” religion. Like Jews, Christians read Scripture publicly, produced voluminous numbers of texts, and committed remarkable resources to copying and disseminating them widely. In fact, in their eagerness to disseminate Scripture, Christians were at the leading edge of book technology of the second and third centuries.
  • Christianity uniquely linked religious beliefs with ethical living. As a result, Christians were on the leading edge of overturning popular practices in ancient Rome such as infant exposure, gladiator battles, sexual abuse of children, and sexual perversity. Christians uniquely called men to the same kind of sexual loyalty demanded of women.
  • Christianity was uniquely diverse. In ancient Rome, there was social stratification between men and women, slaves and free, rich and poor. But Christians began with assemblies that were diverse in gender, age, and social status. Even the least important members of Roman society, such as women and slaves, were considered equal members in the church.

There are many other Christian distinctives in the first century, but if you want to read them, you’re going to have to check out Destroyer of the gods. If you are interested in comparative religion or the ancient roots of Christianity, and how this may apply to the Christian faith today, you will thoroughly enjoy the book.

In particular, there are two aspects that I most appreciated about Destroyer of the gods. First, Hurtado shows Christianity is not just like any other religion. There are unique beliefs and practices that we can proudly embrace as modern Christians. In an age when Christianity is often condemned as harmful and poisonous, Destroyer of the gods is a reminder that Christianity was on the positive edge of cultural change in ancient times.

Second, Christianity ultimately prevailed over the pagan culture that it was birthed in. Modern critics often claim that Christians are on the “wrong side of history” for not embracing modern sexual norms. Undoubtedly, these critics would make the same charge if they were writing in the first couple centuries of the church. And yet they could not have been more wrong. Christian teachings are not only true, but they are in the best interest of individuals, families, and the state.

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.


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[1] Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the gods (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 2-3.

Rapid Response: Who Created 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 asked, “If you think God created everything, who created God?” Here is a conversational example of how I recently answered this question:

Who Created God

“Well, when you work criminal investigations, you’re always looking for the ultimate cause of any crime. So, in the end that, that person who is the cause of this crime is the suspect you’re trying to identify. So I understand the impulse people have when they ask this question.

But I want to offer this: even as an atheist (I wasn’t a theist until I was 35), all of us are looking for the first ‘un-caused cause’. So if I’m an atheist today who believes in a primordial, quantum vacuum from which our universe came into existence, I would be offering the vacuum as the eternal ‘un-caused cause’. All of us believe in an eternal ‘un-caused cause.’ Theists aren’t the only people who ae arguing for this. The only question is: is the uncaused, first cause of the universe personal or impersonal?

As a Christian, I obviously believe the cause of the universe is personal: God. And as a Christian, I hold a very particular definition of God. He is the un-caused creator of the universe. So, to ask a silly question like, “Who caused the un-caused creator of the Universe” is a bit silly. He is uncaused by definition. And once, again, all of us have the same dilemma. Whether you’re an atheists or a theist, you are looking for the first, un-caused cause of the universe. I would simply argue that, given the nature of our universe (the appearance of design in the universe and in biology, the existence of humans who have minds and free-agency, and the existence of transcendent, objective moral obligations), the best and most reasonable inference for this cause is God.

So, I do think, in the end, the choice is clear. Is the first uncaused, cause of the universe personal or impersonal? If it’s a personal cause, then we’re stuck with a Being very similar to what we see described in the scripture as God. A transcendent, non-spatial, immaterial, a-temporal, intelligent Being who is responsible for the fine-tuning of the universe, the origin of life, the appearance of design, the existence of mind and free-agency and the source of all transcendent, moral obligations. That’s why I believe Christianity is true, and that why I reject the idea that the un-caused, first cause of the universe is something other than a personal God.”

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 Christianity,Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.


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Tetragrammaton And Jehovah’s Witnesses

By Prayson Daniel

Unwarrantedly Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee added “Jehovah” in 237 places in New Testament. By doing so, New World Translation (NWT), Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible, blurs many passages that depicts Christ Jesus as Lord (Kyrios) of Old Testament.

Tetragrammaton And Jehovah's Witnesses

In Journal of Biblical Literature, Kurt Aland showed that the Tetragrammaton, YHWH, does not appear in any of the 5,255 known New Testament Greek manuscripts (Aland 1968: 184). The Tetragrammaton is also absent in the writing of the early Christians. For example, Clement’s epistle to the Corinthians written ca. 100 A.D quoted Joshua 2 cf. Heb. 11:31(“I[Rahab] know assuredly that the Lord(“κύριος”) your God hath given you this city […](1 Clement 12), Ezekiel 33:11 “For as I live, said the Lord (Ky′ri·os), I do not desire the death of the sinner so much as his repentance”.(1 Clement 8). NWT’s unwarrantedly added “Jehovah” in front of “Lord”.

In the same period, the author of the epistle of Barnabas quoted Exodus 24:18, 31:18, 32:7; Deut. 9:12. and Isa. 42:,6-7, 61:1- 2 in just chapter fourteen and in all times he used “κύριος”(Lord) . While years later Irenaeus quoted Matthew 1:20; 4:10, Romans 11:34, and Acts 2: 25 in Against Heresies using “Lord” and not “Jehovah”, contrary to Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee. Both Philo and Josephus, like New Testament writers and early Christians, probably used the complete Septuagint (LXX ) which had “κύριος”(Lord). Some of older fragments of LXX do contain the tetragrammaton while others simply had blank spaces in place of the tetragrammation (e.g. Papyrus Rylands 458 )

Even though Watch Tower Society do know as entailed by their own question , viz., “[w]hy, then, is the name absent from the extant manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures or so-called “New Testament”?”(Watchtower 1971: 887) that the tetragammaton does not appear in any known Greek manuscripts, they, without warrant, press forward and reject the use of Kyrios (Lord) in 5000+ Greek manuscripts dating from 2rd century and early Christians’ writings as corrupted. Watch Tower Society found their support, that New Testament must have had tetragammation, in 25 Hebrew J Versions of the Bible and 2 non-version (J1 to J27), the translations of New Testaments into Hebrew , which came to scene earliest late 14th century onwards

New World Translation translators should be commend for restoring the tetragrammation in Hebrews Scriptures(Old Testament) but I think from their own reasoning which is in a form of a question and answer, namely:

How is a modern translator to know or determine when to render the Greek words κύριος and θεός into the divine name in his version? By determining where the inspired Christian writers have quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. Then he must refer back to the original to locate whether the divine name appears there.(Watchtower 1969: 18-19)

With the use of Lord and not YHWH (tetragrammaton) in all known copies of copies of originals (since historians have no surviving original or copies of originals) of New Testaments Greek manuscripts, contrary to Watch Tower’s Society, adding of thetetragrammaton in New Testament would not be restoration of God’s name but distorting and blurring the author’s meaning.

Blurring of 1 Corinthians 10:9: Who Is Put To The Test?

One of the passage which I believe Watchtower Society’s Translation Committee blurs with this maneuver is 1 Corinthians 10:9: “Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put [him] to the test, only to perish by the serpents.”(NWT). With this move Jehovah’s Witnesses are led to believe that it is Jehovah the Father that the Israelites put to test and not Christ Jesus who is the rock to which Israelites drank a spiritual drink (v4).

Faithfully Watchtower Society’s translators added a footnote in their translation of this verse. They explained that “Jehovah” appears in Hebrews J Versions of the Bible 18, 22and 23, while Codex Sinaiticus(א), and Vatican ms 1209(B) both of 4th century and Codex Ephraemi rescriptus(C) of 5th century have ton Ky′ri·on (Lord), Papyrus 46 of 3rd century and Bezae Codices(D) of 5th and 6th century have “the Christ” and last Codex Alexandrinus(A), of 5th century has “God.”

“On closer examination,” The NET Bible Bible First Edition Notes explained, “the variants appear to be intentional changed.”

Alexandrian scribes replaced the highly specific term “Christ” with the less specific terms “Lord” and “God” because in the context it seems to be anachronistic to speak of the exodus generation putting Christ to the test. If the original had been “Lord,” it seems unlikely that a scribe would have willingly created a difficulty by substituting the more specific “Christ.”(Biblical Studies Press 2006)

They argued that scribes were likely “to assimilate the word “Christ” to “Lord” in conformity with Deut 6:16 or other passages”.

The evidence from the early church regarding the reading of this verse is rather compelling in favor of “Christ.” Marcion, a second-century, anti-Jewish heretic, would naturally have opposed any reference to Christ in historical involvement with Israel, because he thought of the Creator God of the OT as inherently evil. In spite of this strong prejudice, though, {Marcion} read a text with “Christ.” Other early church writers attest to the presence of the word “Christ,” including {Clement of Alexandria} and Origen.(ibid)

If The NET Bible First Edition Notes is correct, which I believe it is, then Watch Tower Bible translators blurred 1 Cor. 10:9 that depicts Christ Jesus as the Yahweh of the Old Testament by selectively embracing a late 14th century J version of the Bible when convenient. Watch Tower Society ignored places in J versions, for example J14’s reading of 1 Corinthians 12:3, “[…] no one can say “Jesus is Lord Jehovah, except by the Holy Spirit.” and J7 and J8’s reading of Hebrew 1:10; J13 , J14 and J20’s reading of 1 Peter 2:3 which all applied the tetragrammaton to Jesus.

Question To Jehovah’s Witnesses: If the name “Jehovah” was changed to “Lord” in all 5000+ Greek manuscripts ranging from 2nd century, why don’t we have even a single early manuscripts with “Jehovah” nor do the first Christians make use of it?

Note: >> Scroll all the way down to get a Free Resource << To know more about NT Greek Manuscripts, here is a table with a name of a manuscript, its branch, category, content and location arranged by date.

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Bibliography:

Aland, Kurt (1968). Greek New Testament: its present and future editions. Journal of Biblical Literature 87.2: 179-186.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Co 10:9). Biblical Studies Press.

Watchtower Society (1969) Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

____________________ (1971) Aid To Bible Understanding. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

_____________________ (1984) New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures – With References. Rendered from the Original Languages by the New World Bible Translation Committee. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

______________________ (1989) Reasoning From the Scripture. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Brooklyn, New York.

Genocide and the God of the Old Testament

By JC Lamont

Many people take issue with the idea that God commanded the Jewish nation to initiate war against the Canaanites, ordering them to wipe them out and take their land for their own. Not only have some people rejected Christianity over this, but it has even spurred some Christians to leave the faith. Are the critics of the Old Testament and Christianity in general correct when they accuse God of genocide and of slaughtering those who don’t worship Him? How do we as apologists reconcile the God of love with an alleged religious bigot and racist ethnic cleanser?

Genocide God

In researching my book, Prophecy of the Heir, a literary apologetics novel that spans the entire Old Testament through angelic and demonic eyes, I discovered what I believe is a sound defense for God’s actions, which I hope will help those who struggle with this subject matter.

1. 400 Years to Repent

In Genesis 15:13 and 16, when God promises Abraham that He will give the land of Canaan to his descendants, He informs him that it will not take place for another 400 years because their sins “do not yet warrant their destruction.”

What sins was God referring to? History indicates that child sacrifice was rampant in Canaan. Years later, when the Israelites were in the land and began worshipping false gods, it was not until they started sacrificing their children that God sent the Babylonians to take them captive. When it comes to the murder of the innocents, God does not spare even His own people. Why should it come as a surprise then that He would punish the Canaanites for the same crime?

We don’t hear of complaints against God concerning the destruction of Nineveh, the people of whom were given only 3 days to repent, because they were spared due to “turn(ing) from their evil ways and stop(ping) all their violence (Jonah 3:7-10). Note that it doesn’t say they destroyed their idols, or converted to worship of Yahweh. It merely states they were spared judgment for halting their violence. They were never threatened punishment for worshiping false gods.

Why did God give the Canaanites so long to repent? Evidently, He had no desire to wipe them out, and hoped that future generations would stop the violent atrocities learned from their parents. And it should be noted that he warned Abraham that during those 400 years, He would allow His own people to be enslaved (subjected to maltreatment, labor death-camp conditions, and infanticide). It should be noted the similarities in the life of Christ, that God loved those “who were yet sinners” so much that He would allow His own Son to suffer in the hope that mankind would repent.

2. Prophet

Nineveh had the prophet Jonah to warn them, but whom did the Canaanites have? In the heart of Canaan was the city Salem, and its king was Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High (Gen 14:18). Though we know little of Melchizedek, many biblical historians have speculated that He was Noah’s son Shem. If this is the case, the Canaanites were contemporaries with one who had lived in the pre-flood world, who witness firsthand the atrocities of the Nephilim and God’s punishment against the violence that had saturated the world. But regardless of who he was, as king, it is inconceivable that He had little influence in the Canaanite cities surrounding his own, and as the first known priest of God, it is equally doubtful that he did not exhort the peoples around him to forsake violence and child-sacrifice, and to turn to God.

3. Sodom and Gomorrah

Whereas Nineveh was a city that was spared God’s judgment, Sodom and Gomorrah were not. As Sodom and Gomorrah were part of Canaan, why were they not given the same 400 years to repent as the rest of Canaan? In Genesis 18:20-21, God tells Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

Many critics are quick to point out that this “flagrant sin” was homosexuality, and that this passage is proof of God’s homophobia. However, nowhere in the Bible does it say that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexuality. In fact, Ezekiel 16:49-50 cites exactly why God destroyed these cities: “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door. She was proud and committed detestable sins, so I wiped her out, as you have seen.”

Though “detestable sins” is not specific (and other translations use the word abominations), the only mention of homosexual behavior in connection to Sodom was the attempted homosexual gang-rape of the two angels searching for enough righteous people in the cities to spare them from judgment. And once again, nowhere in the list of their sins was the worship of false gods.

So why were these cities not given the same 400 years to repent? Perhaps He feared their “flagrant sins” would hold more sway over the other Canaanite cities than Melchizedek’s influence. By eliminating them, He intervened in the course of human history and stacked the odds in the favor of Canaanite repenting.

4. Fire and Brimstone versus War

Would people take as much issue with God if he specifically mentioned He was punishing the Canaanites for child-sacrifice, and had “rained down fire and brimstone” on them rather than using war as his tool of judgment?

It is very possible they would not, and Moses even accosts the Israelites about just that in Deuteronomy 9:4-6: “After the LORD your God has done this for you (given you the land of Canaan), don’t say in your hearts, ‘The LORD has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No, it is because of the wickedness of the other nations that he is pushing them out of your way. It is not because you are so good or have such integrity that you are about to occupy their land. The LORD your God will drive these nations out ahead of you only because of their wickedness, and to fulfill the oath he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You must recognize that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.”

5. Prisoners of War

As an aside, I would like to briefly mention God’s treatment of war when not as a course of punishment but as an inevitable action of mankind. In 2 Kings 6:22, an army that had repeatedly raided towns and villages of Israel, killing men, women, and children, sought to kill the prophet Elisha. When they were apprehended, the King of Israel asked Elisha if they should be executed. The prophet’s response? “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

In closing, I hope to have shown reasonable evidence that the destruction of the Canaanites had nothing to do with religious bigotry or ethnic cleansing, and that at every turn, God sought ways to spare them as He did with Nineveh, Sodom, and Gomorrah.

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An Open Question to Presuppositionalists

By Spencer Toy

I’ve recently been listening to a number of the Reformed critiques of Andy Stanley and the defense of him that Frank Turek posted here at Cross Examined. While I believe that some of these criticisms have merit, I believe there is a major problem with the Presuppositional Apologetic method and would like to pose that problem to all those who would consider themselves to be Presuppositionalists.

Presuppositionalists

Before I begin, let me state clearly that while I am not a Calvinist or a Presuppositionalist it is my honest desire to know the truth as God has revealed it in Scripture and follow the evidence wherever it leads. I know I am not always right and will respond to correction if I can be shown to be in error. I also do not want to misrepresent the views of Calvinists/Presuppositionalists in any way. I encourage anyone who disagrees with me to express their disagreement.

That being said, It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

In addition, the Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty entails that God causally ordains all things that come to pass. There is no sense in which God merely “permits” things to occur. Everything that comes to pass, to include the unbelief of the reprobate, comes to pass because in so happening God will bring the most glory to Himself.

Here in lies a problem I don’t believe the Presuppositionalist will be able to get out of. Obviously, I understand that the Calvinist believes that God ordains means as well as ends. He has not revealed the content of His Divine Decree to us and therefore we are only accountable to what He has revealed in Scripture (i.e. preaching the Gospel to everyone since we are commanded to and we do not know the identities of the elect). Still, while an understanding of this may lead to a Calvinist carefully weighing the decisions he makes in the future, he still must acknowledge that all events in the past have occurred the way they did due to the Sovereign Decree of God.

This being said, I would like you to consider someone like Dr. Frank Turek who is not a Calvinist and uses the Classical Apologetics method. Based on the admission of Reformed theologians themselves, it seems to me that a Calvinist has to believe that ultimately the reason that Dr. Turek is in error regarding God’s Sovereignty and the proper apologetic method is because God has not granted it to him to understand these things. Just as the reprobate man’s fallen reason can never lead him to God, neither can Dr. Turek’s reason lead him to the truth of Reformed theology unless and until the Holy Spirit grants it to him to understand it. If Dr. Turek persists in his error, he does so only because God has sovereignly determined before the foundation of the world that he would be in error, for through Dr. Turek’s theological errors God will bring the most glory to Himself. 

To illustrate this, consider this quote that Dr. James White made on his program The Dividing Line (September 8th, 2016). Speaking to fellow Calvinists with regards to addressing those who do not embrace Calvinism/Presuppositional Apologetics, White said, “You don’t know what their level of knowledge is, and you don’t know what God’s purpose is having not yet given to them an understanding of His Sovereignty. It’s up to God.”

Now once again, I’m sure that Calvinists will quickly respond, “But we don’t know the content of God’s Sovereign Decree! It is our responsibility to preach the truth through a proper exegesis of Scripture in hopes that God will use it as a means by which He will reveal the truth to Dr. Turek and others who do not embrace the truth of Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics!”

Yes and I believe I understand that response, but I’d like to illustrate the problems of this response with a hypothetical dialogue between a Classical Apologist (CA) and a Presuppostional Apologist (PA). I understand that not every Presuppositional Apologist will give answers exactly like the ones I list here, but I have based all the hypothetical answers on statements made by Presuppositionalists in defense of their theology and methodology.

CA: “How do you know that the conclusions you’ve drawn about Reformed theology and Presuppositional Apologetics are correct?”

PA: “Because a proper exegesis of Scripture inevitably leads one to accept Reformed theology and its implications. I am prepared to demonstrate this directly from the pages of God’s Word.”

CA: “But I’m using the exact same Scriptures as you are and I don’t draw the same conclusions as you. How do you know that your exegesis of Scripture is correct?”

PA: “Like I said, I can demonstrate it. When you read the passages of Scripture in context with the proper historical and grammatical understanding, you’ll see that Reformed theology necessarily follows.”

CA: “In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”

PA: “Of course our human reasoning is fallen. That’s why the Holy Spirit has to reveal the truth to us. I can know that my exegesis is correct because I begin epistemologically with God. Having put my faith in God thanks to the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, I can be confident that God has revealed the truth to me.”

CA: “But tell me this. Hypothetically speaking let’s say that God wanted you to be in error about some aspect of theology. He still elected to save you, but He knew that if you believed and taught this theological error to others, somehow in the grand scheme of His Divine Decree He would bring the most glory to Himself. Would it be possible for you to reach the truth assuming that God had decreed for you to remain in error?”

PA: “Well no. God’s Divine Decree cannot be resisted. Everything that happens in the universe ultimately occurs according to God’s decree in order that He might glorify Himself.”

CA: “But if that’s the case how could you ever confidently know that anything you believe is true? I suspect you’ll say because God has revealed it to you, but that would just be arguing in a circle. You just admitted that if God wants someone to be in error then they will certainly be in error, including me and including you! How can you know that what God has revealed to you isn’t an error so that He can bring more glory to Himself by your being incorrect?”

I have asked this question to Calvinists before and never received an answer with any more substance than, “You just don’t understand Calvinism!” or “It’s more diamond shaped than that!”

This I think truly exposes the fatal flaw of the Calvinist’s embrace of Divine determinism. As William Lane Craig has stated, once a person embraces determinism of any sort a strange vertigo sets in. One very well may believe true things, but only because they’ve already been determined to believe those things just as much as their opponents have been determined to believe false things. In such a system, nothing can be rationally affirmed.

I know that there is more to be discussed, but I don’t believe it is helpful at this point to simply appeal to the Scriptures that a Calvinist would use to defend their view of Divine determinism. Doing so would presume that you are engaging in proper exegesis, which can’t be the case if you are relying on fallen reasoning capabilities and can’t be rationally affirmed if you are relying on God to have revealed the truth to you. Simply put, it is impossible to begin epistemologically outside oneself. Unless we assume that our reasoning capabilities are generally reliable, arguments about any topic can’t go anywhere.


Resources for Greater Impact

IDHEFTBAA DVD angled CLEAR

WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST (DVD)

IDHEFTBAA laying down book

I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST (BOOK)

Andy Stanley Responds to the “Who Needs God” Controversy

Who Needs God?  Some Christians say Andy Stanley does.  In fact, he gets more attacks from Christians than non-Christians.  Is it his message, his method or both?

Some are upset with him because, in their judgment, he uses the wrong apologetic method by not assuming the Bible is true. Others are upset with him because, again, in their judgment, he doesn’t really believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and appears to agree too much with skeptics. (You can see some of their concerns in the comments of my previous post called Why Andy Stanley is right about the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend it.)

Message and Method FB

All of this criticism came to a head during Andy’s recent apologetics series called “Who Needs God.”  Now Andy has responded, and done so in detail.  His thorough response to these charges is called “Why ‘the Bible says so’ is Not Enough Anymore”.

In it he confirms his belief in inerrancy and explains his approach to reach, not non-Christians but post-Christians. Andy explains the difference between non-Christians and post-Christians, and how that difference has impacted his preaching approach.  His theology hasn’t changed, but his method to communicate that theology has.  The question is, should yours?

If you’re open-mined enough to engage this well-written piece, I would enjoy hearing your comments.  What does Andy have right?  What do you think he has wrong and why? Please only comment if you have read the entire article.

What Is the Key To Being an Effective Debater? Stories and Tips from Josh McDowell.

Effective Debater

This goal of this blog is for me to soak up wisdom from my father and share it with you. I have been blessed to have an incredibly influential father, Josh McDowell. He has written over 150 books and spoken to more young people live than anyone in history. But what I appreciate most about my father is his love for my mom, for his kids, and now for his many grandkids. Enjoy!

 

What Is the Key To Being an Effective Debater? Stories and Tips from Josh McDowell.

SEAN: Dad, you’ve done over 250 debates on college campuses around the world on a host of topics. What is the key to being an effective debater?

JOSH: First, do your homework. Thoroughly know the subject. Second, love your opponent, because the best way to win a debate is to love your opponent when you’re destroying his arguments. Third, always find a way to work in your personal testimony as it relates to that subject. The person with an argument is almost always at the mercy of the person with experience. The Christian should have both the argument and the experience.

Effective Debater

SEAN: Are debates still important and effective in culture today?

JOSH: Not as much as they used to be. When Evidence that Demands a Verdict first came out, there was not much access to the evidence for Christianity. And so the book took off and was an instant bestseller. But today there is much more access to the arguments for and against Christianity right on the Internet. The benefit of a debate, though, is that people get to both sides challenged right before them, and then they can decide which side is most reasonable. This rarely happens on the Internet, as so much bad information gets passed on as if it’s true. So, debates provide the opportunity for truth correction.

SEAN: What was your most memorable debate and why?

JOSH: One of them was definitely with the Muslim apologist Ahmad Deedat who was probably the top Islamic apologist in the world at that time. He was literally destroying everyone who debated him. Christians were deeply embarrassed at how badly he beat them. I received a personal letter from about 40 churches in South Africa, asking if I would debate him. And to this day, I thank God I said yes. It was probably the best debate because of the impact of it. It literally changed evangelism in the entire continent of Africa and beyond. I loved him personally, and cared for him, but he was humiliated after the debate. He only distributed his half of the debate through all Africa. Once the rest of the debate was released, his credibility and trust was completely undermined.

Amazingly, a close relative of his came to me a few years ago when I was visiting South Africa and said, “I felt you needed to know some details around the death of Ahmad. The day before he died, he asked me to find a copy of your book More Than A Carpenter. So, I brought it to him and he read some of it.” We won’t know until after this life, but there’s a chance Ahmad Deedat is in heaven.

SEAN: If you were starting again in ministry in today’s culture, would you do debates?

JOSH: I’m not totally sure. Debates have certainly lost some of their pizzazz and some of their influence. Thousands of people used to come to each of my debates. But now with the Internet, they’re much more common and accessible. One reason I might do debates, though, is that they forced me to study and master a subject. I probably spent 300 hours in preparation for a debate. I knew I could use the material the rest of my life in talks, books, and future debates. At times, some of the leading scholars in the world helped me prepare. Those times were some of the best experiences of my life.

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: 

IDHEFTBAA laying down book

I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

IDHEFTBAA DVD angled CLEAR

WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

A Cold-Case Detective Writes an Apologetics Book for Kids: Interview with J. Warner Wallace.

J. Warner Wallace has become one of the most well-known and influential apologists today. As a cold-case detective, and former atheist, he has a unique insight into the prevailing culture and also how to equip people as case makers. He’s written two best-sellers: Cold-Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. Both are insightful, interesting, and captivating.

Now, along with his wife Susie, Jim has written a children’s book. And it’s fantastic! Check out Jim’s brief answers to my questions, and then consider getting a copy of Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, which releases October 1.

 Apologetics Book for Kids

SEAN MCDOWELL: What inspired you to make a kid’s version of Cold Case Christianity?

J. WARNER WALLACE: Before becoming a pastor, I served as both a Children’s Minister and as a Youth Pastor. Susie and I saw the impact culture had on young Christians, particularly when they left our youth ministry and ventured into the university setting. We also recognized that the challenge began much earlier than most people thought. College-aged Christians often entertain their first doubts as junior high students. For this reason, we’ve always been interested in providing a resource for upper elementary aged kids so they can develop a reasonable Christian faith before they face an increasingly skeptical, secular culture.

MCDOWELL: How is this book different from other kids resources?

WALLACE: There are many great resources on the market, so we wanted to do something different and complimentary. Cold-Case Christianity for Kids (CCC4K) has been written as an interactive experience. CCC4K has an accompanying interactive web Academy, designed to help readers learn good detective skills. Kids will join the three young characters in the book as they begin a Cadet Academy. Readers will be trained by Detective Alan Jeffries and if they watch the videos for each chapter, download and complete the fill-in sheets and activities, they’ll be able to earn an Academy Certificate. This Academy experience was inspired by my own involvement in the Police Explorer Academy as a teenager. Readers of CCC4K will become trained detectives as they investigate the evidence for Jesus.

MCDOWELL: Was it harder or easier to write a kid’s version? What was the toughest part?

WALLACE: This was a long labor of love for Susie and I. We reviewed all the other apologetics books for kids to make sure we crafted something that would complement the existing literature even as it attempts to “raise the bar” for young students. I underestimated, however, the number of illustrations it would take to achieve the “text-to-image ratio” I was looking for. Prior to becoming a detective, I earned two degrees in the arts, so I employed that prior skillset when illustrating CCC4K. The book stretched my artistic abilities, especially in terms of the number of illustrations required to create the Academy Website.

MCDOWELL: Can you share one illustration or example that you’re most proud of?

WALLACE: We designed a mystery of sorts for this book, as readers have to use their investigative skills to determine who owns a skateboard discovered at their school. These investigative skills will then be applied to the Gospels to determine if they are reliable. We enjoyed creating a mini-mystery for our readers. We also enjoyed finding creative ideas for the Academy activity sheets. One day, we drove to the market and walked down the breakfast cereal aisle. We tuned all the boxes around and systematically photographed all the activities we found. Think about it: most children’s cereal boxes have an activity on the back of the box, right? We got lots of great ideas from these box panels. As a result, we created eight activity sheets (like this one):

C-C44B7A8F-290F-4BD0-8E00-2C3DAED0B56D

MCDOWELL: Your wife Susie helped with this project. How did the two of you work together?

WALLACE: It was the greatest experience for us. Truly. We would sit together and craft each word, bouncing ideas off each other and critiquing what we had already written. Susie has always been the first editor on the adult books, but she was definitely a co-author on this children’s book. We’re preparing now to continue that collaborative process with God’s Crime Scene for Kids and Forensic Faith for Kids (the adult version of this third book in the trilogy will publish in 2017).

Visit: ColdCaseChristianityForKids.com

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:

How Do You Develop a Public Speaking Ministry?

For the past fifteen years (or so), I have had the privilege of speaking at camps, conferences, schools, churches, and universities worldwide. People quite frequently ask me what it takes to develop a speaking ministry. While there are certainly people with platforms far beyond mine, here are some personal thoughts that I hope will help those of you desiring to become a public speaker:

Public Speaking

1. Ask yourself the tough questions. People can want to become speakers for all sorts of reasons—some good, and some bad. When I was in college, I had lunch with the son of a famous evangelist (yes, we EKs like to get together), and he challenged me to think deeply about why I wanted to become a speaker. He asked me: Do you want to become a speaker because it makes you feel important? Do you think being on stage necessarily equals impact in people’s live? If you want to become a public speaker, please take the time to prayerfully consider these questions. I’ve had to painfully work through them in my own life. Ultimately, if we want to be the kind of communicators that honor and please God, we each need to first find our identities in Christ, and be motivated out of a desire to love people and advance God’s kingdom.

2. Learn how to communicate effectively. Unless you are a rock star, movie star, famous politician, or sports star, you probably won’t get invited to speak unless you can actually communicate effectively. Or if you do get invited, and you don’t perform well, you won’t get invited back! Don’t skip this step. And like anything else, learning the craft of speaking takes time. I have taken years to develop my speaking abilities, and I still look for ways to improve. If you want some tips on speaking well, check out the post “Nine Tips for Public Speaking.” Read books on speaking. Watch good speakers critically. Essentially, the way to become a good speaker is to practice and get feedback. There’s no shortcut.

3. Take every opportunity you can get. As a high school student, my parents sent me to Summit Ministries. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it ended up being one of the most formative experiences of my life. If you’re a student ages 16-22, you seriously need to consider attending. Even though it was over two decades ago, I still remember a point made by one of the speakers, Dr. Jeff Myers, who is now the president and a dear friend of mine: “If you want to become a public speaker, it begins by taking every opportunity you can get, not matter how small or difficult. This is how you improve, and also how you grow your ministry.”

4. Network. Some of my best speaking opportunities have come from networking. In fact, I work to stay in touch with people who I admire and are further down the road professionally than me. As a result, many have invited me to speak at key events. Now that I have been speaking for some time, I am also looking for good speakers to recommend. If you can communicate well, and you build relationships with key people ahead of you, there is a good chance speaking opportunities will come your way. In fact, when I can, I love helping younger speakers find good opportunities.

5. Build a platform. If you develop a platform off stage, then there is a good chance people will want to hear what you have to say on stage. This takes time and effort, but can be done by anyone committed to doing it. You don’t have to be famous today. You just have to be willing to do the difficult and tedious work of content building. Can you write a blog? Start a YouTube channel? Start a podcast? Write a book? Can you start a Twitter account that provides helpful content to people? If you develop an online presence, where you genuinely contribute to the larger discussion, there is a good chance speaking opportunities may eventually come your way. I have recently started blogging regularly, and it has opened up doors for both influence and opportunity that I never dreamed of before.

6. Pray. I put this last not because it’s least important. In fact, I put it last so it will stick in your mind. God is the one who ultimately opens and closes doors. Pray for wisdom. Pray for guidance. Pray that God would prepare your heart for opportunities that may come your way. If we cultivate a life of thanking God, and of relying upon his strength, then (Lord willing) we won’t be tempted to give ourselves the credit when we do have the opportunity to speak. And remember, our ultimate goal is to make God known, not ourselves: “And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted’” (Isaiah 12:4).

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:

 

  • Platform-BookPLATFORM

 

3 Reasons Your Kids May Eventually Think Christianity is Worthless

By Natasha Crain

During Vacation Bible School this summer, our church collected an offering to help an orphanage in Mexico. The kids were all encouraged to bring what they could to contribute toward the cause.

My daughter, age 7, has always been very generous with her allowance and came running down the stairs with a Ziploc bag of piggy bank money the morning after the collection was announced. I smiled with appreciation for her giving heart and told her, “I’m so proud of you. You always want to share your allowance with others. That’s wonderful, sweetheart.”

Kids Christianity Worthless

She looked at me, gave a slight shrug, and replied, “It’s JUST money I had in my piggy bank. It doesn’t really matter.”

My blood immediately went to a rolling boil. I have worked really hard to teach my kids the value of money and emphasize how grateful we need to be for every small thing we have. I couldn’t believe her cavalier attitude that morning.

I unsuccessfully tried to cover my deep annoyance and disappointment.

“You have got to be kidding me. I seriously can’t believe you just said that when we have talkedso much about gratitude and generosity. That’s several dollars you have in that bag! How can you say it ‘doesn’t matter’?”

She looked down at the bag, which held two dollar bills and a bunch of coins. Then she looked at me in confusion and said, “MOMMY. This is not ‘several dollars.’ This is two dollars and a bunch of change that doesn’t matter.”

I took the bag and dumped everything out on our floor, then made piles of four quarters. I counted it all up and told her that she had $8.36.

She was shocked.

She scooped it all up, promptly put it back in the bag and announced there was “no way” she was giving away $8.36. Before I could launch into a sermon on generosity, she was halfway up the stairs looking for her piggy bank so she could deposit her newly found riches.

I’ve reflected several times on that experience, but not as much on the subject of generosity as on the subject of what it means to accurately value something.

There was $8.36 in that bag before and after our conversation. But something happened that drastically changed the value my daughter assigned to it—to the point that I couldn’t pry it out of her little hands just a few minutes later!

Similarly, Christianity is objectively true regardless of the value a person assigns to it. But something happens to many kids that fundamentally changes the value they place on it. Ultimately, the statistics show that at least 60% of kids reject faith by their early 20s…they decide it no longer has value. It literally becomes worthless.

Why the change? I think it boils down to three things.

 

1. They never understood how to value it.

My daughter ultimately didn’t know how to add up all the spare change in the bag. She could plainly see it all but didn’t know how to add all those different coins together. She just looked at the two dollar bills and assumed that’s all there was to the total value.

In a culture where people chalk religious belief up to nothing more than a person’s opinion about what may or may not exist beyond our natural world, most kids never learn how to appropriately value their religious beliefs. They don’t, by default, come to understand that:

  • Christianity is either true or it’s not. It’s an objective truth, and can’t be a matter of opinion. People may have different assessments of whether or not it’s true, but it’s not something that actually can be true for some and not others. When kids understand that, they’ll be more likely to value their faith because they’ll realize there’s much more at stake than a trivial matter of opinion. (For help talking to your kids about the nature of truth and Christianity in the context of other worldviews, see chapters 9-13 in my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.)
  • The truth of Christianity can be assessed by looking at evidence. Even if a person realizes that Christianity is ultimately an objective truth, they may place little value on committing to Christ because they believe there’s no real way of knowing Christianity is true. Our culture perpetuates the idea that faith is blind—a big leap in the dark. But that’s not the nature of biblical faith at all. Biblical faith is rooted in good reason (1 Peter 3:15). Again, kids don’t understand this by default. We have to shape their understanding so they know that they really can be confident that their decision for Christ is rooted in good reasons. That conviction makes all the difference in the world in how much a person values their faith.

 

2. They never had time to value it.

I’m guessing that if I had put my daughter in a room without distraction and plenty of time, she could have come close to totaling up the coins on her own. But between school, homework, piano lessons, soccer and chores, there’s no way such an exercise was going to get priority. She just didn’t have the time to appropriately value what was in the bag.

It’s really easy to play the victim when it comes to the perceived predator of time. I’m hugely guilty of this myself. “I have no time!” “I just wish there was more time!” “Where did the time go?” Those are things we all say. But the fact is, we all have the same number of hours in the day. It’s a matter of how we choose to use them. If your family’s spiritual life is crowded out by the constant shuttling between extracurricular activities, it’s time to really consider that. It might not be comfortable to look at it this way, but if we’re too busy to set aside family spiritual time at least once a week (for Bible study, faith conversations, prayer, etc.), we are quite literally choosing other activities over our kids’ spiritual growth.

It’s up to us to make time for them to learn to value their faith.

 

3. They forgot how to value it.

Last year, I actually had taught my kids how to add up coins of different values; there was a point in time when my daughter probably wouldn’t have been so cavalier with the money because she did know how to value it. But she forgot.

It’s easy to take for granted that whatever we taught our kids last month, last year, or three years ago is still part of their working knowledge. But planting seeds isn’t enough. We have to continually water them, tend to the growing soul, and plant more seeds. Otherwise, those earlier seedlings can easily be lost, and our kids can simply forget how to value what they may have know how to value in the past.

 

May we all help our kids develop a faith that they clutch like that Ziploc, realizing the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8).

 

Visit Natasha’s website at www.ChristianMomThoughts.com


Resources for Greater Impact:

How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing? Interview with William Dembski.

William A. Dembski is one of the founders of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. He is largely known for being the mathematician and philosopher behind ID, having written three critical academic books: The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1998),No Free Lunch (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), and Being as Communion (Ashgate, 2014). He has also written a textbook on intelligent design (The Design of Life), and many other influential books such as The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World(B&H Academic, 2009).

Since we wrote a book together in 2008 (Understanding Intelligent Design), people often ask me what Dr. Dembski is doing these days. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the state of ID and his current professional focus. Enjoy!

Intelligent Design

SEAN MCDOWELL: What kind of research and writing have you been up to lately? What do you hope to accomplish?

WILLIAM DEMBSKI: Thanks Sean for this opportunity to address your readers. It’s been almost a decade since we collaborated on our book Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language. It was fun working with you on that book, and I still think it’s a good book that wears its age well.

With regard to my research, it has shifted quite a bit these days. I’m largely retired from intelligent design. My last serious writing effort on intelligent design was my 2014 bookBeing as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. It encapsulates my two decades work on intelligent design, and I’m not sure I have a whole lot more to add.

My work these days is focused on the connections between technology, education, and freedom. I tend to keep a low profile here, but I’m essentially an entrepreneur and businessman these days, involved with various startups and websites. I’m especially interested in developing interactive learning tools for helping people in the majority world get educated, get out of poverty, and enjoy freedom.

But I remain a writer at heart, and am still publishing books. My two latest are (1) a biography of the math teacher Jaime Escalante[i] and (2) an intelligent design book on evolutionary informatics (I said I was “largely” retired from ID, not fully retired!)

MCDOWELL: Now that it is over two decades in, how would you rate progress of the intelligent design movement in countering Darwinism?

DEMBSKI: I would say that we have by far the better argument. Indeed, the Conservation of Information results described in my book Being as Communion (cited in the last question) and developed at length by me and my colleagues at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab seem to me to show that Darwinism cannot succeed as a complete theory of evolution, and that it requires hidden sources of information that it must smuggle in and that are best conceived as the product of intelligence. So I would say we have shown (as in demonstrated and not merely gestured at) that naturalistic evolution is a failed intellectual and scientific enterprise.

Unfortunately, progress is not merely gauged in terms of intellectual accomplishment but also in terms of social and cultural impact. Here we still have our work cut out for us. Go to Wikipedia, and the editors responsible for the article on intelligent design have made sure to discredit it from the get-go: the very first sentence refers to it as a pseudoscience. So we may have truth on our side, but we’re still largely marginalized.

MCDOWELL: What do you consider some of the greatest successes, and also challenges, in the ID movement?

DEMBSKI: Unlike creationism, with which it is often conflated, intelligent design shifts the discussion of biological origins from a religion vs. science controversy to a science vs. science controversy. This is a success, even if ID’s critics continue to try to claim that it is religion in scientific garb.

There are really two strands to ID’s scientific program. There’s the pure information-theoretic side, as represented by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, and then there’s the molecular biology research side, as represented by the Biologic Institute and its journalBio-Complexity.[ii] We continue to push the research frontiers forward on both sides.

The biggest challenge for us is gathering a talent pool and the funding to accelerate this research program. The incentive structure in the scientific community rewards bashing intelligent design and vilifying its proponents. If you doubt this, see Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

MCDOWELL: As a whole, how would you assess the reception of ID within the church?

DEMBSKI: I would say that the church broadly and even the evangelical community has — on balance — been somewhere between useless and downright counterproductive to the success of ID. I know this may sound strange, but note my qualification: on balance. Of course, a crucial nucleus of support for ID has come largely from the church and especially evangelical Christians. But that nucleus is small. By contrast, the opposition to ID in the church is large.

On the one hand, there are the theistic evolutionists, who largely control the CCCU schools (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), and who want to see ID destroyed in the worst possible way — as far as they’re concerned, ID is bad science and bad religion.

And then there are the young-earth creationists, who were friendly to ID in the early 2000s, until they realized that ID was not going to serve as a stalking horse for their literalistic interpretation of Genesis. After that, the young-earth community largely turned away from ID, if not overtly, then by essentially downplaying ID in favor of anything that supported a young earth.

The Noah’s Ark theme park in Kentucky is a case in point. What an embarrassment and waste of money. I’ve recently addressed the fundamentalism that I hold responsible for this sorry state of affairs.[iii]

MCDOWELL: How do you see the future of ID?

DEMBSKI: I think ID finds itself in a similar environment that democratically minded people behind the iron curtain found themselves in during the 1970s and 1980s. The communist ideology in Eastern Europe as dictated by the Soviet Union was clearly not working. Food shortages, poor standards of living, a world of grays rather than colors were the norm.

I would say we see a comparable failure with the ideologies of naturalistic evolution, theistic evolution, and young-earth creationism. Unfortunately, it often takes reality a while to catch up with bad ideas. With communism in Eastern Europe, reality came suddenly with the fall of the Berlin Wall (this was especially meaningful to me since my mother had lived through the Berlin Air Lift and my uncle was a professor at the Technical University in West Berlin when the Wall fell).

In the long run, I do see ID as succeeding. But as John Maynard Keynes put it, “in the long run we’re all dead.” I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not holding my breath that we’re going to see ID victorious, as in becoming the dominant paradigm of biological origins, any time soon. As a New Yorker cartoon put it over half a century ago — attorney speaking to client: “You have a pretty good case, Mr. Pitkin. How much justice can you afford?” I’d say we have a very good case, but propaganda and ideology can be formidable foes.

========================================================================================================

TWO POST-INTERVIEW CLARIFICATIONS BY DEMBSKI

(1) The interview above was brief, and I had groups like AiG in mind when addressing young earth creationism/ists. I should have been clearer that my target was what may more precisely be called institutional young-earth creationism — comprised of young earth creationists who think that anything other than a literalistic interpretation of the Genesis days constitutes heresy and that this interpretation needs to serve as a litmus test for biblical orthodoxy and right thinking in general. Frankly, I don’t care what you believe about the age of the earth. But if you use the young-earth position as a club to beat down the views of others (and this has happened to me repeatedly, with my job on the line), then I do have a problem with you. My apologies to young-earth creationists who see the scientific merit of intelligent design and who hold their views about the age of the earth undogmatically. Thankfully, such do exist.

(2) In my remarks about the role of the church in advancing ID, I was trying to be a bit provocative to get people thinking. To be sure, well-wishers of ID abound in Christian circles. But how many are willing to put their necks on the chopping block and make a real difference in the scientific and cultural debate? As 19th century activist Annie Besant put it:

Plenty of people wish well to any good cause, but very few care to exert themselves to help it, and still fewer will risk anything in its support. “Some one ought to do it, but why should I?” is the ever re-echoed phrase of weak-kneed amiability. “Some one ought to do it, so why not I?” is the cry of some earnest servant of man, eagerly forward springing to face some perilous duty.

So, how much good has the Christian community really done in advancing ID? Sure, there have been pockets of genuine support in the Christian community. But why is the first and only ID think-tank/research center at a Christian college or university Baylor’s Michael Polanyi Center (which I founded in 1999, and which was dismantled the following year — thanks in this case not to young-earth creationists but to theistic evolutionists)? And why is the $100M spent on a Noah’s Ark theme park several times more than has been spent on all ID efforts over the last 20 years? Let’s get some sense of proportion.

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:


[i] http://www.thebestschools.org/jaime-escalante-inspired-learning/ — this is an ebook that will also be published in hardcopy.

[ii] http://www.biologicinstitute.org/ and http://bio-complexity.org/

[iii] http://www.thebestschools.org/features/william-dem… and http://www.thebestschools.org/features/paradoxes-o…

 

Why Andy Stanley is Right About the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend It

Dr. Russell Moore expressed several disagreements with pastor Andy Stanley at a recent conference for Southern Baptists. Dr. Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Andy Stanley is the Founding Pastor of the Northpoint series of churches in and around Atlanta, which collectively have over 40,000 weekly attendees.

Moore was supposed to be interviewing Stanley about his approach to engaging the culture through preaching. Andy and his Northpoint team are known for creating a church environment that attracts unbelievers with the goal of making them disciples of Christ. Andy’s obvious success at engaging unbelievers made him the perfect subject for Dr. Moore’s interview. Unfortunately, the interview turned out to be more of an interrogation than a quest for knowledge.

After Andy read a letter from an atheist who had attended Northpoint the previous two Sundays and was moving toward Christ because of her experience there, Dr. Moore immediately took issue with Andy’s approach despite its obvious success in reaching just the kind of person the conference was convened to help reach. The tension level rose as Dr. Moore continued to disagree with Andy’s approach on several fronts. (I saw this interview from a private link which we originally had on this site and had to remove.  If you would like to see this interview for yourself, please contact the ERLC and ask them to post it.  It is their property and they originally said they would post it. UPDATE:  the interview video is now up here.)

Though he controlled the questions and the direction of the interview, Dr. Moore later said on his podcast that he didn’t want it to go the way it did. In fact, he spent his entire 22-minute podcast (which he recorded a few days later) explaining his differences with Andy’s culture-engaging approach. Based on the interview and that podcast (which you’ll have to hear to get a fuller understanding of what I’m about to say), I think Dr. Moore gets a few tactical issues right, but he gets the more substantial theological points wrong.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a friend of Andy Stanley, and he’s used and recommended my book in his current apologetics sermon series. I do not personally know Russell Moore but do appreciate much of his work. I’ve tried to be fair in the following assessment. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’ve succeeded.

Since Dr. Moore was the one initiating the disagreements, I’ll address his points.

 

What Dr. Moore Gets Right

Dr. Moore is certainly correct when he states that churches have to strike the right balance between evangelism and discipleship. Russell Moore CLEARUnlike some in his reformed camp, he admits that the church is not solely for believers and that unbelievers will attend. In fact, he observed that the church at Corinth had unbelievers attending, and that pastors today must be sure to conduct worship services in an orderly and explainable way so that unbelievers don’t think “you are out of your mind” (1 Cor. 14:22-40).

Dr. Moore believes that Northpoint is out of balance—that it is weighted too much toward evangelism. I actually can’t verify if he’s right about that, but he could be. The many messages of Andy’s that I’ve seen are nearly always biblical, insightful and extremely practical. But whether or not Northpoint actually is successful at making disciples, I honestly cannot say. I’m not there, and discipleship is very difficult to measure at any church, especially a church of over 40,000. While there certainly is room in the body of Christ for churches that lean one way or the other, every church must “feed the sheep” to some extent. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not mere believers.

I think Dr. Moore is also correct that all pastors, particularly a pastor of Andy’s influence, must qualify statements such as Andy’s, “We need to get the spotlight off the Bible.” A comment like that, without proper explanation, can lead down a dangerous path as Dr. Moore observed, and it’s certainly going to cause some Christians to run for their pitch forks (just google “Russell Moore and Andy Stanley” to see the pitch forks for yourself). Andy must go out of his way to explain exactly what he does and doesn’t mean.

In Andy’s defense, the context of that comment was made at a conference designed to reach a culture of unbelievers, and the more complete quote was, “We need to get the spotlight off the Bible, and back on the Resurrection. Because the issue for us is, ’who is Jesus?’ Did he rise from the Dead?”

As I’ll argue below, that comment can be defended in context. But extreme clarity is critical, especially when you’re talking about something as important at the Bible. Without that clarity, Dr. Moore is right to raise a red flag. (Other similarly provocative statements by Andy Stanley have raised evangelical eyebrows, including my own, at least until I better understood the context. Please understand that I don’t always agree with Andy. I agree with about 95% of what he says—I don’t even agree with myself that much!).

I also think Dr. Moore is correct about the need for pastors to address controversial moral issues from the pulpit. Although he’s protested at abortion clinics, Andy stated that he has never preached a message on abortion, preferring that and topics such as same-sex marriage are left to small groups within the church.

Why would a pastor of unparalleled communication skills (Dr. Moore called them “amazing”) leave such delicate and important issues to small groups—issues that are literally life and death and cut to the heart of what people perceive to be road blocks to Christianity? I’m convinced that so many people stay away from Christianity, and often destroy their lives, because pastors fail to tactfully present the truth on these issues (not to mention the damage our silence is doing to the nation and religious freedom). If anyone can present tactfully and compassionately it is Andy Stanley. Andy should take the lead on those issues instead of relying on less skilled and informed group leaders. Paul stated that he “did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). Neither should Andy nor any other pastor.

Those are the tactical issues that I think Dr. Moore gets right. Now, let’s take a look at the more foundational theological issues that Dr. Moore gets wrong (and Andy gets right).

 

What Dr. Moore Gets Wrong

Quoting the Bible is the only way to reach unbelievers

I think Dr. Moore is mistaken for suggesting that the only way to engage unbelievers is by quoting Scripture. He argued that Andy’s apologetic approach is not Biblical because Jesus quoted Scripture to people and said “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

It is true that Jesus did quote Scripture with folks who already accepted the authority of the Old Testament. But when He spoke to unbelievers (the woman at the well, the rich young ruler, Pilate, and the thief on the cross), Jesus wasn’t firing Bible verses at them while assuming the authority of Scripture. Likewise, Paul didn’t assume the authority of Scripture or quote from it when speaking to the Athenians (Acts 17), but attempted to find common ground with them, even quoting their own poets and recognizing their “unknown God” beliefs, in order to connect them with the true God and the truth of the Resurrection.

I agree with Dr. Moore that quoting Scripture is effective to bring some unbelievers to Christ (with the work of the Holy Spirit of course), just that it’s not the only way. Some unbelievers have intellectual objections and often resist the Spirit until they get answers.

In fact, if preaching Scripture alone is the sole means through which everyone can be converted, why doesn’t Dr. Moore merely read Scripture on his podcast? If the Scriptures are all “sufficient” for evangelism, then why is he wasting his time organizing a conference where he seeks Andy Stanley’s insights on how to better preach to the culture? If merely saying “thus sayeth the Lord” is sufficient, then evangelists should forgo the hours of message preparation and simply read the Bible!

It seems to me that a preacher can do three things with regard to the Scriptures:

  1. He can read the Scriptures;
  2. He can explain the Scriptures so they are understood and applied (exposition);
  3. He can support their veracity with evidence (apologetics).

Why wouldn’t a wise pastor do all three? Pastors will reach and disciple a lot more people by using every tool available to them. Indeed, God makes his appeal through us, and it’s a deeper and wider appeal when we engage in evangelism, exposition, and apologetics.

 

Presupposing the Bible is true rather than showing it’s true

Dr. Moore’s stance on quoting the Bible to unbelievers seems to be the result of a presuppositional approach to apologetics, which just presupposes the Bible is true. In doing so, he is confusing knowing that the Bible is our authority with showing the Bible is our authority.

This is also a failure to distinguish between the ends and the means. Dr. Moore and Andy agree on the ends—that the Bible is God’s primary revelation and authority to mankind. However, the means of showing that are not presupposing it’s true (that’s circular), but the classical approach to apologetics that Andy advocates, which cites evidence for the events in the Bible, and the reliability of the biblical documents, from philosophy, science and history.

Getting evidence for the New Testament events and documents is not circular—we are not presupposing the Bible is true as the presuppositionalists do. We are gathering evidence to find out what really happened and to see if the New Testament documents can be trusted, which is what historians do when they investigate any set of historical documents or events. (For more on problems with presuppositionalism and the merits of the classical approach, listen to my recent interview with Dr. Richard G. Howe).

In fact, the Bible actually commands us to use reason and evidence in worship and in our defense of Christianity. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God . . . with all your mind.” God speaks through the prophet Isaiah saying, “Come now, let us reason together.” Peter urges us to “always be prepared to give an answer.” Paul commands us to “destroy arguments” that are opposed to the truth of Christianity, and he declares that Christianity is false unless the resurrection of Christ is an historical fact. He even names the living eyewitnesses of the Resurrection, in effect daring his readers to fact-check him by asking them. He did not say, “Believe that Jesus rose from the dead because I’m writing the Bible and the Bible is the authority!”

Of course, not everything in the Scripture can be supported with evidence. But as Andy and classical apologists maintain, once we’ve established that Jesus actually rose from the dead and is therefore God, then whatever Jesus says and teaches is true. Since the evidence shows that the New Testament documents are reliable, then we know Jesus taught that the Old Testament is God’s Word (as is the coming New Testament). It is on the Risen Savior’s authority that we believe all of the Scriptures are true—even those events in Scripture that we can’t independently verify.

 

Failing to acknowledge the indispensable role of God’s other “book”

Dr. Moore seems not to acknowledge the indispensable role of natural revelation in understanding God’s special revelation to us. (I keep saying “seems” about Dr. Moore’s beliefs because I’m basing all of this on an interview and his 22-minute podcast—I may not be understanding his beliefs completely or accurately). God has actually written two books: the Bible (special revelation, see 2 Tim. 3:14-16) and the “book” of nature (natural revelation, see Ps. 19, Rom. 1:18-20, 2:14-15). Both are necessary in the life of the believer.

Unfortunately, when some Protestants today talk about the “sufficiency of Scripture” or “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone), they often make it sound like we have no need for any truths outside the Bible. That’s not true for several reasons. Here are just two.

First, one can’t even understand the Bible (or any communication) without first understanding truths from outside the Bible—aspects of the natural revelation such as philosophy, logic, and consistent cause and effect. In other words, in order to get anything out of the Bible, you need principles or keys of interpretation from outside the Bible to access it, much like you need your keys to unlock your house to get anything out of it. Without keys of interpretation from the outside, we would never be able to unlock the Bible to learn what’s in it. While we often take those keys of interpretation for granted, we get them from the book of nature and the principles of human communication including language and grammar.

Sometimes we even use what we learn from nature or philosophy to overrule what appears to be the clear reading of Scripture. The rotation of the earth around the sun is one such example. Another is the immaterial nature of God. We use the book of nature and the principles of human communication to realize that the Bible uses observational language to describe nature (sun rising and setting) and metaphors to describe God’s attributes (He has eyes, arms, legs, etc.).

While the Bible does say “God is Spirit,” the only way to resolve the apparent contradiction with several other verses that suggest God has body parts is through philosophy. (Before you object to the use of philosophy, the Apostle Paul never prohibited its proper use. That would be a philosophy to not use philosophy which would be self-defeating. The “vain philosophy” to which Paul was referring in Col. 2:8 was legalism infecting the church). While one can use bad philosophy to interpret the Bible, it’s impossible to use no philosophy.

In his new series “Who Needs God,” Andy highlighted a second reason that truths outside the Bible are critical: Truths outside of the Bible got Christianity started! Before the New Testament was ever written, thousands of Jews and pagans understood the truth of Resurrection Christianity. While those early believers didn’t have as much information as we’re privileged to have now, they knew enough to transform the Roman empire.

how needs god and andy

Andy’s point in reaching unbelievers today is that unbelievers in the mid-first century were never asked to become Christians through blind faith in an authoritative New Testament that didn’t exist, but on the reality of God and the historical fact of the Resurrection. Contrary to what some skeptics assert, the New Testament writers did not create the Resurrection; the Resurrection created the New Testament writers!  So Christianity would still be true if every Bible and manuscript in the world were destroyed.

Let me sum up this important point in another way. The ontological foundation of Christianity is not a collection of ancient writings we call the Bible. The ontological foundation of Christianity is the reality of God and the historicity of the biblical events including the Resurrection of Christ. (In fact, the New Testament wouldn’t exist unless the Resurrection occurred.) So while we need all of the Bible to more fully understand God and live the Christian life, we don’t need all the Bible to understand its most important message—the Gospel.

That was Andy’s reason for saying, “Let’s get the spotlight off the Bible, and back on the Resurrection.” Not for believers, but for unbelievers. Namely, when unbelievers doubt certain stories in the Bible (such as Noah or Jonah), focus on the evidence that the Resurrection actually occurred so they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss the Gospel.

That’s Andy’s approach because many in our culture believe that if you doubt one story in the Bible you can’t believe any of it. Andy’s apologetic approach defuses that erroneous belief and for good reason. Believing in Noah and Jonah are not essential to your salvation, but believing in the Resurrection is!

Andy Stanley does not deny the Scripture or the historicity of stories such as Noah and Jonah. In fact, he went on to affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible (watch the interview). However, his point is that the way to bring unbelievers into Christianity with the fewest potential obstacles is to focus on the historicity of Jesus and His Resurrection.

This aspect of historical reliability is unique to Christianity among world religions. The fact that Christians tend to ignore the unique verifiability of their belief system and insist people just take it on “faith” like other religions do makes little sense, and it ignores Jesus’ directive to examine the evidence. He said to his disciples, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (John 14:11).” Since Jesus cited evidence shouldn’t we?

 

Using an incorrect definition of Sola Scriptura

This final mistake is related to the last. Dr. Moore and several reformed internet critics seem to be charging Andy with denying “sola Scriptura.” But Andy doesn’t deny sola Scriptura. What he denies is their erroneous definition of that doctrine.

Sola Scriptura was cited by the reformers to correct abuses by the Roman Catholic church. It means that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of a believer, as opposed to the Scripture plus church tradition, plus church councils, plus the statements of the Pope, and so forth. Andy’s critics seem to think that Sola Scriptura denies the role of natural revelation, including reason, in theology. But, as we have seen, such a position would make understanding the Bible impossible. Without natural revelation we couldn’t understand the Bible or anything else about reality! Even Martin Luther realized this point. He didn’t dismiss reason. He said he would only recant if he could be proven wrong by Scripture or reason.

It’s ironic that a tradition has arisen in reformed Christianity that distorts the original meaning of sola Scriptura—the very doctrine intended to correct the erroneous traditions that had arisen in the Roman Catholic church. Roman Catholics may nullify the Word of God when they add traditions to God’s revelation. But some Protestants are nullifying it when they subtract from God’s revelation. We shouldn’t add church tradition to God’s special revelation, but we also shouldn’t subtract natural revelation either. It’s from God just as much as the Bible!

 

Conclusion

You may disagree with some of Andy’s tactics (leaning too far toward evangelism, provocative statements, leaving some moral issues to small groups), but there’s nothing wrong with his theology, especially on the issues Dr. Moore brought up.

Ironically, it turns out that in several important ways Andy Stanley is more in line with all of God’s revelation than Russell Moore. So if anyone needs to make substantive corrections to his theology, apologetic method and approach to unbelievers, it’s not Andy Stanley—it’s Russell Moore.

I don’t expect our pitch-fork-bearing brethren on the Internet to agree with me. While classical apologists defend Christianity, presuppositionalists defend presuppositionalism (as you’re likely to see in the comments of this post). They and others seem hell bent on labeling Andy Stanley a heretic by taking his statements out of context. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to be open to correction by Scripture or reason (but I pray that I’m wrong about that).


Resources for Greater Impact:

IDHEFTBAA laying down book

I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

Deep and Wide Andy laying down

DEEP & WIDE

onward-cvr3d

ONWARD

SFG angled book

STEALING FROM GOD

Cold Case Christianity Book angled pages

COLD CASE CHRISTIANITY

IDHEFTBAA DVD angled CLEAR

WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST

Is Christianity based on an argument from ignorance?

By Ryan Pauly

I received a lot of responses after last week’s blog, “Is atheism a ‘lack of belief’ in God?” Most of the responses came from atheists which I expected. I also expected an immediate request for proof of the Christian God which is what happened. Over the last year I have had to reduce the amount that I interact with followers on Twitter, but when I do respond to this type of request I always ask the same question. If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian? I learned this from Dr. Frank Turek, and the reason this question is important is that it lets you know whether the person you are talking with really wants the evidence. They may ask you for it, or demand that you show it, but they might not really be looking for it. So, if they respond with a long explanation or flat out say “NO!” to your question, then it isn’t evidence they are looking for because evidence wouldn’t change their mind. However, if they say “Yes!” then you might present some evidence.

When it comes to presenting evidence, there are a lot of different topics that could be discussed. You could discuss the cosmological, teleological, or moral arguments. You could also bring up the complexity of biochemical systems. Or, you could go with my response this last week and talk about the existence of the mind. Each of these topics clearly points to a creator, but we need to be careful how we present the information. There are two ways that we can go, and if we aren’t careful, our point may be mistaken for an argument from ignorance or a god of the gaps argument.

Is Christianity based on an argument from ignorance?

Probability Argument

The first way to present evidence for God is by using the probability argument. It is absolutely remarkable seeing the discoveries that scientists have made over the years when it comes to complexity of life, origin of the universe, and origin of life. We can talk about the probability of these things coming into existence without God and how it is practically impossible. However, simply pointing out the probability can be insufficient because someone can always appeal to chance. The quote from Dumb and Dumber comes to mind. When Lloyd talks to Mary about the chances of them dating, she says he has a 1 in a million chance. Lloyd quickly responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” Some may always say that if given enough time it is possible with natural processes, and students are quick to point this out.

It is also common to hear a response like this, “Just because you don’t know how it happened doesn’t mean it was God.” Skeptics claim that this is an argument from ignorance. God must have done it because there is no scientific explanation. They might also say that this is a god of the gaps argument. Christians simply have a gap in their knowledge and so they plug it up with God. This was done in ancient times to give a reason for the rain or thunder. The gods were sad or angry.

The reason for these responses is that the probability argument is a negative argument. It states that the probability of this complex system is very low and so it must be designed. I think that the probabilities can be very useful, but we need to use them along with our main argument.

Argument from Analogies

We can more effectively making a case for design using the complexity of life’s chemistry and universe by using analogies. Instead of an argument from ignorance or appealing to probabilities, we are able to make a positive case for design based on specific features of the object. We can look at the complexity of the bacterial flagellum and show that it functions better than any motor that has been intelligently designed by humans. DNA is similar to a message written in a book except it would fill millions of books. We only see motors and books coming into existence from intelligent minds because they contain information, so therefore it is reasonable to conclude that a mind created the complexity of life and DNA.

We can also make a positive argument by looking at characteristics of the thing we are discussing. The beginning of the universe points to an immaterial, uncaused, purposeful, intelligent, powerful cause that is outside the universe. Christians are not ignorant of how it happened so it must be God, but there are certain characteristics that point to a creator outside the universe.

I chose to discuss the existence of consciousness and the mind this week. I was quickly met with a response like, “No one knows how consciousness came to exist, so saying God did it is an argument from ignorance.” But, I am not arguing from probabilities or a lack of knowledge. Instead, I am making a positive argument based on characteristics of consciousness. It is undeniable that we are conscious beings, and consciousness is not physical. It cannot be produced through physical processes. This information makes a positive case that it is created by a non-physical mind.

In conclusion, is Christianity an argument from ignorance? No, it is not. Christians are able to make a positive case for Christianity based on scientific and philosophical data. It isn’t filling a gap in our knowledge with God, but God is the best explanation given the evidence.

Check out these additional resources if you are looking for more evidence for God. I hope these help.

Who created God?

Do objective moral laws point to God?

Is free will an illusion?

Is our mind the same as the brain?

Has our universe been designed?

What best explains the origin of life?

Has our universe been fine-tuned for life?

What best explains the beginning of our universe?

Is belief in God a rational position?

 

Visit Ryan’s website at CoffeeHouseQuestions.com


Resources for Greater Impact:

Did Jesus Commend Faith That Is Blind?

You don’t have to read much of Cold-Case Christianity to realize I’m an evidentialist. The title usually gives it away. As a result, my inbox is filled with email from people who want to convince me that true faith is independent of evidence.

Many of them point to the well-known passage in John chapter 20 where Thomas expresses his doubt that Jesus has been resurrected. When Jesus presented Himself to Thomas, He made an important statement that is occasionally offered as an affirmation of some form of “blind faith”:

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been [f]shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:26-29)

Faith Blind

Without any other context to understand what Jesus believed about the relationship between evidence and faith, this single sentence (“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed”) does sound like an endorsement of faith independent of evidential support. But context changes everything. Like other declarations offered by Jesus, this statement has to be reconciled with everything else Jesus said and did before we can truly understand what He believed about the role of evidence.

As it turns out, the Apostle John wrote more about Jesus’ evidential approach than any other Gospel author. According to John, Jesus repeatedly offered the evidence of His miracles to verify his identity and told His observers that this evidence was sufficient:

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11)

“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)

“…the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about Me,
that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36)

John frequently described Jesus as someone who offered the evidence of his miraculous power to demonstrate His Deity. In fact, the passage describing Thomas’ doubt is also an affirmation of an evidential faith, if it is read in its entirety:

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:25-31)

John makes an important statement right after the line that is typically offered to “demonstrate” Jesus’ alleged affirmation of a non-evidential faith: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples…” What? Blessed are those who did not see and yet believed, therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples? Do you see the contradiction here? Why would Jesus continue to provide evidence if those who believe without evidence are supposed to be blessed? The answer is found, once again, in the Gospel of John. In Jesus’ famous prayer to the Father, he prayed for unity and He carefully included those of us who would become Christians long after Jesus ascended into Heaven:

“I do not ask on behalf of these (the disciples) alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)

Jesus is talking here about all the people (like you and me) who will believe in Jesus not because of what we will see with our own eyes but because of what the disciples saw and recorded as eyewitnesses (“their word”). Yes, Thomas was blessed to believe on the basis of what he saw, but how much more blessed are those who will someday believe, not on the basis of what they will see, but on the basis of what the disciples saw and faithfully recorded. Jesus understood the value of evidence and continually provided “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:2-3) to His followers so they could record their observations and change the world with their testimony. Jesus commended this process; His words to Thomas were not an affirmation of “blind faith”.

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

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4 Ways to become a better listener and a better Apologist

By Michael Sherrard

Step one in apologetics is to understand someone’s position. Many skip this step and merely vomit rehearsed arguments as soon as they hear a trigger word like “evolution” or “unreliable”. We like to give textbook answers, but people don’t hold textbook beliefs. Answers are only meaningful when given to relevant questions. So you must know the beliefs of the person across from you as they hold them before you start quoting J. Warner Wallace, Frank Turek, or Ravi. And you will only know their beliefs by listening.

Many things work against us when we defend our faith. We do not need misunderstanding to be one of them. If you want to defend your faith well, become a good listener. Be patient and hear what others are saying so that you can respond appropriately. Do not dominate conversations. This is not easy. It takes practice. But you need to do it. Let me offer four practical ways to improve your listening.

1. Focus on their words and not your response. Nearly everyone devises clever retorts or responses while the other person is talking, and it is no different in conversations of faith. This isn’t actually a conversation. It’s two people lecturing an audience that isn’t paying attention, and it’s not effective.

You need to practice not thinking about your response when someone else is talking. This is hard. It is a discipline that you can learn, though. When you notice you’re forming a response before they are done speaking, stop and refocus. Witnessing to skeptics is usually a marathon. You must pace yourself. Don’t try to sprint to the end. Don’t worry about jumping in and rebutting everything they say as soon as they say it. Rather, slow down, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to remind you of the truth, and do not worry about winning.

2. Ask questions. If the person you are talking with is long-winded and hard to follow, ask them to restate their belief or position slowly and concisely. Remember, it is vital that you understand what they believe before you respond, so ask a question if you didn’t catch it the first time.

You can do this by asking them to summarize what they just said. What I find effective is to summarize what I think they just said and say it back to them. Typically when someone has finished talking I will say something like, “So let me make sure I understood you. You believe that…” This is effective because it ensures that I understand them. I often find that when I do these people see how their position is flawed, which is just a bonus.

better Apologist

3. Write down their points. Stopping conversations to jot down others’ points of contention is so simple and practical and will revolutionize your apologetic efforts. This practice is valuable in several ways. It keeps conversations calm and focused. It gives you time to think. It ensures that you heard correctly. It gives you their points to study later without relying on your memory. And it lets others see their position laid out neatly for perhaps the first time.

You will find many people have not thought through their beliefs; it isn’t only Christians who have not contemplated their religion. The goal of listening is hearing, and by hearing, I mean comprehending. Seeing beliefs ordered on paper allows everyone to clearly understand the position. Many times, this process does the work for the apologist by showing skeptics the inconsistency or inherent contradictions in their beliefs.

4. Pray. One of the things I do when talking with a skeptic is to pray short prayers throughout the conversation. In just a couple of words I ask God for wisdom, control of my emotions, and the ability to hear what the other person is saying. I also ask God to help me understand why they think like they do. It is good to ask God to give you eyes that can see past arguments into motives. Clever words are often a smoke screen for a deeper issue. Arguments that appear logical may be covering some emotional or volitional problem. People’s default position is to believe in God (Rom. 1:19–32). In their attempt to hide from Him, people devise wise-sounding arguments to convince themselves that they are right in their rebellion. Ask God for wisdom to see why they are rebelling.

Praying throughout the conversation is an act of faith whereby you understand that it is the Lord who draws people to Himself, and you are but a tool in the process. It will keep you humble and calm. It will keep you focused on the well-being of the other person and keep you from becoming consumed with winning. All of this helps you listen. And beyond the benefit of listening, it keeps you relying on the Lord and not your wisdom, and this is right where you want to be in dealing with a skeptic. So pray, pray, pray.

(This article is adapted from chapter 5 in my book “Relational Apologetics”. Order it here)

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Michael C. Sherrard is a pastor, the director of Ratio Christi College Prep, and the author of Relational Apologetics. Booking info and such can be found at michaelcsherrard.com.


Resources for Greater Impact:

IDHEFTBAA DVD angled CLEAR

WHY I STILL DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST – COMPLETE DVD SERIES

Defending the faith on campus DVD clear angled

DEFENDING THE FAITH ON CAMPUS