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Apologetics 101

I love apologetics

Don’t be intimidated; sharing the good news isn’t as complicated as we make it

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The Evidence Bible is filled with my favorite apologetical arguments. I love to use these arguments to pursue the lost. I also enjoy watching instructional videos about the subject of apologetics. One of my favorite Bible teachers explains how to defend the faith. He is so eloquent and has such a brilliant mind, it makes me want to never open my mouth again. Plus, he is incredibly gracious and humble. I say that because I want you to know that what I’m going to say is not a criticism. It simply illustrates a very important point when it comes to sharing our faith. I remember him speaking of the importance of truth when reasoning with the unsaved. He spoke of five critical grades to keep in mind when it comes to reaching the lost. He said that when testing truth there are two theories – the “correspondence theory” and the “coherence theory” – plus there is consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Then he added, “There are four questions to be dealt with – our origin, meaning, morality, and destiny – and to deal with those questions there are five disciplines you have to pull together: theology, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and anthropology.” He also spoke of three cultures that we deal with: the theonomous culture, the heteronomous culture, and the autonomous culture, which dictates a “mutual autocracy.” Got it? If you did, you’re more intelligent than most people. Most people have trouble even pronouncing those words, let alone knowing what they mean. And that’s okay. That’s because proclaiming the gospel can be as simple as doing what Jesus did: use the Ten Commandments to stir the conscience, and show the sinner that he needs the Savior. I rarely get into arguing about apologetics, the infallibility of Scripture, the deity of Christ, evolution, why there is suffering, etc. When I do enter that territory, I am always aware that there is a way out, and I take it. I can get out, because I have learned the importance of having control of the conversation. I know our ultimate agenda; it’s to “preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). If I wanted to teach you how to fish, I could take you to a quaint little pond and catch a nice small fish. But I’d rather take you deep-sea fishing and let you see some action. If you watch a deep-sea fisherman, when he gets a marlin on his line he will let it run. He does this because he knows that at any time he chooses he can pull back the rod and get the hook deeper into the fish’s jaw. The “hook” that Jesus used was the moral Law (the Ten Commandments), and the “jaw” is the sinner’s conscience. It is because of this knowledge that I can let him run off in any direction he wants to, because I know that any time I choose I can take complete control, simply by asking the question, “Do you think you’re a good person?” and bringing out the Ten Commandments as Jesus did in Mark 10:18–21. That gives me a level playing field because I’m not talking to his contentious intellect. I have moved to his conscience. This puts even Einstein on the defensive. Never be intimidated by so-called intellectuals. Our Creator has put something infinitely more powerful into our hands: the gospel. It is “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16).

This article is reprinted with permission from LivingWaters.com.

Apologetics 101

6 responses to 1 very angry atheist

British scientist Richard Dawkins may be the world’s most famous atheist. And he has garnered his fame from, and used his fame for attacks on God and his people. To that end he founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in 2006 and, five years later, hired Sean Faircloth to be the Foundation’s Director of Strategy and Policy. Like his mentor, Faircloth is aggressively anti-Christian in his perspective. In 2012 he authored a book (with a foreword by Dawkins) called Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All—and What We Can Do About It. The anti-Christian agenda Faircloth proposes is both monstrous and unsurprising. There is nothing original in the book, and that is why it is worth a closer examination – the vision Faircloth shares is one we have heard in bits and pieces for some time now. There are lessons to be learned from responding to his points. 1. Don’t assume the attack has any basis To lay some groundwork for his agenda, Faircloth tries to discredit the Bible by claiming it was written during a time in history “when guys could simply hit or rape any women who dared to talk back.” He then continues: “Don’t believe that was the case? The Bible tells us such acts are A-OK.” Of course, the Bible nowhere says it’s “A-OK” for men to rape and hit women. Faircloth just made that up. He then proceeds to attack Christians themselves, insisting that the Christian mindset leads its adherents to steal things, and to hurt other people. According to Faircloth, Christians are prone to anti-social behavior because their religion causes them to reason in the following manner: You can hurt others – and terribly so – and be forgiven for that sin simply by asking a supernatural being for forgiveness. With the “forgiven” card, it’s so much easier to say to oneself, “I will grab this food now. I will grab this money now. I will grab and grab and grab.” Concern yourself with long-term consequences later. You can always be forgiven—and then you live forever! A convenient belief system indeed. If you missed hearing that preached off the pulpit you aren’t alone. Notably, Faircloth does not cite any sources to support his claim that Christians think that way. It’s very important to remember that when a critic attacks the Bible we shouldn’t simply assume their attack has credibility. As Faircloth’s attack illustrates, sometimes the critic is so desperate to slam Christianity that he’s willing to make things up. 2. Turn the tables Faircloth claims that in recent years religion has acquired special legal privileges that are harmful to American society. Allowing churches and other religious organizations to hire people who share their beliefs and lifestyles is one of these special privileges that he wants to eliminate. When he argues this point he does so in a particularly twisted way. In his view, …religions enjoy legal privileges that corrode our most basic American values. In most states, religious groups can say in one of their child-care centers: “You’re a Jew? You’re fired.” Similarly, in one of their charitable organizations, they can say to the administrative assistant or janitor: “You’re gay? You’re fired” True, religious groups that run child-care centers or charitable organizations often only hire people from within their own group. It is a basic principle of freedom of association and freedom of religion that religious organizations select employees based on their own principles. Christian schools want to hire Christian teachers, for example. They don’t say, “You’re a Jew? You’re fired,” as Faircloth puts it. There are Jewish organizations that hire exclusively Jewish employees. Why would a Jewish school hire a Christian teacher? Should it be forced by the government to hire non-Jewish teachers? In Faircloth’s world there may be situations where it would. His solution is for the government to prohibit such “discrimination.” As a result, the employee qualifications for Christian organizations would be determined by the government. Allowing religious organizations to hire only people who share their beliefs is, in Faircloth’s words, a legal privilege that corrodes “our most basic American values.” But turnabout is fair play. If Faircloth thinks it discrimination to have a religious test for Christian schools, then what about his own employer, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science? Surely, in the name of tolerance, they should then be required to hire their share of Christians and maybe a creationist or two? We don’t need to be mind readers to know how Faircloth would respond to our suggestion. He would find a reason of some sort, very quickly, to explain that discrimination isn’t wrong in every circumstance, and, in fact, is sometimes the only reasonable course. 3. Highlight the conflict Faircloth is also very upset that Christian pharmacists are not compelled by the government to provide abortifacient drugs for women who want them. As he puts it, in the US: ...fundamentalist pharmacists in several states get special permission from state legislatures to ignore their professional duties and to even deny rape victims emergency contraception. In his view, Christian pharmacists should be compelled, against their conscience, by the state to provide such “emergency contraception.” This is justified because “Pharmacists work in the health-care profession, not in a church.” While little could be said to change Faircloth’s mind, we can, with a few pointed questions, highlight the severity of what he proposes. Will he let Christians who won’t violate their conscience have jobs? He wants us out of pharmacology, but what of the many other businesses where Christians’ conscience claims run up against other’s wishes? Would he want us out of the bakery business, wedding catering and photography, and bed and breakfast inns? What of Christian doctors and nurses who don’t want to be involved in euthanasia? And printers and T-shirt makers who want to refuse some jobs? Should they all be shown the door? Would the country be better or worse off if Christians were run out of these positions? We may not be able to change someone like Faircloth’s mind, but we can at least highlight his hatred, making it plain for even the most clueless to see. 4. Use the science Faircloth is further outraged by the fact that US foreign aid given to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) cannot be used to provide abortions or to advocate for or counsel abortion. Faircloth calls this prohibition on counseling abortion a “gag rule” and says it prevents women from receiving needed medical advice. In his view: Neither Congress nor the president should deny women accurate medical information. To impose a gag rule is to mandate a particular religious bias and to promote religious propaganda based on the views of specially privileged religious groups – and to use tax dollars to do so. Faircloth says the US government’s position is being based on “religious propaganda” and in one sense it is. The only reason the US has this overseas pro-life position is because of Christian voter’s influence. But God’s truth isn’t limited to the Bible. When we examine life’s beginning then we find the science backing up the biblical position: we find that the only real beginning we can talk about is conception. That’s when a new human life – genetically distinct from both parents – is started. It is smaller life, and with fewer abilities than adults, yes, but no less valuable because, as even an angry atheist knows, we don’t measure people’s worth by their size or ability. 5. Turn the tables again Christian schools constitute another problem for Faircloth. He objects to the Biblical Christian view that males and females have somewhat different roles. He claims such a perspective makes women subservient, and then asks, Why should even one child be taught that women should be subservient? Children make no adult choice to attend a sexist school. It violates their human rights to impose such views on them. Here we can, once again, turn the tables on this attack. God does call on a woman to submit to her husband (though not men in general) but is that the same thing as being subservient? Faircloth has to submit to the decisions of his employer, Richard Dawkins – would he equate submission with subservience in his case too? Does his submission to his boss mean he is less than his boss? I think Faircloth would agree, submission is very different from subservience. But let’s take this further. Christians know that whether male and female, we are all made in God’s Image. We know why women are equal. But on what basis would an atheist make that case? In a Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest understanding, why would he view the generally weaker and smaller gender as being of equal worth? 6. Whence comes morality? Among other things, Faircloth is also against the corporal punishment of children in Christian schools. Interestingly, Faircloth acknowledges that all law is based on morality. As he puts it, You’ve heard the phrase “you can’t legislate morality.” In fact, the only thing you can legislate is morality. Legislative decisions embody the moral choices of a society. At last Faircloth gets something right. He understands that the policies he supports amount to an imposition of his morality on society through law. Yet he objects to Christian schools imposing their morality on students. But on what basis does an atheist speak of morality? Christians know that the moral code has its origins in the very character of God. Atheists dispute this but disputing is easy; coming up with a godless basis for an objective, applies-to-everyone moral code is difficult. Sometimes an appeal is made to consensus, as if morals are simply what we as a society agree is moral. But by that reasoning racism is only recently wrong, and a convincing PR campaign could make any evil good. When an atheist makes use of words such as “morality” and “right” and “wrong” we should demand from them the basis of their own supposedly superior moral code. Conclusion Sean Faircloth’s attacks on God’s people are unfair and unremarkable and far from unusual. We should expect to seem more like this in the years ahead. That’s why, for the glory of God and for the encouragement of his people, we should equip ourselves to offer a ready response....

Apologetics 101

Ready to reason: is apologetics even necessary?

A surge of pious agreement overcame me the first time I heard someone confidently assert that: "The word of God no more needs defense than does a lion in a cage. Just let the lion loose, and it will take care of itself!" There seemed something very right about that sentiment. It almost appeared irreverent to disagree with it. Well, something about that assertion is indeed right. God is certainly not in need of anything - much less the puny efforts of any particular man or woman to defend His word. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, almighty in power, and sovereign in controlling all things. The Apostle Paul, when reasoning with the Athenian philosophers, made that very point: he declared that God is not worshiped with men's hands "as though He needed any thing, seeing that He gives to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24). If God were ever to hunger, for instance, He would not need to tell us since the fullness of all creation is His (Ps. 50:12)! He depends upon nothing outside Himself, and everything outside of Him depends upon Him for its existence, qualities, abilities, accomplishments, and blessings. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). So it is obvious that God does not need our inadequate reasoning and our feeble attempts to defend His word. Nevertheless, the pious-sounding remark with which we began is still mistaken. It suggests that we should not concern ourselves with efforts at apologetics because God will directly take care of such matters Himself. Need? No. Require? Yes. The remark is just as mistaken as saying that God does not need us as evangelists (He could even make the stones to cry out, couldn't He?) – and therefore efforts at evangelistic witness are unimportant. Or, a person might misguidedly think that, because God has the power and ability to provide his family with food and clothing without "help from us," he does not need to go to work tomorrow. Thinking like this is unbiblical. It confuses what God Himself needs from us and what God requires of us. It assumes that God ordains ends, but not means to those ends (or at least not the instrumentality of created means). There is no need for God to use our evangelistic witness, our daily work for a paycheck, or our defense of the faith – but He chooses to do so, and He calls us to apply ourselves to them. The Bible directs us to work, although God could provide for our families in other ways. The Bible directs us to evangelize, even though God could use other means to call sinners to Himself. And the Bible also directs us to defend the faith – not because God would be helpless without us, but because this is one of His ordained means of glorifying Himself and vindicating His truth. Christ speaks to the church as a whole through Jude, commanding us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). False and heretical teaching was threatening the church and its grasp of gospel truth. Jude very well knew that God was in sovereign control, and indeed that God would in time directly deal with wicked teachers, consigning them to everlasting condemnation. Still Jude also urged his readers themselves to contend with the error of false teaching, not sitting back and expecting that God would simply take care of it Himself. Paul wrote to Titus that overseers (pastors and elders) in the church are required to be especially adept at refuting those who oppose the truth of God (Titus 1:9). However this is not merely the assigned task of ordained men. All believers are commanded to engage in it as well. Addressing himself to all members of the congregation, Peter penned the following command: "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope that is within you, yet with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). It is God Himself, speaking through Peter's inspired words, who calls upon us as believers -- each and every one of us -- to be prepared to defend the faith in the face of challenges and questions which come from unbelievers -- any one of them. The necessity of apologetics is not a divine necessity: God can surely do His work without us. The necessity of apologetics is a moral necessity: God has chosen to do His work through us and called us to it. Apologetics is the special talent of some believers, and the interested hobby of others. But it is the God-ordained responsibility of all believers. What 1 Peter 3:15 isn't We should look at 1 Peter 3:15 again and notice a few things that it does not say. 1) Not a call to arrogance It does not say that believers are supposed to take the initiative and start arrogant arguments with unbelievers, telling them that we have all the answers. We do not have to go out looking for a fight. We certainly should not sport or encourage a "I'll prove it to you" spirit, an attitude which relishes refutation. The text indicates that we offer a reasoned defense in answer to those who ask for such from us, whether they do so as an opening challenge to the integrity of God's word or as the natural response to our evangelistic witness. The text also indicates that the spirit in which we offer our apologetic answer is one of "gentleness and respect." It is not pugnacious and defensive. It is not a spirit of intellectual one-up-manship. The task of apologetics begins with humility. After all, the fear of the Lord is the starting point of all knowledge (Prov. 1:7). Moreover, apologetics is pursued in service to the Lord, and "the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle toward all, apt to teach" (2 Tim. 2:24). Apologetics is not a place for vain flexing of our intellectual muscles. 2) No guarantee of persuasion Another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that believers are responsible to persuade anybody who challenges or questions their faith. We can offer sound reasons to the unbeliever, but we cannot make him or her subjectively believe those reasons. We can refute the poor argumentation of the unbeliever, but still not persuade them. We can close the mouth of the critic, but only God can open the heart. It is not in our ability, and not our responsibility, to regenerate the dead heart and give sight to the blind eyes of unbelievers. That is God's gracious work. It is God who must enlighten the eyes of one's understanding (Eph. 1:18). "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot know them because they are Spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). Until God in His sovereign grace changes the sinner from within, he will not see the kingdom of God or submit to the King. Jesus taught this to Nicodemus, reminding him that "the wind blows where it will... So is every one who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Our task is to present a faithful and sound witness and defense. The task of persuasion is God's. That is why apologists should not evaluate their success or adjust their message on the basis of whether the unbeliever finally comes to agree with them or not. 3. Not based on a supposed "neutrality" Yet another thing that 1 Peter 3:15 does not say is that defending the faith has a different ultimate authority than does the task of expounding the faith. It is a common mistake among evangelicals to imagine that the authority of God and His word is the basis for their theology and preaching, but the authority for defending this faith must be something other than God and His word -- or else we would be begging the question raised by unbelievers. Accordingly, believers will sometimes be misled into thinking that whatever they take as the ultimate standard in apologetical thinking must be neutral and agreed upon by believer and unbeliever alike; and from here they go on to make the second mistake of thinking that something like "reason" is such a commonly understood and accepted standard. These ideas are quite obviously out of accord with Biblical teaching, however. Does apologetics have a different epistemological authority than expounding theology? Our theology is founded upon the authority of Christ, speaking by His Spirit in the words of Scripture. 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us that the precondition of presenting a defense of the faith (apologetics) is also that we "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." It would be a mistake to imagine that Peter is speaking of the "heart" here as though it is our center of emotions over against the mind with which we think. In Biblical terminology the "heart" is the location of our reasoning (Rom. 1:21), meditation (Ps. 19:14), understanding (Prov. 8:5), thinking (Deut. 7:17; 8:5) and believing (Rom. 10:10). It is just here – in the center of our thinking and reasoning – that Christ is to be consecrated as Lord, when we engage in apologetical discussion with inquiring unbelievers. Thus theology and apologetics have the same epistemological authority – the same Lord over all. Reason and reasoning Believers who aim to defend their faith make a serious mistake when they imagine, then, that something like "reason" should displace Christ as the ultimate authority (Lord) in their thinking and argumentation. They also fall into very sloppy and confused thinking due to misunderstanding over the word "reason." Christians are often befuddled about "reason," not knowing whether it is something to embrace or to eschew. This is usually because they do not pinpoint the precise way in which the word is being used. It may very well be the most ambiguous and obscure word in the field of philosophy. On the one hand, reason can be thought of as a tool – man's intellectual or mental capacity. Taken in this sense, reason is a gift of God to man, indeed part of the divine image. When God bids His people "Come let us reason together" (Isa. 1:18), we see that we, like Him, are capable of rational thought and communication. God has given us our mental abilities to serve and glorify Him. It is part of the greatest commandment of the law that we should "love the Lord thy God... with all thy mind" (Matt. 22:37). Reason not ultimate On the other hand, reason can be thought of as an ultimate and independent authority or standard by which man judges all claims to truth, even God's. In this sense, reason is a law unto itself, as though man's mind were self-sufficient, not in need of divine revelation. This attitude commonly leads people to think that they are in a position to think independently, to govern their own lives, and to judge the credibility of God's Word based on their own insight and authority; more dramatically, this attitude deified Reason as the goddess of the French Revolution. "Professing themselves to he wise, they became fools," as Paul said (Romans 1:22). This view of reason does not recognize that God is the source and precondition of man's intellectual abilities – that reason does not make sense apart from the perspective of God's revelation. It does not recognize the sovereign and transcendent character of God's thought: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are. . . My thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). Reason as God's gift Should Christians endorse the use of reason? Two equal but opposite mistakes are possible in answering that question. Believers can recognize the appropriateness of using reason, taken as their intellectual faculty, but then slide into endorsing reason as intellectual autonomy. Believers can recognize the inappropriateness of reason as intellectual autonomy, but then mistakenly think this entails rejecting reason as an intellectual faculty. The first group honors God's gift to man of reasoning ability, but dishonors God through its rationalism. The second group honors God's ultimate authority and the need for obedience in all aspects of man's life, but it dishonors God through anti-intellectual pietism. Paul counterbalances both of these errors in Colossians 2. He writes that "all treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited in Christ" (Col. 2: 3). Accordingly we must "beware lest anyone rob you through philosophy, even vain deceit, which is after the tradition of men, after the elementary principles of the world, and not after Christ" (Col 2:8). This exhortation is not a diatribe against the use of reason or the study of philosophy. Paul makes it clear that believers have the advantage of the best reasoning and philosophy because Christ is the source of all knowledge – all knowledge, not simply religious matters or sentiment. Moreover, if there are many philosophies which are not "after Christ," there is also that philosophy which is. Anti-intellectualism throws the baby out with the bath. It destroys true wisdom in the name of resisting foolishness. On the other hand, it is equally plain from Colossians 2 that Paul does not endorse reasoning and philosophy which refuse to honor the ultimate authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that wisdom and knowledge must be found. Any alleged wisdom which follows the traditions of men and elementary principles of the world – rather than Christ – is to be rejected as dangerous and deceitful. The Bible teaches us, therefore, that "reason" is not to be taken as some neutral authority in man's thinking. It is rather the intellectual capacity with which God created man, a tool to be used in serving and glorifying the ultimate authority of God Himself. Sharpening the tool Reason properly understood (reasoning) is to be endorsed by believers in Christ. In particular it is to be employed in defending the Christian faith. This is one of the things which Peter communicates to us when he wrote that we should always be "ready to give a defense to anyone who asks from you a reason for the hope within you" (1 Peter 3:15). A word of explanation and defense is to be offered to those who challenge the truth of our Christian faith. We are not to obscure the glory and veracity of God by answering unbelievers with appeals to "blind faith" or thoughtless commitment. We are to "cast down reasonings and every high thing exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5), realizing all along that we cannot do so unless we ourselves "bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter uses the expression "always ready." This is significant for those who wish to honor the Biblical necessity of engaging in apologetics. What the Lord asks of us is that we be prepared to offer an answer in defense of our faith, whenever anybody asks us for a reason. We are to be "ready" to do this – indeed, "always ready." And that means that it is imperative that we reflect on the questions that unbelievers are likely to ask and challenges which are commonly laid down to Christianity. We should study and prepare to give reasons for our faith when the faithless ask. Christians need to sharpen the tool of their reasoning ability so as to glorify God and vindicate the claims of the gospel. We should all give our best efforts in the service of our Savior, who termed Himself "the Truth" (John 14:6). Every believer wants to see the truth of Christ believed and honored by others. And that is why we, need to be "ready to reason" with unbelievers. This study and those which follow are intended to help us become better prepared for that necessary task. Endnotes 1) Apologetics is the term commonly applied to the defense of the Christian faith against the intellectual opposition and objections of unbelievers. 2) Epistemology refers to one's theory of knowledge (its nature, sources, limits). When we ask "How do you know that to be true? (or how could you justify that claim?)," we are asking an epistemological question. 3) Whatever originates beyond man's temporal experience or exceeds that finite experience is said to "transcend" man. This article was first published in the December 1990 issue of Penpoint (Vol. VI:12) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

Apologetics 101

Four things you can do when someone challenges your faith

Have you ever felt “the big chill”? It’s the term I use for the cold shiver that runs up your spine when you’re confronted with what seems at first glance to be a persuasive challenge to your Christian convictions, that terrible suspicion that begins to settle in your bones that the challenger has a point. And it seems convincing. And it shakes you. I have those moments, too, and they’re not fun. Over the years, though, I’ve learned a simple, practical system to deal with the “chill” and I want to pass it on to you. It’s not especially clever or novel – thoughtful people have been using it for ages. But it works well to sort things out and help you get to the truth of the matter. A) Don't panic First, don’t panic. Don’t let the problem overwhelm you before you’ve had a chance to carefully assess it. There are almost always answers to these issues that are within reach if you pause, take a deep breath, then apply some thought to the matter. B) Clarify the claim Next, take a moment to reconnoiter. Get the lay of the land, so to speak. What exactly are you facing? What is the substance beyond the rhetoric that may be making the challenge look more compelling than it is? That takes two steps. Here’s step one. Clarify the claim. Ask, “What’s the big idea?” What is the point the challenge is meant to persuade you of? That there is no God? That Jesus never existed? That the Bible is not reliable? That Christianity is false? Whatever it is, get a clear fix on that point since it’s the bridge to the next step. C) Add in "because..." Step two is to add the word “because” after the big idea. “There is no God because…” or “The Bible is not reliable because…” etc. The point here is to now get a fix on the reasons that allegedly support the big idea. Make a list of them. Don’t rush this step. Sometimes it takes a little work to sift through the rhetoric to uncover the specifics. Don’t be surprised if, when you look closer, there’s nothing there but noise. It happens. No real reasons, just bluster. These two steps – clarifying the claim, then listing the reasons for it – allow you to quickly summarize the whole challenge – the basic point and the rationale behind it. If there’s more than one claim, then take each challenge individually. This is important: Deal with one point at a time. D) Do an assessment Finally, with the full argument in view do an assessment. Simply ask if the reasons offered legitimately support the big idea. An easy way to do this is to link the reasons with the basic claim by using the word “therefore.” This step of assessment can be difficult (if the argument is a technical one) or it can be incredibly simple. Let’s look at some examples. Take the claims, “Christians are hypocrites,” or, “Religion causes violence and suffering in the world,” or, “Belief in God is a crutch.” Each is meant to implicitly undermine our confidence in Christianity (i.e., “Christianity is false because Christians are hypocrites”). And these challenges seem all the more forceful since – on my take at least – these statements are each true in some measure. Even so, do they justify the (implied) big idea that Christianity is false? Let’s see. Consider our assessment: Many Christians are hypocrites, therefore Christianity is false. Religion causes violence, therefore Jesus’ view of the world must be wrong. Belief in God satisfies an emotional need, therefore God doesn’t exist. Hmmm. None of these work, do they? When stated clearly, these challenges all turn out to be conclusions that simply do not follow from the evidence. These charges – even when true (and many are not true, but that’s a different problem) – may tell us something about anthropology or sociology or even psychology, but they tell us nothing at all about God or Jesus or Christianity. The reasons do not support the big idea. There’s nothing to fear here. Conclusion So there it is. When you feel the big chill – when you’re shaken by a conversation, or an article, or a presentation that challenges your core convictions – don’t panic. Instead, use the system. First isolate the claims. Second, list the reasons. Third, do the assessment. You’ll be amazed at how effective this simple tool can be. Greg Koukl is the author of Tactics, an apologetics primer, and is the founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization that seeks to equip Christians to be knowledgeable, wise, and godly ambassadors of Christ. This article is reprinted with permission and first appeared in the magazine in 2017....

Apologetics 101

Two atheists walk into a bar...

If there is no God, can there be morality? I’m not asking whether atheists are moral people and do moral things. They do, but by what unimpeachable and ultimate standard? An atheist might say that certain laws are good for the advancement of the species. But let’s not forget that as an evolved species (according to atheism), we got here “red in tooth and claw.” We evolved upward through violent means. We ascended the evolutionary ladder on the weaker evolutionary elements going back to the first signs of organic life that struggled to survive. Why has that process suddenly become immoral? Famed atheist Richard Dawkins wrote in his book The Selfish Gene, “We — and that means all living things — are survival machines programmed to propagate the digital database that did the programming.” According to Dawkins, the goal of genes is to survive so they can be passed on to the next generation. The Selfish Gene has been described as “a disturbingly persuasive essay arguing that living things are little more than corporal vessels impelled to heed the primal dictates of selfish genes hellbent on their own replication and propagation.” These “selfish genes” don’t have a moral compass. They are like the Terminator. Their only goal is to survive and replicate and pity the poor organism that stands in their way. Michael Ruse and Edward O. Wilson contend that: “We need something to spur us against our usual selfish dispositions. Nature, therefore, has made us (via the rules) believe in a disinterested moral code, according to which we ought to help our fellow….  thics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.” Notice the equivocation: “as we understand it.” They don’t know this. Furthermore, even if our genes evolved to do this (and there is no empirical evidence that they have), it does not mean that we are obligated to do what they have “fobbed off on us.” Evolution is not about cooperation. It’s about the survival of the fittest. A few years ago, a group of atheists ran an ad campaign with this banner: “Relax: hell does not exist, or heaven either, enjoy your life.” Who defines what gives someone joy and on what basis? The Declaration of Independence mentions “the pursuit of happiness.” One person’s happiness could be another person’s dread. How do we know? The Declaration of Independence gives us a hint by stating that we are endowed by a “Creator with certain inalienable rights.” There are moral boundaries to life, liberty, and happiness. We are not at liberty to do what we want to do because it makes us happy. Two atheists walk into a bar. . . . First Atheist: I noticed your banner that I should enjoy life because there’s no hell. Do you mean that after death there won’t be a God to judge me for what I do or don’t do while I am alive? Second Atheist: Yes. In fact, there won’t be anyone or anything to judge you and me. There’s no karma or transmigration of the soul. As the song says, “All we are is dust in the wind.” Furthermore, God is a fictional character that humans created a long time ago to give meaning to life before there was science. When something in the world could not be explained, humans attributed the unknown to supernatural entities like gods and devils, spirits and sprites. Since the advent of science, we know that only matter matters. If it can’t be seen under a microscope or its properties can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. Invisible beings like gods, ghosts, and goblins can’t exist in a world that is now defined by the physical sciences. First Atheist: So, if I can’t see it or examine it, it does not exist. If a claimed entity does not have any physical properties, it does not exist. Second Atheist: Yes. Science has come a long way to remove all religious superstitions of the past. They’re still with us, but our organization is working overtime to eliminate every vestige of religion and the supernatural from our world. First Atheist: I’m so relieved. All my life I was taught that there was a divine being who brought the world into existence, expressed His character in a specific moral code, and one day would judge me based on how I measured up to that moral code. So, you’re saying that no such entity exists and I’m free to enjoy life on my terms. I want to be sure about this. There’s a lot riding on your belief system. Second Atheist: Yes. As our banners say, “Relax: hell does not exist, or heaven either, enjoy your life.” First Atheist: I’m so glad you said that. Your banner caught my attention and makes my life worth living. I have a purpose for living in the now. Any guilt I had is gone. Now give me all your money and the keys to your car. I also want the PIN numbers to all your accounts. If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to blow your brains out. Second Atheist: We are free to enjoy life as long as our enjoyment does not infringe upon the rights of others. First Atheist: Who says? On what basis is this true and obligatory? Second Atheist: It’s common decency. First Atheist: Who gets to determine what’s decent? Second Atheist: It’s wrong to steal and murder. First Atheist: No. At this moment in time, it’s unlawful to steal and murder. Laws are social conventions that are a holdover from our superstitious religious past. Survival of the fittest is the true basis of non-religious evolutionary origins. Laws are constantly changing. That shows that there are no eternal moral absolutes. As atheists, we can’t prove that moral absolutes exist since no one has ever seen a moral absolute or has been able to study one. They’re like the phantasms we dismiss as being unreal. Second Atheist: But there all kinds of moral absolutes that can be studied. First Atheist: Show me one. You said that only the physical is real. God is not a material entity that can be studied by the standards of science, so He cannot exist. That’s what we atheists claim. Show me the physical laws against murder and stealing. Of course, you can’t because they don’t exist given our materialist assumptions. Second atheist: Reason tells us that murder and stealing are wrong. First Atheist: That’s the best you can come up with? Reason? I think it’s very reasonable to take your stuff because I’ll enjoy all of its benefits. Your sign tells everyone to enjoy themselves. This is how I want to enjoy myself. Anyway, whose version of reason should I follow? Yours? It seems reasonable to me to take your stuff since you aren’t really being consistent with your belief system. You’re holding on to the remnants of religion and the fictional worldview that it spawned. Every so-called tyrant (atheism can’t say if anything is tyrannical) believed he was being ultimately reasonable. Adolf Hitler didn’t believe he was being irrational. Neither did Lenin or Stalin, and they killed (not murdered) millions for what they claimed were very rational reasons. The French fought a revolution for the absoluteness of reason. Guess what? They took people’s stuff and killed people in the name of reason and called it “virtue.” Second Atheist: But civilization depends on laws and morality. First Atheist: A consistent atheist cannot account for meaning, morality, or rationality. If there is no judgment after death, then there is no difference between Adolf Hitler who killed 6 million Jews or Sir Nicholas Winton who organized the rescue of more than 600 Jewish children from the Nazi death camps. At death, given atheist assumptions, they are equal, nothing more than dust in the wind. Mao Zeong and Josef Stalin would argue that they were working for a world that they believed would bring the most joy for themselves and those like them. . . . Now that I think about it, I don’t like this atheism thing. If I can rob and kill you with no eternal consequences, then other people can do the same to me. Your banner is stupid. You need to think through your belief system before you end up like atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair. “In 1995 she was kidnapped, murdered, and her body mutilated, along with her son Jon Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray O’Hair, by former American Atheist office manager David Roland Waters.” Waters must have said to himself, “Relax: Hell does not exist, or heaven either, enjoy your life.” This article first appeared on the website of American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry and is reprinted here with permission. Endnotes “Revolutionary Evolutionist,” Wired Magazine (July 1, 1995). Michael Ruse and Edward O. Wilson, “Evolution and Ethics,” New Scientist, 208 (October 17, 1985), 51. ...

Apologetics 101

One simple question: "What do you mean by that?"

In the May 17, 2016 Breakpoint Daily, John Stonestreet shared a few questions he uses when he finds himself in a tough conversation. The first and most helpful is: “What do you mean by that?" The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. Thus, it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms being used. For example, the most important thing to clarify in the ongoing gender discussions is the definition of "gender." So when the topic comes up, ask, “Hold on, before we go start talking about personal pronouns, puberty suppression, or surgeries, I want to ask, what do you mean by gender?” Often, when it comes to these crucial issues, both sides are using the same vocabulary, but not the same dictionary. So to present the antithesis – to speak God's Truth to a confused culture – we have to begin by defining our terms. Defining terms can also serve as a good defense when you're getting attacked, not with an argument, but simply with an insult. When someone tries to dismiss you by calling you a name, the best response is to question the insult. "You're just a homophobe!" “What do you mean by that?” “Um, I mean you hate gays.” “But I don’t hate gays. I do disagree with their lifestyle – I think it harms them by separating them from God. Is disagreeing the same thing as hating?” “Yeah, of course!” “But you’re disagreeing with me? Wouldn’t that mean you’re hateful?” "Well...um....but you deserve it!" As in this dialogue above, defining the terms might not win you the argument, but it can expose the vacuous nature of what the other side is saying. And even when you don't win over your debate partner, clarifying the terms is one way to help bystanders see through the name-calling. However, the most important reason to lead with this simple question – "What do you mean by that? – is because showing the anthesis, making plain what the two sides actually are, brings glory to our God. And who knows how He might use the seed we plant? ...

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

God is visible to any with eyes to see

Our universe, if just slightly different, would never have been able to support life. For example, a proton’s mass is 1,836 times greater than that of an electron, but it carries a positive charge that is exactly equal to that of the electron’s negative charge. How very strange that the two, so different in size, would yet be perfectly matched in charge! If they weren’t paired just so, then the vast array of elements could never have formed and life could never have existed. This is but one example of the fine-tuning that so troubles atheists that they’ve resorted to “what if” stories to explain it away. Yes, they acknowledge, the universe is too finely tuned to have come about just by chance…if we’d had only one role of the dice to get here. But wait, what if this wasn’t the only universe? What if there were billions and trillions and gazillions of universes out there somewhere? What if we could stack the odds in our favor by supposing as many universes as we might need? Then it wouldn’t seem so very improbable that at least one of these might be suited to life…right? However, there's a problem. As physicist Frank Tipler notes, there's as much evidence for these other universes as there is for the existence of leprechauns and unicorns. None at all. So on what basis do scientists propose this theory? Because they need it to be true – otherwise the odds are so obviously against them. And these same atheists will mock Christians because we speak of faith! The only case that can be made for this "multiverse" theory is that the alternative is too terrible for them to consider – that a Fine-Tuner brought the balance, order, and wonder to our universe. Atheists can be inventive, but God won’t leave them with any excuse. As Psalm 19 explains the heavens declare His glory. Want to explain away fine-tuning by postulating a multiverse? Well, then answer this: why would the Sun just happen to be roughly 400 times bigger than our moon and also 400 times further away? This precise pairing means that the moon and sun appear to be the same size in our sky. This allows us, during a solar eclipse, to study the Sun’s corona in a way that we just can’t any other time and wouldn’t ever be able to if the two celestial bodies weren’t sized just so. As the moon passes in front of the Sun only the corona is still visible – flaring fire crowning the moon in the dark daytime sky. Yes, dear atheist, we are not only in a universe impossibly finely tuned for life, but implausibly suited for us to study our own Sun. Why would that be? The multiverse doesn’t explain it. There is no reason that the one universe in which all the dice rolled just right for life would also be the same universe in which we’d be gifted with a moon that was sized exactly right to study our own Sun. Atheists have no explanation. But we do. We know our God created us as the very pinnacle of His creation (Psalm 8:3-9, Genesis 1:26-28) and that our purpose is to glorify Him. So it isn’t surprising to us that God would so arrange things that the precise sizing of the moon enables us to study our Sun – God is showing us His wonders! A version of this article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Reformed Perspective. A related article by Eric Metaxas, of Breakpoint Ministries, called "Observatory Earth" can be found here. Also, be sure to check out this great 6-minute clip below about more amazing interactions between our moon and the Earth. ...

Apologetics 101, Politics, Pro-life - Abortion

On "the Overton Window" and talking crazy

There are two ways to encourage our country to turn in a godly direction. Both involve talking. **** Glenn Beck, a radio talk show host in the US, authored a novel with the curious title The Overton Window. Before ever reading the book I had to google the title to find out what it meant. I was glad I did – it turns out "The Overton Window" is an enormously useful way of looking at how ideas are discussed in the public square. A political analyst, Joseph Overton, coined the term to describe how some topics/issues/ideas fall into a range - the Overton Window – where they are deemed acceptable for public discourse. To give an example, while no one likes property tax increases, we also wouldn't think it radical or unthinkable to talk about hiking them a point or two. It is an idea that can be discussed publicly without embarrassment, falling within the "Overton Window" of acceptable discourse. Now, some ideas fall outside the Overton Window. If we were to draw out a "spectrum of acceptability" (see the illustration below) for public conversations, then on the outer extremes would be ideas deemed simply Unthinkable. These are thoughts that, if anyone were to propose them, they would then be dismissed as crazy, bizarre, or bigoted. But as we move inwards, towards the middle, ideas start to become merely Radical, then become Acceptable, and as they become more and more Popular, they are so well thought of by the public, they may well become government Policy. The Overton Window helps us understand why some of the issues most important to Christians just don't get discussed. It's because a politician isn’t going to dare talk about ideas that will make him seem like a kook – if an idea falls into the Unthinkable, or Radical end of the spectrum, he won’t touch them. That’s where Christians are right now with the issue of abortion in Canada. And that's where we're heading on transgenderism. A daring politician may bring up ideas that are merely Acceptable, but most politicians try to find out which way the parade is heading, and then get out in front of it. So they will only bring up issues thought Sensible, Popular, or so accepted that everyone thinks they should be made Policy. I bring up the Overton Window because it is a very useful tool to direct, and measure, what we are doing when we set out to shift the public's stand on an issue. The opposition is trying, and largely succeeding, in making orthodox Christian beliefs seem radical. If we are going to change hearts and minds on issues like the protection of the unborn, marriage, human rights commissions, education policy, and restorative justice, we will have to begin by pushing our ideas back into Overton Window of "acceptable discourse." We want our ideas, once deemed unthinkable, to be seen by Canadians as simply common sense, and so popular they should be policy. Doing it right So how do we make the shift? There are two ways. 1. Speak the unthinkable to makes it less so Talking does wonders. The current transgender debate is being lost, quite quickly, and the biggest reason is that no one – at least none of our political leaders – are willing to speak up. The opposition has already managed to make it unthinkable to say, "God made us male and female, and wishing it was different can't change that truth." But what if someone did speak up? Here in Canada in recent months we've seen the impact that even one person can have when they are willing to voice what has become politically incorrect. University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson has made waves for publicly questioning whether people can choose to be genderless or "non-binary." Because he hasn't backed down, his solitary stand has become a movement of sorts, with thousands echoing his concerns. And it all started because he was willing to speak. Here's another illustration, this one from Joe Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center think tank where Joseph Overton first thought up the term “Overton Window.” If a teenage girl wants her parents to change her curfew from 10 pm to midnight the most strategic way forward would be for her to start talking about how all her friend get to stay out until 2 am. Now there's no way her parents will let her stay out until 2 am and she knows it, but if she makes a credible case for this extreme, she might just succeed in shifting 2 am from an Unthinkable idea, to merely a Radical one. And that, in turn, might just make midnight seem downright Acceptable. By overshooting what she is really after, she can tug her parents to where she is actually hoping they will go. We can do something like that too. We aren’t going to exaggerate our position like this girl – that would be lying – but we can take inspiration from her and speak out fearlessly on our most unthinkable ideas. If we are vocal, if we are heard, we can pull the public towards us, even if we don’t yet bring them all the way over. So, for example, if in our day-to-day lives we all start wearing pro-life shirts that celebrated the humanity of the unborn, and if in the next election campaign CHP candidates effectively and vocally make the case for the humanity of the unborn, and then we all use the ARPA Easy Mail to write our MPs, and write in to our local papers too, all of us calling for an end to abortion, we could succeed in pulling the public enough our way to allow a Conservative MP to push for an “Informed Consent” law. This is a law that would require women be given all the facts before they have an abortion. Of course we wouldn’t be satisfied with this one small step forward, but some children would be saved. It would be a start. But it will only happen if we are willing to speak the unthinkable fearlessly and boldly. 2. Speak the radical repeatedly During the 2008 election, one-time US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin brought homemade cookies for students at a Pennsylvania school. She had heard that there was a debate going on over whether public schools in the state should ban sweets. “Who should be deciding what I eat?” she asked a cheering audience. “Should it be government or should it be parents? It should be the parents,” Palin concluded. That a child’s parent should make their nutritional decisions, rather than some arm of the government, is not an extreme position. But unless, like Palin, we speak this truth repeatedly, repetitively publicly, and repeatedly (and repetitively) it could easily become extreme. It is only by repetition that common sense remains common. How not to do it Now there are also two approaches we can use to be sure we won’t shift our nation in a more godly direction. 1. We can't expect change if we won't speak This might seem so obvious as to be not worth mentioning, But it is our default. It is easier not to let co-workers know we oppose how a homosexual couple rewrote the BC public schools curriculum. It is easier to be quiet than do the research to be able to speak persuasively for the unborn. It’s easier to remain ignorant about what our country’s human rights commissions are up to. It’s easier to be unprepared, and unnoticed, easier not to stick out, easier to keep our mouths shut. It’s easier, but we can’t expect change if we won’t ready ourselves to speak on the issues of our day intelligently and persuasively. 2. We also can't expect change if we pretend to be less radical than we are One of the reasons I'm bringing up the Overton Window is because it is a more accurate way to evaluate success than some of our more traditional measures. We sometimes get caught up in measuring our success by how many Christians MPs or MLAs we’ve elected, or how many votes our candidate received, or maybe how many pieces of legislation “our guys” have managed to pass. But there is a problem with measuring success this way. It is possible to increase our vote total and elect more Christian MPs even as our nation becomes increasingly godless. We can even pass positive pieces of legislation, without changing Canadians’ hearts and minds. How? By downplaying our Christian convictions. If we pretend that we aren’t radical, that our radical positions are quite conventional, we can get elected. But without any mandate to make the changes we are actually hoping for. I want to note before I bring up this next example, that I am not trying to attack this man. I greatly respect him. But the strategy he employed is a very relevant example. When he was a Manitoba Conservative MP, Rod Bruinooge, proposed a piece of legislation that would have made it illegal to coerce a woman into having an abortion. It was, possibly, the very smallest step forward in the protection of the unborn, since it would have only protected those few children who were wanted by their mothers, but were being threatened by their fathers. It was a small step, but still a step!  But it was not sold as pro-life legislation. Bruinooge was quoted by WorldNetDaily.com as saying his bill “doesn't have any bearing on access to abortion.” He noted: “That's not related to this bill. Access to abortion in Canada is in all nine months….This bill doesn't have any bearing on that… This bill is neither pro-life or pro-abortion.” Now anything abortion-related in Canada would fall in the Radical/Unthinkable range. But if the public had taken Bruinooge at his word, and believed that his bill has nothing to do with abortion, perhaps they would have found it an Acceptable idea. The bill wasn't passed. But if it had, its passage wouldn’t have signaled any sort of shift in our nation. It will only have passed because MP Bruinooge avoided talking about abortion – so the bill won’t have done anything to change the public's mind about abortion. It wouldn't have done anything to shift the pro-life position in any positive direction in the public's mind. Conclusion The shift that we are after is going to involve pushing boundaries, being radical, bringing up the unthinkable. That’s how we are going to start to shift hearts and minds - when we fearlessly and repeatedly and effectively present God’s truth to our nation (Heb 13:6). And so to conclude I want to encourage you to speak out, in whatever organization you are a part of, and wherever God has placed you:  at your work, in the park, behind a podium, over the back fence, at the gym, Equip yourself to speak out and then speak. We all need to take on this task. This article was based on a talk delivered Nov. 22, 2010 at a CHP event, which you can hear here. ...

Apologetics 101, Gender roles

Highflying comparisons, down-to-earth questions, and truthful declarations - apologetics in 3 steps

Bill Muehlenberg is one of Australia’s most insightful commentators, and in his recent column “Sex Wars: Can’t get no satisfaction” he quickly and succinctly highlighted how thinking just doesn’t make things so. He wrote: “…consider this meme making the rounds on various radical feminist, homosexual and trans websites: "Things that don’t necessarily make you a woman: - having breasts - having a vagina - menstruating - being pregnant - having a uterus - going through childbirth - having ovaries "Things that definitely make you a woman: - identifying as a woman "Oh dear. Let’s just change things around a bit and see how all this works out: "Things that don’t necessarily make you an airplane: - having two wings - having a fuselage - being able to fly - having a means of propulsion - being able to counter gravity - having the ability to take off, fly, and land - having landing gear "Things that definitely make you an airplane: - identifying as an airplane "Hey, why not? I happen to have NONE of the things listed above, but I sure do identify as an airplane. So who wants to go for a ride with me? Who is ready to fly the friendly skies with me?” This comparison is brilliant, but to expose the nonsense we need more. So how can we take this even further? First we have to understand what point we’re trying to make. In the gender identity wars, we have two points to make: God made us male and female Anyone who says anything else is talking rubbish. When the other side is downright silly, then the best way to point that out is to get them to explain themselves further – we can make our point by asking them to make theirs. If they insist that simply feeling like a woman can make you one, we need to ask, “What does it mean to feel like a woman?” Remember now, they’re denying all the obvious biological differences – being a woman has nothing to do with any particular body parts. As we’re hearing more and more often now, some women have penises. So if gender has nothing to do with our objective biological differences, then what’s left? What makes a woman a woman? Do women have different emotions? Different preferences? Different tendencies? Do they think differently? Perish the thought – as the feminists have long told us, there are no emotional, mental or psychological differences between men and women. Suggest that boys like trucks and girls like dolls and you’ll be told that’s just social conditioning…. and that you’re a Neanderthal for even thinking such a thing. But if there is nothing objective that makes one a man or a woman, and nothing subjective either, then what is this nonsense about feeling like another gender? According to the world, there are no such things as “gendered” feelings. Christians know better. God made us male and female, and while that has obvious outward biological differences, it extends beyond the physical. Sure, the different body parts are easier to identify, but the different attitudes, thought patterns, strengths and weaknesses do manifest themselves in general gendered divisions too. And in His wisdom, and perhaps even displaying His divine sense of humor, God has so arranged things that somehow these differences complement each other so that the two can become one flesh. Great analogies, like Muehlenberg’s above, and careful questioning are fantastic ways to point out the flaws in worldly ideology. But we can’t stop there. Our goal isn’t limited to exposing error; we want to share God’s Truth. And when it comes to gender, what an amazing Truth it is – one even Christians don’t begin to fully understand! God has not only made us male and female, but He has given us a mirror, in the relationship between husband and wife, to show us Christ’s relationship with his Church. It is a mystery. It is wonderful. And it is evident for any who have eyes to see....

Apologetics 101

The JFK assassination and apologetics: the facts don't speak for themselves

Movie director, Oliver Stone, unleashed a Pandora's Box at the box-office in 1991 with the release of his controversial film, JFK. The movie, which was a technological marvel and starred Kevin Costner along with a host of well-known actors, explored the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Warren Commission Report regarding the tragedy, and a complex conspiracy theory which sought to "get to the real truth" behind an alleged cover-up. The Stone movie provoked a phenomenal response. Some people were outraged at its ugly implications, or at its own distortion of testimony, or at its white-wash of questionable sources, or even at its amazing editing and weaving of soundbites, visual images, changing angles, flashbacks and anticipations, documentary coverage and interpretive re-creations. Other people are equally outraged at finding out how poorly the subsequent investigation into the assassination was handled, and how many disturbing pieces of evidence or testimony were squashed or ignored, and how outlandish the explanations of the single-assassin theory had to become, and how our own government agencies may have been entangled or willing to look the other way. Newsweek magazine was so egged on by the movie that it decided to throw rotten eggs in return, giving it prime attention on its front cover with the heading: "The Twisted Truth of 'JFK' - Why Oliver Stone's New Movie Can't Be Trusted" (Dec.23, 1991). On the other hand, the local bookstores have been doing a rousing business in selling books which are relevant to rebutting the Warren Commission conclusions and exploring theories which, despite their conspiratorial character, pay compelling attention to details. Among the most important are the two books by lawyer Mark Lane: Rush to Judgment (a 1966 cross-examination of the Warren Commission, both thorough and sober) and Plausible Denial (a more recent book purporting to show C.I.A. involvement to some degree in the assassination). The massive analysis of Jim Marris (who teaches a college course on the subject) runs over 600 pages in length, and is entitled Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy. Also worthy of mention is On the Trail of the Assassins, written by former New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, whose investigation and eventual trial of Clay Shaw for alleged participation in a scheme to kill the president was the organizing plot of the Oliver Stone movie. On the downside of credibility for the conspiracy theorists is the large number of such theories which have been advanced. Granted, some are more plausible and well-reasoned than others, but the fact that there are so many of them is disturbing, each offering somewhat convincing evidence. Who should be fingered for the crime? The C.I.A.? Military intelligence? The mafia? The F.B.I.? The Vice-President? Anti-Castro Cubans? Pro-Castro communists? Right-wing extremists? Pro-Soviet communists? All of the above? None of the above? For years the thesis that Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who shot President Kennedy, and that he acted alone, has seemed relatively easy to accept. The public was told that an eyewitness saw Oswald in the book depository building window. A rifle was discovered there which not only had Oswald's palm-print, but had been purchased by mail order under an assumed name, identification for which Oswald was carrying on him. His own wife said she believed he was the killer. The FBI found incriminating photos at Oswald's home, later published by Life magazine. The man had previously renounced the United States and lived in the Soviet Union! No, the case against Oswald was not hard to believe. Yet there always had been disturbing elements in the story. Why was Oswald deprived of legal counsel, and why was no record made of police interviews with him? How did a man (Jack Ruby) simply walk in off the street, stride right up to Oswald in the presence of dozens of officers, and shoot him point blank? What do we make of eyewitnesses who said they previously saw Oswald and Ruby together in Ruby's nightclub? Why did the people who were present in Deleay Plaza when Kennedy was shot run forward toward the fence on the grassy knoll, seeking the shooter, instead of running back toward the depository building? Fifty-one witnesses claim to have heard shots from the direction of the grassy knoll! Why did the medical doctors initially report an entry wound to Kennedy's throat, if he had been shot (only) from behind? Why do films show his head recoiling from a frontal (and from the right) shot? The Oswald theory would require that no more than three shots were fired – although ballistics experts were unable to replicate even that feat within the relevant time restraint (5.6 seconds) with a bolt-action rifle like Oswald's. However, acoustics evidence now proves there were at least four shots. On the Oswald hypothesis, one of the assassin's three bullets needed to inflict seven wounds in two bodies (Kennedy's and Governor Connally's) – some at nearly right angles – and emerge in almost pristine condition! Photographic experts have discredited the Life magazine pictures of Oswald as edited composites. Marina Oswald's opinion of her husband's involvement actually changed (following virtual house-arrest for weeks with the FBI) from an initial disputing of it. Paraffin tests performed on Oswald's cheeks the day of the assassination demonstrated that he had not fired a rifle that day. When the FBI turned over the alleged murder weapon, it reported that there were no prints (where the palm print later appeared). Initial autopsy reports on Kennedy were destroyed... The case against Oswald looked strong for a time (and still does for many people), but now that case begins to appear rather weak (if not being fully refuted according to some people).  So what? For our present purposes, it is not really relevant whether the Oswald-as-lone-assassin theory regarding Kennedy's assassination is accurate or not. It is not my intention to take sides on this troubled question here. Rather, it is the controversy itself that is raging over this question which should interest us, for this dispute provides a very fruitful education into the real character of what we sometimes call "factual investigation" and illustrates the nature of historical (and forensic) argumentation. Oddly enough, the controversy over the Kennedy assassination provides an opportunity for Christians to learn something valuable about apologetical method - the defense of their faith. Popular and widely published apologists for the Christian faith often tell us, for example, that the most persuasive way to practice the defense of the faith is simply to provide unbelievers with "the facts" of history (the raw evidence of eye-witness testimony) and challenge them that any "rational" man would have to conclude that this evidence "proves" with practical certainty that Jesus rose from the dead – as the most astounding miracle of history. This approach has always seemed more than a bit naive. And the controversy surrounding the Kennedy assassination makes that naiveté stand out all the more prominently. The facts don't speak for themselves Evangelical apologists who think that a presentation of "the fact" of history is enough to vindicate the truth of Christianity against the skeptical challenges of unbelievers overlook the way in which people reach – and critically maintain – their personal conclusions about fundamental and important issues. Those who think that unbelievers would become believers if only they were made aware of the observational "evidence" (the testimony of alleged eyewitnesses) do not fully grasp the key issues in the philosophical study of the theory of knowledge (epistemology). What they do not realize is that, contrary to a popular aphorism, the "facts" do not "speak for themselves." What people see (or hear) will be unavoidably interpreted according to their other beliefs, their personal expectations and values, and their governing presuppositions. "The facts" do not simply stand "out there" with their meaning inherent in them, waiting to be seen for what they are regardless of what the commitments and beliefs may be of those who find "the facts." What a person will take to be a "fact" and how that fact is interpreted and related to other beliefs is not determined alone by the perceptions or observations (or observation-reports) which a person has. His thinking will be guided by various assumptions or controlling presuppositions. There were plenty of eyewitnesses at the very scene of the crime when President Kennedy was assassinated. In our day we enjoy incredibly advanced techniques and technologies for investigation of evidence, physical and personal. Hundreds of people have been hard at work dealing with the relevant clues and testimony concerning the killing of JFK. Do "the facts speak for themselves"? Do they? The fact that advocates of the Warren Commission's theory debate ferociously with critics of the Commission tells you that much more is involved here than a simple look at "the facts and nothing but the facts" concerning a particular event which transpired in 1963. The fact that critics of the Warren Commission disagree widely with each other in proposing other theories about the assassination of Kennedy tells you that there is much more involved here than a simple amassing of "the facts." This is even more the case with respect to Christ's resurrection. Here we do not have an event which took place merely thirty years ago, but almost two thousand years ago. We do not have any hard physical evidence to investigate and no living witnesses to cross-examine. We do not have a great number of extant testimonies (although some we have do speak of others as well). The event in question was no ordinary natural event (as the mere shooting of a man is, although he was a politically important man), but rather an awesome and extraordinary resurrection from the dead – a miracle. If the dispute over Kennedy's assassination shows us that the facts do not speak for themselves – that the question is not settled simply over alleged evidences – how much more should Christian apologists realize that our debate with unbelievers over the resurrection of Christ (and other matters of Biblical truth) is not simply a matter of "evidences." It must eventually involve a challenge to the heart-commitment and intellectual presuppositions of the non-Christian. Jesus said it long ago: "If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if one should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31). This article was first published in the May 1992 issue of Penpoint (Vol. III:3) and is reprinted with permission of Covenant Media Foundation, which hosts and sells many other Dr. Greg Bahnsen resources on their website www.cmfnow.com....

Apologetics 101, News

Abortionist: “God performs way more abortions than I do…”

In a Dec. 29 tweet abortionist Leah Torres went viral by claiming: “God performs way more abortions than I do…” While pro-lifers were quick to respond, most failed to offer an effective reply. When we debate the world there can be a temptation to assume anything they say must not be true. That's what happened here, with many a Christian afraid to concede there was something to Torres’ claim, at least as far as it went. And because this uncomfortable truth was avoided, the rebuttals missed their target. The newsgroup LifeNews.com tweeted this reply: “But you believe in evolution. So it’s evolution’s fault, not God’s.” Maybe Torres does believe in unguided evolution, but the largely Catholic LifeNews presumably doesn’t. So why not offer a Catholic or Christian response, instead of this evasion? Faithwire.com thought another reply, a tweet by ToniMZ81, was worth sharing, but it also sidestepped the real issue. She wrote: “…most miscarriages are because of an issue with the pregnancy/ non viability & most abortions are viable pregnancies.” What this forgets is Who controls viability. There is a difference between an abortion and a miscarriage, but this tweet didn’t get to the heart of it. The difference is not that Torres takes life and God does not. The difference is that God is the Author of life and Torres is not. As the Source of life He has a right to take what He has given. Torres does not. This point was made by a few pro-lifers. Greg Schultz tweeted: There’s a difference… You Are Not God Taken to its logical end, Torres' argument justifies every sort of murder at any age because, after all, God has killed more people of that age, than any of us have. To highlight the incredible wickedness of this logic, Anthony Abides, in the most memorable tweet of them all, put Torres' self-justification in Hitler's mouth: “God killed more Jews than I do.”...

Apologetics 101

What is Man?

Three thousand years ago, an ancient sage gazed at the world and asked the most important question anyone could ask about our corporate humanity: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him…? (Ps. 8:3–4) Indeed. What is man? What does it mean to be human? You cannot answer a single question of consequence regarding human beings without answering that question first. Everything vital, meaningful, and moral about us hangs on its answer. It is the quintessential query regarding the nature of human existence. MANY OTHER QUESTIONS FLOW TOWARDS THIS ONE Is gender fixed or fluid? Is homosexuality natural or perverse? Is there a right to abortion? What about capital punishment? Or sexual slavery? Or social justice? The answer to each of these questions depends upon an answer to a prior question: What is man? There are three ways to respond. 1. NATURALISM: WE ARE NOTHING Here is the first way, the response of naturalism — the religion currently governing science. According to pop “Science Guy” Bill Nye, “We are just a speck, on a speck, orbiting a speck, in the corner of a speck, in the middle of nowhere.” “We emerged from microbes and muck,” Carl Sagan declared. “We find ourselves in bottomless free fall…lost in a great darkness, and there’s no one to send out a search party.” And they are right, of course. In a world without God, humans are nothing but cogs in the celestial machine, cosmic junk, the ultimate unplanned pregnancy, left to build our lonely lives on the “unyielding foundation of universal despair,” as atheist Bertrand Russell put it. Nihilism — bleak “nothing-ism.” 2. NEW AGE: WE ARE GOD There is a more cheerful alternative, though: the New Age answer to the question “What is man?” There is a God, according to Rhonda Byrne, and he is you. In The Secret, her celebration of human divinity, she writes: You are God in a physical body. You are Spirit in the flesh. You are Eternal Life expressing itself as You…. You are all power. You are all wisdom. You are all intelligence. You are perfection. So the secularists have given us two options. Either there is no God, or there is and we are Him. Cosmic debris or divine perfection. In either case, we are alone — solitary nothing or solitary everything. Scylla or Charybdis. 3. A THIRD WAY: NEITHER GODS NOR GARBAGE Our ancient sage, though, provides a third answer. No, we are not God, but we are not garbage, either. There is another alternative, a path between those two monsters. It is also one that makes complete sense of our deepest intuitions about what it means for us to be human. THE ODDITY THAT IS EARTH DAY Something has always confused me about Earth Day celebrations. They seem to be based on a contradiction. Earth Day is a fete enjoyed by naturalists, on the main, who celebrate nature as ultimate and man’s unique moral responsibility to protect it. There, did you see it? Did you catch the contradiction? In order to see the misstep, you must see something else first. Worldviews come in packages. They are like puzzles with particular pieces fitting together into a coherent whole. Foundational concerns either fit crisply with other details or foreclose on them. In a naturalistic worldview, nature is all there is — physical things in motion strictly governed by the deterministic laws of physics and chemistry. In this package, then, there is no place for actual moral obligations of any kind because morality is based on free choices, not on physical determinism. Further, Darwinism is a strictly materialistic process that produces strictly material goods. No pattern of genetic mutation and natural selection can cause an immaterial moral obligation to pop into existence.  Thus, no living thing can have an obligation to protect another. The locusts take what they can and leave nothing for the hapless boll weevil. Nor should they. May the best bug (the “fittest” critter) win. That’s the program. Nature’s “balance” is maintained by the corporate tug o’ war for survival that all living things engage in (on this view), not by one species acting responsibly towards another. There are no moral hierarchies in nature since nature has no resources to build them. Thus, the notion that a specific animal, even a human one, has responsibility of stewardship over any other — much less over nature’s entire project — is completely foreign to Darwinism and, thus, to naturalism. In short, there is nothing in an atheistic, naturalistic world that makes sense of man’s obligation towards nature. That’s the contradiction. MY FATHER'S WORLD As I said, it confuses me, and it ought to trouble naturalists, too, but it doesn’t appear to. There is a reason for this, I think. To them it just seems obvious — regardless of their underlying worldview — that humans are different in a qualitative way, making us responsible as stewards over the world entrusted to us. That’s not the exact language they’d use, of course, but it’s what the intuition driving Earth Day amounts to. And they are right about this intuition, of course, but certainly not in virtue of naturalism. Naturalists can talk all they want of human obligations, human meaning and purpose, human value, human significance — even human rights — but it’s all chaff in the wind given their foundational understanding of reality. There is a worldview, though, in which each of these features of human worth makes perfect sense. Ours. Here is what the Earth Day crowd gets right: Man is different. Humans are special. People are responsible precisely because they are not the same as anything else in nature. And we all know this, which is why the fact continues to stubbornly assert itself even with people whose worldview package cannot justify it. That’s because this world is not Mother’s world (“Mother Nature”). It is Father’s world. Here is what Father says about human beings. Humans are beautiful, but they are also broken. They are good, but they are also guilty, and so they are lost. But it hasn’t always been this way, so there is hope for rescue. These are things we all know, it turns out. They reflect our deepest intuitions about ourselves and the world we live in. BEAUTIFUL... Carl Sagan says we are cousins of apes. That is Mother’s assessment, of course. Father says different: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:27) This is the starting point for the answer to our question, “What is man?” At the core of our being lies a mark, an imprint of God Himself — not on us, as if foreign and attached, but in us, as a natural feature built into our natures. This mark is part of what makes us what we are, who we are. We would not be humans without it, but only creatures. Because of this mark, we are not kin to apes. We are kin to the God who made us for Himself. I do not want you to miss the significance of this simple statement, “God created man in His own image,” the very first thing said about humans at the outset of God’s Story. It means that anyone reading these words — indeed, every person who has ever lived or died or hoped or dreamed anywhere on this planet at any time in history — bears something beautiful at their core, a beauty that can never be lost and cannot be taken from them. No, we are not gods, but we are like God in an important way. God’s image in us is what makes abortion a homicide and sexual slavery a travesty. It is the reason we are not free to treat each other like animals. It is why certain “inalienable” rights belong uniquely to us. It is also the basis for our friendship with God. We are like Him so we can be near Him in an extraordinary, intimate way. In a very real sense, then, you have never met an “ordinary” person. Because of the mark of God within our souls, we are each extraordinary in a way that no disfigurement — physical or moral — can ever change, no circumstance can ever alter, no thief can ever steal. It is God’s forever gift to humanity, His image on our being. Thus, we are precious to Him as nothing else is. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29–31). Notice something else about Father’s world. God says He made us “male and female.” God made gender binary, not “fluid.” There are two and only two, not a vast array. This is a good thing — one made to match the other, each designed to fit the other physically for reproduction (obviously) and soulishly for oneness when paired together in lifelong relationship. The two make one, each “fearfully and wonderfully” made, man for woman, woman for man — the one as the other’s proper, lifelong complement and companion. There is another reason for our binary sexuality. Only in the combination of those unique characteristics germane to each gender is the image of God fully manifest. Though in God’s essential nature He is Father, God is neither male nor female, strictly speaking, but shares and manifests the magnificent glories of both genders. Note one thing more. God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Gen. 1:28) This is the accurate insight of the Earth Day crowd. We are both masters and stewards; regents on earth, yet servants of the Most High God. But there is a problem. Something went south. ...BUT BROKEN I want to tell you another thing everyone knows. Something has gone terribly wrong. We call it “the problem of evil,” and it prompts us to ask, “Why is there so much badness in the world?” There is a wrinkle to this concern, though, another detail each of us also already knows. The world is broken, true enough. But we are broken, too, and our brokenness is a huge part of what is wrong with the world. The world is broken because we are broken. Though man has inherent dignity, he is also cruel. The evil is “out there,” as it were, but it is also “in here” — in us. Things did not start out that way, though. At the very end of the very beginning, once God had set everything in its proper place, we find this summary of all He had done: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). All was as it was supposed to be, just as God intended, everything working according to its purpose, man and woman one with each other and the world, resting in their friendship with God. In that peaceful paradise, though, there was a lone prohibition — a test of fidelity to a Friend, of love to a Father, of loyalty to a King. There was also a tempter who told a terrible lie and a devastating disobedience that changed everything. When our first parents chose to follow the deceiver rather than their Sovereign, they broke fellowship with their Father, they broke communion with each other, and they broke harmony with the earth they’d been entrusted with. Indeed, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the whole world. Human badness made the world go bad. Because our parents became broken, each of us is now broken like them since they reproduced children just like themselves, and their children have done likewise, one broken generation cascading down to the next. Each of us is still beautiful, to be sure. God’s image cannot be erased. However, it can be defaced and disfigured, sullied and spoiled. And that is what has happened. Where there was freedom, there is now slavery and struggle. Where there was spiritual life, there is now spiritual death and decay. Where there was friendship with God, there is now enmity and strife. This is the second part of our answer to the question, “What is man?” Yes, man is beautiful, but man is terribly broken. And it gets worse. GUILTY To say we are broken is accurate, but it is also easily misunderstood since it does not go far enough. We are not machines that are malfunctioning. We are not bodies that are ailing. We are subjects who revolted, rebels who are now morally corrupted. We are guilty, and for this we must answer. Again, each of us knows this deep down inside. Years back, I lectured to a sold-out crowd at the University of California at Berkeley. I made the case against moral relativism simply by observing how frequently we object to evil deeds done by others. This tendency, I pointed out, explains something about ourselves, too, since we are the “others” doing those evil deeds we object to. And we know it. Deep inside of us is a gnawing awareness of our own badness, producing a feeling we universally recognize. That feeling has a name. I asked them what it was. All over the auditorium I heard their response. “Guilt,” they said, one by one. Yes, we all feel guilty, don’t we? At some point or another, if we are honest with ourselves, we feel the pain of our own brokenness. “But why?” I asked. “Why do we feel guilty? How about this,” I suggested. “Maybe we feel guilty,” I said, “because we are guilty. Is that in the running?” This, of course, is exactly what the Story tells us: There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. (Rom. 3:10–12) Humans are beautiful, yes. But humans are also broken. And in our moral wretchedness we are also profoundly guilty. We owe. We are in debt, not to a standard, not to a rule, not to a law, but to a Person — to the One we have offended with our disobedience. And this is not good news, since our guilt has severe consequences. LOST At the end of the Story we find a dark passage. It tells of the final event of history as we know it, a great trial on a great plain where a great multitude of the accused — the guilty ones — stand before a Judge. The books of death are opened, each of our moral lives laid bare for all mankind to see — the record in the books the basis for a final reckoning, a last judgment. Nothing is missed or overlooked. From massive acts of evil to minor moral missteps, no sullied deed passes. “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known,” Jesus warned (Matt. 10:26). “Every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment,” He said (Matt. 12:36). It is not a pretty picture. Before the Judge stand all the beautiful, broken, guilty ones, each shut up under sin. Every mouth is also shut, each voice muted, silenced from any defensive appeal or any excuse, all the world accountable to Him with whom we have to do. The record in the books speaks for itself. Here is Sagan’s “bottomless free fall” — mankind “lost in a great darkness.” He is right about that, since we are all guilty, and no judge owes a pardon. Atonement must be made. The debt must be paid. Justice must be perfect. There is one more detail to the Story, though. I did not leave the students at Berkeley in despair, abandoned under the weight of their own guilt — culpability that we all shoulder, blame that we all share. “The answer to guilt is not denial,” I told them. “That’s relativism. The answer to guilt,” I said, “is forgiveness. And this is where Jesus comes in.” Sagan is right when he says we are lost. But he is wrong when he says, “There’s no one to send out a search party.” Clearly, man needs rescuing, and he cannot rescue himself. Help must come from the outside. From outside of ourselves. From outside of Sagan’s closed cosmos. From outside of this world. And the search party has arrived. The Rescuer has come: Therefore, when comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come…to do Your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5–7) Because our souls bear God’s own image, we are wonderful. Because we have rebelled against the God who gave us our beauty, we are broken, guilty, and ultimately lost. “For the wages of sin is death…” the Story tells us (Rom. 6:23). In the darkness, though, there is hope, because it then adds, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He is the One who calls to us: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:28–29) END NOTES Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (New York: Random house, 1994), 6, 51.  Rhonda Bryne, The Secret (New York: Atria Books, 2006), 164. In a previous issue of Solid Ground, I explain why Darwinism as a system is completely incapable of generating actual, objective moral obligations. See “God, Evolution, and Morality,” parts 1 and 2, at str.org. Sagan, ibid. I owe this insight to C.S. Lewis. Note Jesus’ comment in Matt. 19:4–6. Rev. 20. Gal. 3:22. Rom. 3:19. Greg Koukl is the author of Tactics, an apologetics primer, and The Story of Reality, which is a lot like this article. He is the founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization that seeks to equip Christians to be knowledgeable, wise, and godly ambassadors of Christ. This article is reprinted with permission. ...

Apologetics 101

Disarming a name-caller by asking them to define their insult

Apologist Greg Koukl has a tactic he calls the “Columbo approach" which involves asking pointed questions to get a person to expose the holes in their own arguments or assertions. This approach can also be put to a good secondary purpose: disarming insults. In his fantastic book Tactics (which we review here) he provides this example: If you have already been labeled intolerant by someone, ask, “What do you mean by that?”….Though I already have a pretty good idea of what the person means when she says I’m intolerant, asking this question flushes out her definition of “intolerant” and sets the state – in my favor… “Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you consider me an intolerant person?” “Well, it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.” “I guess I do think my views are correct. It’s always possible I could be mistaken, but in this case I don’t think I am. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think you own views are right?” “Yes, I think I’m right, too. But I’m not intolerant. You are.” “That the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing?” The same approach works for most any other insult too. Getting someone to define their insult will force them to be specific. If someone calls you homophobic you might reply: "What do you mean by homophobic?" "I mean you hate homosexuals." "Why would you say I hate homosexuals?" "Because you say that it's wrong for them to love who they love." "Well, it's not me saying it, but God. And the reason I'm sharing what God has said is out of concern for homosexuals. I don't hate homosexuals; I share this because I'm trying to show love for them!" Getting specific may not win you the argument, but it will help clear away the confusion and get you that much quicker to the heart of the dispute. Asking for an insult's definition also helps calm things down by inviting the other side to discuss, rather than denounce. And if they decline your invitation and just want to keep calling names, then you know better than to waste your time talking with them. An added bonus: if you have an audience, this approach makes you look reasonable, and if your opponent wants to keep shouting, it exposes them as the grade school intellects that they are. So the next time someone online or in person calls you a "pinhead," "bigot," or "nazi," disarm them the way Greg Koukl does. Ask them: "What do you mean by that?"...

Apologetics 101

The don't and do's of answering fools

In Proverbs 26:4-5 God says we shouldn’t argue with fools…except when we should. Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Don't get in flame wars The danger in responding to fools is in descending to their level. If a fool is a dishonest questioner – peppering you with one after another, but with no interest in interacting with or listening to your answers – stop responding. In these situations the longer we talk, the more we make it look like the fool has a legitimate point. And if an online troll hits you with an ALL CAPS EXCHANGES, don't indulge in any sort of flame war. Here the louder we talk the more we end up looking like just another angry fool. Shouting matches aren't going to glorify God. All they do is make it hard for anyone listening to tell the difference betwixt the two combatants. Do answer real arguments The danger in not answering a fool is to leave his foolishness standing. When a fool offers an argument – misguided, shortsighted, naive, but genuinely offered and open to response and rebuttal – we need to answer him. Our goal is to show him his folly by explaining where his argument will logically take him. After that we can point him to real answers. Here’s how this looks in real life. In an online forum an abortion advocate wrote: "I don't get why a human that lives 80 years with modern medicine is more important than a tree that lives 500 years." A tree rates above people? How do we expose this for the folly it is? There are three keys: Do follow his argument to its logical end - What would it be like if we actually lived that way? Do contrast his foolishness with God's wisdom - How does his position compare and contrast to what God says? Do end on a question - This isn't must, but it is a good idea. Greg Koukl says a good question can be like putting a stone in someone's shoe: it's not big, but it sure is hard to ignore. A question can challenge them to think through what you've said. And it can be more winsome than ending on a statement. "Aren't you wrong?" is challenging enough, but it sure sounds nicer than "You are wrong." How that looks When it comes to our tree and abortion-loving debate partner, our response might look something like this: "God says that man is the pinnacle of creation, but you place us somewhere behind trees. Do you live your life consistent with that belief? How do you treat trees? Do you read books? (You do know what those are made of, don’t you?) Have you sat around a campfire and enjoyed watching the flames dance over countless wooden carcasses? What is your home made out of? Your coffee filters? Do you use tissues? How about toilet paper? "God says we matter more than trees. You say trees matter more than us. But if, in your day-to-day routine, you’re participating in the slaughter of trees, doesn't your lifestyle show that even you don’t believe what you're saying?" Now how about a more common example, say someone railing against the 1% not because of anything wrong these rich folk have done, but simply because of how much money they have. God says we should help the poor, but He doesn't want us looking at our neighbor's goods - He calls that covetousness. You argue that because someone has much more than you, that's obscene, and their wealth should be "redistributed." But do you live your life consistent with that belief? If you make more than $35,000 US you are a part of the global 1%. Just consider how much more wealth you have someone in Venezuela; when are you going to redistribute your wealth to them? God said we should help the poor, so redistributing our own wealth is a wonderful idea. But it's not our job to redistribute other's wealth. If you think others having more is a reason to take it from them, then what reason can you give that it shouldn't start with you? It's not likely you'll have someone do an immediate about-face, but you'll have exposed his foolishness to any others listening in. And you've given him something to chew on. Who knows but that God might use this seed you sow today to bear fruit at a later date?...

Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion, Sexuality

Don’t Argue the Exceptions: Beating bad arguments for Abortion and Transgenderism

“But what about the . . . ?” Has a rare exception every stumped you when making the case for life or anything else? Here’s how to respond with grace and truth. 10 fingers and toes “Humans have ten fingers and ten toes.” Now that shouldn’t strike anyone as a controversial statement, since almost every person ever born has had twenty digits. But what if someone argued in response that, because there are exceptions to this—people who because of injury or genetic defect lack a digit or two—we ought not describe ten fingers and ten toes as normal or descriptive of being human? We’d rightly think that a silly argument, of course. So why do we tolerate this same kind of reasoning in modern social debates? Take abortion. Perhaps you’ve heard someone challenge the pro-life view with this exception: “Well what about rape and incest, or the life of the mother?” Or take gender. Folks ask me all the time, “But what about those born with ambiguous genitalia?” These objections stop a lot of Christians in their tracks. But they shouldn’t. When pro-choice activists insist that we can’t outlaw abortion because some pregnancies result from rape and incest, or endanger the life of the mother, they’re ignoring the fact that in nearly all abortions none of these considerations are factors at all. Rather, healthy babies are killed simply because they’re inconvenient. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the intentional taking of unborn life under any circumstance. As Live Action President Lila Rose often points out, the unborn are human beings no matter what the circumstances of their conception. Rape and other sexual crimes are monstrous, but abortion doesn’t undo those wrongs, it only creates another victim. Arguing about exceptions like these only muddies the waters. And sometimes, that’s exactly what the pro-choice side wants. For the sake of argument... The same thing happens when someone brings up ambiguous genitalia in the transgender debate. This condition is tragic, and the subject requires great care. But it’s also extremely rare — by most estimates, in fact, occurring in just one in twenty-two thousand births. In other words, when we allow this tiny fraction of a percent to control the entire debate, we obscure the overwhelming reality. And so, for the sake of discussion, instead of arguing about the exceptions, why not just grant them? When someone challenges you about extreme cases for abortion, try replying this way: “Okay, let’s say we keep abortion legal in these rare cases. What about the other ninety-six percent of abortions that are elective? Can we end those?” Nine times out of ten, you’ll hear crickets. Likewise, when it comes to gender, grant that in cases of ambiguous genitalia, there really is a biological basis for doubt and that we must rethink medical practices that too quickly label someone male or female if the physical evidence isn’t clear. By granting the exceptions, we force the other person to face the real questions, or admit they’re using rare cases as wedges for their real agenda. Exceptions prove the principle But more importantly, these exceptions actually prove the principles we believe in. Here’s what I mean: If someone says, “if a baby was conceived in a crime, we have the right to kill her,” that person is appealing to the circumstances under which the baby was conceived. To then argue that abortion should be legal in all cases is to admit that circumstances don’t in fact matter. That my friend, is called a contradiction. Same thing is true with transgenderism. To argue that biology matters in the case of ambiguous genitalia and then argue that biology doesn’t matter with clearly defined genitalia is nonsense. Our response should be: Biology matters or it doesn’t. Pick one. Look, rare cases are tough and complicated. But that doesn’t mean that all or even most of the other cases are. So the next time someone argues for abortion or gender fluidity from an exception, grant it and then confront them with the vast majority of cases. And if they refuse, just ask them how many fingers and toes they have. Copyright 2017 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from BreakPoint.org with permission....

Apologetics 101, Science - Creation/Evolution

Wrong questions lead to wrong answers

Why don’t brilliant scientists see evidence of God’s design in Nature? Because they deliberately blind themselves to this evidence. The conflict between Biblical revelation and some aspects of modern science is a longstanding issue, and Christian young people can’t avoid being impacted by this dilemma. What should they believe? Should they accept that creation took place in six literal days, or should they seek some sort of accommodation of Scripture with the teachings of science? Many have anguished over this choice. The appeal of trying to accommodate to the popular scientific view – the appeal of bundling the Bible with the Big Bang – is clear. After all, don’t objective scientists know what they are talking about? So don’t we need to listen to what they are telling us they see? Christian vs. secular agendas In this context, what everyone must understand is that there are no objective scientists. Everyone has starting assumptions. The Christian naturally confesses that God exists, that He is omnipotent and omniscient and has communicated with us. Nature is God’s handiwork. Thus the Christian confesses that we see testimony to God’s work and character when we look at nature. For example we read in Psalms 19:1-3: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Another famous passage about the testimony of nature is Job 12:7-9: But ask the beasts, and they will teach you, and the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you, or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you, and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? When we study biology, we see that God is the creator! The secular position contrasts sharply with the Christian view. Mainstream scientists maintain that natural explanations can be found for everything. No supernatural input will ever be evident. For example, an editorial in the journal Nature (March 12, 1981) remarked concerning the definition of science: “…one prejudice is allowable, even necessary – the preconception that theories can be constructed to account for all observable phenomena.” Thus the Christian expects to see God revealed in nature, while the secular person says God will never be revealed in nature. Different expectations prompt different questions How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. With different expectations come different questions – there is a big difference between what secular scientists and what some Christians will ask about natural systems. And their different questions will result in very different answers obtained. How does a square melon get square? Newly sprouted watermelons are placed in plastic boxes, and as the melon grows it fills in the available space until this unique shape results. For example, suppose somebody showed you a photograph of three unfamiliar objects, green in color and square in shape. If you were to ask that person “How did Nature form that?” the only possible response would be some sort of natural process. However, if you were instead to ask, “Did Nature form that?” then the person has the opportunity to investigate whether or not these square watermelons (which is what the objects turn out to be) had a simply natural origin. Only then could they discover that no, they did not. Similarly, if a scientist asks, “How did life come about spontaneously?” then the only possible answer is a natural process. If the same scientist were to ask “Could life come about spontaneously?” in this case he has the opportunity to examine what cells are like and what the biochemical processes in cells are like, and thereafter conclude that life could not have come about spontaneously. Thus the answers obtained from the study of nature depend upon what questions are asked. No results There is no issue that more clearly demonstrates the impact of what questions are asked of nature, than the discipline of origin of life studies. Specialist John H. McClendon’s summary of the situation was as follows: “Since we know that life did arise, we are obligated to find mechanisms to accumulate enough organic matter to start life.” Scientists may feel themselves obligated to find such a scenario, but they are having a difficult time finding one nonetheless. The difficulties of proposing and defending a reasonable scenario for the origin of life were further highlighted by Simon Conway Morris in 2003 in a chapter entitled “The Origin of Life: straining the soup of our credulity” from his book entitled Life’s Solution. Of these chemists who are not discouraged by the results of their experiments, he remarks: …chemists have devised reaction pathways that can produce reasonable quantities of ribose , but the sheer complexity of the process and the careful manipulation of the many steps during the reaction make one wonder about its applicability to the origin of life. Dr. Morris is telling us that the kind of chemical reactions that require fancy manipulation by a chemist do not occur spontaneously in nature (apart from in living cells). Scientists were still looking for support for the “RNA world” in 2014 when the following description of a possible process was printed in Nature: After ten rounds of selection and amplification of catalytic molecules; pruning of superfluous sequences; insertion of another randomized segment to create a new pool; and then another six rounds of selection and amplification, a D-ribozyme was isolated that could perform template-directed joining of L-substrates about a million times faster than the uncatalyzed reaction. One would have to be very gullible indeed to believe that any of this could happen spontaneously. Indeed the article referred to the process as “engineering” which presupposed that an intelligent agent (the chemist) carried out the process. An article in Nature five years previously had similarly highlighted the difficulties of the RNA world hypothesis, the most popular explanation today for how life could have originated in spontaneous fashion. Matthew W. Powner et al declared: At some stage in the origin of life, an informational polymer must have arisen by purely chemical means. According to one version of the “RNA world” hypothesis this polymer was RNA, but attempts to provide experimental support for this have failed (italics mine). The determination of the mainstream scientists to keep looking for a spontaneous solution to the origin of life, even when the results are totally contrary, has long been recognized. But they do not see this situation as a problem. Thus David Deamer remarked in a book review on origin of life theories: Harold argues that, notwithstanding the vast literature, progress has gone little beyond the findings of Soviet biochemist Alexander Oparin and British polymath J. B. S. Haldane more than 80 years ago, when they independently argued that Louis Pasteur’s dictum “All life from life” was wrong. Note that the “findings” of Oparin and Haldane that Pasteur was wrong, were not based on any evidence, (they still aren’t), but on a choice to believe that life can come from non-living chemicals. Their bias blinds The secular scientist approaches the study of nature with a specific agenda. Nature is to be interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes, even if the results look ridiculous. A prominent geneticist, Richard Lewontin (b. 1929) actually stated this very clearly. In a famous review of a book by Carl Sagan, he wrote: Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science…. because we have an a priori commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. What Dr. Lewontin said, was that scientists bias their studies so that only natural explanations will ever be obtained. Similarly astronomer Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) equated such an approach as almost a religion for scientists: Scientists…. believe that every event that takes place in the world can be explained in a rational way as a consequence of some previous event. If there is a religion in science, this statement can be regarded as its main article of faith… Nothing to do with the truth It is certainly reasonable to ask how legitimate it is to restrict science to only naturalistic hypotheses. The answer you’ll get to that question depends upon whom you ask. Biologist Leonard Brand (b. 1941) replies that such restrictions are not legitimate. Our research only answers the questions we are willing to ask, naturalism allows only certain questions to be asked… Naturalism has a powerful biasing influence in science, in steering scientific thinking, and, in many cases, deciding what conclusions are to be reached. Others point out that secular scientists may restrict what explanations about nature qualify for the term “science” but they cannot at the same time claim, that what they are dealing with is truth. For example, philosophers of science Stephen C. Meyer (b. 1958) and Paul A. Nelson (b. 1958) point out: Restricting science to naturalistic hypotheses is not an innocuous methodological stratagem which nevertheless leaves science free to pursue the truth. God, after all, may not have been away on other business when life originated, or humankind came to be. These men declare that the secular assumption that God did not intervene directly in nature does not make it so. Similarly Calvin College (in Michigan) philosopher of science Del Ratzsch points out that: If nature is not a closed, naturalistic system – that is, if reality does not respect the naturalists’ edict – then science built around that edict cannot be credited a priori with getting at truth, being self-corrective or anything of the sort. What Dr. Ratzsch has pointed out is that wrong questions will always elicit wrong answers. Scientific explanations may change (and indeed they do) but the answers will never be any closer to the truth if the wrong questions are being asked in the first place. It is often said that science is “self-corrective” i.e. that errors are exposed and better explanations developed. However the term “self-corrective” is meaningless when the studies are biased from the beginning. Conclusion Secular scientists, with their expectations of never seeing God in nature, have confined themselves to mechanistic explanations and interpretations. Such, of course, is the theory of evolution. As Dr. Ratzsch remarks: “… materialists have no viable choice but to view the world through evolutionary spectacles of some sort.” Similarly Dr. Brand tells us: “The evolutionary theory is based on the philosophy of naturalism, and does not consider any hypotheses that involve divine intervention in the history of the universe.” Influenced by their secular colleagues, many Christians choose a theistic evolution type of explanation for origins. For example, Clarence Menninga (b. 1928, science professor emeritus at Calvin College), wrote in The Banner: But it is presumptuous and arrogant for us to restrict God’s options by claiming that he could not have used natural processes to bring about certain complex structures and functions, even if we do not understand in scientific terms how that was done. Thus Dr. Menninga explains the appearance of living creatures in terms of an evolutionary process. He assumes that this is so, contrary to what the Bible says, even though he is unaware of a scientific explanation for the process. It is evident that if such scientists were to ask different questions, based on the expectation of seeing God’s work and character revealed in nature, they might not necessarily come to any evolutionary conclusions at all. In addition, the concept of long ages is a necessary ingredient in any evolutionary scenario. If there were no process of gradual change (evolution), if organisms were created directly, then there is no need for a long period of past time other than the few thousands of years for which we have historical records. This is an extract from Margaret Helder’s book "No Christian Silence on Science" which you can buy at the Creation Science Association of Alberta website...

Apologetics 101, Book excerpts

A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss Life, the Universe & Everything

This following is an excerpt from Rob Slane’s new book, A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything. We’re joining a conversation, already in progress, between an committed atheist, Alex, and the Christian who is trying to talk him down. “Look,” said Alex, “everyone knows that the Bible was cobbled together in some shadowy council 300-odd years after Jesus was supposed to have died.” “Hold on a minute, Alex,” I replied. “Are you suggesting that the Bible is the product of some kind of conspiracy?” “If that’s what you want to call it,” he replied. “So let me get this straight,” I said. “A moment or two ago, you were calling the Bible a hotchpotch of writings by men who never knew each other, which kind of suggests that the literature involved was diverse, to say the least. But now you are telling me, unless I’m very much mistaken, that when the canon of Scripture was agreed upon, it was done so by people whose aims were to brainwash people. Is that about right?” “In a nutshell,” he retorted. “But you must see that it can’t be both.” “I do not see that,” he replied. “Why should I see that?” “Well, on the one hand, you’re charging the Bible with the heinous crime of being written by a group of very different people over a very long period of time, but now you’re charging it with being effectively “published” by another group of men who were somehow able to take this bunch of totally different literature written in very different styles and cobble it together in order to control the masses by asserting that it is divine in origin.” Once again, Alex looked distinctly unimpressed, so I put it to him that he should try the same experiment with other forms and periods of literature to see if it could be done. Choose a period of history, say the Greeks and the Romans. Take a large dollop of Plato and Aristotle, add some Homer and Virgil, stir in Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars, mix it together with some Seneca and Cicero and finally season with the letters of Pliny. When you’ve mixed it all together into one book, go out and sell it to men as a revelation from God, replete with complete unity of purpose and message. Or if the ancients don’t appeal, try a more modern recipe. Take the “prophetical” writings of Orwell and Huxley, chuck in some songs by maybe Bob Dylan and John Lennon, put it in the blender with a bit of Dylan Thomas, stir in a speech or two by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and then add a pinch of something bitter, like a bit of Solzhenitsyn. Again, try to sell it as a book with a single theme written under divine inspiration. You can’t do it, because there is no unity there. But somehow the Bible does exactly this: it takes the writings of a hotchpotch of different men, living over a 1,500-year period and writing in a range of literary genres and styles, and still manages to come up with a book which has a unity of theme throughout. “Tell me, Alex, the writers of the Scripture and the men who met to agree the canon – who were they attempting to brainwash?” “Anyone gullible enough to swallow it,” he replied. “Okay, so can you tell me what was in it for those you are talking about? I mean, when Moses wrote the Pentateuch or when Solomon wrote the Proverbs, were they thinking to themselves, ‘Ha! This’ll force those gullible fools several millennia down the line into subservience’? If so, why? What was in it for them? And what about those who met to agree on the canon? Have you ever read the book of Ruth? What on earth is a book about a woman returning from abroad with her mother-in-law and eventually getting married doing in a book compiled together by fourth-century propagandists? And what did they think they were playing at when they included the Song of Solomon, a book condemned by many Jews and later the Victorian moralists as impure and dirty? If there’s brainwashing there, I’m not entirely sure how it is done, why it is done and what exactly its goal is. But then again, I suppose if I’ve been properly brainwashed by it, I wouldn’t know, would I? So perhaps you can tell me.” “The purpose is to make us all good little citizens who do exactly what we’re told without ever questioning anything. Just like Marx said – the opium of the masses.” When he said this I’m afraid I just couldn’t stop myself from bursting out laughing. Somewhat taken aback, Alex asked what exactly it was that was causing me so much mirth. So I replied that here I was, living in a world that is currently adopting practically every doctrine of Marxism without even knowing it, where the State is virtually worshipped by millions, and here he was using Marx’s charge of brainwashing and oppression against Christianity. He asked me what on earth I meant, so I gave him just a few examples: Whom do we look to for the education of our children? The State. Whom do we look to for healing when we are sick? The State. Whom do we look to for provision in our old age? The State. Whom do we look to for “advice” on what is and what isn’t healthy? The State. Who comes up with miles and miles of regulations to make sure we are safe and happy? The State. Who deliberately destroys the family and then takes it upon itself to become a surrogate father to the millions of fatherless children it creates? All this and more, in direct accordance with the ideology espoused by the man who claimed that Christianity was a tool used by those in power for brainwashing and oppressing the people. A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything, is available at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here. This excerpt is reprinted here with permission....