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Apologetics 101, Recent Articles, RP App

Witnessing without knowing it all

Ding dong!

The doorbell goes and through the peephole you can see two young men clad in dark conservative suits. Fortunately you’ve recently read an article or two on Jehovah's Witnesses so you're feeling at least a little prepared to talk. Smiling, you nervously open the door.

But as the conversation begins, you quickly realize these aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re ready for, but are instead Mormons – and you don’t know anything  about Mormons! So what are you going to do?

What are you going to do?!?!?

The burden of proof

Don’t panic! Understand the battle in front of you: ignorance vs. error. You don't have answers at the ready, but because you serve the one true God you can be confident that there is truth to be found, though it might involve some digging. Meanwhile, these gentlemen at the door might be more knowledgeable about their beliefs than you, but they are utterly wrong. Digging will help here, too, but instead of uncovering truth you'll be uncovering their error.

So you’re actually in a great position here. You don’t know anything about Mormons? Well here are people eager to teach you. What a great arrangement!

Consider, also, that the pressure is all on them, not you. They’re here to make their case, and provide evidence and reasons for why you should be a Mormon. The burden of proof is right where you want it…on them. In other words it is up to them to make their case and defend it, while you are free to go on the offensive and challenge their assertions with good questions.

Maybe that doesn't sound like it's going to be all that effective – how can simply asking questions help you evangelize to Mormons? The key is the burden of proof. Even a four-year-old can confound her parents as long as the burden of proof is on the parents, as long as they have to answer her questions.

“Time to got to bed dear.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s dark out.”
“Why?”
“Because the sun set.”
“Why?”
“Um…it has something to do with the earth’s rotation I think…Hey, honey! Where did we put the encyclopedia?”

The point, of course, is not just to ask questions, but instead to ask questions with purpose. The four-year-old’s purpose is to stay up a little longer while your purpose will be to expose the errors and weaknesses in Mormon belief.

Questions are key

In his apologetics book Tactics, Greg Koukl outlines some questions that can be used in just such an occasion. The first is a question of clarification. When you’re first learning about their beliefs you should be sure you understand what they are saying. You might ask them, “What do you mean by that?” or, “So are you saying…?” Clarification is important because it forces the Mormon (or Jehovah's Witness, or atheist, or whomever) to restate and explain what they really mean. They’ll have to drop their script and actually think about what they are trying to say. And more than anything, what you want to do is force them to think. Clarification also allows you to learn from this encounter and start to understand what their beliefs are, which could help you the next time you end up in a similar situation.

Secondly, question their assertions. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? “Now how did you come to that conclusion?” The explanation may lead to yet more assertions that you can again challenge.

After a while you may learn enough and feel comfortable enough to try and make a few points of your own. The questioning technique works here too. Instead of telling a person why they are wrong, ask them, “Have you ever considered…?” The use of a question here is a more gentle challenge to their beliefs, and more likely to get a thoughtful, rather than reactive response.

Shifting it back

It’s a simple approach but there is one thing to watch out for…the dreaded switch back! The non-believer answers your question with a question of their own and before you even realize the burden of proof shifts back to you. “So you don’t think The Book of Mormon is God’s word? And yet it seems you think the Bible is. Why is that?”

If you’ve got an answer this is a great opportunity to provide them with some information.

But if not, don't worry. Remember they’re the ones who've come to your door to make their case, and so it is up to them to back them up. Just play it straight, admit your ignorance, and repeat your original question, “I’m not the one making any claims here. You said The Book of Mormon was God’s word and I’m just wondering if you have any reasons for that.”

Study still needed

This technique can be used in any number of settings, with all sorts of people: it might be an atheist professor in your university classroom, or maybe a Muslim friend at your local coffee shop, or maybe an encounters with door-to-door cultists. Any time someone is trying to prove a point to you, the burden of proof is theirs.

Don't mistake the point being made here. That we can witness without knowing it all doesn't mean we should neglect to study God's Word. To do so is to neglect God.

And, of course, evangelism and apologetics will be easier when we know our Bible. It's also true that this same questioning technique works even better if we know a little something about the beliefs of the person we are talking to. Then our questions can become directed, and we can direct the non-believer towards the weaknesses in their beliefs. Then, if the Lord blesses our efforts, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask you why he should believe what you believe.

And as unprepared as we can be for any of their other questions, this is one we really must be ready for.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)

Apologetics 101, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College

by Michael J. Kruger 2021 / 262 pages. From time to time I search online for “ex-Can RC.” I’m curious as to why people would leave the Canadian Reformed Churches. What makes people walk away from the church and sometimes the faith in which they were raised? What can I learn from that as a pastor? Several individuals mention how they were told not to study philosophical or scientific questions, not to think too deeply about things, nor to read widely for themselves outside of the “approved CanRC authors.” Church leaders allegedly told them to check their brains at the door. Well, we all know what some people do when they’re told not to do something. They started reading and studying for themselves and soon discovered that they’d been brainwashed and hoodwinked by their church leaders. The exit came into view. If we presume these stories are even a little accurate, what might lead pastors or elders to give those kinds of warnings to their flock? Perhaps it’s fear. Maybe they’re afraid that the arguments of unbelievers will persuade their members. Connected with that, possibly it is the worry that we don’t readily have solid counter-arguments so “You just have to believe.” Truth has nothing to be afraid of That kind of approach is counter-productive. We should actually encourage our members to think more deeply, to read more widely, to engage with the big questions posed by unbelieving philosophy and science. Why? Because we ought to have confidence that the truth of God is more powerful than every lie. However, at the same time, we need to equip our people with tools to be able to see how, where, and why this is so. That’s where Michael Kruger’s Surviving Religion 101 will be an invaluable resource. The author is not only a New Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, but also a father to three children. While he’s written this for them, the book is particularly addressed to his oldest daughter Emma as she began studies at the University of North Carolina. It takes the form of 15 letters to her. Reformed answers to big questions Through these letters, Kruger addresses questions that Christian university students are likely to face in and out of the classroom. Some of those questions: My professors are really smart – isn’t it more likely that they’re right and I’m wrong? (chapter 2) I have gay friends who are kind, wonderful, and happy – are we sure that homosexuality is really wrong? (chapter 5) There is so much suffering in the world – how could a good God allow such evil? (chapter 7) My professor keeps pointing out contradictions in the gospels – can I still trust them? (chapter 11) Some parts of the Bible seem morally troubling – how can a book be from God if it advocates oppression or genocide? (chapter 14) Sometimes it feels like my faith is slipping away – how do I handle doubts about what I believe? (chapter 15) In answering all these questions, Kruger takes a Reformed approach. He presents the truth of what God’s Word says and then he also explains how the alternative position is untenable. A peak at what’s inside In chapter 3, Kruger deals with the question of whether it’s legitimate to claim that Christianity is the only right religion. One of the connected counter-claims is that all religions are actually the same. Here’s part of how Kruger answers that: “…there are features about Christianity that make it genuinely distinct from the rest of the world’s religions. And the fundamental difference is this: Christianity is not just another religion about being a good person. Needless to say, this flies in the face of what most people think about religion. Just consider the very popular television show The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell. As strange as it sounds, the show is a comedy about heaven (the good place) and hell (the bad place). On the show, the good place is where good people go, regardless of their religious beliefs. Whether you’re Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, you go to the good place as long as your good deeds outweigh your bad. “In contrast, Christianity says something stunning. Something counterintuitive. Something unique. It says that bad people go to the good place. Just let that sink in for a moment. Heaven is not for good people but for sinful people forgiven by grace…” As you’ll note, Kruger isn’t writing here for scholars. He’s done his homework and he’s got the endnotes to prove it, but the book is written at a popular level. Conclusion So, even though it’s written for Christian college/university students, Surviving Religion 101 ought to be read far beyond that audience. Many Christian young people, university-bound or not, will find it accessible. In fact, starting this year, I’m going to make this the book our young people traditionally get when they make public profession of faith. And if it’s going to be manageable for them, it should also be for many adults too. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” We can have that confidence in our Christian faith because the truth of it is established on God and therefore it’s objectively true. We have nothing to fear from the arguments of unbelievers. Books like Kruger’s Surviving Religion 101 help us see how Christianity isn’t only spiritually comforting, but also well-grounded and eminently reasonable. So, read widely. Read non-Christian authors. Read philosophy and science. But know that the tough questions they raise have been adequately answered by Christian scholars like Michael Kruger. The author offers a video series on the same topics as the book, which you can access by signing up with your name and email address as this link. You can see the first introductory episode of the series below. ...

Apologetics 101

Tactics in defending your faith

In 2018, Stand to Reason's Tim Barnett teamed up with Reformed Perspective, traveling to churches across Canada to speak on "Tactics in Defending our Faith." This is a rough transcript from his March 18 presentation in the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in Northern BC.  **** Alright, let's talk about tactics. I want you to imagine that you’re a student and you're hanging out with your friends in the hallway outside of the classroom. One of your friends in the group – maybe they're not a close friend – says, “I've never understood how anyone could believe in a good God. Look at all the evil in the world look at the shooting that took place a couple weeks ago. Some good God, right?” Or imagine you're at work and it's lunch hour and you're just hanging out with your co-workers trying to be social. You strike up a conversation and one of your co-workers says, “I can't believe anyone would believe a Bible that's so full of contradictions. Who would be dumb enough to believe that stuff?” Or maybe you're with your family at Easter and a family member says something like: “Billy Graham was a good guy except for the fact that he was an intolerant homophobic bigot.” Think about how you would respond in that situation. There's a whole lot of Christians, if we're honest with ourselves, who would say absolutely nothing. You might make a face, or you make an awkward head nod, or something. But you don't say anything. Most of us just want to keep our mouths closed, because we want to be nice. And we're probably thinking: “Oh, I couldn't change their mind anyway. In the next five minutes how am I going to have an impact? Are they going to come to faith in Christ in the next couple of minutes? I can't get them there.” That's a typical “religious” response: “If I can't get them to accept Christ in the next three minutes, then what's the point?” Now I want to say something that may surprise. I don't have it as my primary goal in any one of those short conversations to actually convert that person on the spot. Now, I want you to hear me out: of course, my goal is that they would come to Christ. But in that conversation I don't put that weight on my shoulders. Because if I do – if every conversation has to lead to a Gospel presentation – it can get a little awkward. Just imagine, you're talking with your friend, your unsaved friend, about the hockey game and you say something like: “Did you see the save that goalie made? What a shot, and then he made that awesome save. Oh, and that reminds me of how Jesus saves all of us..." You see how awkward that is to move from the hockey game to the Gospel? A little bit forced, right? A little bit contrived going from the weather to salvation. Sometimes it’s a little bit awkward to get there. Gosptacles There's also issues that get in our way. One of them is the culture is religiously ignorant. That's not a put-down – I'm trying to be accurate here. In our culture, when we start talking about the Gospel, it's like we're speaking Greek to them. This is truly a post-Christian culture that we're trying to witness to. They don't understand a lot of what we're talking about when we use words like sin and repentance, and they need to be defined. In addition, there are these things that I want to call “gosptacles” – obstacles to the gospel. Now don't look it up; it's not a real word, but it's a helpful way to remind you that apologetics what is fundamental to the gospel. Why? Because when you start sharing the gospel with this culture you've better believe that gosptacles are going to come up, and you're going to have to respond to them. For example, you go to your friend and you start talking about how Jesus died for their sins and all of a sudden they're talking about the Big Bang. And you're, like, “I'm talking about Jesus here; what are you talking about?” But the Big Bang is a gosptacle for them. You go to any university campus and you try and talk about the Gospel and I guarantee you one of the top five responses will be: “I can't believe you can believe in a loving God who would send anyone to hell.” Hell is a gosptacle for our culture. Even the Bible has become a gosptacle. I don't know if you're familiar with guys like Bart Ehrman. He's responsible for more Christians walking away from their faith than any other atheists alive today – not Richard Dawkins and The God Delusion. Bart Ehrman is a New Testament textual critic who says you can't trust your Bible. He says those words that you're reading in the pew are nothing like what the original author recorded. And a whole lot of students are buying into it. So the Bible becomes a gosptacle. You want to talk about the Bible? How can you believe that book that is so full of contradictions? Or all of a sudden evolution comes up you're thinking “I'm talking about Jesus Christ.” It’s a gosptacle. Francis Schaeffer said, in our cultures, before you can do evangelism you need to do pre-evangelism. There's people who are looking for us to tear down those strongholds before they will give you an ear to. So, yes, there is religious ignorance – that’s something out there. But there’s also something in here that we need to get over, and it's personal discomfort. There's a whole lot of people, even in this room, that if you had five minutes to give someone the Gospel, a complete stranger, well that just makes you a little bit uncomfortable. There’s a whole lot of people in this room who, when they hear someone say, “Oh those Christians are intolerant” or “They’re homophobic” you just want to walk the other way. You don't want to in on that conversation. We have to get over this idea of personal discomfort. There are obstacles out there, but there also something in here – personal discomfort – that we have to get over. This issue of personal discomfort reminds me of this video that was put up by the Billy Graham crusade. It doesn't have to be hard – that's the take-home message. And it’s not hard – we’re going to work through this. Ambassadors model’s three skills So I don't consider myself in any given conversation to be the evangelist. I think there are brilliant evangelist out there – Billy Graham was one of my heroes. I'll tell you what we all are called to be, and that is Christian ambassadors. We are ambassadors for Christ. Second Corinthians 5:20 says this: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.” So what does an ambassador look like? It's a good question – you're called to be an ambassador, so what does it look like? At Stand to Reason we’ve come up with this ambassador model. We think an ambassador for Christ has three essential skills. KNOWLEDGE The first is knowledge. Do you want to be a good ambassador for Christ? You’ve got to know some stuff. I think that makes sense. You don't have to know everything. You don't have to be a Ph.D.; you don't even have to have a master's degree. You’ve just got to know a little bit. You’ve got to get some facts right. WISDOM The second, you also need some wisdom. This is your method and this is what we're talking about right now – to communicate that knowledge in a persuasive and effective way, and that might involve using illustrations and analogies, and asking good questions. There's a whole lot of ways to be winsome, and have wisdom. This is going to be our game plan. CHARACTER Here's the last thing – you can have all the knowledge in the world, and be winsome, but if you don't have character, then just keep your mouth closed. There's a whole lot of apologists out there who’ve filled their minds with all kinds of stuff, but they're jerks, and they actually do a whole lot more damage than good. So character matters. If you want to talk about love with someone, you better show love. If you want to talk about respect, show respect. I like how Martin Luther King Jr. put it – he said this talking in the context of segregation and racism, and he's trying to change people's minds. Here's what he said: “Whom you would change, you must first love” and here's the catch: they must know that you love them. Oftentimes we get in these heated arguments – we'll call them discussions– where you disagree with me, and I disagree with you, and all of a sudden your ears feel like they're on fire. Right? We've all been there! Then, let's take a step back and ask, does that person know you love them? And maybe we react “Oh, of course, they know I love them!” No, but do they really know? That's important. Key texts Now, most people have the impression that we're all Christian ambassadors, but that there's this subset of apologist – it's like you have the police, and then there’s the SWAT team and they handle like the really difficult situations.  So all you guys are ambassadors but the apologists, they're the guys who maybe get paid to do this – Tim, you can do that but I'm good, thanks. No, it's not like that! Ambassadorsareapologists; that's just the way it is – I hate to break it to you. Let me prove it to you. If we go to First Peter 3:15 – a go-to verse on this issue: “…always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” It says this:  “Always be prepared to give an answer…” An answer? What's that? Well if you look at the Greek it's the word apologia which is actually the word that we get “apologetics” from. So always be prepared to give an answer – some translations say “defense” – to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And then here's the character part – it's almost like Peter was anticipating that when people give answers they may not be nice about it and so he says “but do this with gentleness and respect.” How about this verse; I actually like this even better: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) Destroying strongholds – we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ – that's what an apologist does. Or how about this one in Jude 3: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” How about one more? “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Matt 22:36-37). Now think about this. I get how we love God with all our heart and soul– that's just like during a worship song, or during moments of meditation, or prayer. But what about loving God with our mind? What does that look like? Well I think it looks like a couple of different things. I don't think we check our minds out when we're worshiping, but I think it also looks like study, understanding God's word, understanding arguments from the culture and how to respond to them. That's all loving God with our minds. Think about that parents, grandparents – how are we training our kids and our grandchildren to love God with their minds? What are we doing intentionally to do that? All right one more verse. I just I found this one recently and I love it Colossians 4:5-6 says: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders making the best use of your time”  That's be smart: “walk in wisdom making the best use of your time” Then it says “let your speech always be gracious seasoned with salt.” You know how salt makes things taste better? So let your speech be like that – this is be kind. And then finally, “…so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” – this is the tactical part, which is what we're gonna talk about. So be smart, be kind, and be tactical. Putting a stone in their shoe What does it look like? Let's get practical. All these verses, they’re great, and we thank God for them. But what does it look like for me when I'm sitting across at Easter with my atheist brother-in-law? When I'm at the lunch table and the person raises a challenge, what does it look like? I’ll tell you what it looks like: it's a stone in someone’s shoe. Have you ever had a stone in your shoe before, where you're walking along, and it's really annoying, and you can't seem to stop thinking about it until you take it out. You notice it don't you? Have you ever had a stone in your sandal before, like a flip-flop, and it seems to defy physics – you're, like, kicking it out and it stays in. You ever had that happen? That's crazy– it's got something to do with quantum physics or string theory or something like that. Click on the cover for our review. We're gonna put a stone in someone's shoe – okay, not physically, this is all kind of theoretical –  and we're going to get people thinking about what we just said, walking away, kind of annoyed, but in a good way, until they deal with the thing that we just put in their minds. Alright so, what I want to do is give you a game plan. No matter how little you think you know, or how shy you think you are, or how scared you might be, if you follow the rules of the game plan you are going to be all right, and you're going to be effective in being an ambassador for Christ. We're going to go from the content – what you know – to the conversationwith the game plan. The whole game plan is in this book, Tactics. Here's the thing: you shouldn't be allowed to graduate high school without reading Tactics. Seriously! This is like Critical Thinking 101. I'm going to take some of this from the book and present that to you. If you're interested in more of it you’ve got to read the book. So here's the thing: I used to think that when someone raised a challenge, that it was my job to answer it –be the Bible Answer Man. Maybe this is you too. So someone raised the challenge, “Christians are intolerant” or “Christians are irrational” or “All religions lead to God” or “The Bible is not true.” Of course, I thought, “Oh, you say God does not exist? Well, yes He does!” and then I go into my arguments for God's existence. But notice what happened there – they made the claim “God does not exist” or “Christians are irrational” or whatever, and now I'm doing all the work. No! If they make the claim they bear the burden of proof to defend the claim; it's not my job to start defending something that I didn't even assert. But this is what happens – Christians, we think “Oh, you said something so now I better go into Bible Answer Man mode.” I think that's the wrong approach. And I think that's why the Culture has been getting away saying a whole lot of ridiculous things, and they go unchecked. For far too long we've allowed people to make claims, statements, challenges, and fold their arms and then just say “I'm waiting Christian, answer – God doesn't exist. Now go ahead and refute me.” That's not our job. Our job is not to refute random statements like that. Columbo Tactic #1 – What do you mean by that? I want to give you the game plan. The game plan is what I'm going to call the “Columbo Approach” or the “Columbo Tactic.” Do you guys know who Lieutenant Columbo is? Raise your hand nice and high so I can see. Okay, good it's all the older people. No, there were some young people; you're watching the reruns. Let me tell you about Lieutenant Columbo. Okay, Lieutenant Columbo is a bumbling, seemingly inept, TV detective who has remarkable success in catching crooks. The inspector arrives on the scene of the crime and he's in complete disarray. I mean his hair is a mess; his trench coat looks like he slept in it; he’s got a cigar wedged between his fingers; he's got a notepad but he's got no pen or pencil and he's got to bum one off somebody. I mean, this guy to all appearances looks harmless and stupid, but he's not because Lieutenant Columbo has a game plan. So Lieutenant Columbo, he maybe poked around at the scene of the crime, and then he'd scratch his head and do his trademark move: he turned to maybe the suspect – the killer or the robber, whoever – and he'd say “There's something about this thing that bothers me. Then he turned to the suspect and say, “You seem like a very intelligent person. Maybe you could clear this up from me. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” And then he'd ask a few questions and he'd seem satisfied. And he’d maybe start walking away and then turn on his heel and remember something and say, “Just one more ting.” And then he’d one more “ting” them to death, with question after question after question. He’d say, “I know I know it's annoying but this is a habit” and this is a habit I think that Christians need to get into. We need to start asking questions, instead of making so many statements. There's going to come a time where we're going to have to make statements, obviously. But there's so many instances where a question would have been better than an assertion or a statement. This tactic, the key to it, is to go on the offensive but in an inoffensive way, Colombo-style, by selecting carefully crafted questions for the conversation. There's a book called In but not of by Hugh Hewitt. I'm not actually recommending the book because it wasn't actually that great but there was one chapter in it that was fascinating, and it was on questions. In fact, he says in any conversation you should ask a half a dozen questions. So you meet someone, just start asking questions. Well, why ask questions? Here's a list of reasons why we should start asking more questions. Questions help you understand a person's point of view. Oftentimes I'll have people come up to me after I give a talk and say “Tim, can you recommend a good book on Buddhism?” And I'll say, “Why do you want a book on Buddhism?” “Well, I have this friend and they're a Buddhist. I'd really like to be able to witness to them. So do you know a good book?” I'm thinking, “Wait, you want to learn about Buddhism. Your friend is a Buddhist. Why don't you ask them?” Doesn’t that make sense? Instead of reading a book that may or might not be on their version of Buddhism anyways, why not just sit down at Tim Hortons and learn about Buddhism from your friend? Seems smart enough, right? Questions take the pressure off you. When you're asking questions, you're not defending anything. You ever think about that? You're asking them; they're doing all the work. By the way, it's not a lot of work because, turns out, people like it when you ask them questions. You should try it sometime; it works! Questions keep you from distorting the person's view – you understand where they're coming from by getting by getting them to clarify their view Questions are friendly and they build relationships. This is so true. When I met my wife in university it turned out that our birthdays are one day apart – she's born on April 28th and I'm born on the 29th. She's two years younger than I am, but I got invited to her birthday party and I didn't really know anybody. She had this one guy friend and we sat down and we started chatting. We were at this bowling alley and I spent the whole night asking him questions, asking him questions, because I was reading this material. We all went home and I found out that he called my wife and said “That Tim guy is one of the most interesting people I've ever met.” I don't even think he knew my name! Okay, maybe that's the one thing he knew. De didn't know anything about me; I didn't talk about me. I spent the whole night asking about him. Let me tell you something, interested is interesting. It just is. And it turns out questions show you're interested. We're not faking it – I wasn't faking it; I wanted to know about him. It just so happens that I just kept asking the questions and he just kept answering. Questions give you an education. In many cases you don't need to go to university for this stuff. Just learn it from people who know something you don't. Questions don't require a defense, You put it all together, and questions get you in the game. Someone says something and you're just caught off guard, you're flat-footed, you don't know what to say. Questions get you in the game, okay? You don't have to hit home runs; you don’t have to get on base! If we had Christians that would step into the batter's box once in a while and just start swinging, I'm telling you this Culture would look a whole lot different. I also want to make a really important point and I think Blaise Pascal, the famous Christian mathematician and philosopher, hit it right on the head. Here what he says: “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the minds of others.” Think about that. If you want to convince someone to be pro-life, if  you want to convince someone that marriage is a certain way, you want to convince someone about God's existence, then don't just say “Believe God exists.” Or “Here’s this, this, and this.” No, no – if you want someone to change their mind about something people are better persuaded by the reasons which they discover. Well, how can you help them discover reasons? You can do that by asking really good questions. I like how Francis Schaeffer puts it – this is so counterintuitive! He says, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth." That is so counterintuitive, because I'd imagine I'm not the only one here who, if I had 60 minutes with an unbeliever, I’d preach at them for fifty five minutes and then at the end say, “Do you have any questions?” Right? That's just what we do. But here's the problem: So many times in our culture we will end up preaching sermons that nobody wants to hear, and answering questions that nobody was actually asking. That happens all the time. But let's say you don't like Francis Schaeffer and Blaise Pascal (who were both brilliant). You've heard of Jesus Christ and like to follow his example. Well, Jesus knew this better than anybody. Questions were Jesus’ tool of choice; we heard that in Matthew 21 – we didn’t even plan that; that was great. They were his tool of choice for friend and foe alike in the Gospels. This may surprise you: Jesus answered 183 questions. Wow! However – and this should astonish us – Jesus asked 307! Jesus – the smartest person who ever walked the face of the earth – asked more questions than he answered. Was that because he didn't know a whole bunch of stuff? Not even close! The reason he was asking these questions was to get people to, like Blaise Pascal said, rethink things within their own hearts and minds. He used questions to get them to think about their own worldview. This was important for people to evaluate and reevaluate their own beliefs. Alright, let's get to the game plan: the first Columbo question. It's going to be: “What do you mean by that?” Everyone say, “What do you mean by that?” I'll tell you what I mean by that! “What do you mean by that?” is your go-to question because this is the kind of question that gives you more information so that you can move into the conversation. I'm just going to step into the conversation. How am I going to do that? “What do you mean by that?” Someone is going to make a challenge and I'm just completely caught off guard but I do remember this question “What do you mean by that?” Now you get more specific, as we'll see in a second here, but this question allows you to clarify what the person is actually saying. Sometimes they don't even know what they're saying, as we're going to find out. So, “what do you mean by that?” CHALLENGE #1 – Evolution disproves God Let's do a little exercise here. First challenge: let's say you're with someone, your friend who's maybe not a believer, and they say “Evolution has proven that God isn’t necessary.” Now hold that knee down, okay, because I know your knee-jerk reaction is to do a roundhouse kick or something, right? It's to start going into your creation mode, but you didn't make a claim; they did! Evolution has proven that God is unnecessary? You're going to ask “What do you mean by that?” In fact, I would ask if I were you, “What do you mean by evolution?” because I can, off the top of my head right now, name six different definitions for evolution. I can tell you something right now, whether you are the most staunch young earth creationist in the room, you believe in evolution in some sense. That is, if we're just talking about change over time, then of course we all believe in evolution. But if we're talking about molecules-to-man then I'm sure – well I don't know how many people here – but most of you I'm almost positive would say, “No I don't believe in that.” So there you go, those two definitions shows it depends “What do you mean by evolution?” And by the way, in this discussion people do kind of the bait-and-switch. It's like, “Of course evolution is true; it happens all the time.” Well now, it just depends “What are you talking about with evolution here?” and“What do you mean by evolution here?” Good question to ask. CHALLENGE #2 – Christians are intolerant How about this one?“Christians are intolerant.” You're going to ask “What do you mean by that; what do you mean by intolerant?” because let me tell you something, the word tolerance has actually changed in our culture. Tolerance used to mean that we disagree but I'm going to respect your right to disagree – I'm going to respect you as a person. In fact, think about it: if you accept the view then you just accept it; you wouldn't tolerate it. The fact that you tolerate it means you disagree. But today tolerance means “all views are equal and if you think thatthey're not all equal you're intolerant” So the definition has changed! I would want to ask “What do you mean by intolerant?” and they say “Well, you think you're right and everyone else is wrong; you're intolerant.” I'd say, “Well are you saying that I'm wrong then? Do you think you're right and I'm wrong?” You know what I’m saying? It's self-refuting actually, if you think about it. So you want to ask some questions. “What do you mean by intolerant?” – that's going to get you in the game. CHALLENGE #3 – Irrational to believe in God How about this? “It's irrational to believe in the God of the Bible.” You're gonna ask? “What do you mean by irrational?” You're getting the hang of this. I know some of you are like, “I can't do this anymore.” Listen, you need to practice doing this because Easter's coming Okay, what do you mean by “the God of the Bible?” I do not want to talk to my atheist friend until I define what they mean by God. Seriously, who is the God you don't believe in? What do you mean by God, because it turns out, usually, the God they don't believe in is the same God I don't believe in. The God they don't believe in is like some finite Zeus-like creature who, you know, maybe has a temper tantrum here and there. It’s finite so they can't really do much, and there are created, that kind of thing. That's not the God of the Bible, so the God they don't believe in – I'm joining them – I don't believe in that God either! That's an idol; I don't believe in those. CHALLENGE #4 – My body; my choice How about this one? “My body; my choice” is a very common pro-choice slogan. You see it on bumper stickers, t-shirts you name it. You're going to ask, “What do you mean by choice?” If we're going to talk about being pro-choice/pro-life I want to know what you mean by choice. What are the choices we're talking about, because some choices I'm absolutely pro-choice about. I'm pro-choice about which school women go to, and who they marry, and what they want to wear, and what doctor they have, and all that, so I'm pro-choice about all that stuff. But some choices are immoral, like killing innocent defenseless human beings. They just are. And they recognize that some things we should be anti-choice about. Should we be pro-choice about drinking and driving? No, we shouldn't be. In fact, they have laws against drinking and driving? Why? To protect people. Yeah, so most people are anti-choice about that. What about “my body”? “What do you mean by your body?” Well, it turns out it's a body inside your body. That's just science. Different DNA. How many eyes does that woman have? She didn’t just get two more – those are in a different body. In fact, that body inside her body could have a different gender! So it's definitely not the woman's body; there's another body in play. CHALLENGE #5 – The Bible condones slavery How about this: “The Bible condones slavery”? Lots of challenge go against the Bible. Someone says “the Bible condones slavery” and you may not know how to respond, but you could ask “What do you mean by slavery?” and “What do you mean by condones? Oh you’ve got to show me that – in what passage does it say ‘thou shalt own slaves?’” Because not everything the Bible describes is it prescribing. The Bible describes lots of stuff that it's not saying “go out and do.” It's just giving a description of history. What do you mean by slavery? What do you mean by condones? Columbo Tactic #2: How did you come to that conclusion? All right, don't be surprised that if you use the first Columbo tactic (which is very powerful) “what do you mean by that?” and you get a blank stare and complete silence. Seriously. And this is not your chance to jump all over them and say “Ha! Gotcha – you're so stupid!” or something like that. No, remember the character part? This is your chance to show grace and love. So you're going to be patient, and you may say “You know, maybe you need to think more about that; we could talk about it again some other time,” or something like that. By the way fellas, married men, if your wife calls you an idiot don't respond by asking her “What do you mean by that?” Just saying. I may know that from experience. How about this one? Second Columbo question. We’re only going to give you two Colombo’s: “What do you mean by that?” and the second one is, “How did you come to that conclusion? The first question gives you more information but eventually you've got to stop asking “What do you mean by that?” It's like your kids going on, “Why, why, why?” Okay, stop it! What do you mean by that, what do you mean by that, what do you mean by that? Okay, now I’ve got enough information. You can ask it, you can ask it until you get the information. But now you’ve got to find out – here I know what you mean, but why are you saying that? Why do you believe that? How did you come to that conclusion? This is a very generous question because it assumes people have come to a conclusion. And usually, from my own experience when I talk to people, they didn't conclude anything. They're just emoting and asserting, and they read it on a bumper sticker somewhere, or they heard someone on TV say it, and yeah that sounds good, and “When they accepted that award at the Oscars they said the same thing so it must be true.” This kind of thing. Here's the general rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden of proof to defend the claim. That goes for you too Christian. You say Jesus rose from the dead; I hope that you can defend that claim. But if they're making claims, like God doesn't exist, then we got to make sure we hold their feet to the fire a little bit and say “Okay, you just made a claim; now you need to defend it” so they bear the responsibility to give a defense for that claim. Christians are not the only ones who give defenses for things – everyone is an apologist for their view. And it turns out we just haven't done a good job making our atheist friends, or whoever, could be another Christian who just holds a conflicting view of yours. and you want to challenge it. Now let me give you an illustration of how this works. I was at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) when I was going through Teachers College. I went and got my degree in physics and then I went to Teachers College to get my Bachelor of Education so I could become a teacher. One of the things that we did was we went on all kinds of field trips to the zoo, and they showed us kind of behind-the-scenes, what's going on there, so that we would bring our students when we became teachers. So we're getting a tour and we're walking through the ROM and I'm with my friends. You’ve got to understand when I was in Teachers College I needed Stand To Reason and these other ministries because it was like me against everyone. I went to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology with all these other future science teachers and they all held views contrary to my own. Every day I would spend more time going home and looking on apologetics websites than doing my homework – somehow I still passed – and I would come back and it would be like me, and I'm not joking against 15, 20 people. It was always gracious. In fact, some of these guys went on to get jobs, became department heads, and people who vehemently disagreed with me, are trying to offer me jobs. “Tim my physics guy is retiring; you’ve got to come work in my department.” That's when you know you've got that good relationship, that they know you love them. So I'm standing next to this thing, that's a Brachiosaurus – it's the largest sauropod dinosaur in Canada, actual skeleton, actual fossil – and we have myself, my atheist friend, and he's bit shorter so he looked up at me like this, and he said “There's no way Noah's fitting that on the ark.” To which I had to fight my knee-jerk reaction, right, to do that roundhouse kick again. Again, I didn't make a claim; I don't need to defend anything here. So what I do is I ask a few questions, kind of a how-did-you-come-to-that-conclusion although they were much more specific. I said, “Okay, you don't think Noah could get that down on the ark, then clearly you must know how big the boat was.” He said, “No, I have no idea; nobody knows how big the boat was.” I said “Actually I think it's recorded in Genesis” so that was news to him. You’ve just got to make the conversion from cubits to meters. And then I asked, “Okay, you don't know how big the boat was; then you must know how many animals were on the boat because obviously, you know if it wasn't that many maybe….” And he's like “How could anyone know how many animals were on the boat?” I think, Wait, you don't know how many animals were on the ark, and you don’t know how big it was but you're certain there's no way Noah’s get that on the ark. Anyways, this right here is a baby Brachiosaurus and so long as you get a pink one and a blue one you'll be ok. You see the approach. You're going to want to be the Bible Answer Man. That’s how you've been trained, for whatever reason. That's just how we react as human beings, even when what you need to do is start asking questions. The Gauntlet This person had thrown down the gauntlet. A gauntlet is a medieval glove but in our culture today what they do is they throw down the gauntlet and then they celebrate like they just won. I'm not gonna show you my celebration dance; I almost did but I pulled back here. They throw it down and they celebrate. No, no, that's not how this works. In medieval times you throw down the gauntlet, someone picks it up, and then the duel happens. So we have to change our approach. We have to point this stuff out: you made a claim, now defend it. Now the second Columbo question is actually, again, very, very generous because it assumes that a person actually came to a conclusion. Again, don't be surprised if you say, “How did you come to that conclusion?” and they're thinking “What are you talking about? What do you mean, what reasons do I have for believing that?” and they don't have any good reasons. In that case, you're gonna have to be gracious again. So in summary, we've just looked at two Columbo questions. The first one tells you what the person believes, and the second one tells you why they believe it – what they believe, why they believe it – and that's exactly what Christians should know. We’ve got to know what we believe and why we believe it. As well, notice that these questions keep you out of the hot seat and, in a certain sense, you're in the driver's seat. When you're asking questions you're kind of steering the conversation where you would like it to go and that's a good place to be. When you are out of your depth Now let me make a couple of final remarks. It turns out that you could end up asking the wrong person the right questions, but you find out this person is really smart, like they are way smarter than me. You’re thinking, oh I'm gonna try Columbo on my next airplane ride but it turns out the guy next to you is like a quantum physicist. And you're like, Why did I open my big fat mouth? That kind of situation. Well, what happens when you're outgunned like that and you feel like you're in over your depth? I'll tell you what you do. You stick to the game plan. Here's what you do – and this works online too by the way – let's say you're messaging with someone and you're in a conversation you can't end. That's the problem with Facebook conversations; they never end because it’s just comment, comment, comment. How do I get out of this? It's a black hole! So here's what you do. You say. “You obviously are very smart; you've done a lot of reading on this. Maybe you’ve got a Ph.D. in philosophy and you're an atheist and you debate people for a living. Okay, great. Tell me what you believe and I'm going to write it down. Or I'm going to memorize. Okay, this is what you believe? And why is it you believe that?” Those are the two questions. And here's the magic words – you ready for the magic words? – “Now let me think about it.” You see how that works? “Let me think about it,” because that's exactly what they want you to do, and that's exactly what you're going to do. You're going to think about what they've just told you, when the pressure is off, because I'm telling you, maybe you're like me, but my neurons don't fire as well when I'm in the heat, in the middle of a conversation. Tensions are a running high. Sometimes actually I think they shut right down. So you want to take that information, and now I'm sitting in front of my computer I'm going to Stand To Reasons website STR.org and hey, “Maybe Tim has an article about that” and then you can find out more information. Or you're going to go to ReformedPerspective.ca and you're going to say “Hey they just wrote about that last week and look it there's – all the information I need.” That's why we exist: trying to get that information so that you can do something with it. Strengthen your own faith and then go and have an impact on the Culture. Flashlight, not a hammer Here’s this – I’ve got just two more slides, so hang on here. Questions are not meant to be used as a hammer to beat people up. I'm telling you, you start doing this (and you need to start doing this) and you're going to see that you can hurt people. You just can; you may not even mean to but you can, because you're going to find out people are not as smart as they think they are. They just haven't thought things through. They don't even know how to think critically; they just don't. I used to teach high school – I taught in the Christian school system and I taught in the public school system. Let me tell you something: a lot of the kids that are out there just cannot think critically because they were never taught to think critically. They're taught to memorize a whole bunch of information but never how to think. Questions are not a hammer to beat people up. I'll tell you what they are: it's how Jesus used them. They're a flashlight to guide people towards the truth. They're a flashlight to point people towards the truth. Sweat now Last thing: the Marines have a slogan in the States and it's translated from Latin into English and here's what it is: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle Why am I telling you this? Because something like sixty to seventy-five percent of young people in our congregations go off to university, many to secular universities and they end up walking away from the church. Why do they do that? The number one reason, the most popular response is intellectual doubt and skepticism. They do not know how to interact with the aggressive professor or the friend or whoever. So what I'm telling you is the more you sweat in training nowt hen when you get into those conversations you're not going to bleed out on the battlefield. And we have a whole lot of students that are bleeding it on the battlefield. And even at the workplace or wherever. I want to encourage you that we need to practice what I'm preaching here. That may mean tomorrow morning at breakfast, start asking these questions. That may mean before we go to bed, or on the drive home, “Oh so do you guys want to stop at Wendy's?” “What do you mean by that?” you know this kind of thing. Just do it. Because now it's second nature for me. I just kept doing this and kept doing it, and now my wife asks me “Do you want chicken for dinner?” and this is what happens: she gets kind of angry “Don't use that stuff on me.” But when it becomes second nature, then when the pressure is on three weeks from now, a month from now, six months from now, and you find oh my, now I'm face to face with that opponent, that person who disagrees with me, you're going to want this to come to mind. And it won't come to mind, it just won't, if you haven't been practicing it....

Apologetics 101, Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson

Documentary 88 minutes / 2009 Rating: 9/10 The genesis of the film started back in May of 2007 when leading atheist Christopher Hitchens and Reformed pastor Douglas Wilson were asked by Christianity Today to dialogue on the question “Is Christianity good for the world?” Their wrote six exchanges which were printed in the magazine and then, in 2008, compiled into a book. When the two men headed out to do an east-coast book tour, filmmaker Darren Doane tagged along. He captured their exchanges and interactions, both onstage in formal debates settings, and as they conversed over a pint of beer in the local pub. The end result is the most entertaining and enthralling debate you will ever see on film. But its appeal is not the reason this is a must-see film. You should see Collision because: It prepares our children for what they’ll encounter at university. The attacks that Hitchens levels against God and Christianity are mimicked on secular campuses so Wilson’s able defense of the Faith will be instructive and will be an encouragement to our young people when they face these same attacks from their professors and fellow students. It demonstrates the approach we need to take to answering the theistic evolutionists. How are we to understand Genesis 1-11, and what role should Science take in guiding our interpretation of these chapters? To properly answer it we need to rediscover a mislaid aspect of our Reformed heritage – presuppositional apologetics. Throughout Collision Wilson brilliantly demonstrates (though doesn’t entirely explain) this distinctly Reformed way of defending the Faith. So what is apologetics? And how does presuppositional apologetics compare to the other, evidential, approach? Despite how it sounds, apologetics isn't about apologizing – it is about defending and arguing for God's Truth. Evidential apologists figure if we present the evidence – enough of it, and the right sort – people will follow the facts and come to realize that there is indeed a God. The problem with this approach is that facts are always interpreted. Present someone with information about the stunning intricacy of the human eye and they’ll fall back on their worldview – their presuppositions – to tell them how to understand this information. So a Christian will look at the eye and acknowledge it as evidence of a brilliant Designer. Meanwhile, an atheist will understand it as evidence of millions of years of evolution since something this amazing couldn’t have just sprung up overnight! Confronted with the same evidence, they come to opposing conclusions. Why? Because sin taints even our intellect – even our reasoning – so evidence can be twisted to support conclusions that run right up against God's Truth. Presuppositional apologetics delves into the assumptions – those presuppositions – that underlie every worldview. When, in Collision, Hitchens accuses God of being a tyrant for ordering the death of the Amalekites (Deut 25:19), Wilson asks Hitchens to provide, from his atheistic worldview, a grounds for being upset. If we are just “matter in motion,” as the atheist worldview contends, what reason is there for Hitchens to care what happens to Amalekites? Hitchens makes repeated moral claims, and Wilson repeatedly shows his atheistic worldview gives him no basis for claiming that anything is wrong or anything is right. Hitchens has debated a throng of other Christians but it’s only Wilson, and his presuppositional approach, that has given him pause. Does that mean presuppositional apologetics is the way to go if you want to win the argument? By the film's end, Christopher Hitchens wasn't won over. And while Wilson was impressive, many of the atheists who watched Collision said that Hitchens won the debate. In that sense, this pressupositional approach didn't "work." But, of course, it is always the Holy Spirit, and not the apologist, who transforms a person's heart. What makes presuppositional apologetics the way to go is that it begins with the right basis, acknowledging, as Romans 1:18-32 makes clear, that this is not a battle over evidence – on some level everyone knows God exists, everyone has God's moral law written on their hearts, and everyone is aware to some degree of how we don't measure up. When we understand that God has already declared Himself, then we can stop wasting our time with the red herring of having to prove His existence, and we can get to the real apologetics work of clarifying and presenting His truth. Then apologetics is an opportunity to glorify God by contrasing the unshakeable biblical worldview with the unbeliever's foundationless one. We can learn from Wilson and use this same approach to properly answer the theistic evolutionists in Christian circles. Like Wilson, we need to cut to the very core of the debate and address their presuppositions – we need to ask how evolution can fit with Christianity when it requires a mythical Adam and Eve, millions of years of mutations and mistakes, and Death before the Fall? This is a film some will love, and others might find too loud (the producer has shot music videos in the past, and that influence is felt here in the driving, beat-y soundtrack) but the meat of what’s discussed, and the example that is set, will be valuable for all ages and all interests. Would that everyone would watch this one... and now you can, on Facebook, for free!...

Apologetics 101

I love apologetics

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

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