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Apologetics 101

C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment

Many Christians admire C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and enjoy his writings. I was introduced to C.S. Lewis through my Grade 4 teacher who read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud to us. I was hooked. Shortly thereafter I went out and bought my own set of the complete Chronicles of Narnia. That just got me started. I’ve long enjoyed his imagination and literary style and I’m by no means alone. But his influence goes further. He was a well-known and persuasive advocate for Christianity. Many people claim to have become Christians through the writings of Lewis. Books like Mere Christianity and Miracles are still widely-read and touted as powerful tracts promoting Christian truth. He was one of the most influential Christian apologists of the twentieth century. But what should a Reformed believer think about his method? Can we make use of his writings in Reformed apologetics? Some background Lewis was born in Ireland, but spent most of his life in England. He was a professor of English at Cambridge University. He wasn’t trained as a theologian, but did study and briefly teach philosophy. He’d been an unbeliever for much of his young adult life. He writes about this in his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy:

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.1

In the early 1930s, Lewis abandoned his atheism and professed to be a Christian. He became a member of the Church of England. Today many Christians believe C.S. Lewis to have been an orthodox, evangelical believer. However, it’s important to realize that Lewis had some serious theological problems. For example, he didn’t hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, he insists that the imprecatory psalms (like Psalm 137) are “devilish.” In Mere Christianity, he affirms some form of theistic evolution.2 In the same book, he writes about the possibility of Buddhists belonging to Christ without knowing it:

“…A Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believe) the Buddhist teaching on other points.”3

There are more such issues. On the basis of some of his statements, one might even wonder to what extent C.S. Lewis really understood the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. For myself, I’m not sure. One thing that is certain is that Lewis has had a huge influence. In the last few years, this is definitely because of the Chronicles of Narnia books being made into films. As mentioned earlier, there are many people who claim to have become Christians because they read a book by C.S. Lewis like Mere Christianity or Miracles. Let’s briefly look at those books and the method Lewis uses. Mere Christianity Mere Christianity was originally a series of radio talks. It was an attempt by Lewis to argue for a basic (‘mere’) form of the Christian faith. Early in the book, Lewis uses the moral argument for the existence of a deity. He says that because there is moral law, there must be a law-giver. That law-giver must be a deity. At that point, he wasn’t arguing for the Christian conception of God, but only a generic divine being. His method becomes clear in what he says here:

We have not yet got as far as the God of any actual religion, still less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to see what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam.4

Lewis was thus trying to reason to God apart from any revelation from God. He was asking readers to independently judge the existence of God on the basis of the arguments presented. This method is found elsewhere in Mere Christianity as well. Lewis tries to build up his case bit by bit. Eventually he gets to the question of what should his readers think about Jesus and his claim to be God:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sorts of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.5

That’s a brilliant piece of writing, often quoted. You’ll sometimes hear it condensed down to the idea that people have to decide whether Jesus was Lord, liar, or lunatic. Yet note again that people are called to judge. You have to judge the claims of Jesus. C.S. Lewis wrote another book entitled God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. In that book he gets to the heart of the problem with his own approach in parts of Mere Christianity. He writes:

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock…The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock.6

That’s exactly what Lewis did in Mere Christianity. He allowed man to judge God. He flattered the unbeliever. Lewis gave him a position of authority over God. That method was and is not unique to C.S. Lewis. Many others before and after him have done exactly the same thing. I should also note that it can sometimes be persuasive. These types of arguments can work to get people thinking about the Christian faith, and maybe even convince them. However, just because they work doesn’t mean they’re right or pleasing to God. Miracles In his book Miracles, we do find Lewis using a different method at times.7 He discusses the philosophy of naturalism, the idea that nothing exists besides nature. Against naturalism is supernaturalism, which allows for the existence of other things outside of nature, and therefore also allows for the existence of miracles. Lewis starts off by rightly noting how the disagreement between the naturalist and the supernaturalist over miracles is not merely about facts. One needs to spend time considering the philosophy of facts held by each side. Lewis is saying that presuppositions matter. He writes,

The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. The philosophical question must therefore come first.8

That could have been said by Reformed theologians like Herman Bavinck or Cornelius VanTil. Lewis recognizes that people have pre-existing philosophical commitments which must be exposed and discussed. So when it comes to naturalism, Lewis does exactly that. He does an internal critique of this philosophy and how it fails to account for logic, morality, and science. To illustrate, let’s just briefly look at what he says about naturalism and logic or reason. Lewis demonstrates that the naturalist cannot consistently hold to his position without undermining reason itself. His philosophy cannot account for reason and cannot support reason. Even though the naturalist tries to talk highly of reason, he actually destroys it. This is because our reasoning powers are not explainable with naturalism. Naturalism is materialistic – all that exists is matter. But what is reason? Is reason material or non-material? Because reason is non-material, naturalism cannot account for it, we have no way for knowing whether it’s true, and our reasoning has no legitimacy. Lewis writes:

A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would be destroyed by its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound…which is nonsense.9

Naturalism collapses under its own weight when it comes to reason. Later in the book, Lewis shows that naturalism also collapses when it comes to morality and science. Instead of naturalism, Lewis argues that supernaturalism can account for everything. While he doesn’t get to the point of affirming that only the Christian worldview’s supernaturalism can account for everything, he comes close. Elsewhere in his writings, he did reach that conclusion. There is this famous quote from his book The Weight of Glory:

Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.10

That is very well said – completely in line with Psalm 36:9, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” Indeed, only Christianity can consistently account for everything. Christianity is true because of the impossibility of the contrary. Lewis didn’t always consistently work with this method, but when he did, he used it to great effect At the end of the day, Lewis is worth reading, not only to see some wrong ways of doing apologetics, but also to learn to use some right ways -- and brilliantly. Moreover, if you have non-Christian friends, reading Lewis with them might be a great way to bring Christian truth to bear on their lives. If you do that, I’d recommend Miracles over Mere Christianity. Endnotes 1) C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, New York: Walker and Company, 1955, 170. 2) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, London: Fontana Books, 1952, 181ff. 3) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 173. 4) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 35. 5) Lewis, Mere Christianity, 52-53. 6) C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed. W. Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 244. 7) For this section on Miracles, I am indebted to an unpublished paper by Daniel R. Dodds, “Elements of Transcendental Presuppositionalism as Found in the Works of C.S. Lewis.” 8) C.S. Lewis, Miracles, New York: Fount Paperbacks, 1947, 8. 9) Lewis, Miracles, 18-19. 10) C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, 1980, 92

Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com where this first appeared.

Apologetics 101

Can God create a rock so heavy He can't lift it?

I have a theory that somewhere out there in this weird, wide world, there exists a laboratory, staffed entirely by atheists, the sole purpose of which is to churn out hard questions for Christians. In the January 2013 issue of Reformed Perspective, Jon Dykstra commented on one such popular riddle: “If God is omnipotent, if He is all powerful, can He create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?” Jon persuasively argued that in asking this question, the atheist misunderstands what we are saying about God’s character. There are many things, such as lying, that God cannot do, not because He is lacking in any way, but because such a proposition would violate His nature. Making a rock too heavy for Him to lift would fit into this category. In addition to the character violation argument, I want to come at the question from another angle, giving another reason why the riddle falls flat. Taxes to Caesar? The question is a bit like one of the conundrums the Pharisees put to Jesus (Matt. 22:15-22). Answer yes and we’ve got you; answer no and we’ve got you still. Can God make a rock so heavy He cannot lift it? Answer with a no, and God apparently disappears in a puff of His own powerlessness; answer with a yes, and again He goes up in a wisp of anti-omnipotence. Difficult conundrum though it may be, it should be borne in mind that it does come directly from the minds of those who believe we got a Universe out of nothing. That ought to tell us something! So what is the answer to the rock question? Well, the simple answer is no, He cannot create something so heavy He cannot lift it. So that’s the end of God, isn’t it? Atheists 1 - Christians 0. Game over. Impossible to give 110% Well not quite. In fact, rightly understood the question actually turns back on itself and becomes a wonderful apologetic for the omnipotence of God. How so? There is a basic problem with the question itself and that basic problem is logic. Or more accurately, the total lack of it. It is perhaps not as easy to see this with the attribute of omnipotence as it is with some of God’s other characteristics, so let’s begin by rephrasing the riddle using another of God’s traits, His infiniteness: “If God is infinite, if He is unlimited, can He use His boundlessness to create something more infinite than Himself?” Now the problem with this is not very hard to see. Infinity is, by definition, infinite, and so there cannot possibly be anything greater than it. Therefore, if God is infinite, the reason He cannot create something more unlimited than Himself is because: Infinity by definition cannot be surpassed. He Himself is that infinity. In other words, it is impossible for Him to create something more infinite than Himself, not because He is not infinite, but rather because He is. Now plug the same logic back into the original riddle: “If God is omnipotent, if He is all powerful, can He create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?” The problem with the question is that it is loaded with the assumption that omnipotence can somehow be surpassed. But just as infiniteness cannot, by definition, be surpassed, nor can omnipotence. It is All-powerful. Not just 90% powerful with a bit of leeway to allow something 91% powerful. It is 100% powerful. That’s what omnipotence is. So the reason the omnipotent God cannot create something that defies his omnipotence is because: Omnipotence by definition cannot be surpassed He Himself is that omnipotence. In other words, God cannot create something too heavy for Himself to lift, not because He is not omnipotent, but rather because He is. Nothing bigger! Look at it another way. If a being is able to create something bigger or stronger than itself, what does that tell you about it? Simply that the being in question cannot possibly be omnipotent, since the thing created is greater than itself. Therefore, the idea of the All-Powerful creating something that trumps All-Power is a total contradiction in terms. But does it follow that this inability of the omnipotent God to create something greater than Himself implies limitedness? Well, it’s a bit like asking whether a genius can create a work of greater genius than himself, and if the answer is no, maintaining that this disproves his genius. Could J.S. Bach or Michelangelo have created works greater than themselves? Clearly this is impossible, but wouldn’t it be foolish for us to then use this impossibility to cast doubts on their genius? So the heavy rock riddle, which apparently refutes the idea of God’s omnipotence, instead ends up establishing it rather neatly. Which other being, besides the omnipotent God, would be unable to make something too heavy for itself to lift? Foolishness to the Greeks But I have my own “omnipotence riddle” for atheists. Just as the heavy rock riddle assumes the idea of God’s omnipotence in order to then ridicule the concept, I would like to assume the idea God’s omnipotence, but this time in order to establish it. Their question is all about big things, but mine is more concerned with somewhat smaller things. So here goes: “If God is omnipotent, can He make Himself small enough to fit into a womb so that He can become the Saviour of World?” Now the atheist, along with the gnostic and the liberal theologian, would like to say no. The incarnation is impossible, unthinkable and absurd. Well if God is not omnipotent then they are right. Such a proposition would be barking mad. But what if there is an omnipotent God? Would the virgin conception, the resurrection and the ascension be feasible then? Could an omnipotent, Trinitarian God accomplish that? Or would such things be too hard for even omnipotence to overcome? The question answers itself. This is why the wisdom of the world will never understand the wisdom of God. The unbelieving mind seeks to disprove the omnipotence of God by asking hard riddles, even ones that propose the illogical and absurd idea of omnipotence trumping itself. Yet God has shown His omnipotence to the world already – not by making rocks too heavy for Himself to lift, but by becoming a baby, then a boy, then a man, all so that the world might be saved through Him. This is a riddle that only omnipotence could accomplish. Rob Slane is the author of "A Christian and an Unbeliever discuss..." and this article first appeared in the April 2013 issue. For another take on this same question, Tim Barnett gives it a go below. ...

Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion

Pro-life shirts that spark, spur, and speak

“Hey, what’s with the shirt? What’s Abort73.com?” “I could tell you, but better yet, why don’t you go online and check it out?” **** Fifteen years ago, on campuses across the US, Canada, and even in England, students started showing up to class in t-shirts emblazoned with a distinctive “Abort73.com” logo. And the next day they'd be back, with a different shirt, in a different color, with a different style, but also emblazoned with “Abort73.com” across the chest and back. What'd it be like to sit behind someone who, day after day, was outfitted this way? Would you start getting a bit curious about this website? Would you want to know more? Speaking up without saying a word That’s the brilliance behind Abort73.com. Through repeated exposures, people who otherwise would never check out a pro-life website go to this one. Their curiosity compels them. Day after day, week after week, month after month, shirt after shirt, the same short web address – eventually curiosity has to get the best of them. These shirts are also an aid – and really an answer to prayer – to the many Christians who want to speak out against abortion but don’t feel equipped to do so. Perhaps you’re the type to get tongue-tied, or maybe you always think of just the right thing to say twenty minutes after the opportunity has passed you by. Maybe you’re worried that if you do speak up no one will pay attention. Or you’re more worried that everyone will listen. Whatever the case might be, these shirts can help you speak up without saying a word. A two-pronged approach Most pro-life t-shirts have been designed to make a statement all on their own with slogans like “Abortion is Murder” or “Choose life - Your mother did.” Originally Abort73.com shirts weren't like that. They were focussed entirely on getting folks to the website, because that's where they would have the room to really make the case for the humanity of the unborn in a way that no single t-shirt ever could. That's why their early shirts just had the website address, albeit in all sorts of fonts, colors, and styles. When people did visit the site, what they found was a well-organized summary of the medical, philosophical/logical, and pictorial arguments against abortion and for the humanity of the unborn. The one notable downside to their approach is that none of their "first layer" arguments – those you can find off of their front page – are Christian arguments. God's thoughts can only be found by digging deeper into the site. Nowadays Abort73 has expanded their approach in that they also sell shirts with slogans. I suspect that's because, even as it's better to get people to the website for the full presentation, they now recognize that speaking to the humanity of the unborn via even brief t-shirt slogans can be a way of stirring things up too. Especially on today's college campuses. The shirts are $20 US each but if you buy a half dozen you can get them for just $10 per, and that is pretty impressive. Why not check it out? So, is your curiosity piqued? Then why not go to www.Abort73.com and check it out? Or go directly to their store to order a shirt...or thirty? A version of this article was first February 2006 issue under the title “A shirt a day…the vision of the folks behind Abort73.com”...

Apologetics 101

The case for bumper-sticker and T-shirt Christianity

We found the handprinted note tucked beneath the windshield wiper, as we returned to our car in the mall parking lot. “May you not be judged as severely as you judge others,” it said. The note, printed by some shaky hand, was a reaction to our Mazda’s bumper sticker: “A nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope – Pope John Paul II.” Whoever left the note definitely “heard” our message. Signs of the effect it had on them were present. Without writing paper on hand, the person tore off a piece of some box to pass on their reaction to us. Shaky printing suggested that the writer was emotional and wanted to say as fast as possible what they had to say, and wrote it on the palm of their hand only, not bothering to look for a firmer support. (Or, I wondered, could this be the shaky hand of an older person? But no, the elderly don’t print, they use handwriting. Only the new generation never learned how to write, so they print). Furthermore, the writer, unable to attack the message, attacked the messenger – another sign of emotionalism. They must also have had some rudimentary knowledge of God and of his Word since they called for some higher judgment on us. Yes, the writer was definitely not left unmoved by our bumper sticker’s message. They heard it well. The same sticker got us a handshake in front of our cleaner’s shop. A man in his 30’s commended us for the sticker, and made some comments on the prevailing apathy of western Christians to the ongoing slaughter of the innocent. A bouncing gelatin wall I believe in bumper stickers, in stickers and in T-shirt messages. I know they work. And they work because they catch people before they are ready, in the moments when their hearts and minds are open and ready like a freshly plowed field to receive a seed. That seed, once planted, sends out a tiny root and eventually can give life to something good. Let me explain myself. Human minds and hearts are wonderfully able to hear what they want to hear, and to be deaf to what they don’t want to hear. For example, I was at one time convinced my son did not hear very well. But when I dragged him in for a hearing test it turned out he had perfect hearing. But also selective hearing. I’m sure you experience this yourself many times every day. When our spouses, teachers, preachers, parents, children or the media communicate something to us it takes us only 30 seconds to figure out if the coming address is going to be uncomfortable to us, or request something from us, or be hurtful to us. And if we sense such a message, instantly our defenses come up and we erect a powerful wall. This wall will not let anything from the outside penetrate us. Everything we don’t want to deal with just bounces off. It is a bouncing gelatin wall! With our defenses up, we hear selectively and pick up only the weakest points of the address to eventually use for a counterattack. But we are deaf to the main points, the facts of the address because of our mighty bouncing “gelatin wall.” I remember the communist indoctrination lessons I had to learn growing up behind the Iron Curtain. I remember clearly that when my beloved history professor started to praise the achievements of the communist ideology and tear down everything that was built before it, something always happened to me. I erected my own “bouncing wall.” I, too, did not hear. This wall allowed me to distance myself from the responsibility I had to stand up and say, “Comrade teacher, this is a lie! You know how bloody and unjust communism is!” The wall let me pretend I did not hear, so I did not have to comment. But in truth I knew that speaking would get me in trouble and perhaps put my father back in prison, so I did not act. After all, when I once approached this professor privately to talk about some great historical lie, he commanded me not to listen to my father, but to believe instead the communist history books. Before the wall goes up This mental “bouncing wall” is real, and everyone has one. Through this wall, we are not heard. So, ladies and gentlemen, we must get our message to people before this wall gets up! Speed is crucial. The reality is you have no more than 30 seconds to reach people before the bouncing wall goes up. You have only 30 seconds to get to them! Repeat this to yourself and adapt your strategies to it. Learn from the businessman who knows that advertising sells! Their 30-second commercials cost millions, but they make millions. They sell. Why? Because these short commercials get TV viewers unprepared in the midst of some other story, before their bouncing wall comes up. The message sneaks in and they say, “Hey, didn’t I always like this song?” And they rush to the computer and order the gadget, tool, book, or DVD that will soon make an appearance at their next garage sale. I know that people read bumper stickers. I read bumper stickers too. They get at us with their short messages while our walls are still down. That’s why they work, like TV ads. That’s why they get our message heard. Now. you and I don’t have the money to go on TV and say, “Dear Canadians, abortion kills people. Abortion is the cruel execution of the innocent…” Even if we had the millions of dollars needed to put this message on TV as an ad, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) would not allow it on the air, because it is not politically correct. And if we tried a different approach and got permission to preach against abortion in the town square, nobody would come listen to it. The invisible bouncing wall would prevent all but the committed pro-lifers from coming and listening. In praise of red lights           But my bumper stickers? May our Lord be praised because of the one who invented them! My bumper sticker always catches the eyes of following drivers. They have to watch my bumper because that’s where the signal lights are. And while waiting for the green light with wandering eyes, bored by familiar scenery, they look eagerly for some distraction. My bumper sticker gives it to them – a definitely not common, nor boring, but rather clear message that sticks. They might get convicted and repent. They might get convicted and get angry. They might just process it as information and stay apathetic. Regardless, they are confronted with the truth and can never tell the Creator, “I did not know. Why did your servants, Christians, not tell me?” So when my dearest husband complains that he, “did not get even one green light today,” I say, “Thank-you Lord, for thou has created the yellow and red colors!” Those red lights mean that 16 people were confronted with the truth on the way to work. If we are lucky, 16 more will be confronted on the way home. Great! If we go to the city 3 times per week, we will reach 48 drivers (and some of their passengers). In one month that will add up to 200 people. Wow! In one year 2,400 people will read the $3 pro-life message on my bumper, a message we are not permitted to say aloud anywhere but in the street. I gave one of my most blatant pro-life bumper stickers to my brother. Soon somebody who worked at the hospital needed to borrow my brother’s car for one week. And it came to pass that the old red car was parked in the staff parking lot, standing in a predetermined strategic parking stall just next to the exit, where every car had to slow to stop and catch the message: “Abortion – the ultimate child abuse.” There it was, a witness to all the hospital staff, and I praised the Lord for it. I love small stickers too. I know that the message, “Abortion stops a beating heart” stuck just beneath the address on the envelope will be processed and read by 5-7 people. Its design is appealing and very interesting. With the 200–500 envelopes we mail every year I rejoice to reach large numbers of people who I would never have been able to speak to – especially members of the Canadian Postal Union, which donates lots of money for the advancement of the death culture in Canada! Now mind you, my local postal employees have read the sticker 2000 times already, but I still rejoice. After all, if Joseph Goebel’s idea – that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth – worked in Nazi Germany, then the truth repeated 2000 times must work also. Try sticking a small “Abortion stops a beating heart” sticker on your mailbox. I bet you that when your paperboy or girl first hears the word “abortion” in one of their condom and banana sex education classes, the first thing jumping to their mind will be the words, “…stops a beating heart.” He or she might even speak it out loud and start a very interesting conversation in the class, or with their parents. Marvelous things can be done with one-liners like “Beware of Dog!” or “Stop!” or “Don’t drink and drive!” It is time for us to use that power. Backward T-shirts With T-shirts I have one problem – its effectiveness is best when it is backwards. I have found that any message is lost on me when it is printed on the front of a T-shirt. Our culture avoids eye contact; we do not stare, or prey on privacy. While we may read the logos on T-shirts while they are still in the store, and may love to wear some that enhance our stands or our personalities, we hardly ever read what others carry on their bellies or across their busts. It is invasive. C’est un faux pas. On the other hand, we feel free to read what people carry on their backs as we walk behind them. This does not force on us any contact or seem as invasive. So should you wish to print up some great T-shirt message, print it on the back of the shirt. Just imagine that you are strolling in the fresh air and in front of you walks a person with a message on her back that you now have all the time to read: “Polluted by sin? Hardly breathing? Fresh air will not do. I might know the remedy. Feel free to ask.” Our most beloved T-shirt was given to me by my daughter, a University of Alberta student then. It listed on the back the “Top Ten Reasons to be Pro-life.” Aimed at university students, it read: 10. Equal rights for unborn women too. 9. All the best babes are pro-life. 8. You were a fetus once. 7. Diapers are disposable, babies aren’t. 6. Pampers stocks are up 1/8 on the TSE. 5. Nine out of ten babies do not pee on your rug. 4. Babies don’t talk back. 3. You’ll need someone to support you when you’re old and want a home in Florida. 2. Babies don’t drive up the !@# Grade Point Average. 1. 1,336 unborn babies will be killed in Canada today. While this was not a short 30-second message, the first 30 seconds of it were so amusing for any reader, except the committed pro-abort, that people continue to read on about these cute, friendly creatures – babies. And then, when they were already sold by the cute message, they were hit with number 1! Everywhere they look? I understand from the latest statistics that close to 30 percent of Canadians regularly attend some Christian church. Wouldn’t it be great if our politicians, media people and academia found out, as they traveled to work one day, that 30 percent of the vehicles they saw had some sort of Christian or pro-life message on them? And that 30 percent of the T-shirts they saw, as people strolled down Main Street, had some message showing off adherence to God and Christian morals? Don’t you think they would act accordingly? Don’t you think businessmen would soon sell them in any mall? Or that the editor of the paper would not leave out the name of Jesus Christ from my Christmas story he recently published? I bet you many things would look very different. Priests for Life has said that now, when Christianity and the Pro-life message are almost completely pushed out of the press, TV, and culture generally, the street is our media! They are right. The last frontier left to us is the street. Let’s make the best of it. But will we? Does it make any sense to try and figure out how best to get our message heard if there are no takers for the positions of criers and watchmen? Does it make any sense when people are not even willing to use bumper stickers? Lame excuses People say it does not change anything. I have a sticker for them that reads, “Did you try it?” They respond, “No, but others did.” Like who? Here in Grande Prairie there are only 10 cars carrying a meaningful message. (But we have lots of cars running around with the latest “angst” bumper sticker which reads, “I am a bitch.”) Some Christians say that while the message is true, it offends people, especially those who have had an abortion. “Jesus was and is always a gentleman, so we must follow his example and not offend people. After all, how would you like it, if somebody tried to impose their set of beliefs on you?” I have a bumper sticker for these people that reads, “The truth will make you free.” And I ask them how they would bring the message to the world in a better, less offensive way. “We would wait to be asked,” is their reply. And so most of them are still waiting for their first customer to show up and ask. Others don’t want their employers to get mad at them. I have a sticker for them that reads, “If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father” (Luke 9:26). The most honest admit, “I don’t want to get my car vandalized.” I would recommend to such honest people to continue their honesty and not to sing, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him freely I give.” All these and many, many other “reasons” are perpetuated in Christian circles, so the message does not get out simply because there are no messengers. But these are not real reasons, they are just excuses for our laziness, our cowardice and our lack of love for God and our fellow man. This is a point worth repeating – the three real reasons we do not get out message out are cowardice, laziness, and lack of love for God and our fellow man. The moment we repent and start to proclaim our God and His morality to the world (even if only by bumper stickers), that is the moment we start to obey God, and thus become courageous. In that moment we also return to our first love for God and we love our fellow men again. And at that moment we’ll get our message heard because there will finally be messengers to carry it, and no matter how it will be received it will be heard! I pray for that. Ladies and gentlemen, I now rest my case. You can find pro-life bumper stickers at Life Cycle Books Canadian store or American store. Pro-life t-shirts can be found at Abort73.com and other online retailers. A version of this article first appeared in the February 2002 issue. ...

Apologetics 101, Satire

The Triangle Curvature Inclusion Bill

A controversial bill to redefine triangles was presented in the British Parliament this past month. Debate was opened by the Culture Secretary, Valerie Brimble, who began by setting out the case for expanding what she sees as an oppressively restrictive definition. “Times change,” she began, “old customs and habits which may have served society well in the past need to be constantly reviewed. It is my contention that the traditional view of triangles, as having three straight sides, joining at three corners and forming three internal angles which aggregate to 180 degrees must urgently be reviewed. There is no reason why this configuration need remain, and a modern society ought not to be hidebound by antiquated customs.” Unusually for a Commons debate, she then whipped out a visual aid from under the dispatch box in order to demonstrate her proposals. Figure 1, she told a packed House, was an example of how triangles have been traditionally defined. FIG 1. She then went on to explain that this traditional definition of triangles could no longer be tolerated in a modern, diverse and inclusive society. “If we are to be a compassionate people, then we must include shapes that we’ve previously pushed to the margins.” She then sought to reassure some of her more traditionalist colleagues that what the government was proposing was merely a change to allow just one of the sides of the triangle to be redefined, to allow for the introduction of a wiggly line. Figure 2 was then presented to her fellow MPs, which depicted a “triangle” with this wiggly short side. FIG. 2 As she sat down after her opening remarks, Mrs. Brimble faced a barrage of criticism from opponents of the bill. It was pointed out to her that once you redefine triangles to include one wiggly line, it was only a matter of time until other self-interest groups demanded their right to add a second or even a third bendy line. Mrs. Brimble responded by reassuring the House that the government had no plans to allow any further redefinitions. “We are only, I repeat, only, legislating to allow either one of the two shorter lines to be redefined,” she said. “We are not, I repeat, we are not legislating for the redefinition of the hypotenuse.” However, this failed to satisfy her opponents who one by one got up to denounce the redefinition. One of the most vocal said this: “Can my Right Honourable friend tell the house this: once she has redefined the triangle to include a wiggly line, what reason can she give to those who then want to redefine it to include four straight lines, or multiple bendy lines, or even as many lines, bendy or otherwise, that they choose?” Not to be outdone by Mrs. Brimble, he then whipped out his own visual aid and showed the House what could well happen to the triangle if this legislation passes. FIG. 3 “Oh come off it,” scoffed a clearly exasperated Mrs. Brimble. “Don’t be ridiculous. They don’t look anything like triangles. Even a fool can see that.”...

Apologetics 101

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 making assertions here, 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. This same questioning technique works much much 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 wishes, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask why he should believe what we believe. And as unprepared as we may be for all their other questions, this is one question we 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, Politics, Sexuality

"Am I A Chinese Woman?" How questions can defend the Truth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfO1veFs6Ho&feature=youtu.be It was a political science class in my first year in university, with a hundred-some students spread out around the large auditorium. When the professor asked us, by show of hands, to indicate who was pro-life I popped my arm up quickly. It was only then I realized, mine was the lone hand up. The prof scanned the room, and when he saw me tucked up against the back wall, 20 rows away, this 50-something-year-old came sprinting down the aisle, then scampering up and over the last few rows of seats, until we were face to face. “Why,” he asked, “are you pro-life?” He waited, and I could see my classmates twisting in their seats to get a good look. This was no debate between equals. He was a world-renown lawyer, a drafter of United Nations agreements, and he’d been teaching this class for years. I was an 18-year-old student, who had never had to defend the unborn before. I don’t recall the exact answer I gave, but I do remember how easily the prof slapped it aside. He made me feel foolish. More importantly, he made the pro-life position seem foolish. Let the teacher teach It used to be that this sort of on-the-spot inquisition would only happen if you signed up for something like a political science class. Nowadays we can expect hostile questioners in settings from the coffee shop to the workplace. Whether you proudly walk around wearing a pro-life shirt, or quietly decline having a rainbow flag decorate your cubicle, the world is going to want some answers. What we should offer are some good questions. The key here is to realize what the world is up to. They think we’re wrong and want to correct. They want to show us the error of our ways. They want to re-educate us. So we should let them try. The mistake I made with my university professor was when I let him swap his role for mine. He wanted me to teach the pro-life position to the class – he wanted me to take on the role of teacher. Now he’d had a few decades of experience, and maybe some hours of preparation to get ready for his lecture, but he expected me, on a moment’s notice, to be able to teach the class. How fair was that? And yet I accepted the role-reversal, gave it my best go, and failed miserably. But what if I had refused his job offer? What if, instead of trying to mount an on-the-spot defense of the unborn, I had simply asked the teacher to teach? “I’m just a student – I’m paying the big bucks to hear your thoughts. So what I’d like to know iswhy are you so sure the unborn aren’t precious human beings?”  You want me to teach? I decline. This is a great strategic move, but also a humble one. It’s strategic because asking questions is a lot easier than answering them. That’s why our kids – back when they could barely string a sentence together – could still stump us by simply asking one “But why?” question after another. It’s humble because in adopting this approach we’re not setting ourselves up as the ones with all the answers. As I recall it, my professor believed there was some gradual increase in the fetus’s worth as it grew bigger and became able to do more things. If he’d offered that as his explanation – the unborn isn’t worth as much as an adult because it can’t do as much – my follow-up would have been easy: “But why?” The Columbo Tactic Christian apologist Greg Koukl calls this the Columbo Tactic, naming it after the famous TV detective. Lieutenant Columbo, as he was played by actor Peter Falk, was a slow-talking, slow-walking, middle-aged man, perpetually unshaven, and as Koukl put it, who looked like he slept in his trench coat. His unassuming manner was the key to the detective’s success. He wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t pointed. He only asked questions. "Just one more thing…" "There's something that bothers me…" "One more question…" “What I don’t understand is… As he followed up his quiet question with another and then another, the murderer’s story would fall to pieces, bit by bit. Columbo’s approach was meek, but also merciless. And the killers never saw it coming. Question the re-education This quiet questioning was put to masterful use by the director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. Joseph Backholm headed down to the University of Washington campus to talk to students about gender identity. His position? Men are men and women are women. But rather than begin by sharing his own thought he asked others for theirs. His first question had to do with whether men should be able to use women’s washrooms, and the students agreed with one another that “whether you identify as a male or female and whether your sex at birth is matching to that, you should be able to utilize” whichever locker room you like. That when things got very interesting. Space doesn’t permit sharing all the students’ answers (and they were all quite similar) so we’ll focus on just one. Joseph Backholm: “If I told you that I was a woman what would your response be?” Enthusiastic girl: “Good for you. Okay! Like, yeah!” JB: “If I told you that I was Chinese what would your response be?” EG: “I mean I might be a little surprised, but I’d say, good for you! Yeah, be who you are!” The next question made our energetic girl pause. She wasn’t ready with a quick answer but after thinking it through she tried to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you that I was seven years old, what would your response be?”EG: “If you feel seven at heart then, so be it, good for you!” JB: “If I wanted to enroll in a first-grade class, do you think I should be allowed to?” EG: “If that's where you feel mentally you should be…then I feel like there are communities that would accept you for that.” This final question stymied several other students…for a few moments. Then they too headed into the ridiculous, just to maintain consistency. JB: “If I told you I'm 6 feet 5 inches what would you say?” EG: “I feel like that's not my place, as another human, to say someone is wrong or to draw lines or boundaries.” As Backholm concluded: It shouldn't be hard to tell us 5’9” white guy that he's not a six foot five Chinese woman. But clearly it is. Why? What does that say about our culture? And what does that say about our ability to answer the questions that actually are difficult? The video was effective, funny, and popular – it’s been viewed well over a million and a half times already. (A Swedish version, in which a petite blond girls asks students whether she could be a two-meter tall seven-year-old Japanese male, has been viewed by another half million.)  Backhom took the students’ stand – that identity is whatever a person says it is – and exposed it as ridiculous by asking half dozen simple questions. But did the questions do anything to convince the students? After all, none of them seemed to change their mind. Well, most of them were giggling by the end – they couldn’t help but laugh at the bizarre stand they found themselves defending. Few of us are able to change our minds in a moment, even when all the facts are against us, so it’s no surprise these students didn’t do an on-camera about-face. However we have reason to hope that once they had time to reflect, they too may well have realized the enormous problem with their thinking. Beyond self-preservation How might this questioning approach work in our day to day? Let’s try it in an office setting. Imagine that your company has sponsored the local gay pride parade and the boss has handed out little pride flags so employees can decorate their cubicles. You decline. Shortly afterwards you find yourself summoned to the boss’s office. How can quiet questions be a help here? First, it’s important we first understand the goal we should have for this interchange. Unprepared we might conclude our objective is self-preservation – we want to save our job. That’s a good goal, but it shouldn’t be the goal – our primary goal, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” As our country takes a perverse turn, we are going to start losing our jobs because of our beliefs and it won’t matter what we say or how we say it. When we’re called to explain ourselves, we need to realize there may be no God-glorifying way of preserving our job – the only options maybe to profess or deny. So we need to prepare ourselves to profess…regardless of what happens afterwards. Do you really believe what you say you believe? Still, saving our job can be a goal and questions can help here too. Your boss wants to know why you aren’t waving the rainbow flag? Ask him whether the company really believes what it says it believes. If they want to celebrate tolerance and diversity how about they do so starting with you? Boss: “Why don’t you have your flag out? You know we’re an inclusive company.” You: “Hey boss, as a Christian, and I have some views that differ with the company’s. I knew that might cause some problems but I also know that we’re a super inclusive company, so I was confident we could work something out. Sir, how can the company’s inclusiveness be applied to me? How is your non-judgmental, life-style-affirming, politically correct boss going to be able to answer this one without his head exploding? That’s for him to figure out. Conclusion A question isn’t the best response in every setting. Questions are very helpful in poking holes in other people’s incoherent worldviews – they’re good tools for demolishing lies – but when it comes to teaching people the truth, we need to do more than ask questions. We’ll need to share God’s Word, let our listener question us, and offer explanations. That’s how we should talk to anyone interested in an honest dialogue. But for all those shaking their fist at God, a good question may be the best response. We live in a time where every one of God’s standards is being attacked and it’s about time we were asking why. Picture is a screenshot from the Family Policy Institute of Washington’s video “College kids say the darndest things: On identity” posted to YouTube.com on April 13, 2016. This article first appeared in the June 2016 issue. If you want to know more about the Columbo Tactic you should pick up a copy of Greg Koukl's "Tactics" which we review here....

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

The theology of dirty jokes

In Miracles, C.S. Lewis makes the intriguing argument that it takes a theistic worldview to explain the existence of dirty jokes. the Christian knows that we are body and spirit, but the materialist argues that we are only matter. But then the dirty (or course) joke presents him with a problem; it shows there is something more than just the material here: "The course joke proclaims that we have here an animal which finds its own animality either objectionable or funny. Unless there had been a quarrel between the spirit and the organism I do not see how this could be: it is the very mark of the two not being ‘at home’ together. But it is very difficult to imagine such a state of affairs as original — to suppose a creature which from the very first was half shocked and half tickled to death at the mere fact of being the creature it is. I do not perceive that dogs see anything funny about being dogs... Another wrinkle: if you observe the animal world, reproduction is a rather mundane affair: animals certainly don't get bashful or embarrassed about it. But we humans, with juvenile smirks and double entendre jokes have always treated it as something out of the ordinary. But why? Evolutionists don’t have any rationale for this different treatment. Are we supposed to believe that dirty jokes help perpetuate the species? There is no natural reason to treat sex as anything other than routine. And if there is no reason to see as something special, then there is no reason to tell dirty jokes about it. We don’t tell jokes about common ordinary events. The Christian rationale for this different treatment is much clearer. Reproduction is something special because God has set it apart from normal human activity and guarded it with rules and requirements. And even while society ignores those rules they still can’t help but recognize that reproduction is something special. They don’t want to honor the rules God has set out, but they can't help but acknowledge His rules when they set out to mock them with dirty jokes....