I went to see the recent Faithlife film "Fragments of Truth" featuring Dr. Craig Evans of Houston Theological Seminary and narration by John-Rhys Davies. This film deals with Textual Criticism of the Bible manuscripts.
Overall, this is a great film and I think the first documentary film that deals with this particular subject. When talking about the reliability of scripture, one does this on two planes - transmission and content. This film deals with the transmission of the NT. Featuring experts such as Daniel B. Wallace, Peter Williams, and others, the film deals with the shear number of full manuscripts we have of the NT along with the fragments themselves. The film also deals with the idea of variances in the New Testament text.
One claim made by Dr. Evans is that the NT texts lasted and were used for hundreds of years. This is controversial as it does not comport with facts presented by Paleography since the manuscripts themselves were written on papyrus, not parchment and lasted throughout the centuries because of the environmental conditions in Egypt where the majority of NT manuscripts were found. Those details were not included and must be understood so that it is not applied in a general sense when speaking about NT manuscripts but rather a result of the conditions present in Egypt.
There were two issues I personally did have with the film. First, the film itself didn't deal with the vast difference between other ancient texts and the Bible when talking about the number of manuscripts we have and the time between the manuscript and the original autographs. When compared with the works of Plato or Homer, the Bible has vastly more complete manuscripts and they are much closer to the original in their dating. This should give credence to the accuracy of the NT we have today and that we can know that the Bible you have in your hands is the one that was written 2000 years ago.
The other issue was the Council of Nicaea. There was an argument in the film that stated Constantine "forced the hand" of the council to make a decision concerning the canon. But this does not appear to be accurate as the council already had a canon in hand and were comparing other documents that had been circulating to see if they met the criteria to be considered canon as well (for example, St. Jerome included what is known as the Apocrypha).
It is widely believed that Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, but this is false. Constantine had become a Christian, but he outlawed the persecution of Christians and thereby created a religious freedom throughout the empire that hadn't existed before.
Fragments of Truth is a great film to see by yourself or with a group and should garner more study on the subject.
For more information on the film, visit Faithlife at https://faithlife.com/fragments-of-truth
On Thursday, the CA Assembly passed Bill 2943, a bill that assemblyman Evan Low claims is directed at so-called conversion therapy - therapy designed to change the sexual orientation of those in the LGBTQ community.
Low states that this bill is not designed to infringe upon religious freedoms or the ability to talk about or sell books on the subject. That the bill instead is designed to prevent the advertisement of such therapies as services and that such therapy claims are fraudulent. The bill claims that contemporary science recognizes that being a part of the LGBTQ community is "part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease, disorder, or illness.", but offers no scientific data for this claim. The bill then outlines a series of studies on conversion therapy that show the dangers of such therapy. While the debate on conversion therapy is one that is needed - even within the church - there is another issue at play in the bill.
The final reading of the bill's conclusion shows what may be the unintended consequences of such a bill:
This is a broad statement that doesn't classify specifics on Sexual Orientation Change efforts. This could be used to include communicative efforts in Christian sermons, publications, or even individual conversations between a pastor and a congregant. A group could sue a Christian college using this law on the grounds that courses there teach students how to change sexual orientation by means of counseling or even by the study of the Bible itself.
Christian books that speak on Gay or Transgenders and how God can change a person's life would line up under the broad spectrum in this final statement of the bill.
This bill still needs to be approved by the California senate before going to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. It is doubtful it will live very long without a legal challenge, but it is unknown if such a challenge would succeed in defeating the bill or if it would become California law. If it is allowed to stand, then state courts will not only begin to rule on the validity of LGBTQ orientations but would outlaw any attempts to argue against such orientations by circumventing the 1st amendment on the grounds such efforts would be fraudulent. Such a law could then be coming to a state near you.
There is now a popular argument against Christianity whereby a skeptic states that "I don't think the truth of Christianity follows if Jesus rose from the dead, it just shows a man rose from the dead".
There are a few issues with this argument, but the one glaringly obvious one is that as a rule, people do not rise from the dead. Popular shows like The Walking Dead tell stories of dead bodies becoming reanimated, but they are still in a sense dead. The Highlander tells the story of a man named Connor MacLeod who is an immortal - that is, when he is killed, he rises again (unless you cut off his head).
Both of these are not what the Bible means when they refer to resurrection. The resurrection was more than Christ coming back from dead. Christ had raised Lazarus during his ministry. But Lazarus died again. The dead who rose at the end of Matthew's Gospel died again. But Jesus is alive and does not die again. In fact, His body was changed to a glorified body - showing His wounds as evidence that He was the Christ and to glorify His sacrifice for sins. The proof text of this is in 1 Corinthians 15
"So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."
But, there is also the fact that Jesus predicted His own death and resurrection and told this to the disciples. If Jesus really performed all of these miracles, proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God, predicted His death and resurrection from the dead and then in fact was crucified, died, and was buried and rose three days later as He predicted, there are no other reasonable explanations that explain this other than He in fact was the Son of God. It then naturally follows that what He said was true. This includes His teachings from the OT. It also follows that His disciples proclaimed His teachings and were willing to die for what they heard and saw.
This objection fails because it does not take into account what it means to be resurrected, Jesus life and ministry and the rarity of resurrection itself. The objection also does not give credible explanations that are backed by evidence. It's simply an alternate explanation. But, alternate explanations are not refutations as Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason so aptly states.
The Resurrection of Christ would be the most powerful piece of evidence for the truth of Christianity.
Several years ago, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscipts revealed that a fragment of the Gospel of Mark had been found. Early investigations seemed to reveal that the manuscript may in fact be from the 1st Century AD. Many years have passed since that first announcement and many of us in the apologetics field have been waiting with baited breath on the results.
Recently, Dr. Gary Habermas of Liberty University revealed in a talk given at Purdue University that paleographical tests revealed that the fragment is believe to be dated from 80-110 AD. You can see Dr. Habermas' lecture below.
So what does this mean? If this date is correct, it means that we now have textual evidence that the Gospels we not written late (4th century) as many skeptics and popular novels have suggested and that they were most likely written within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses.
To give an idea, the apostle John was said to be a teenager during Jesus' ministry. Jesus was crucified between 29-33 AD. John was believed to have been exiled to Patmos around 90 AD. Mark is believed to have been written in Rome during the 50's AD and is believed to be one of the first Gospels written (Matthew being the other).
This would add to the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts as being true eyewitness accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It would also debunk critics who say this were all later inventions of the church.
Often, people may ask how to show that Buddhism is false or what’s a good argument against Hinduism or the New Age, etc. But in the end, one doesn’t necessarily have to argue against those worldviews as much as they need to give an argument for the Resurrection of Jesus.
The Resurrection is the central tenet of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul stated that:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1 Cor 15:14-19
What this means is that the implications of the resurrection weigh greatly upon the Christian worldview.
So what does it mean if Christ was resurrected?
1. The New Testament is true
The New Testament is the account of the eyewitnesses to Christ's life, ministry, and resurrection as well as the history of the early church as it pertains to the actions of the Apostles in the years immediately after the resurrection. It also contains letters from the Apostles to the surrounding churches in the Greco-Roman world. If a man claiming to be God in the flesh stated He would be crucified and rise again after three days and did so, this would be the greatest evidence He was telling the truth. So, if the resurrection is true, then the NT can be trusted as factual accounts of that truth.
2. The Old Testament is true
Since Jesus referenced the Old Testament as being true, His resurrection from the dead that verifies His identity as God in the flesh would also verify the claims He made about the veracity of the OT. This means that the oldest stories in the OT - including Adam and Eve - would be factual.
3. God is real
Obviously, if one doesn't believe in God, a man claiming to be God and rising from the dead would seem to indicate that God does exist. However, Jesus has stated that even this wouldn't convince the hardest skeptic. But this does not diminish the strong evidential nature of the resurrection, it only describes the skeptic's state of mind.
3. Heaven and Hell are real
Jesus teaching on the reality of Heaven, Hell, and a coming judgement can also be trusted as He spoke of them as real places and future events. This means that each person must give an account for the lives they have lead and Jesus' teaching on salvation takes center stage. His death for our sins and His resurrection show God's love for us and a pardon for our crimes. Then the choice is clear, either Christ can pay for our crimes or we can.
4. All other worldviews are false
The law of non contradiction states that two opposing ideas cannot both be true at the same time and the same way. The statement "all religions are basically the same" or "all religions are equally true" are patently false. However, they could all be false, even Christianity. But, the resurrection would be evidence that the Christian worldview is true and all others would be false given the identity of Jesus being confirmed by the resurrection.
If you can show good, historically reliable evidence for the resurrection (and there is), then you have done most of the work in showing all other worldviews are false and have shown the truth of Christianity as Paul stated so long ago:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Cor 15 20-28
Southern Culture can be summed up in one word - Church. The communities in the south are centered around the local Church. During the civil rights era, leaders met at local African American churches and many of the civil rights leaders were pastors.
In the 21st century, it is still the case that the culture in the south is centered around going to church, though this is changing. But this being the case, it may come as a surprise that Apologetics is not something often discussed or taught from the pulpits or the Sunday School classrooms. I have often asked myself why this is the case. As I peruse the schedules of many apologetics speakers, I see dates on the west coast, east coast, and the mid west, but few if any in the southeastern US.
There are many possible reasons for this, but we will talk about just a few. I conducted an very informal poll asking how important the evidence for Christianity was to southern Christians. Overwhelmingly, those polled believed it was very important. So what gives?
The church takes its' marching orders from the top. If members aren't hearing apologetics from the pulpit, they will assume it's not very important or may not even know there is actual evidence for our faith. If a particular pastor doesn't believe apologetics are necessary, the congregation will usually follow suit, which brings us to another point:
Christianity is an historical faith. It is based on a real historical event - the resurrection of Jesus. But many see faith as a blind endeavor. But it becomes obvious that faith isn't blind faith or it wouldn't need the qualifier. Faith comes from the Greek word pistis 'belief' while the verb is pisteo 'believe'. It basically means to be persuaded to trust. Yet most Christians think they are simply to trust without any reasons. Many take the story of Thomas to mean you don't need evidence.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” - John 20:24-29
When we read the words of Jesus to Thomas, we often do not read it in its' full context.
A biblical understanding of faith should bring us to realize that we put our trust in Christ based on being persuaded by the evidence, though as J. Warner Wallace has stated, many of us are accidental Christians.
3. Emotional response
The 20th century saw an end to the intellectual leadership of the faith and a beginning to a purely emotional response to Christianity. Think about many of the services we attend. You will hear things like "we just want to feel your Spirit LORD" or "LORD, let us feel your presence". Many of us talk of feeling the LORD moving in our lives. But our faith no longer seems to appeal to our intellect as well. Jesus said to:
"Love the LORD your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength".
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias said "What I believe in my heart must make sense in my mind". Christian apologetics is nothing new. The first apologists were students of the apostles and their students. Irenaeus - who was a student of Polycarp - wrote Against Heresies in response to Gnosticism. CS Lewis was stated "Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered". Tertullian wrote in the early 3rd century that Christians were called "haters of mankind". Haters gonna hate, right? It seems there truly is nothing new under the sun - including Christians use of apologetic arguments to deal with objections to the faith. Yet the purely emotional response to our faith has lead to bad and heretical teachings that have become part of the popular Christian book sales we see today.
This is the part that makes us uneasy. Apologetics requires study. It doesn't necessarily require a Christian to go to seminary (unless the LORD has so called you). There are a plethora of books on apologetics from very great and learned authors designed to help the average Joe Christian understand and navigate the objections they hear from their non Christian friends while strengthening their own faith. But, as will all Christian disciples such as prayer, bible reading, etc. - it requires effort. I have heard many say that it's too hard or they just don't understand that stuff. But most of us didn't understand Math until we went to class and did our homework. We must remember that we are commanded to give a defense of Christianity when asked.
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" 1 Peter 3:15
It's not an option. We must be prepared to give a defense.
Christianity in the south is slowly becoming a minority as more and more people move south who have very different worldviews. If we as Christian southerners hope to affect the culture for Christ, we will have to begin putting our noses to the grindstone and begin studying. How can we begin doing this?
This year, instead of doing the typical youth conference, invite an apologetics speaker who is gifted in the area of youth such as Sean McDowell or Brett Kunkle.
At this year's women's conference, invite speakers such as Mary Jo Sharp, Alisa Childers, Natasha Crain, or Claudia Kalmikov.
Host an apologetics conference of your own with some great speakers such as J. Warner Wallace, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, Bobby Conway, Alan Shelmon, Richard Howe, Scott Klusendorf, and a host of others.
There are more available apologetics resources than every before and there are probably gifted people in your local church who would love to head up such a project.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get started!
For most people, tolerance means allowing people to believe whatever they want without fear of persecution or prosecution. This means that if I think a goat from Mars is the god of the universe, I should be able to think that and promote that without being jailed or bullied.
The real question is, does the fact that I have that belief mean my belief is just as true and valid as any other belief?
The logical answer to that is NO.
Now, before we start asking why is this view is true and not that view, let's deal with some basic laws of logic. Logic is not the stuff Mr. Spock talks about on Star Trek (in fact, much of what Spock says is not logical). Logic (from the Greek Logike), deals with valid reasoning but especially in philosophy, science and mathematics.
4 basic laws of logic are:
For example, if I say Tom is both a man and a woman, this statement cannot be true if I mean that Tom is both a gender man and a gender woman. However, if I mean Tom is a gender man but behaves like a woman, then the statement is not contradictory and does not violate The Law of Non-Contradiction.
Keeping this in mind, lets take a look at religious views. While there are many religious views, they cannot all be true. Au Contraire, you might say, all religions teach being good, loving humanity, etc. True, most religions have these basic tenets, but it's the differences that show all religions are not basically the same.
Hinduism is pantheistic - that is, they believe that God and the Universe are one in the same and that there is more of a divine consciousness that we are all a part of. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are theistic - that is, they believe God is a unique person and is separate from His creation.
And in comparing those theistic worldviews, Judaism and Islam teach a works based or law-keeping salvation (and in Islam, being perfect is still no guarantee) as where Christianity teaches a substitutionary atonement for sin based on the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.
Here, you can see that all of these worldviews cannot be true. So, how does this translate into our pluralistic society and how we approach tolerance?
The problem here is most people do not understand tolerance and what it means. Many assume that tolerance involves not believing your worldview is the true way (or the only true way) and in so believing, you cannot promote your worldview over others. However, this in itself is a worldview and is being promoted as superior over a worldview that believes differently. So, in that definition, a person holding to this view is being intolerant.
Such a worldview is illogical. Even Atheism, in the sense it does not believe all worldviews are equally true, is not illogical on those grounds.
So, is a Christian who tells people that the Christian worldview is the only true worldview and that all others are false being intolerant? No, they are not.
In the US, the Constitution guarantees the right to practice whatever religion you see fit, however, it doesn't guarantee the right to not have your views challenged in the public marketplace of ideas and it doesn't mean the challenge itself is equal to religious intolerance. If you have the belief, you should be able to defend its' validity and then, go have a cup of coffee with those you disagree with.
A year ago, my wife surprised me with news that we were pregnant. I was overjoyed and the next few days were like Christmas morning over and over again. A month later, we lost our child. Times like this bring up questions about God's goodness and why God allows these things to happen. This is something beyond attempting to prove that God does not exist because of evil. This is believing there is a God and He doesn't care.
We often wonder what possible good can come from something evil that has happened to us or people we know and love. This weekend, we lost a friend and colleague, Nabeel Qureshi, to stomach cancer. The impact Nabeel has had on so many causes us to question why God chose him at this time?
The story of Ruth is one that has been taught to Christians emphasizing her meeting Boaz. Boaz was what was known in Israelite culture as a "Kinsman Redeemer". This was a man who was responsible for helping a relative in times of trouble. To help rescue person or property. This is a clear picture of what Jesus has done for the human race by dying on a cross as a ransom for our crimes against a Holy God. But there's something else in the story. The story of Ruth begins with a drought in Israel. Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon [meaning Sickness] and Chilion [meaning Annihilator] departed Bethlehem for Moab. The two sons took Moabite wives - Orpah and Ruth.
While there, Elimelech died. 10 years later, Naomi's two sons also died leaving Naomi and her two daughters in law. Orpah returned to her people in Moab, but Ruth left with Naomi to return to Bethlehem in Judah. It was here that she met Boaz - a relative of Naomi. A day came where Naomi was selling her land. With this land would come Ruth. Boaz redeemed the land and took Ruth as a wife. In time, Ruth gave birth to Obed who then had a son named Jesse. Jesse had a son named David from whose line the Messiah would come.
But notice the tragedy that befell Ruth and Naomi. The drought drove Elimelech to take his family from Bethlehem to Moab where he and his two sons died leaving them widows and without any male to work the land. But if Elimelech had not gone to Moab, his son would not have married Ruth. If Elimelech and Ruth's husband had not died, she and Naomi would not have returned to Bethlehem where Boaz redeemed Ruth and from who's line Jesus was born.
What we can see is that even though we do not see the end of the story, we must ask the question is it possible for God to have a morally just reason to allow evil in our lives? From this story - and many others in the Bible - we see God using tragedy to bring about good. This does not mean that God caused the evil. But God can use an event such as this to bring about a good result.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28
Notice that Paul does not say that all things are good, but rather all things work together for good, for those who are called.
When we are faced with the unthinkable, we can hold on to the fact that God does have a reason to allow it. We may never know the reason until we see God face to face, but there is a reason. CS Lewis wrote that God screams at us in our pain. God uses this to speak to us all the more boldly.
Nabeel effected so many lives in his preaching but even more in his illness. The grace with which he faced his illness was more than inspiring. Personally, he affected not so much my apologetic, but how I should live my life before God. And he gave the best illustration of the Trinity I'd ever heard. He will continue to make an impact here even after his death and we can take comfort knowing that he has met his redeemer.
This past July, my wife and I welcomed our second child into this world. A baby girl named Bridget. He is our redeemer as well.
The past decade has seen a Renaissance in Christian Apologetics. This movement began decades before with the work of men like Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Now, average Christians are taking up the mantle of the apologist and are giving good reasons for the truth of Christianity and answering objections to it.
But with this resurgence, the Church is still mostly resistant to apologetics. But why is this the case? Former Cold Case Detective, J. Warner Wallace, notices this trend when coming to churches to speak:
"I am blessed by opportunities to make the case for Christianity every weekend in churches across the nation. As a result, however, I get to see how many of my Christian brothers and sisters are interested in the evidence supporting their faith. I must tell you, the interest in Christian case making is thin, at best. In a typical church, about ten percent of the congregation is usually concerned enough about “apologetics” to attend a training session or conference. My fellow speakers and traveling case makers report the same interest wherever they go, and if you are among the few Christians who are actively studying or making the case, you know what I am talking about first-hand. "
Many people feel they are just not intellectually equipped to learn apologetics. It's something that does require time and study. But if we approach apologetics the way we do other things in our lives, we can learn to present a well reasoned faith. And each one of us can present these arguments in our own way to help communicate well to people who have questions or objections.
But there are those who feel that apologetics itself is a wrong approach and not needed.
One response I often hear myself is "we just need to preach the simple Gospel". One well known speaker stated that "when you are sitting across from a person... using intellectual arguments.. facts about history, illustrations, all sorts of things, you're not proclaiming "Thus Saith The LORD". There's not the power of simply going to scripture".
Is he correct? Is the Bible against giving reasoned arguments for Christianity? If I do go to scripture, I find the following passages:
"but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." 1 Peter 3:15
"Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all" Jude v 3
"Conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person" - Colossians 4:5-6
"If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37-38
"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 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 Corinthians 10:3-5
It is clear from scripture that giving a reasoned, evidential answer to the questions raised against and about Christianity is commanded.
We should always preach the Gospel, but I wonder if some see the act of preaching as speaking an incantation over someone calling upon the power of God to supersede their free will and make them a believer in Christ. The power of the Gospel is the power to save those who would put their trust in Christ's finished work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. But this power is not in the pronouncement.
Jesus said "..Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3:18
This is immediately after John 3:16. The Gospel is not magic, but is the truth proclaimed. We live in a post modern world where truth is considered to be relative. So, we must be ready to meet each person where they live.
As Francis Schaeffer noted:
"As we get ready to tell the person God's answer to his or her need, we must make sure that the individual understands that we are talking about real truth, and not about something vaguely religious which seems to work psychologically. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking about real guilt before God, and we are not offering him merely relief for his guilt-feelings. We must make sure that he understands that we are talking to him about history, and that the death of Jesus was not just an ideal or a symbol but a fact of space and time. If we are talking to a person who would not understand the term "space-time history" we can say: "Do you believe that Jesus died in the sense that if you had been there that day, you could have rubbed your finger on the cross and got a splinter in it?" Until he understands the importance of these three things, he is not ready to become a Christian.
Francis, Schaeffer (1982). The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer A Christian Worldview. Chicago, IL: Crossway Books. ISBN 978-0-89107-236-2.
I still remember the first apologetics small group I ever led. I was pumped at finally being able to share with other Christians at my church why Christianity was true and rational.
I chose my curriculum carefully after some research and what I settled on was an offering from the apologist who got me started, Ravi Zacharias. I chose RZIM's Foundations of Apologetics DVD course which was quite an investment for a single guy. This had me so excited. We were going to hear lectures and take notes from some of the greatest apologists in the world. People like John Lennox, Alistair McGrath, Stuart McAllister, Amy Orr Ewing and Ravi himself!
I had previewed the DVDs and soaked up every minute of it. And then came the first night.... and the second... and the third... and.... the class was bored. Turns out that listening to 55 min lectures by Oxford professors was just not speaking to my group.
What I learned from that experience was that what an apologetics nerd like me finds enjoyable doesn't necessarily excite the average Joe.
Many times, we as apologists tend to forget that God has gifted us with the ability to teach and lead in apologetics. As such, we are more apt to enjoy reading Ireneaus' Against Heresies or GK Chesterton's Orthodoxy. But Bob, one of our class members, is doing all he can to understand the self refuting statements we talked about the previous night.
In leading, we need to be mindful of our audience. If you have a group full of academically minded people, then something like my aforementioned study may be perfect. If you have a cross section of average folks, perhaps using The Case for Christ may be more realistic as they can relate to Lee Strobel's story of researching the truth of Christianity for himself.
In our zeal to bring apologetics teaching to our local church, we have to remember that not everyone will be as enthusiastic as we are and that this is very unfamiliar territory for most. So whether we are using a prepared course or are formulating our own curriculum, we need to make sure it has a broad appeal so that everyone will have the ability to learn something.
I recently started a new group at my home church. We are using Frank Turek's I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist and it was a hit. Everyone loves Frank.