So, in a previous article, we established that apologetics is there to help your evangelism. But how does it do that?
There are several ways to do this, but it's better to show it in a scenario. Suppose you have shared the Gospel with someone and they ask "Why should I believe this is true?". This is a textbook opportunity to begin using an apologetic. But, it requires more nuance than just spitting out facts. For example, you could start with a question "Well, how do you normally determine what's true and what's false?". This is a way to learn more about the other person - how they think, how they see truth, etc.
You could also ask what issues they may have with your message. Another scenario could be you sitting in a waiting room and the television is tuned to one of the news channels. Maybe they are talking about abortion or SSM. Someone may speak up and make a comment about the subject. Now, you can begin asking questions again. This could lead to a chance to clarify the Gospel message.
If you have a friend you know very well who isn't a Christian, you can always ask them Frank Turek's favorite question "Hey, if Christianity were true, would you be a Christian?". Here, you can find out more about what they think and begin having such a conversation.
The Gospel is first and foremost in our efforts to bring people to Christ, but we must be careful to remember that our conversations don't happen in a vacuum. They are organic and fluid and bringing a Gospel presentation into a conversation that hasn't moved in that direction can make things awkward. But spiritual questions can help open the door. And the more prepared you are to deal with the tough questions, the more confident you will be in sharing the Gospel.
Last night, Mike S. Adams, PhD debated Willie Parker M.D. on whether abortion was morally wrong. While it would be easy to say that Mike won the debate (hands down), I would rather focus on Dr. Parker's responses to Mike Adam's arguments for the pro life position.
1. Argument from Ad Hominem
Surprisingly, Dr. Parker's first salvo in this debate was a claim that Mike Adams attacked his character. In reality, Mike used arguments from the science of embryology and read excerpts from Dr. Parker's book. This was confined to Dr. Parker's justifications for abortion, not against his character. It seemed that Dr. Parker attempted to argue from emotion from the outset by claiming a personal attack and this set the tone for his responses the rest of the night. Arguing from emotion is what you most often confront when making a prolife argument. After all, these are in fact real issues that concern real people everyday and they are not easy to deal with. However, truth doesn't rely on how someone feels about that truth and it shouldn't be the deciding factor in determining truth.
2. What about the science?
Mike Adams based his arguments on the science of embryology to show that a fetus is wholly, biologically human the same as those who have already been born and from the philosophical argument that the unborn are persons. He argued that because of this, they had equal human rights as the mother or anyone else. Dr. Parker did not dispute the scientific arguments at all. This is what surprised me most of all about this debate. He would sometimes refer to "medical facts" and seem to infer that Mike was not repeating true medical facts but would never say what those facts were or how Mike was incorrect.
3. What is personhood?
The main thrust of Dr. Parker's position was that the unborn were fully human, but not persons. He claimed that Mike Adams never used the word "persons" in his arguments (which was not the case) so that meant he knew being human was not the same as being a person. This is always a strange position because you must show what the difference is. I've never heard the definition of a non-person human from someone on the pro choice side and it's something they should be able to define if they believe it's the case. Dr. Parker also seemed to be stating that personhood was a legal term, but in fact, it's a philosophical/metaphysical term. He also stated he felt sentience determined personhood. This is a bad line of reasoning. For example, a person in a coma due to a brain injury could be said to not be sentient. Since they are not able to experience their environment, are this still a person?
4. Is abortion murder?
Dr. Parker also stated that no police officer would arrest him because abortion was not murder. He seemed to be confused as to what Mike Adams meant when he said something could be legal but not moral. Slavery was legal, but immoral. Eventually, the laws reflected this. However, the fact that abortion is legal doesn't mean it's not murder. This is a moral truth claim about a set of actions and the law is based on this underlying, objective moral value, not the other way around. This was a very strange argument to say the least.
5. What about Religion?
Dr. Parker in his opening statements began to refute arguments from Christianity stating that because we live in a pluralistic society, we cannot make laws based on a particular religion. While there are philosophical problems with that statement, it was confusing as Mike Adams never made a single argument from Christianity or the Bible. While Mike comes from a Christian worldview, he contained his arguments to the science of embryology and the philosophical argument that the unborn were persons. This appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against any religious argument for the pro-life position, but it was an awkward line of reasoning.
In the end, while I expected to hear some new scientific arguments for abortion to contend with, I only heard the same arguments that are always made and was shocked at the line of reasoning Dr. Parker used. This was a good debate as it brought out the pro-life position and showed the weakness of the pro-choice view.
A popular level objection to Christianity today is to ask a Christian if Jesus killed little babies in the Old Testament. This banks on the idea of the Trinity and judgments recorded in the Old Testament such as the Flood or the slaughtering of the Canaanites. Another version of the problem of evil, the objection is that Jesus doesn't love people and is a baby killer. But this objection makes a number of mistakes that I will address here.
1. Who is God?
It may seem strange to start here, but this is where we should always begin. God is the maximally great being. Triune in nature, He is just, holy, righteous, and merciful. He is also love. So how could God judge? The issue comes down to thinking of God on equal footing with man. However, God is not man. Man is His creation - created in His image. But man is fallen. God however, is timeless, spaceless, immaterial, all powerful, personal, and all loving. To bring God down to our level is to misidentify the creator of the universe.
2. What is Murder?
Murder is rightly said to be the intentional taking of innocent human life without good cause. But, it is the taking of innocent human life by other humans. God is creator and the author of life and death. When God judges and takes life, He judges rightly as He is the standard of good. When we violate God's law, He is right to judge. When judgement befell man in the flood, God would have known several things: Noah was the only righteous man left, it would have been impossible for him to care for all of the children left. In wiping out mankind other than Noah's family, God was able to start over again to curtail the corruption that had overtaken the earth.
3. A Wrong View of Eternity
In the taking of the lives of children, God brought their innocent lives into His presence for eternity - to be raised up on the last day. We often think of life as only being the short time we have here, yet God has put eternity into the hearts of man. It is why so many cannot fathom there isn't an afterlife. We have an innate sense of it. But if this is the case, then why is abortion wrong some may ask? Reviewing our definition of murder, we do not have the ability or right to decide life or death outside of what authority God has given for keeping law and order. Abortion is the taking of innocent human life without sufficient cause. Because God brings an aborted child into His presence doesn't change the crime that was committed.
This objection is designed to bring the issue into an emotional arena, yet our emotions have nothing to do with the truth. Strangely, God judged the Canaanites for sacrificing their infants to the god Molech. In 2015, the total number of abortions performed in the US - including data from non reporting states - was 826,169. That is nearly 1 million abortions in 2015 alone. Yet the objection is claiming God is a moral monster for judging the earth and for killing babies. It would be good to find out if the person making the objection has an issue with this number.
This is part two of a two-part series on the Reproductive Health Act
With the passage of New York's Reproductive Health Act, the debate over abortion has intensified. A popular argument against the Pro Life position is to claim pro life views are "religious" in nature and not to be believed.
This is a fallacious argument on two fronts and while it is a myth that pro life arguments are religious, let's address the idea head on.
First, to say "you're just religious" is an Ad Hominem. It's like calling someone a "racist" to shutdown a conversation. Whether or not someone is religious has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of an argument.
Second, to say an argument is religious is a genetic fallacy - that is - claiming an argument is false because of where it comes from. The argument stands or falls on it's own merits, not those of the person making the claim. To say you cannot read religious websites or trust religious arguments is to ignore the argument itself and disengage. This is intellectually dishonest and is a tactic that goes beyond the abortion issue in our society. You must deal with the facts of any argument and the fact is the RHA expands late term abortions that were previously prohibited by NY state law.
This is part one of a two part series on the passing of New York's Reproductive Health Act.
The recent passing of New York state's Reproductive Health Act has caused an uproar between Pro Choice and Pro Life advocates. There is much confusion as to what the bill actually says and does.
The fact checking web site, Snopes, has posted an article fact checking the claim from Pro Life advocates that the bill allows abortion up to term. So did Snopes get this one right? Here's what they did get right:
Some have cited this as a slam dunk on Pro Life advocates who claim the bill allows for unrestricted abortion up to term. But the truth is, the term "health" is ambiguous in the bill and is separated from "life" as a different scenario. Health can mean anything from Gestational Diabetes to Pre-eclampsia. It can also be used to mean anything health related - from mental stress to economic strain.
Jay Watts, president of Merely Human, Inc. believes those who do not think the bill would be used in that manner have not read the bill and do not understand current abortion law.
It shows people don’t understand abortion law in the U.S. The third trimester considerations in Roe were set aside in Doe v Bolton’s absurdly broad health exception back in 1973. That exception goes beyond physical health and life of the mother and includes emotional, financial, and familial health. Planned Parenthood v Casey reaffirmed the exception in 1992 while abandoning the trimester system for a viability standard. This means that New York both affirmed the health exception while simultaneously eliminating all other considerations for the unborn in their state penal code. They also opened up the possibility of heightened allowances for PA’s to participate in performing abortions.
In short, the bill actually expands the ability for late term abortions for all of the reasons abortions are performed in every state. The previous law which restricted late term abortions to only those scenarios that put the mother's life in danger (which are less than 2% of all abortions performed annually) has now been expanded to include the mother's health which is not more specifically defined in the bill. The bill also defines a "person" as someone who has been born and is alive. This is not a scientific statement, but rather a metaphysical one which the NY state legislature has no authority to make.
So the fact is, the Reproductive Health Act expands abortions in the state of New York to include late term abortions where as previously, New York state law restricted late term abortions.
Those are the facts.
The recent backlash against Lauren Daigle for her comments on homosexuality has sparked debate amongst Christians who both defend and critique her.
John Crist, a Christian comedian, recently posted a video on his Instagram feed condemning those who judged her for her comments. Crist seemed to be unaware that he himself was judging other Christians for their behavior. The thing is the church should make judgments on truth. The New Testament constantly warns us of false prophets and teachers. The apostle Paul tells us that "We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ". If a brother errs, we take them aside lovingly to correct them. But what about someone like Daigle or Crist? Do Christian celebrities have a larger responsibility to adhere to sound teaching or to speak the truth? First, we should make a sober judgment against ourselves to see if we were in the same position, would we do any different. Secondly, we shouldn't confuse the act with someone's salvation. Each of us are a work in progress and the point of the Gospel is that we as human beings are constantly missing the mark. This is why Christ came and died on a cross.
That being said, we can rightly judge actions that have larger impacts on public perception of the Gospel and the Church and correct those actions if need be. When Jesus warned us "not to judge lest you be judged", He wanted us to not judge hypocritically. Paul put it this way in Romans "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?....While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" Romans 2:2-3, 21&22
We tend to look to the famous for our theological marching orders. However, this is a mistake. Those like Daigle should be careful to place themselves under authoritative teachers, but we should be doing the same. Celebrities can fall into the popularity trap and so begin to follow the path of Progressive Christianity
We must strive as the Church to read the Bible, understand it's history, proper hermenuetics, orthodox theology, and a good apologetic. We also must not set up celebrities to fulfill a role they never were meant to. If we show a brother their error, it is out of love and their edification and shouldn't be to tear someone down. But we shouldn't look to a celebrity for our biblical instruction as they are in the entertainment business which is always a dangerous road for anyone to navigate and it shouldn't surprise us when one fails in some fashion but rather we should respond in prayer, grace, and truth. Not every so called Christian celebrity fails in this fashion as there are many who have a solid biblical understanding. But we should be able to rightly divide the truth for ourselves by delving into God's word and putting ourselves under solid, orthodox teachers and allow the truth to change us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
To fail to exhibit that we take truth seriously at those points where there is a cost in doing so, is to push the next generation into the relative, dialectical millstream that surrounds us. ~ Dr. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There
Most have heard about Lauren Daigle's interview on iHeart radio when asked about homosexuality. When pressed as to whether it's a sin, she responded "I can't honestly answer on that, in a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don't know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can't say one way or the other. I'm not God."
This is not uncommon in the church today - especially amongst "Christian Entertainers". But it speaks to a larger problem in the world. "Hatespeech" is the buzzword of our culture. People are labeled as hateful simply for disagreeing with someone's perspective or lifestyle. For Christians, the temptation is to not be seen as a hater or a bigot. But this is not how Jesus taught us to live. The Gospel message is offensive at it's core. It tells us that we are evil at heart, beyond all hope. The love God shows us is in coming down as a man and dying a horrific death on a cross - a symbol of all the evil within us and what it takes to be declared righteous in His sight. People do not like to hear they are evil, that they are subject to God's wrath.
Sweet Jesus who loves everyone is the image the world likes. They don't care for the Jesus who whipped the money changers or who spoke of God's judgement. Christ came to seek and save the lost. But, just as the prodigal son, it's only after we realize how far we've fallen that we turn around and come home to Him where He is waiting to welcome us with open arms - rejoicing in our repentenance. When the spotlight is on, many who call themselves Christians compromise Jesus' message in order to maintain a popularity and to be seen as tolerant.
But Jesus said "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." - John 15:18-25
We are meant to be offensive because we follow our master. They hated Him and nailed Him to a cross. We must remember that the most loving thing we can do is tell someone the truth in love. When we compromise the Gospel message, we are doing more harm.
Apologetics can be a loaded term as it encompasses so much in the way of history, theology, philosophy, science, and archaeology. Many in the church make the claim that Jesus did not use apologetics, so why should we. But this is not the case.
For an illustration, let's take a look at Jesus pointing out a Self-Refuting argument.
In Matthew 12:22-28, we read about Jesus casting out a demon and the following exchange:
22Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Here, Jesus points out a clear logical fallacy committed by the Pharisees. In today's world, people still do the same thing. How often have you heard someone talk about speaking "their truth" or "that's true for you, but not for me"?
By asking questions the way Jesus did, we can point out the problems with these views to help bring a better understanding of the nature of truth and in so doing, bring someone closer to being ready to hear the Gospel.
Jesus used arguments and we should too.
Many have an idea that the discipline of Apologetics is limited to showing some esoteric point to be true or getting into long debates with atheists. The truth is, apologetics is about one thing - bringing people to Christ. Some see evangelism and apologetics as differing from each other in their end goal. But is this the case?
The late Dr. Francis Schaeffer referred to apologetics as "pre-evangelism". He believed that most were not ready to hear the Gospel as they had many questions or objections that were in their way. Apologetics was the way to prepare the person to hear the Gospel so that they could respond without the obstacles of those questions. One could say that apologetics correctly done would be the "handmaiden" of evangelism. Apologetics is there to help our evangelistic efforts, not to get into fights over doctrine or ideas about evolution.
In, The God Who Is There, Dr. Schaeffer wrote:
They (non Christians) are valuable, so we should meet them in love and compassion. Thus, we meet the person where he or she is. Consequently, if I were with Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, and the Philippian jailer said to me, “sir, what must I do to be saved?” for me to start talking about epistemology would be horrible. I would say what Paul said, “Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” because the jailer was, on the basis of previous knowledge and events, ready for that answer. Now on the other hand, if we are dealing with someone who has honest problems and who really believes that truth is truth – things are true and things are false, it would then be a different need. In that situation, if he or she had questions on the historicity of Christ’s resurrection and so on, we would deal with those questions – because he or she already accepts that truth is truth. .
Evangelism and Apologetics go hand in hand and we should, as Christians, be prepared beforehand to engage in both disciplines so that we can follow the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations.
Scheaffer, Francis A. , The God Who Is There, InterVarsity Press, 1968.
*Editors Note: This article has been edited for clarity.
This idea is making the rounds once again. This go around, the narrative is blaming Zondervan for removing parts of the Bible. So, did the NIV version remove over 64,000 words from the King James Version of the Bible? In a word, yes. But it's not what you think.
First a bit of history. This is not exhaustive and I can recommend some colleagues of mine who can give a more detailed account. The King James Version of the Bible was based on a set of manuscripts known as the Textus Receptus or "received texts". This was a small group of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament that was translated by Desiderius Erasmus in 1516. The KJV was published in 1611. It also formed the basis for the Tyndale and Lutheran Bibles among others. These manuscripts were full of typographical errors and some books, like the Revelation of John, were not complete and were translated back into Greek from the Latin Vulgate adding more mistranslation and strange wordings to the mix. Also, many passages contained words that were mistranslated or that there were no English equivalents for, such as "Baptize". These manuscripts also contained passages that are not present in the earlier and much better Greek manuscripts found later at Oxyrhynchus Egypt.
So, the NIV when it was produced, relied on these manuscripts along with other sources to produce a more accurate translation than the KJV. The charge against it assumes that the KJV is the original version of the Bible which it is not. That is not to say that the NIV doesn't have it's own issues, but there was not a conspiracy by Zondervan or Harper Collins to sneak in a falsified copy of the Bible. And this accusation is a very old one. More modern translations such as the ESV or the NASB have footnotes for the variant passages to let you know they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts.
The larger issue here is many western Christian's ignorance of textual history. Can you trust your Bible? Absolutely. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the reliability of scripture and the sheer number of manuscripts show it hasn't changed over time. But, there is not and was not a conspiracy to change the Bible and remove words from it for the NIV version.