Often, I see other Christians objecting to the use of apologetics altogether. They will usually say that faith doesn't require evidence or it's not faith.
But is that the case? If we look at the word "faith" itself, we can get a clearer picture of what the Bible is actually talking about.
First, faith comes from the Latin "fides" which means "good trust". But the Greek word used in the New Testament is "pisteuo" which means to have confidence in or to credit the thing believed in. The other greek word used for faith is "pistis" which means "conviction of the truth of anything".
So faith is trust and trust is object centered. You put your trust in something. But does God require a blind trust or has He given evidence that we can put our trust in? As always, we must consult scripture.
First, Jesus says in John 10:24-26
"So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep."
And again in vs 36-38, Jesus says
"do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 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.”
What about Thomas? Jesus told him blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed. But not seen what? The resurrected Jesus. But, what did Thomas see in the time he spent with Jesus? Healing of the sick, raising of the dead, casting out of demons, feeding of 4k and 5k, etc. Shouldn't then, Thomas have believed when Jesus told the disciples ahead of time that he would suffer, die, and on the 3rd day rise again? Jesus gave evidence.
What about John the Baptist? In Matthew 11, we see the following:
"Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians:
"7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel." Phil 1:7
There are many more passages in the NT that admonish us to offer a defense (apologia) for the Gospel we preach. But the one that gives us the direct command is 1 Peter 3:15:
"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense(apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect"
In John 20, the apostle writes " Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Acts 1:3 tells us "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God."
God has not left us without evidence of the truth. It becomes clear that we as Christians need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and how to articulate that truth.
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20
Recently here in my state, a man was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend. In response to the loss, the District Attorney who prosecuted the case stated:
"..Of course, we're gutted, However, what people will not understand is this: The number one reason we lost is the burden of proof in a circumstantial case is not just beyond a reasonable doubt but it's far higher."
Is this true? Do I need to be absolutely certain before I can say this man is guilty or innocent? What about the case for Christianity? Do I need to be certain of every detail before I can accept the evidence as pointing to it being true?
The truth is, you don't. In fact, most of the time, we know things are true or false without having all of our questions answered. But this brings up a question: How does one weigh evidence?
According to J. Warner Wallace, semi-retired Cold Case Detective and Christian author and speaker, understanding evidence first begins with understanding the difference between direct and indirect evidence
Direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. A person witnesses a robbery and testifies in court. That is a direct evidence case. Indirect evidence is everything else. Indirect evidence is also known as circumstantial evidence. Even DNA and fingerprint evidence is not direct. It's only a fact. In a circumstantial case, you draw inferences from the facts [evidence] you are presented. People can draw different inferences from the same facts. A lot of this can be based on your personal bent. So what you must do is set aside your presuppositions and determine to follow the evidence wherever it leads - even if it's to a place you do not like.
Circumstantial evidence can make the strongest case for Christianity by building a cumulative case. A cumulative case can be compared to a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to be put together, they start to form a picture. At some point, if there are enough pieces, you can see what the picture is even if you don't have all of the pieces.
Rational Inference is a basic law of logic and all of the facts are not required to make such an inference. There is a huge, circumstantial, cumulative case for Christianity. And when you weigh all of the evidence together, you begin to see the picture of Christ form. There will still be unanswered questions. I have them and you will too. But we don't make decisions based on being absolutely certain.
Back to the criminal case. I was not there to see the evidence, I'll leave it up to the jury. But if the DA thinks that a circumstantial case requires a higher burden of proof, he may have sunk his own case or had a bad one.
If you think you can't be a Christian because you cannot answer every question, apply that same burden of proof to everything else you think is true and see if those things hold up under the same scrutiny. You may find your case for those things wanting.
Recently saw this meme on social media:
Now, there are a lot of issues here, but what caught my eye was "..Peer reviewed DOCUMENTATION, Empirical results of repeatable EXPERIMENTATION.."
So this bring into question if one could test the Supernatural. Specifically, if you posit that God is the supernatural explanation of the universe, could you test God? This is what is known as a catagory error. In other words, since God would be supernatural, any tests that are by their nature designed to test nature would be null and void. You would have to use other tools to determine if God is a reasonable explanation for the universe given the evidence. Now you could use science to determine a particular supernatural claim such as if someone claims to have been miraculously healed of cancer, you can use science to determine from medical records if they indeed had cancer and you can use science to examine them now to see if the cancer remains or if a natural explanation is more reasonable like chemotherapy.
Proper tools for determining the supernatural in principle would be philosophy and logic as examples. Philosophical arguments for God being the cause of the universe would be the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, Leibniz Cosmological Argument, and so on. These arguments rely on the truthfulness of their premesis. If the premesis are true, then the conclusions logically follow.
Many naturalists assume that God is not a reasonable explanation for the universe (and many other things) because it cannot be "proven" by science. But the mistake is using the wrong tool for the job. As Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason would say, it's like "trying to weigh a chicken with a yard stick".
Because God is an autonomous being, requiring documented scientific experiments showing His existence is really moving the goal posts a bit. It would be better to require scientific evidence of the results of His existence. Even then, ideas like morality, logic, and even reason would not be able to have science reveal the reason for their existence as they themselves are abstract objects like mathematics. You know they are there, but you cannot determine why using science. You can only see their results.
This requirement fails at a fundamental level and sets the bar higher than science can prove about itself.
One of the most oft asked questions of any apologetics speaker is "How do I get apologetics in my church?". But I think what they are really saying is "how can I get my pastor to do apologetics?"
It goes without saying that if you want to bring apologetical teaching into your local church, you should be prepared to head that up. But it doing so, you should not think of yourself as a teacher, but a servant.
Your job is to serve your church by equipping the local body to make the case for Christianity. Want to bring apologetics to your youth? Serve in the youth group. Want to lead an apologetics group? Serve in your church. We are about meeting the need of the body to answer questions, not to put our intellect on display.
This past weekend, I had to privileged of joining 50+ of my brothers and sisters in Christ at the Cross Examined Instructor Academy learning to be a better apologetics speaker and presenter. Amongst the great apologetic instructors, we learned from Bobby Conway, lead pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, NC. One of the things he shared with us was creating an environment of apologetics. You do that by having a 3D approach to the Gospel: Declare, Display, and Defend.
This means you must declare the good news and display it in your life before you can defend it's validity. This requires that we meet the need your church has for apologetics training while working as a servant team member of your church. This allows you to develop the trust of your pastorate and care for those you are leading in apologetics. You will have to lay your agenda aside and be a part of your church's mission as a whole and seeing how apologetics fits into that mission.
So, put on your best livery and be prepared to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He requires as you help equip the saints for the good works prepared beforehand for them.
As a lay apologist, often times I feel confronted by a lack of authority. What I mean is, I don't have a seminary degree. I have the privilege of learning from some of the brightest men and women in the apologetics community, but to others I'm just a regular guy and that's fine because it serves a greater purpose - that regular men and women can be good Christian case makers.
However, when leading an apologetics group, this can lead to some unique challenges. Participants may ask "what makes this guy so knowledgeable?" or "well, that's just his opinion". So when writing material for a class, I like to prevent what I call "apologetics in a vacuum." I never want to give the impression that what I am sharing is just something I've come up with. But I also want to develop the skill of creating my own material to better improve my grasp of apologetics. So how does one deal with this apparent conundrum?
What I have found helpful is to treat each talk like a jury trial with a list of expert witnesses. For example, I may be speaking on eyewitness reliability. I lay out the case of why the apostles are reliable, but then I show a quick clip of J. Warner Wallace speaking on how to test eyewitnesses to make sure you can trust their testimony. Or If I'm speaking on the KCA, I may show another clip of William Lane Craig explaining the KCA.
In this way, not only do I write my own presentation going over the subject material, but I have the benefit of providing expert witnesses to demonstrate that what I am presenting is a proper argument for the subject at hand. The participants also have the added benefit of learning of other more learned apologists whom they can further their studies with outside of the group.
But it should be noted not to rely too heavily on expert witnesses as the group needs to have the confidence that YOU understand the material you're presenting and can discuss any questions that may arise. In the end, I feel like this method is good for the lay apologist to prevent the belief that you only posses a myopic view of the subject but are instead a student of the apologists you are seeking to emulate.
I must confess something. As a Christian, I was embarrassed by the supernatural. What I mean is I discounted God's intervention in our everyday lives. It was reflected in my prayer life and my thought life. Now I believed God still performed miracles, but I assumed that when I prayed about an issue, that God would give me an answer that was the equivalent of gathering Manna while discounting how the Manna got there in the first place. I thought answers came in making the right decision or what amounted to God's providence. It never really entered my mind to pray earnestly for a Miracle.
Then, I got a copy of Lee Strobel's new book, The Case For Miracles. This is one of Lee's best books to date. This book challenged me in ways I never saw coming. Interviewing people from all belief spectrum's like skeptic Michael Shermer or theologian Craig Keener, Lee craftily takes you on a journey showing that not only are miracles possible, but they are happening all over the world and with more frequency than we every imagined. Lee tells a story about a pastor named Duane Miller. Duane had lost the use of his voice after a bout with the flu. But the flu had left his vocal cords so scarred, he could only speak with a rasp. He resigned his pastorate and then lost his new job due to his inability to testify in open court.
Duane's case was medically hopeless. Even a college of Swiss Doctor's saw no hope of recovery. One day, Duane's Sunday School class asked him to preach to them - even with his raspy voice. They always recorded their Sunday School lessons and this day was no different. After reading from the Psalms, Duane suddenly regained his voice! You can hear the sounds of joy and the weeping of Duane's wife as he struggled to grasp what had happened. I remember hearing this 20 years ago and this story still moved me. But Duane's miraculous story is but one of many Lee relates. Lee also speaks about what happens when miracles do not occur. The book does not shy away from objections to the miraculous and the supernatural, but takes them head on to see if they have merit.
This book is challenging to the modern, American Christian and will renew your awe and wonder of the awesome and mighty God we serve.
This book is a must read.
When I was a kid, I was a big fan of the Osmonds (yes, cool points subtracted). I watched the Donny and Marie show every Friday night. This was where I first heard about Mormons. Later, I saw commercials for the LDS church offering the Book of Mormon as a free gift. It was advertised as another testament of Jesus Christ.
Now, I was still a bit confused since I'd never heard before that Jesus visited the Americas after His resurrection which was one of the beliefs of the LDS church that was presented. It wasn't until a few years later I became familiar with the LDS church and knew Mormons personally. You've probably seen a few Mormon missionaries from time to time in your neighborhood and maybe even had a few knock on your door. We all wonder what to say to them as they claim to be Christians just like us, but have a very different set of beliefs. A new book by general editors Eric Johnson and Sean McDowell gives some strategies for sharing the Gospel with Mormons you may know or encounter.
Sharing the Good News with Mormons is a book featuring many different Christian speakers and pastors, from Matt Slick to Mark Mittelberg, who offer different strategies for sharing the Gospel with your Mormon neighbor, co-worker, or the missionary at your door. The approach the authors take is both relational as well as tactical. It is designed to help you not just share information, but to do so in a relational way so as to be winsome and persuasive to members of the LDS church. For example, did you know that Mormons do not like their church to be referred to as the "Mormon Church"? They prefer being called the LDS church or the longer Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These tidbits of knowledge can help you navigate Mormon culture so as to not step on any landmines before you even get started.
With 22 chapters that are divided up into 6 sections, the book makes it easy for the reader to study those methods that appeal to him/her. There is even an appendix with definition of Mormon terms.
One chapter that speaks to my preferred tactic is by Cold Case Homicide Detective and apologist J. Warner Wallace.
Investigating Mormonism: The Case Making Approach
As a detective, Jim Wallace used his skills to investigate cold case homicides - cases where the original eyewitnesses were long deceased and there were no pieces of direct evidence. All he had to go by were the original case notes. As an atheist, Jim decided to apply this methodology to the New Testament. As his step siblings were all LDS members, he also investigated Mormonism and found it lacking evidentially, though he found that orthodox Christianity was both rich in evidence for its' claims and rational in its' descriptions. "What does the evidence suggest about Mormonism?"
Jim points out that criminal investigations focus on five key aspects of criminal activity:
Is there any evidence that Joseph Smith defrauded the public? Here are just a few pieces:
Taken with the other pieces of evidence, you are presented with a cumulative case against Mormonism. It is this same approach that presented Jim with the case for Christianity.
There are many other methodologies in the book which is what makes it such a great resource as we are able to use our gifts well by plugging into one or several methods that fit us.
This is fantastic book that I highly recommend and that I hope you will pick up to begin learning to share the Gospel with those of the LDS church with grace, knowledge, and wisdom.
In 1984, I was a 13 year old Martial Arts nut. So when The Karate Kid opened in theaters, naturally I attended. In my hometown, there were local karate dojos putting on demonstrations - attempting to garner new students after they watch the spectacular crane kick ending.
The movie premise was simple - kid moves to new city, meets girl, evokes the ire of the local bullies, meets a wise old sage and karate master and defeats the bullies and wins the girl. For years, this was the beloved story. But in recent years, fan theories have popped up claiming that it was in fact Daniel LaRusso who was the bully.
With the new YouTube series, Cobra Kai, we see a down on his luck Johnny Lawrence become a sympathetic character who reopens the Cobra Kai dojo and begins training a new crop of Cobras. As he and Daniel meet again, we hear how things weren't always so rosey for Johnny and how he saw Daniel as butting in on his attempts to win back his girl and sucker punching him in the process. You see, Johnny was only defending himself.
The character of Johnny Lawrence refuses to see his actions as evil. It's all about Johnny's point of view vs Daniel's. But we see that Johnny was in fact an abusive, controlling boyfriend who couldn't handle a breakup. His violent reaction to Alli [played by Elizabeth Shue in the original film] was something Daniel felt was wrong and he stepped in. Johnny became angry and pushed Daniel to the ground and a fight ensued.
The new series presents Johnny's actions as only wrong from a certain point of view. However, at the time when Sensei Kreese told Johnny in the now iconic line to "sweep the leg", Johnny's reaction is evidence that he knew his actions were wrong and now, he is attempting to make peace with his past by denying the truth of his actions.
Cobra Kai itself is a fun series full of nostalgia for Karate Kid fans young and old alike. But the mixed moral tones fail to show that Johnny's own choices led to his demise and the state of his life. The only way to keep from blaming himself was to create demons that had wronged him. How often do we do the same thing? Did we blame snapping at our spouse on stress? Do we blame other drivers on the road when we give them a one-fingered salute?
Ultimately, what this shows us is that no matter how we attempt to justify our actions, we know innately that there is an objective moral standard that we are all subject to. And if we deviate from that standard, we have committed evil.
God's word is clear that His moral laws are known even by unbelievers:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. Romans 2:14-16
This is what is bugging Johnny throughout the new series. He knows the wrong he's done, he knows the good he needs to do, but he still seeks to justify himself. Bu what Johnny needs is salvation through Christ. This may seem like a Sunday school answer, but the truth is apart from Christ, Johnny can do nothing. He cannot find peace and forgiveness. He cannot start anew. And this reminds us as Christians we need live a life of repentance and not justify our crimes against a Holy God, but measure ourselves by his perfect moral character and be willing to admit when we don't measure up.
25 years ago, Greg Koukl and Melinda Penner began a journey to bring clear thinking to Christianity to help believers engage the culture for Christ. That journey was called Stand To Reason.
In that time, Greg and Melinda have trained thousands of Christians with Greg's weekly broadcasts as well as the many speaking appearances Greg has made over the years. In that time, Greg has also written three books:
I can only tell you the impact Greg's ministry has had on my own life. When I began studying Christian apologetics, there was an overload of information for me. I began quickly to see the overwhelming evidence for Christianity, but dealing with questions and objections became another issue entirely. Then, I discovered Tactics.
Greg taught me more than tactics, he taught me HOW to think. Going from the content to the conversation, as he says, was exactly what I needed to help me organize the evidence but also to think carefully and consider the questions being posed and to give a thoughtful, concise, and gentle answer. It is why I, with many others around the world, support this ministry.
Stand to Reason has also seen many speakers come and go from the fold. I had a chance to speak briefly with Alan Shlemon, a speaker at STR, about the many speakers who had come and gone over the years and he brought out that every speaker that had left Stand to Reason to venture out where God had called them are now the Presidents of their own organizations dedicated to the specific issues God placed in their hearts.
Greg continues to influence young and old alike for the kingdom as he trains everyone from housewives to attorneys in clear Christian thinking.
I have had the great privilege of learning from many apologists but I have learned the most from Greg and his cadre of speakers at Stand To Reason.
So happy anniversary to everyone at Stand To Reason and here's to the next 25 years.
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