Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 28

Convince Me Theres A GodDarius or Cyrus?

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” Daniel 5:30-31

Daniel wrote that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon, but Herodotus wrote that Cyrus received it. Who is right?

In the last part of our series we looked at how archaeological discoveries from ancient Babylon support many of the historical claims found in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. There is support for the co-regency of Belshazzar (with his father Nabonidus) and Belshazzar’s death at the hands of the Persians. However, what archaeological support is there for a 62-year-old Darius the Mede receiving the kingdom?

That’s where I  had Christians when I was an atheist. All I had to do was ask Christians to ‘prove it’ and they were stuck. They were not able to present any proof that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon. In fact, Darius didn’t even become king until almost 20 years after Persia defeated Babylon. Right? Well …

Archaeologists have discovered evidence for two leaders named Darius during the 6th century BC. One is known as Darius the Mede and the other is known as Darius I.  Let’s begin with a look at the history of “Darius.”

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Book Review: Developing A Biblical Worldview

Biblical Worldview Book Image“Developing A Biblical Worldview: Seeing Things God’s Way” by Dr. C. Fred Smith (B&H Publishing, 2015) is an excellent book for any Christian interested in making disciples and defending Christianity.

Everyone has a “view of the world” that affects their perspective on life and guides the choices they make every day.

“… most people within any particular subculture, or demographic group, have a shared worldview that enhances the quality of community life and facilitates communication between group members. Our own worldview is affected by the perspectives that we see and hear.” (Introduction to Developing A Biblical Worldview, p 1)

Christians also have a worldview and it’s based on the Bible, God’s revelation of Himself.

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Beware of ‘Eastern Lightning’


Eastern Lightning Church of the Almight GodHave you heard of Eastern Lightning? If not, hang on because it’s quite a story.

Eastern Lightning is also known as the Church of the Almighty God, Church of the True God, Church of the Everlasting Fountain, and Real God and it’s a growing *cult in mainland China, Hong Kong, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States.

*Cult – “a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous” (Merriam-Webster)

Even though Eastern Lightning is believed by some to have more than a million members in mainland China, it is small in comparison with China’s population of about 1.4 billion people. (Some estimates are less than 100,000 adherents in China)

EL (as it is sometimes referred) is a relatively new cult and uses deception, sex and violence to grow bigger and flex its muscles on the back of a middle-aged Chinese woman that church members believe is the ‘Almighty God’ on earth.

The purpose for this post is simply this – be warned.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 27

Convince Me Theres A God“The handwriting is on the wall.”

The next time you hear someone use that phrase, ask them where it comes from. Many people have no idea it comes from the Book of Daniel.

“In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote … Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” Daniel 5:5, 24-25

In the last part of our study about archaeology and the Book of Daniel, we saw the evidence supporting the historical claim that Belshazzar ruled as a co-regent from Babylon. The “handwriting on the wall” concerns the last night of Belshazzar’s rule and the first days of the Persians conquering Babylon. Does archaeology support the details listed in Daniel? If so, what does that mean?

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Book Review: Truth in a Culture of Doubt

TruthInCultureDoubt_cover.indd“Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible” (B&H Publishing, 2014) is an excellent rebuttal to celebrity skeptic Bart Ehrman.

Ehrman is Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has written several books that question the deity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible, including “How Jesus Became God,” “Did Jesus Exist?,” “Jesus Interrupted,” “God’s Problem,” and “Forged.” Ehrman is planning to release a new book in March 2016 titled “Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior.”

Ehrman has a large following within the atheist/agnostic/skeptic communities who are using his arguments in their attacks on the Bible and Christianity. Let’s meet the authors of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” and see what they recommend for answering Ehrman and his followers.

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Does Science Disprove God and the Bible?

“God is dead. We do not need him. It’s time to give up childish things and think as adults. Become scientifically literate. Become informed. Grow out of religious belief just as you did with the belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.” John W. Loftus, Author and Atheist (Debunking Christianity Blog)

Science and BibleJohn Loftus is well known for his ‘conversion’ from Christianity to atheism. Is he right about God? Loftus claims that science is a better explanation of existing phenomena than the Bible. He also believes that Christians are ‘not’ scientifically literate and need to ‘become informed.’ Is he right about that?

Let’s take a closer look.

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Film Review: Mining For God

Mining for God CoverMining For God (A Search for Ancient Truth in a Modern World) is an excellent documentary about Christianity in the United States. As filmmaker Brandon McGuire points out, even though the U.S. has been called a ‘Christian’ nation and 70% of adults in the U.S. identify themselves as Christians, many of them are not sure what being Christian really means.

That’s where the story begins.

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Book Review: Hostile Environment

Hostile EnvironmentGeorge Yancey (PhD, University of Texas) is professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, specializing in race/ethnicity, biracial families and anti-Christian bias. He is the author, coauthor or coeditor of books such as Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education, Dehumanizing Christians: Cultural Competition in a Multicultural World, There Is No God: Atheists in America, Beyond Black and White, Beyond Racial Gridlock and Just Don’t Marry One. He is working to start the first academic unit on a secular campus that focuses on research that serves Christians and Christian organizations. (InterVarsity Press author introduction)

Dr. Yancey’s new book, Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias, is important for all Christians to read because it explores the growing anti-Christian bias in our society. Yancey calls it ‘Christianaphobia;’ defined as ‘an irrational animosity towards or hatred of Christians, or Christianity in general.’ (Macmillan Dictionary)

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Book Review: Christianity on Trial

Christianity on TrialW. Mark Lanier is one of America’s top trial lawyers. He was awarded the coveted Clarence Darrow Award in 2012 and was named to the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers list for nine consecutive years. Lanier was also named as the 2013 Top Class Action Attorney in America, having personally won $10-billion in lifetime verdicts. His courtroom work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and he has been a frequent guest on CNBC and Fox Business News. Mark Lanier is also a Christian.

It’s interesting how that last fact surprises some people. They find it difficult to comprehend how someone who deals with evidence for a living could also be a follower of Jesus Christ. Isn’t Christianity about believing in things without evidence? Let’s see what Mark Lanier has to say about that.

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Book Review: Rediscovering Jesus

Rediscovering Jesus“Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ” (IVP Academic, 2015) will get you thinking seriously about how both Christians and non-Christians view Jesus Christ.

The authors (David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves and E. Randolph Richards) present a variety of views about Jesus from both biblical and non-biblical perspectives. They include the views of several individuals and groups including each of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Apostle Paul, the Gnostics, Muslims, Mormons, Liberals, Jesus Seminar, and Americans.  Which one is right? Which view answers this question best: “Who is your Jesus?”

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 26

Convince Me Theres A GodThe Book of Daniel is one of the most contested writings in the Bible. Atheists understand the significance of Daniel and attack it with regularity.

Here’s a note on the Secular Web about Daniel:

“The prophecies of the Book of Daniel have fascinated readers and created controversy for the past two thousand years. Evangelical Christians believe that the prophet Daniel, an official in the courts of Near-Eastern emperors in the sixth century BC, foretold the future of the world from his own time to the end of the age. Actually, the book was written in Palestine in the mid-second century BC by an author who expected God to set up his everlasting kingdom in his own near future, as we read in the mainline commentaries and Bible dictionaries.

We pointed out in our last article that many atheists attack Daniel as being written centuries after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and King Cyrus of Persia actually ruled. They know that a late dating of Daniel would bring Daniel’s visions and prophecies into question and would also cause problems with the New Testament texts where Jesus uses the term ‘Son of Man’ (from Daniel 7:13) for Himself.

I would have agreed with atheists 45 years ago when I was also an atheist. However, that was before I looked into the evidence for the historical accuracy of the Book of Daniel.

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Book Review: There Is No God – Atheists In America

There is No GodThere Is No God – Atheists In America by David Williamson and George Yancey (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) is one of the better presentations of what atheists think, believe and want.

I spent some time as an atheist in the 1960s and early 70s and have talked with scores of atheists in the years since. What Williamson and Yancey have presented from their research has a strong ring of truth about what atheists think, believe and want concerning religion and an expanding secular society, especially as it relates to government, politics and education.

One of the unique aspects of There Is No God is the inclusion of many quotes from atheists about important issues of our day: same-sex marriage, abortion, separation of church and state, and public school curricula, to name several. Reading what atheists think on these subjects in their own words should be helpful to anyone who wants to understand atheists and reach them for Christ.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard Final

Street EpistemologyWe come now to the final chapter in our special Faith and Self Defense series Street Epistemologists – On Guard.

Street epistemologists are atheists who try to ‘talk people out of their faith.’ Peter Boghossian in his book A Manual for Creating Atheists described street epistemologists as ‘people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community–into any and every place the faith reside–and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.’ (A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013) That’s the reason we recommend Christians be ‘on guard’ and prepare their children and teens to talk with street epistemologists.

We’ve looked at the Five Steps of Faith Defense that come from the world of Self Defense:

Step One is to Be Aware.

Step Two is Beware.

Step Three is Be Prepared.

Step Four is Be Ready.

Step Five is Be Quick.

Now it’s time to put everything we’ve learned into action.

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16 Really Tough Questions – Sean McDowell

Apo_eBlstSB_SeanVideo_1B&H Publishing Group is doing something special for young people of all ages this summer. They’re offering 16 apologetics videos by Sean McDowell covering topics from ‘Is it okay to have doubts?’ to ‘Why does God allow evil?’ to ‘Why would a good God send people to hell?’ and ‘What makes Christianity unique.’

McDowell is the General Editor of The Apologetics Study Bible for Students and lays out a great case for Christianity in this special 16-week video study series. You’ll find Sean McDowell’s newest video at each week. The current topic this week is ‘Does the Bible demean women?’.

We use The Apologetics Study Bible for Students in high school and college ministries and highly recommend it to students and adults who work with them.

B&H is giving people the opportunity to win a free Bible, a mini Apologetic Library or a free trip for two to hear from some of the world’s best Christian apologists at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, NC this October. You can enter the Confident Faith Sweepstakes by clicking here.

Faith and Self Defense is excited to help get the word out about this great series of videos by Sean McDowell and hope you will share this with young people in your family, neighborhood and church.


Book Review: Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

Fools TalkOs Guinness wrote in his new book, Fool’s Talk: Recovering The Art Of Christian Persuasion (IVP Books, 2015), that his own journey to faith was more than intellectual. He said it included a long, slow, critical debate in his mind during his school years.

“On one side, I listened to the arguments of such famous atheists as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and on the other side to such Christian thinkers as Blaise Pascal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.”

Guinness began writing books more than 40 years ago (The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture, and the Proposal for a Third Way) and quickly became known as one of the best thinkers in Christianity. He went on to write more than 30 books (e.g. The Call, Doing Well and Doing Good, The Devil’s Gauntlet, Dining with the Devil, Time for Truth, In Two Minds, God in the Dark, Unspeakable, A Free People’s Suicide, The American Hour, Long Journey Home, The Case For Civility, The Global Public Square, Renaissance: The Power Of The Gospel However Dark The Times) while working as a freelance reporter with the BBC, as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, and as a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies. He is also the founder of the Trinity Forum and project director of the Trinity Forum Study Series and was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter and the Global Charter of Conscience. Guinness is currently a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Dr. Guinness (DPhil, Oxford University) is known around the world as an influential speaker, social critic and thought-provoking writer. So, with all that he’s already said, what else can he possibly write that Christians should read?

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 25

Convince Me Theres A GodDr. Richard Carrier is a well-known atheist who does not believe Jesus of Nazareth was a real person. Carrier is a leading proponent of the ‘origin of Christianity without a historical Jesus’ ( Carrier also believes that many of the most important biblical figures were also fictional.

“The patriarchs are safely assumed now to be nonhistorical, and thus entirely mythical. This is no longer considered radical or fringe, but is in fact the most widespread mainstream view among scholars (see sources and discussion in Chapter 5, Element 44 ). Thus Moses is now regarded as fictional, yet like Jesus he performed miracles, had a whole family and huge numbers of followers, gave speeches and had travels, and dictated laws. No mainstream historian today believes the book of Deuteronomy was even written in the same century as Moses, much less by Moses, or that it preserves anything Moses actually said or did— yet it purports to do so, at extraordinary length and in remarkable detail. No real historian today would accept as valid an argument like ‘Moses had to have existed, because so many sayings and teachings were attributed to him!’ And yet if this argument is invalid for Moses, it’s invalid for Jesus.” Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Kindle Edition, 2014

Dr. Carrier is not as certain about whether the Hebrew prophet Daniel actually existed, but does believe the Book of Daniel is a late work of fiction.

“Similarly, it’s now the mainstream view that the book of Daniel was written in the second century bce and is a complete fiction, representing the elaborate adventures and speeches of the sixth-century prophet Daniel as if they were a fact ( see sources and discussion in Chapter 4, Element 7). Historians doubt even the existence of Daniel. But even if he existed, historians are certain the book of Daniel does not contain anything he authentically said or did. Rather, this Daniel, and everything he is supposed to have said and done, was invented to create a historical authority for a new vision of society, to inspire a new unity and a new moral order against the immoral rule of dominating foreigners.” Carrier, Richard, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Kindle Edition, 2014

I believed the same thing a few years before Dr. Carrier was born (1969), so these ideas about figures in the Bible not being historical and their writings being made up by unidentified people centuries after the supposed historical dating are nothing new to me. I was a loud, mocking atheist with a radio talk show in a major metropolitan area 46 years ago … so what happened to me?

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Book Review: Reasons For Our Hope

Reasons For Our HopeReasons For Our Hope: An Introduction To Christian Apologetics by H. Wayne House and Dennis W. Jowers (B&H Academic, 2011) is a MUST for every Christian’s bookshelf. As Normal Geisler wrote in the Foreword to the book – “Never before has apologetics been needed more.”

Building an apologetics library that works in the real world of ‘faith defense’ is an important task for every Christian – especially parents and others who work with children, teens and young adults.

Reasons For Our Hope is a wonderful resource that addresses multiple aspects of Christian apologetics and is easy to use. The authors, who are both professors, bring the best of their seminary classes to this amazing document.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 11

Street EpistemologyWe’re getting close to the end of this series about the 5 Steps of Faith Defense, so let’s quickly review what we’ve learned so far.

First, an understanding of why the need for ‘faith defense.’

“Street Epistemology is a vision and a strategy for the next generation of atheists, skeptics, humanists, philosophers, and activists … Enter the Street Epistemologist: an articulate, clear, helpful voice with an unremitting desire to help people overcome their faith and to create a better world–a world that uses intelligence, reason, rationality, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, sincerity, science, and kindness to build the future; not a world built on faith, delusion, pretending, religion, fear, pseudoscience, superstition, or a certainty achieved by keeping people in a stupor that makes them pawns of unseen forces because they’re terrified.” A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter 1, pg. 22, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013

Peter Boghossian and many atheists who agree with him are part of a growing number of street epistemologists committed to talking people ‘out’ of their belief in God. As Boghossian told fellow atheist Sam Harris – “My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.” (Sam Harris Blog)

The problem with that statement is the atheist belief that ‘faith’ is based on something other than ‘reason.’ Christianity, for example, is based on evidence and a reasonable belief in the power of that evidence. Atheists don’t agree with that statement, but their disagreement doesn’t make the statement less true. Any statement that is true is true no matter who doesn’t believe it is true. That is the power of logic and reason.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 10

Street EpistemologyIn the last part of our series we presented ‘7 Steps for Preparation’ so our children would ‘Be Prepared’ to defend the truth claims of Christianity:

  1. Prayer
  2. Telling our children the truth
  3. Being open to our children’s questions
  4. Keeping watch over our children
  5. Teaching our children how to be wise in this world
  6. Helping our children understand the power of relationships
  7. Loving our kids no matter what.

Now we move to the Fourth Step in Faith Defense – ‘Be Ready.’

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 24

Convince Me Theres A GodWe are looking at what archaeological evidence was available in 1971 to support the writings of the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. That’s when I was conducting an investigation, as an atheist, into the truth claims of theism and Christianity.

We’ve seen evidence for the men who prophesied during the years of the kings of Israel and Judah and the evidence for Jeremiah who prophesied during the years leading up to and following the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and beginning of Hebrew captivity in Babylon. Now we turn to the years of captivity.

According to secular sources, deported Jews spent 70 years of captivity in Babylon – from the beginning of forced detention in 597 BC to the end of exile in 538 BC. [One of the Babylonian Chronicles (ABC 5) details the involvement of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in capturing Jerusalem.] While King Nebuchadnezzar had many wealthy and influential Jews deported to Babylon, thousands of the poorer Jews remained in Judah or fled to nearby countries.

Two Hebrew prophets lived in Babylon during the exile period: Daniel and Ezekiel. Jeremiah remained in Judah for a time until he was forcibly moved to Egypt. What archaeological evidence do we have to support the historical references in the Books of Daniel and Ezekiel? Let’s begin with Daniel.

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