Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 17)

Potters WheelMy wife and I were spending a wonderful vacation together in the mountains many years ago and wanted to purchase something that would be a reminder of the experience. We visited several artisans and watched them create beautiful works of art from wood, stone, clay and canvas. Some of the most interesting artisans were the potters who took dry lumps of clay and changed them into works of art. As I watched them work with clay on the potter’s wheel I thought about how the Bible referred to God as a Potter.

As we consider Satan’s continual attack on the Lord’s Church and the work of evangelistic apologetics God has called us to perform, I am reminded of the powerful words of the Prophet Isaiah spoken during Satan’s attack on the people of Israel.

“And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. Do not be furious, O Lord, Nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look—we all are Your people!” Isaiah 64:7-9

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 12

Baby Moses and Daughter of PharaohDid pharaoh’s daughter find baby Moses in an ark of bulrushes in the reeds by the bank of the river and raise him as her son? Did Moses become the leader of the slave nation of Israel? Did Moses lead Israel out of Egypt in a great exodus after humiliating the pharaoh through miracles of God?

During my investigation into the claims of theism more than 40 years ago, specifically Christianity, I had learned that many archaeological discoveries during the 19th and 20th centuries AD supported a variety of truth claims in the Bible from the 19th and 20th centuries BC. However, no truth claim of the Old Testament may have been more of a challenge than the supposed exodus of Israel from Egypt. Anyone who had any knowledge of ancient civilizations knew there was not a shred of evidence that the story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt was true – including no archaeological discovery.

Or so I thought.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 16)

Church ApologeticsAtheists don’t believe God exists. However, they do think the non-existent God is a bully. In “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins wrote this about God –

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” 

I don’t remember being that angry about God when I was an atheist, but I did think theists were ignorant people. Because I didn’t believe in the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible, the things written about God in the Bible didn’t bother me much. It was just stupid to believe it. However, the God written about in the Old Testament does bother Dawkins and many other atheists today. 

Which leads me to this question: is God an unjust, unforgiving, vindictive, malevolent bully? That’s part of the attack on the Church today, so how do we respond?

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 15)

Church ApologeticsQuestion: In the Garden of Eden, was God truthful with Adam? “… but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) We find the answer in Genesis 5:5 – So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.” God told Adam the “truth.”

What about Satan? Did he tell Eve the truth? “… Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4) 

That would appear to be a violation of the Law (Principle) of Non-Contradiction: something cannot be both true and not true at the same time in the same sense or context. Humans could not “die” and “not die” in the same sense or context. Either humans do die or they don’t die. We know from centuries of human experience that humans do die.

(**Take note of the fact that Satan is willing to contradict logic and reason to get what he wants. As Jesus said about the devil – “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)) 

These details from the beginning of the human race go to the heart of Evangelistic Apologetics – Truth. The attack on the Church concerns Truth.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 14)

Church ApologeticsIt would appear that things were not looking too good for God. He had great plans for the human race, but Satan moved in while God was away and messed up everything. The devil deceived the woman into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan (disguised as the talking serpent) told the woman that eating from the tree would open her eyes, “and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The devil was right about one thing – eating from the tree would open her eyes and she would know good and evil.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:6-7

What Satan did not tell them (because he’s a liar) was that knowing good and evil with eyes opened would be the worst thing that could ever happen to them and the race of human beings to come from them.

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Preach Like Jesus

Jesus and DisciplesNo one has ever preached the Gospel like Jesus Christ. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23) 

Jesus also taught His disciples to preach the Gospel in the same way He did. “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:6) “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

If preaching the Gospel effectively is something that interests you, here are four brief insights into our Lord’s method —  

Truthful … Powerful … Personal … Sacrificial

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 11

 

 Permission to use, GNU Free Documentation License, Morburre

Permission to use, GNU Free Documentation License, Morburre

I don’t remember being interested in archaeology as a child or teenager. However, as a young man searching for answers to questions about the existence of God, archaeology became of great interest to me.

It was early 1971 and writings about archaeological discoveries in the Middle East were abundant. Some of the books and articles available to me dated from the 19th century AD, but the majority were from the early to middle 20th century.

I remember asking Dr. Edward Hindson question after question about people and places in the Bible and was quite surprised to hear that archaeological evidence already existed for many of them. He was answering my questions with evidence! It is most helpful when people who say they believe something actually have evidence to support their beliefs.

In our most recent posts, we looked at some of the archaeological evidence concerning the Hebrew patriarchs including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons. We pick up the story after Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph into slavery.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 13)

Church ApologeticsThe human race faces seemingly insurmountable problems. More than seven billion of us on the earth and we can’t climb out of the mess we’ve made. Politics doesn’t work, religion doesn’t work, sending good vibes around the planet doesn’t work. We treat each other with little to no respect and care even less.

The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. Step two is controlling the problem. Another way of understanding the process is the management phrase – “Name It and Tame It.”

Identifying the problem includes knowing what it is, where it came from, how it works and where it’s going. Controlling the problem includes “knowing, reasoning, choosing and behaving.”

Let’s use those management techniques in identifying and controlling Satan’s attack on the human race.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 12)

Church ApologeticsThe history of the human race is, unfortunately, the history of Satan’s attacks on mankind. We see the stamp of his wiles everywhere we look. We also see the stamp of God’s mercy as well. Even as Satan destroys, God saves. Satan hates, God loves. Satan brings low, God raises high. Satan mutilates, God revives. It’s the story of all people everywhere, for all time.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 11)

Church ApologeticsSatan desperately wants to be “like” God. He wants worship, praise and adoration from other angels, human beings and all creation.  That desperation drives him in a way humans cannot understand.

We’ve seen desperate people who will do anything to get what they want, but they are not supernatural beings with the mind and power of an angel. Satan is very old and has learned a great deal through the ages about how to wage spiritual war against God’s people. He is also very experienced in spiritual battles.

One of our biggest mistakes as members of the Church is underestimating Satan’s power and cunning. If you think I’m wrong about that, read Revelation chapters 12 and 13. Satan wants worship from the whole earth and he will get it, though for only a short time.

One of the best things we can do to prepare ourselves for spiritual battle with Satan and his forces (Ephesians 6:10-18) is to learn everything we can about him from the One who knows Satan best. God has given the Church a lot of information and insight into how Satan thinks, plans and works. For instance …

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 10

Ancient Middle East MapI used to think that Christians were ignorant to believe the “stories” in the Bible. I was taught those stories as a child, but I grew up to “know” they weren’t true. Or did I?

My investigation into the claims of theists about the existence of God and Christians about the existence of God’s Son led me into a study of archaeology in 1971. I was especially interested in archaeological expeditions from the Middle East because much of the Old Testament was written in and about that area of the world. I was a bit surprised to discover that many archaeological findings pointed to the “possibility” that people written about in the Old Testament may have actually lived at the time the writers claimed.

But what about the claim that a small family left Canaan, entered Egypt, grew to great numbers, were forced into slavery, then were freed from slavery by a man who performed great miracles that brought the mighty Egyptian government to its knees?

Here’s what I learned from archaeology.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 10)

Church ApologeticsHere’s an understatement - “the Bible is a very interesting Book.”

If you believe there is a God and that the Bible is God’s special Revelation to humanity (which I do), then you will find what He reveals about “the” attack on Christ’s Church to be not only interesting but also extremely important. I say “the” attack because there is really only one on Christ’s Church – Satan’s. It’s been that way from the beginning and will continue to be that way until the end.

Paul wrote concerning Satan in 2 Corinthians 2 that “we are not ignorant of his devices” (vs 11). He made that statement in the context of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church “as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1). This sin committed by a member of the Corinthian church was bad enough, but it gets worse. “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2). Church leaders and members knew about this terrible sin and were “puffed up” about it! Instead of mourning over this terrible sin and correctly disciplining the man, they were “puffed up” (pephusiomenoi – to puff up, blow up, inflate, swelled … the word was used to describe someone swelled with pride).

It’s important that we as Christians and defenders of the faith learn the lesson Paul taught the Corinthians because it demonstrates how Satan works in the Church. We must not be ignorant of his devices.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 9)

Church ApologeticsPaul said something very interesting in 2 Corinthians 2 that pertains to our topic. He was writing in the context of loving and forgiving a brother in Christ.

“For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Paul made two important points about Satan:

  1. Satan can take advantage of Christians
  2. We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices

Paul was not ignorant of Satan’s devices, but unfortunately the vast majority of Christians today “are ignorant.” We’ve already seen that the majority of Christians in the United States do not believe Satan is a living being. That statistic shows just how ignorant Christians are of Satan’s devices because one of his primary devices is to get Christians to believe he’s not real.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 8)

Church ApologeticsThe stage is set, the battle ready, the players on the field, the stakes high – very high. God created, Satan attacked, humanity failed, God loved and sent, Jesus came and died, believers saved and sealed.

This thing we call “Church” is real. Jesus Christ is building His Church, so it’s very real. And what does Satan do now? He doesn’t stop, he attacks again and again. Satan is relentless. Why? Why would a defeated foe keep attacking? Because he knows what’s coming.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 9

Sphinx and PyramidAs I mentioned in the last post, the Bible story about Abraham became a “possibility” for me as an atheist based on the archaeological evidence available during my 1971 investigation into theism and Christianity. It seemed from what I was researching that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jacob’s sons “could” have lived during the time frame the Old Testament claimed in the locations it described.

I continued to ask questions about the patriarchs and discovered more evidence from archaeology. Each discovery seemed to lend more support to the credibility of the writings in the Old Testament from an archeological perspective. Archaeologists had found evidence for many of the ancient cities mentioned in the Bible with details about how people lived, worked and worshipped that matched much of what the Old Testament writers included in the process of describing how the Hebrew patriarchs lived and how they interacted with people from other people groups and nationalities.

Rather than the Bible being (as I supposed at the time) a fairy tale filled with legends and myths, I began to see it as history. I had a lot more researching to do to see if the history it presented was credible and believable, but the important point for me was that I was seeing the Old Testament as an historical document that could be tested against other historical documents and against the discoveries of archaeology.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 7)

Church ApologeticsI write about Satan as if he’s a real spiritual being. All Christians believe that – right?

What if I told you that more than half of Christians in the United States “strongly agree” or “agree somewhat” that Satan is not a living being but is a symbol of evil? That’s based on a Barna Group study from 2009. Here are the results based on a nationwide survey of adults’ spiritual beliefs (1,871 self-described Christians were surveyed).

40% – strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil”

19% – agreed somewhat that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil”

10% – disagreed somewhat that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil”

26% – disagreed strongly that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil”

8% – not sure what they believed about the existence of Satan

That means less than one-third of Christians strongly believe in the existence of Satan.

So, how does that compare with what the rest of the country thinks about Satan? According to a 2007 Gallup Poll, 70% of Americans believe in the devil, while only 21% don’t believe in Satan and 8% are not sure. That’s up dramatically from 1996 when only 56% of Americans said they believed in the devil.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 6)

Church ApologeticsIt’s important to our understanding of why the Church is under attack to understand the “tension” between God and Satan. We saw it first in the Garden of Eden when God said this to the Satan-possessed serpent:

“Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

Satan is a defeated foe, cursed by God, but that does not mean the devil is not active and powerful in this world. Fortunately, we know what Satan does, how he does it and why he does it.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 8

Camels in EgyptAs I investigated the claims of the Bible concerning Abram leaving Ur of the Chaldees, traveling to ancient Haran, then on to Canaan, I came across many archaeological discoveries that supported the dating of the story in Genesis about his life and journey. I had been told for a long time that the stories in the Bible were fairy tales without any possible connection to real people and historical facts, but archaeologists had been finding clues for more than a century that demonstrated the historical nature of Genesis. Real people, living real lives, interacting with other real people.

In the case of Abraham, whether he was real or myth would have a serious impact on billions of people who believe he is the “father” of their religion (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam).

[A reminder that I am including only those archaeological references available for my research during the first half of 1971.]

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 5)

Church Apologetics

I’ve spent most of my life as a professional journalist, which has afforded me a fascinating opportunity to see not only what people do, but why they do what they do.

If you watch or read the news on a regular basis, you’re familiar with how bad things are in the world. Newscasters move from one negative story to another – economic decline, joblessness, poverty, crime, war, terrorism, lying, cheating, stealing. You may have said it out loud – “the world is a mess!”

After covering news stories for 40 years, I want you to know that I agree with you. The world is a mess. However, the world’s problems didn’t begin with my generation or yours. My grandparents were born in the 19th century and they told stories about what a mess the world was back then. They survived tough economic times, crimes and wars. Their grandparents were born in the 18th century and their world was a mess.

The point is that the world has been a mess for thousands of years. As far back as we can look in history we’ll find people living in a messed-up world. Guess how long it took to mess up the world? Less than a minute!

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 4)

Church Apologetics

“Nearly 1,000 Christians have been killed and over 450,000 of them displaced in Syria due to the crisis plaguing the country.” (News Headline)

“Pakistan church bomb: Christians mourn 85 killed in Peshawar suicide attack. Pakistan’s worst-ever attack on beleaguered Christians prompts warning by bishop for future of minority in Muslim countries.” (News Headline)

“The more atheists who come out of the closet and admit publicly what they stand for, the more difficult it will be for the fanatically religious to impose their bronze-aged morality upon the rest of us.” (Atheist organization website)

“We are so sick of hearing those ignorant and self-righteous Christians complain about the problems in our society.  Boo stinkin’ hoo.” (Atheist blog)

“Christians are a hateful, mean and nasty bunch of losers.” (Facebook comment)

Why is the Church under physical and verbal attack around the world today? What or who is behind the attacks? Before you name someone or some group, think about an important insight the Apostle Paul gave us.

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