Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 1

Street EpistemologyAn interesting thing happened to us at FaithandSelfDefense.com about a week ago. Well-known atheist professor Peter Boghossian tweeted this message to his followers:

These attempts to discourage people from being honest, less dogmatic, & more humble, will fail. http://
faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/18/breaking-down-street-epistemology/

What followed that tweet by Dr. Boghossian was hundreds and hundreds of atheists clicking on the link to our article about Street Epistemology and many of them leaving comments and asking questions. Some of the people who commented described themselves as ‘street epistemologists,’ so it was a great opportunity to dialog with them about ‘faith’ and ‘reason.’

The purpose of this article is to both follow up on our previous post, ‘Breaking Down Street Epistemology,’ and share insights from our recent discussions with street epistemologists. As the post title suggests, be on guard.

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Book Review: N.T. Wright’s ‘The Challenge of Jesus’

I sometimes agree with N.T. Wright and often disagree with him. He has the kind of mind that challenges one’s thinking, even when you think you ‘know’ he’s wrong about something.

As I do with any of N.T. Wright’s books or articles, I go in with eyes and ears wide open. Dr. Wright is a brilliant academician. He has taught at Cambridge, McGill, Oxford and Harvard universities, and is currently research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He was at one time Bishop of Durham, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, and Dean of Lichfield Cathedral. Wright is a prolific author of more than 30 books and travels the world speaking at major conferences. However, the question with any of his writings is not about his brilliance or his active schedule, but his accuracy. Is Dr. Wright right? Maybe he is or maybe he isn’t, but one thing we can count on with any of his writings is that we will find both our minds and hearts challenged by his.

That leads us to the ‘newest’ book by N.T. Wright – “The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is” – released earlier this month. I qualify calling this Wright’s ‘newest’ book because it is an updated version of a book he wrote in 1999 (InterVarsity Press). So, is there any benefit to reading a 15-year-old book with an updated introduction to the new edition? I think there is.

Challenge of Jesus #3696

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 21

“Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around. So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.” 2 Kings 25:1-2

According to the Bible’s description and timeline, the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah were conquered by foreign armies in the late 8th century BC (Israel) and early 6th century BC (Judah).

Really? Prove it!

That was my attitude as an atheist. Make all the claims you want, Bible believer, the burden is on you to prove it. As it turned out during my investigation into the ‘truth claims’ in the Bible, Christian apologists were able to show me evidence that pointed toward the existence of God.

I had found enough archaeological and historical evidence to warrant the continuation of my investigation into the Bible’s claims about Israel leaving Egypt and settling into Canaan. I also found extra-biblical evidence for Israel and Judah as kingdoms during the Iron Age (Iron II), but would I find any evidence for foreign invasion, exile and return?

Jews in Babylon Tablets

Credit: Daily Mail

I read an interesting article recently about a new exhibition of ancient clay tablets. The tablets were discovered in Iraq and archaeologists with expertise in ancient Babylonia and Assyria said they shed light on the time Jews spent in Babylonia more than 2500 years ago.

More than a hundred cuneiform tablets were on exhibition that included details about the lives of Jewish families that had moved from Judea to Babylon during the early part of the 6th century BC.

As interesting as that is to me now, those tablets were not available to me 44 years ago when I was investigating whether the Bible contained credible historical information. I was an atheist and thought the Bible was filled with myth and legend and lacked any evidence that would support the existence of the ‘God’ of the Bible.

So, what did I find during my search in 1971 and was it enough to keep me searching for evidence?

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Life of an Apologist – On Being Despised

Christian apologists cannot get around the fact that they are defending supernaturalism. That’s a defining difference between Christianity and humanism/naturalism. It makes Christianity different, and with that difference, those who preach it are often despised.

Life of an ApologistChristian apologists should not be surprised that many people despise them for preaching this supernatural ‘good news.’ Jesus told His apostles (who were the earliest apologists) that the world would hate them because they belonged to Him and preached His message.

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet 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. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.'” John 15:18-25

Before we walk away from defending the supernatural Gospel because we will be hated and despised by many people, let’s put Jesus’ teaching in the proper context. There is something special awaiting anyone who is willing to defend the supernatural Gospel.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 27)

Church Apologetics“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

It’s sometimes helpful to remember why we start things. We get so deep into a project that we can forget why we’re doing what we’re doing.

As I began to write this post I thought about why I started this series a year ago. Here’s how I explained it then:

“Some pastors I’ve talked with through the years about emphasizing apologetics in their church (especially with children, teens and young adults) either chuckle, roll their eyes or get upset with me at some point in our discussion. They tell me that apologetics should not take the place of evangelism. It’s unfortunate they see apologetics that way because biblical apologetics is evangelistic – thus the name of this series of studies.”

After writing this series for a year, let me strengthen that statement a bit by saying that the discipline of apologetics MUST have evangelism, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of eternal souls, at the center of its purpose. Anything less than that misses the primary message of the Bible – Redemption.

We are currently answering seven questions about the spiritual battle Christians find themselves fighting every day and have answered questions 1 and 2:

  1. Why has God placed ‘you’ in this spiritual battle?
  2. What’s at stake in this spiritual battle?

We’ll now look at question 3 – Are you really involved in fighting this spiritual battle?

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 20

Courtesy: Israeli Antiquities Authority

Courtesy: Israeli Antiquities Authority

If you were fortunate enough to be able to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City the last few months of 2014, you could have visited the amazing exhibition titled – “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age.” One of the extraordinary archaeological objects available to view was the House of David Stele from the 9th century BC.

The year was 1993 AD. Israeli archaeologist Avahaim Biran and his team were excavating at Tel Dan in northern Israel. They discovered the first of three stone fragments known as the Tel Dan Stele. In lines 8 and 9 of the stele, written in ancient Aramaic, the words “king of Israel” and “house of David” are written.

The stele is a commemoration of the victory of an Aramean king over two kings to the south: one a “king of Israel” and the other a “king of the House of David.” Many scholars who have studied the stele believe it recounts a campaign of Hazael of Damascus against Israel’s King Jehoram and Judah’s King Ahaziah.

What is significant about the Tel Dan Stele is that it was the first archaeological evidence of the name of the Bible’s King David. However, that was 1993. My investigation into the claims of the Bible was during the first part of 1971, more than 20 years before the discovery of the Tel Dan Stele. Did that mean no archaeological evidence was available to me that would confirm the existence of King David?

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 26)

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’  And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1-5

Church ApologeticsIn our last post, we asked seven questions about the spiritual battle Christians find themselves fighting every day.

  1. Why has God placed ‘you’ in this spiritual battle?
  2. What’s at stake in this spiritual battle?
  3. Are you really involved in fighting in this spiritual battle?
  4. If not, why not?
  5. If so, how is the battle going for you?
  6. What part does Evangelistic Apologetics play in this spiritual battle?
  7. What part are you playing in Evangelistic Apologetics?

We answered the first question. Now let’s look at the second: what is at stake in this spiritual battle?

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Leaving the Faith – Really?

Question MarkWhat’s up with so many people ‘leaving the faith’? Why are they doing it?

First, we need to define two terms:

What does it mean to ‘leave’ something or someone?

What does it mean to leave ‘the faith?’

I understand walking away from a weak belief in something, but ‘leaving the faith?’ That’s hard to fathom for several reasons.

 

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Breaking Down Street Epistemology


Street EpistemologyStreet Epistemology
is a buzz word in the atheist community. I believe they (atheists) think they’ve found a sure-fire method for talking Christians “out of their faith.” How are they doing it?

You can watch street epistemologists at work in hundreds of videos on the Internet. While each atheist has his or her personal style, the techniques are basically the same. Knowing what they are doing and how they are doing it is one key to preparing Christian young people to talk with them in public and private venues.

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Short Post About Defining Faith

Defining FaithMany atheists are attacking the Christian worldview based on changing the definition of the word “faith.”

Some of them define faith as “belief without evidence,” “irrational belief in something despite all evidence to the contrary,” and “belief not supported by evidence or reason, but assumption alone.”

Others define it as “pretending to know things that you don’t know,” “glorified ignorance,” and “the ability to believe in something in which there is no physical evidence that even exists.”

Interesting.

I spent 30 minutes searching for current definitions online from a wide variety of non-religious sources. Each is the ‘first’ definition listed by each source. Take a look and see if the atheist definitions line up with the rest of the world.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 25)

Church ApologeticsIf teachers are teaching and preachers are preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), no Christian should wonder why the Church is under attack. It’s not a secret. God is not trying to hide from us that the Church is under attack. In fact, God has made it abundantly clear in His Word that Satan is His enemy and our enemy and is attacking us continually using a sophisticated system of spiritual forces working at many levels of life on this planet and in this universe.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

Ephesians 6:10-18 is often referred to as “spiritual warfare” and that’s not a bad name for what is occurring in the spiritual realms. We may think our enemies stand before us in flesh and blood, but the real enemies live in the spirit world. That’s why God tells us to use “spiritual” weapons to battle with these spiritual beings. A primary weapon we have available to us as Christian warriors is Evangelistic Apologetics.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 19

Now the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king.’ Joshua 8:1-2

Joshua and Israel Crossing Jordan riverInvestigating what the Bible claims Joshua and the army of Israel did in Canaan involves a lot of detailed work. That’s because the Bible claims Israel defeated 31 city kings during the 14th century BC. As an atheist journalist in 1971, that looked like evidence that could be verified or denied using the tools of both history and archaeology. What did I find?

The 12th Chapter of the Book of Joshua lists the 31 kings that Israel supposedly defeated during its military campaign in Canaan.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 18

“And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5

Joshua and Israel Crossing Jordan riverHere we go again with the supernatural. Atheists don’t believe in the supernatural, so it’s time to close the book. But I didn’t close the book – I kept reading.

This series, Convince Me There’s A God, is my answer to questions atheists have been asking me for more than 40 years about why I ‘abandoned’ atheism and ‘converted’ to Christianity. Many have accused me of being on drugs at the time of my conversion or having gone insane. Neither is true. I became convinced after a lengthy investigation into the claims of Christianity that the God of the Bible exists and Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

My conversion from atheism to theism was intellectual, not emotional. It was based on many kinds of evidence, but the evidence that kept me reading and asking questions about the Bible was archaeological evidence. Did that evidence “prove” God’s existence to me? No, but it did show me that the Bible was a credible ancient historical document and kept me interested in learning more.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 24)

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Church ApologeticsChristians in the United States often fret about how an unbelieving world is attacking the Church. We worry about what will happen to the Church if “this” happens or “that” happens.

What happens if unbelievers win more elections than believers do? What happens if more liberals are added to the Supreme Court? What happens if Christians become the minority in our country? What happens if churches lose their tax-exempt status? What happens if Christians lose their freedom to worship publicly in the U.S.? What happens if Christianity becomes illegal and the government closes all church buildings? What happens if the Church in the United States suffers severe persecution and loses millions of members? What will God do then?

I’m sure we all would love to keep the freedoms we have in our nation. Those of us who are older remember fondly the years when Christianity was a dominant force in society, but Christians could sense change was coming as far back as the late 1940s. As an atheist active in opposing Christianity in the 1960s and early 70s, I was part of that change (I am saddened to say) and it’s never been the same since.

Whatever you choose to call it – secularism, humanism, naturalism, materialism – our country is becoming less Christian every year. Unless something happens to change the course we’re on, Christians will be a small minority within one to two generations and possibly have little to no voice in what becomes of our country.

Before we fret too much, however, I think it’s important that we look at things from God’s perspective remembering that “as the heavens are higher than the earth,” so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. Maybe a quick reminder of history will help.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 17

“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.” 1 Kings 6:1

Moses Parting Red SeaAs an atheist, I thought the Bible was a bunch of fairy tales. I grew up learning stories in the Bible about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, Moses parting the water, Joshua knocking down the wall of Jericho, Samson and his super strength, David killing Goliath, Solomon and his wisdom; but that’s all they were to me – just stories. I didn’t think any of it was true, not even stories about Jesus of Nazareth dying and rising.

It was during my investigation into the truth claims of the Bible and Christianity in 1971 that I came face to face with a mountain of historical and archaeological evidence that challenged my long-held belief that there was ‘zero’ evidence supporting any of the claims of the Bible.

As I read through the Old Testament in early 1971 and asked Christians questions about what I was reading, I saw that the Bible included hundreds of names, numbers and events that could be verified or falsified. I found that interesting for a document that was supposedly written by unknown writers centuries after it was reputed to have been written. If the goal of writing the Bible was to ‘fool’ people into believing it was the ‘Word of God,’ why write anything that could be investigated? Why indeed!

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 23)

Church ApologeticsArchaeology supports the Bible’s history about the human race being polytheistic from the 3rd millennium B.C. Following the lineage of Noah in Genesis 10 and 11, we see that the human race spread out after the confusion of language at Babel and moved to many parts of the earth. There the families of man worshipped many gods.

As far as we can tell from the Bible, archaeology and history, the entire human race had become polytheistic. We have no record of anyone worshipping the God of the Bible, the God who created the heavens and the earth and the first human beings. The human race served other gods, but not the true God.

What happened when the human race became practical atheists? God intervened? What happened when the human race built a city and tower toward heaven? God intervened. What happened when the human race became polytheists and worshipped anything except God? God intervened.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 16

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” Exodus 6:1

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’ So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.” Exodus 7:8-10

Moses Parting Red SeaMiracles. What’s an atheist going to do with miracles? I didn’t believe in the supernatural, so miracles were impossible. That’s what I believed, so how could I as an atheist deal with all of the supposed miracles Moses and Aaron performed in Egypt? Was my investigation into theism and Christianity going to end in that ancient land because of my disbelief in the supernatural?

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 22)

Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-4

Church ApologeticsIt was not long after the Flood that the families of Noah and his sons decided to leave the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4) and travel to a plain in the land of Shinar (present day Iraq). There they began building a city and a tower “whose top is in the heavens.” They wanted to make a name for themselves, “lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

This action was in direct disobedience to God’s commandment that they “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Why would the families of Noah and his sons do that?

Something happened to the hearts and minds of these people that led them toward a new worldview; one that would have devastating effects on the human race to this day.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 15

Now the Lord said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.’ Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” Exodus 4:19-23

Moses Parting Red SeaThe Bible story about Moses is about to get extremely supernatural. So far, except for the burning bush incident, the story about Moses seemed plausible, but now God is sending Moses back to Egypt to do “wonders before Pharaoh”.

As an atheist, I saw this part of the story as myth/legend/fairytale. The rest of Exodus seemed false because it was a supernatural being commanding human beings how to live, where to go, what to do, what to believe.

How in the world could I investigate something like the ten plagues and parting of the sea so the children of Israel could escape from Egyptian soldiers? How could I investigate the people of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years? How could I investigate a man named Joshua leading the wandering Israelites from the desert into Canaan to fight against foreign peoples and capture cities and land for themselves? How as an atheist who vehemently denied the existence of God and the supernatural could I possibly investigate this subject honestly and objectively?

I turned to history and archaeology to see what answers might lie there.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 21)

“The only worldview that is true is God’s view of the world.”

Church ApologeticsIn the last part of our study we saw that the undeniable end of Satan’s worldview (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil”) was great wickedness and every intent of the thoughts of the hearts of humans being “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Satan’s worldview is every worldview except one – God’s.

We’ve seen in previous articles that worldviews that grew from Satan’s lie included atheism, agnosticism, polytheism, pantheism and panentheism. How did they develop and what can we learn from their development to understand how Satan is attacking the Church today?

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