Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

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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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 3)

Church Apologetics“Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What’s life all about?”

People have been asking these questions for thousands of years. I used to believe there was no meaning to life. We were born, we lived,  we died. That was it. No more, no less.

The questions and people’s answers have led to a host of differing views about the meaning of life: pragmatism, existentialism, theism, logical positivism, absurdism, nihilism, humanism. I chose to live a form of secular humanism as an atheist. Theism seemed a bit ignorant and illogical, so it didn’t interest me until someone approached me with a method of determining the truth or falsity of the Christian message. It was my introduction to evangelistic apologetics and understanding why the Church is under attack.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 2)

Church Apologetics

We come to the question – Why? Why is the Christian Church here in the United States and around the world under such severe attack today? What did we do to make so many people so angry?

Two-thousand years ago this month, Jesus was a teenager in the little town of Nazareth. He was obedient to His earthly parents and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:51-52).

Jesus was well aware during His teen years about why He was on earth. He went to the Temple in Jerusalem when He was 12 years old to talk with the teachers who were there. Mary, Jesus’ mother, asked Him why He had gone to the Temple instead of going home with her. He said to her – “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them” (Luke 2:49-50).

That was an interesting statement for many reasons, one being that Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was standing with Mary in the Temple. Joseph was a carpenter. So, what was the “Father’s business” Jesus mentioned?

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 7

Royal Standard of UrThe Hebrew Bible records the history of the world in some detail, but the history of Israel in great detail. Rather than a book of myth and legend, the Hebrew Bible was written as an historical narrative of a people and their God. That means their existence, both people and God, can be investigated according to historical detail.

When I was looking into the claims of Christianity in 1971, I found archaeological discoveries in Palestine of great interest in supporting the historicity of biblical writings. The nation of Israel, beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, interacted with many other tribes, city-states and nations. We’ve already looked at some of the ancient finds from ancient Babylon, Assyria, Philistia and Moab. We turn now to Egypt.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack

Church ApologeticsThe Church of Jesus Christ is under attack. While that shouldn’t surprise any Christian, the method for responding to the attack does surprise many. We’ll call it “evangelistic apologetics.”

One evidence that most Christians don’t know what apologetics means comes from the question I often hear from them – “why would you want to apologize for being a Christian?”

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.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 17)

Saint PaulWe began this special series about whether Paul was an Apostle or a fraud last summer. It was for the purpose of answering the many questions we receive anytime we refer to one of Paul’s letters to address a point of Christian theology. Though we are usually asked why we defend Paul, that is not our purpose. We reference Paul’s letters because we believe his writings are apostolic and inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are, as Peter wrote, Scripture (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Here’s a reminder of what we wrote in the first part of this series -

“For the person who does not accept Luke, Acts, 2 Peter, Hebrews and all of Paul’s letters, I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do to help you. You’ve chosen to throw out every possible piece of evidence that would tell you anything about Paul. That’s like a trial judge who disallows every piece of evidence that would prove the defendant not guilty just because the judge does not want the defendant found not guilty. The court is stacked against the person in that case. The same is true in the way many people handle the evidence for Paul’s apostleship. If the evidence could possibly support Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ, they throw it out. That’s not reasonable, logical, ethical or legal, so there’s nothing I can do to convince you because your mind is made up and closed to the possibility of being wrong. You have come to the table of discussion with presuppositions, preconceptions and thick ear plugs. You do not want to know, so you won’t know.”

The battle about Paul’s apostleship and his writings is far from over, even though the evidence is overwhelming in favor of God’s choice of Paul to open “the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). We will continue to add to this series as we receive more questions about Paul’s apostleship and whether his writings should be considered Holy Scripture.

Faith&SelfDefense

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 16)

Saint PaulThe Apostle Paul is a spiritual lightning rod. His calling and ministry were so different from the men who Jesus Christ called to be apostles before His death and resurrection that many people think Paul was a fraud.

I hear from those people on a regular basis. Some write just to tell me Paul was a fraud. Others ask questions to try to convince me Paul was a fraud. As I bring this special series to a close, we’re looking at the questions we’ve received during the past year to see if we can get to the truth of this important question.

I’m often asked why I “defend” Paul and not Christ. I wonder if they’ve read other posts on this blog and the GraceLife Blog. It should be obvious that my primary defense is for the existence of the God of the Bible and for the Life and Ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. I defend anything Jesus did and what He did was call Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. I also defend what God said and what He inspired men to write as communication of His Word. Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. Defending God’s call of Paul as apostle to the Gentiles is also defending God’s Word. That’s why I “defend” Paul.

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