Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “atheism”

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 13

Moses Parting Red SeaMoses never existed … or if he did, he was only a minor historical character and most of his life was expanded by legend.

When I was an atheist I believed Moses never existed. The Jews made him up to bolster their religion. However, if someone by the name of Moses really did live he wasn’t anything like the stories about him in the Bible. No way he called down the wrath of God on the Egyptians. No way Moses raised his hands in the air and a sea of water split in two. No way.

I used the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt as a major proof that the Bible was full of myths and fairy tales. It was a favorite discussion on my radio talk shows in the late 1960s and early 70s. Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham leaving Ur for Canaan, Joseph in Egypt, and Moses leading Israel out of Egypt were stories I threw at Christians whenever they called about the Bible and Christianity being true. There was absolutely no evidence for any of those stories, so why should I believe anything in the Bible. Everything in the Bible was untrue.

That worked pretty well until I met some Christian apologists. They answered my mocking and skepticism with evidence … lots of evidence … so much evidence that I was no longer able to say the Bible was full of myth, fairy tales and lies. I didn’t know where the investigation would lead me, but I knew there was more to the Bible than I thought.

The archaeological finds I had already seen were impressive in supporting some of the historic nature of Genesis. What would I find in archaeology to support the historic nature of  the “Exodus?”

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 19)

Church ApologeticsOne of the amazing things I experienced when passing from atheism to theism was how easy it became to accept and understand ideas that I had earlier found unacceptable and absurd. Had I, as many of my atheist friends accused me, lost my mind? Also, why was I suddenly drawn to protect with all my heart and mind that which I had recently attacked with full vigor?

Salvation as described in the Bible seemed silly to me as an outsider (a non-Christian). However, after becoming an insider (a Christian) I found that salvation made more sense than anything I had ever known.

C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist, explained it this way.

“There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular crossroads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperOne Edition, 2001, p. 144)

What makes the difference? One minute you are lost, the next minute you are saved – from death to life in a fraction of a second. How can we explain that change to someone who has not experienced that change? And how do you explain all the things you learn during your journey as a Christian? I believe strongly in things I once thought ridiculous and laughable. There must be a way to communicate these spiritual things in ways that non-believers can see as possible.

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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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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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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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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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Of Mice and Men, Kangaroos and Chimps

98 Percent Human?Atheists are always asking me for evidence that proves God exists. They usually bring up evolution as proof that God does not exist.

Evolution. Really? Well, I have some questions for them.

First, some background.

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How to “Un-Create” an Atheist

It happens every day around the world. A Christian teenager goes away to college and returns an atheist. How does that happen? How can someone who grows up in a Christian home and church be turned so quickly from their faith in Christ? I can tell you how it happened to me.

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Is “Faith” Worth Believing?

Faith in StoneAtheist philosopher Peter Boghossian believes that faith is pretending to know things you don’t know (May 6, 2012 public lecture – richarddawkins.net/). As a former atheist, I find that statement both challenging and strange. Let me explain why.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 5

Mesha SteleAs an atheist I believed in what I could see, not in what I could not see. The “natural” was something I could see – the “supernatural” was not. So, the archaeological finds that supported various aspects of the historicity of the Old Testament impressed me. Even though most of the ancient discoveries were located in museums around the world, being able to see photos of the objects and knowing that I could see them in person if I wanted to helped me in my investigation about whether the Old Testament of the Bible was verifiable on any level. I was especially interested in whether the Old Testament was rooted in myth and legend or in history.

The 19th and 20th centuries AD were a great period of time for archaeological discoveries about some of the oldest civilizations of the world. Oriental studies and research led many explorers and archaeologists into the Middle and Far East looking for ancient treasures. Some of them that we’ve already looked at include the Philistines, Hittites, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Assyrians. Another ancient people recorded in the Old Testament and uncovered by archaeologists are the Moabites.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 3

Qumran Caves For those of you who have studied Biblical archaeology, you’ll recognize that I am not mentioning the greatest discoveries of the last 40 years during this series. That’s because I’m limiting my comments to those discoveries available for me to consider during the early part of 1971. These findings, and others too many to mention in a limited series, were part of my journey from atheist to theist.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 2

Hittite Lion's GateSolid evidence. Something an investigative journalist can sink his teeth into. That’s what I needed to see in 1971. Christians I had invited on my radio talk show to intimidate and make fun of were turning the tables on me. Me! A well-known, hard-core atheist talk show commentator, was actually listening to Christians talk about why they believed in the existence of God. Sound ridiculous? I thought so at the time, but they kept coming back with more and more evidence. For a free-thinking journalist interested in knowing whether something’s true or not, evidence is hard to ignore.

What I was hearing about how archaeology supported many of the claims in the Bible was impressive. One of the most impressive was the discovery of the Hittite nation.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology

Archaeology Israel 1Journalists deal in facts – lots of them. We eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We snack on them at midnight. Facts, facts, and more facts! So, what can possibly convince an atheist journalist about the existence of God? Facts – and lots of them.

I found discussions with Christians about science interesting, but those about morality were a bit disturbing. I couldn’t see, hear or touch morality and there was no way to “test” creation theory in a laboratory. That’s why I liked it when we started talking about archaeology and the Bible. Archaeology was something I could sink my teeth into because it dealt with things I could see, touch and test.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Morality 3

If you asked me when I was an atheist what I thought about serial killers, I would have said they were terrible people. If you asked me what I thought about child abusers, same answer – terrible people. If you asked me what I thought about my doing whatever I wanted to do even if other people thought it was wrong, different answer. What I did was my business. However, that came with a built-in problem.

One of the Christians I was talking with at the time called my thinking “every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” That sounded good to me on the surface, but he asked me what I thought about a man doing whatever was right in his own eyes if doing that meant hurting me or someone I loved? I didn’t like that, but how could I argue against it if the other person had the same attitude I did about right and wrong? What happens when what’s right for me bumps into what’s right for you?

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The Hell Test – Tested (Part 14)

It’s interesting to me that people who call themselves Christians and present themselves as students of the Bible don’t believe in God’s judgment. Even as a brand new Christian, just saved from atheism, I knew that God was the Eternal Judge Who ruled from Heaven. Why did I believe that? Because as I asked Christians questions about the existence and nature of God, they presented His position as Judge of angels and humans to me clearly. And, I might add, nothing I’ve read, heard, or seen since that day more than 40 years ago has changed that fact.

In the last part of our test of The Hell Test we looked at what the Old Testament taught about Messianic Judgment. Jesus, Who the New Testament identifies as the promised Messiah, explained in detail who He would judge, why He would judge them, how He would judge them, where He would judge them, when He would judge them, and what sentence they would receive. So, let’s get started.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Morality 2

The journey from atheism to theism is different for each person who makes it. My journey began with science, then made a turn onto the path of ethics and morality. Webster’s Dictionary defines ethics as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.” Webster’s defines morality as “a moral discourse, statement, or lesson, a doctrine or system of moral conduct.” Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines morality as “beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior, the degree to which something is right and good, the moral goodness or badness of something.”

As an atheist I would have argued that I was an ethical person. For example, I believed strongly in journalistic ethics and in ethical behavior as it impacted news coverage and the First Amendment. But what was the source of my ethics and ethical behavior? Did that source of ethics affect my personal life? No. I bent personal ethics to suit my selfish interests. What was the source of that behavior? same source? different source? no source?

Was it ethical to lie, cheat, steal, murder? Maybe, I thought, depending on the “situation.” Situation ethics became a mantra for me as an atheist. It fit my belief system well and allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do, without a sense of guilt. I didn’t believe in an absolute moral law or a moral law “giver,” so there was no penalty unless someone imposed their morality on me through some system of penalties that were too big for me to overcome (e.g. traffic laws, state and federal laws).

Having been an atheist and knowing many atheists through the years, I recognize that all atheists are not alike – even as all theists are not alike. I’ve known atheists who were more ethical in their thinking and behavior than I was and some who were less ethical. The issue is not quantity, but quality. What is the quality or source of one’s morality? Is it objective or subjective? situational? relational? revelational? Is there a “right” and “wrong” in every situation in life? any situation? If so, is it an absolute? a law that must be followed? If so, who says? or can it be different from one person to another, one couple to another, one family to another, one tribe to another, one nation to another? Can we differ in our definition of what is moral and immoral? right and wrong? Is what is right for you necessarily right for me? Should I have to bow to your ethical will? or am I free to determine my own moral course and follow that path to its eventual end?

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