Faith & Self Defense

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Archive for the tag “Christianity”

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 5

Street EpistemologyStreet epistemologists are trained to ‘talk people out of their faith.’ That can mean many things and go in many different directions depending on what theists know about their beliefs and why they believe what they believe.

We started this series about Street Epistemologists – On Guard several weeks ago because the author of A Manual For Creating Atheists tweeted this to his followers:

. Peter Boghossian @peterboghossian

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

That tweet brought hundreds of atheists and street epistemologists to FaithandSelfDefense.com and many of them began to engage me in what I recognized as an ‘intervention’ to talk me out of my faith.

Recognizing when a ‘discussion’ is really an ‘intervention’ is very helpful in Faith Defense, but that’s the beginning of being ‘on guard.’ In addition to knowing ‘why’ street epistemologists want to talk with Christians (to talk them out of their faith), we also need to know ‘what’ they will do and say and ‘how’ they will do it. Read more…

Book Review: Brian Morley’s ‘Mapping Apologetics’

Mapping Apologetics Cover ImageI want to begin this book review by saying ‘BUY IT!’ Okay, now to the review.

First, let’s meet the author: Dr. Brian K. Morley is professor of philosophy and apologetics at the Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California. He has been a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and the Society of Christian Philosophers. He is also the author of God in the Shadows: Evil in God’s World.

Dr. Morley’s new book is titled Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches (IVP Academic, 2015). He focuses on how people decide what to believe and poses the question this way: ‘How do we answer life’s most important question–the one on which everything else in life depends?” The subject of Morley’s book is the “foundational question of apologetics, the matter of proof.”

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the “defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17) purchase this book and here’s why.

Read more…

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 4


Street Epistemology
Street epistemologists are trained in what their trainers believe are the best methods to ‘talk people out of their faith.’

In our previous post about street epistemologists, we saw that atheists are taught to ‘avoid facts’ when talking with theists. It’s part of what they call ‘intervention strategies.’ Street epistemologists believe that ‘faith,’ belief in God, is a ‘virus’ that must be removed from the ‘faithful.’ Street epistemologists are taught that theists experience ‘severe doxastic pathologies’ and need a cure. That cure, they believe, will come through an ‘intervention’ cloaked as a ‘discussion.’

I say ‘cloaked’ because street epistemologists are advised not to reveal their atheism during the intervention with a theist. They are also told that what they will be doing through the ‘intervention’ will be a great ‘help’ to the ‘delusional’ theist.

‘Your discussions with the faithful are a genuine opportunity for you to help people reason more reliably and feel less comfortable pretending to know things they don’t know. They also present an opportunity for you to further develop a disposition conducive to anchoring beliefs in reality.’ (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Pichstone Publishing, 2013, Chapter 4)

Let’s take a closer look at how street epistemologists are using their techniques for talking people out of their faith and read some examples.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 3

Street EpistemologyAvoid Facts. That’s the heading under ‘Part II: Strategies’ in atheist Peter Boghossian’s 2013 book titled A Manual For Creating Atheists. I find that both interesting and insightful to the methodology of what Boghossian calls ‘street epistemology.’

That statement, ‘Avoid Facts,’ is counterintuitive to my training and experience as an investigative journalist. ‘Fact’ is defined by a variety of dictionaries as ‘something that actually exists; reality; truth; something known to exist or to have happened; information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.’

People like journalists, detectives, educators, scientists and scholars use ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ as vital and necessary to their profession. The idea of ‘avoiding facts,’  it seems to me, is opposed to the search for truth.

Here’s how Peter Boghossian explains his reasons for training street epistemologists to ‘avoid facts.’

Read more…

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 2

Street EpistemologyIn the last part of our new series, we looked at ‘The Purpose of Street Epistemology’ and ‘How Street Epistemology Works.’ Based on the stated purpose of street epistemology — ‘talking people out of their faith,’ — we looked at the key terms of  ‘talking’ .. ‘people’ .. ‘out of’ .. ‘their faith.’

One of the keys to ‘how street epistemology works’ is the process of ‘interventions,’ which street epistemologists view as ‘liberating people of faith from their ignorance.’

I recently experienced an ‘intervention’ of sorts and would like to share it with you as an example of how it works.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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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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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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.

 

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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.

Read more…

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?”

Read more…

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 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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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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Faith Defense at Christmas

Virgin Mary with Baby JesusChristmas is a time of love, peace and joy – so why think about faith defense at a time like this? Because the beautiful story of God sending His “only begotten” Son into the world to save the world from sin and death is under attack.

Faith defense is necessary because of the constant spiritual danger our young people and families face in a world intent on driving Christianity into the ground. It’s a futile attempt on the part of the enemy, but that’s what the enemy does – attack.

Christians must be prepared and ready at all times “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3 NKJV) However, contending for the faith does not necessarily mean we come out swinging. No, in fact, Jesus told His disciples “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

So, how do we do that? How do we defend the faith as sheep in the midst of wolves? How can we be wise as serpents and harmless as doves? We find the key in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colosse. “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:5-6

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