Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Christianity”

Book Review: Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

Fools TalkOs Guinness wrote in his new book, Fool’s Talk: Recovering The Art Of Christian Persuasion (IVP Books, 2015), that his own journey to faith was more than intellectual. He said it included a long, slow, critical debate in his mind during his school years.

“On one side, I listened to the arguments of such famous atheists as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and on the other side to such Christian thinkers as Blaise Pascal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.”

Guinness began writing books more than 40 years ago (The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture, and the Proposal for a Third Way) and quickly became known as one of the best thinkers in Christianity. He went on to write more than 30 books (e.g. The Call, Doing Well and Doing Good, The Devil’s Gauntlet, Dining with the Devil, Time for Truth, In Two Minds, God in the Dark, Unspeakable, A Free People’s Suicide, The American Hour, Long Journey Home, The Case For Civility, The Global Public Square, Renaissance: The Power Of The Gospel However Dark The Times) while working as a freelance reporter with the BBC, as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, and as a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies. He is also the founder of the Trinity Forum and project director of the Trinity Forum Study Series and was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter and the Global Charter of Conscience. Guinness is currently a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Dr. Guinness (DPhil, Oxford University) is known around the world as an influential speaker, social critic and thought-provoking writer. So, with all that he’s already said, what else can he possibly write that Christians should read?

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Book Review: Reasons For Our Hope

Reasons For Our HopeReasons For Our Hope: An Introduction To Christian Apologetics by H. Wayne House and Dennis W. Jowers (B&H Academic, 2011) is a MUST for every Christian’s bookshelf. As Normal Geisler wrote in the Foreword to the book – “Never before has apologetics been needed more.”

Building an apologetics library that works in the real world of ‘faith defense’ is an important task for every Christian – especially parents and others who work with children, teens and young adults.

Reasons For Our Hope is a wonderful resource that addresses multiple aspects of Christian apologetics and is easy to use. The authors, who are both professors, bring the best of their seminary classes to this amazing document.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 11

Street EpistemologyWe’re getting close to the end of this series about the 5 Steps of Faith Defense, so let’s quickly review what we’ve learned so far.

First, an understanding of why the need for ‘faith defense.’

“Street Epistemology is a vision and a strategy for the next generation of atheists, skeptics, humanists, philosophers, and activists … Enter the Street Epistemologist: an articulate, clear, helpful voice with an unremitting desire to help people overcome their faith and to create a better world–a world that uses intelligence, reason, rationality, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, sincerity, science, and kindness to build the future; not a world built on faith, delusion, pretending, religion, fear, pseudoscience, superstition, or a certainty achieved by keeping people in a stupor that makes them pawns of unseen forces because they’re terrified.” A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter 1, pg. 22, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013

Peter Boghossian and many atheists who agree with him are part of a growing number of street epistemologists committed to talking people ‘out’ of their belief in God. As Boghossian told fellow atheist Sam Harris – “My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.” (Sam Harris Blog)

The problem with that statement is the atheist belief that ‘faith’ is based on something other than ‘reason.’ Christianity, for example, is based on evidence and a reasonable belief in the power of that evidence. Atheists don’t agree with that statement, but their disagreement doesn’t make the statement less true. Any statement that is true is true no matter who doesn’t believe it is true. That is the power of logic and reason.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 9

Street EpistemologyOur children and teenagers are in danger – spiritual and physical. As parents, grandparents and Christians involved in the lives of children and youth, we have a God-given responsibility to protect them. How do we do that and what tools does God give us for that work?

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people … Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 9-10

How often should we teach our children God’s Word? At least once a week during church, right? God says we should teach our children every day.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

Where do we begin? What is the first lesson our children need to learn?

Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Psalm 34:10

The ‘fear’ of the Lord is the first lesson – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a) – and an important part of the last lesson – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

From the beginning to the end, we need to be prepared.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 8

Street EpistemologyIn our last post in this series about street epistemologists, we looked at the Second Step in Faith Defense. We introduced the idea of a ‘complete’ model of biblical preaching which includes ‘warning’ and ‘teaching’ every man ‘in all wisdom.’ The purpose of this complete model of biblical preaching is that we ‘may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.’

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28

The word ‘warning’ is a translation of the Greek word noutheteo, which means ‘to put in mind, warn, admonish, exhort.’ The word ‘teaching’ is a translation of the Greek word didaskontes, which means ‘teach, direct, give instruction, admonish.’ The word ‘perfect’ is a translation of the Greek word teleion, which means ‘mature, having reached its end, finished, complete in all its parts, full grown, of full age.’

Let’s expand our view of Paul’s warning to the Colossian Christians to see how it can help parents and church leaders deal with the many challenges our children face today.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 6

Street EpistemologyYou’ve seen the reports …

About 70% of Christian youth leave the church after high school and 80% of those teens said they had no plans during high school to leave their church (LifeWay Research, 2007). Research showed that most of the dropout took place between the ages of 17 and 19. The majority of teens in the study said they stopped going to church because they no longer saw it as important to their life. Some eventually return to church attendance when they have children of their own, but many do not.

Less than 0.5% of the young adult population in the United States has a biblical worldview. (Barna Group Research, 2009)

I started questioning Christianity at the age of 12 and left the ‘faith’ of my parents at the age of 17 (I say my ‘parent’s faith’ because it was never my faith). Within one year of leaving the church I was an atheist. Unfortunately, that is the story of hundreds of thousands of Christian families in North America and Europe.

That fact makes the disguised ‘interventions’ of street epistemologists even more dangerous because the Church has not equipped children and young adults to know why they believe what they believe.

In this final section of our special series, Street Epistemologists – On Guard, we will share the 5 Steps to Faith Defense that will help prepare your children and the children in your church to face the enemy head on.

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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.

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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.’

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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.

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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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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.

 

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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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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 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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