Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Existence of God”

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 18

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

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

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

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 No, but it did show me that the Bible was a credible ancient historical document and kept me interested in learning more.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 23)

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

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

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

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 16

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

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

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

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 15

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

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

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

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

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

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 21)

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

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

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

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 14

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.” Exodus 2:16-17

Moses Parting Red SeaWhen we last looked at the life of Moses he was sitting by a well in the land of Midian. What must have been going through his mind? He was the biological son of Hebrew slaves, raised as the adopted son of a daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. As Stephen recited in Acts 7:22 – “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” How quickly things changed. At the age of 40 (Acts 7:23) Moses fled Egypt for a new life in Midian. What would he do there? How would he live? What would become of him?

I had my own questions about Moses in 1971. I had been content to be an atheist until three Christians presented evidence in answer to my questions about truth claims concerning Christianity. I wasn’t used to Christians having answers to my questions, so as a journalist I was curious to see where their evidence would go.

I looked at the Bible’s information about Moses from a journalistic perspective. I had investigated old stories before, but nothing this old. What was the evidence for Moses’ existence? Was the evidence testable? What about extra-biblical testimony? Did the information about Moses in the Bible read like history or mythology? Lots of questions, but what were the answers? And where would those answers lead me in my investigation? Would I find enough evidence to warrant continuing or would the story of Moses end my search for the truth about the existence of God?

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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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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 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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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 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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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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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 6

Many atheists have asked me why I converted from strong atheism to Christianity rather than to some other belief system. The simple answer is that Christians had the answers to my questions. I had studied various Eastern religions years earlier and didn’t find truth in any of them. Atheism was the only belief system that made sense, until I met Christians who were well-educated, thoughtful and patient.

This series of articles, Convince Me There’s A God, is for the purpose of answering atheists who have asked me to be specific about what convinced me to become a Christian.

Cyrus CylinderOne of the strongest points of convincing came from Middle East archaeology. I looked at finds from ancient Moab, Assyria, Philistia and Anatolia, then turned to the history of the Medo-Persian Empire and one of its greatest rulers, King Cyrus. I was especially interested in The Cyrus Cylinder because of its connection to ancient Israel.

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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 4

As any good atheist would have done more than 40 years ago, I ridiculed the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. How could anyone believe what the Jews wrote about their national history when they were just trying to promote their own brand of “religion?” Why should I believe them?

Taylor PrismThe problem with that line of thinking, I discovered, was what to do about the histories of other ancient nations that gave credibility to many of the historical records in the Old Testament? Were the historians of other countries who served other gods somehow joined in the Jewish conspiracy to promote the one God of Israel? That didn’t seem logical to me, so I looked deeper into several archaeological discoveries to see if I could find the truth. Could archaeology have the answer to my challenge to “Convince me there’s a God?”

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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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