Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Jesus Christ”

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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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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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 25)

Church ApologeticsIf teachers are teaching and preachers are preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), no Christian should wonder why the Church is under attack. It’s not a secret. God is not trying to hide from us that the Church is under attack. In fact, God has made it abundantly clear in His Word that Satan is His enemy and our enemy and is attacking us continually using a sophisticated system of spiritual forces working at many levels of life on this planet and in this universe.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

Ephesians 6:10-18 is often referred to as “spiritual warfare” and that’s not a bad name for what is occurring in the spiritual realms. We may think our enemies stand before us in flesh and blood, but the real enemies live in the spirit world. That’s why God tells us to use “spiritual” weapons to battle with these spiritual beings. A primary weapon we have available to us as Christian warriors is Evangelistic Apologetics.

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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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The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas (Book Review 2)

Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World (IVP Academic, 2014). Paperback – Kindle 

Gospel in Marketplace of Ideas

Jesus chose Saul of Tarsus for a big task – take the Gospel of Christ to the Gentile world. Why did Jesus choose Saul? Why select a deeply devoted Pharisee from Tarsus to take Christianity to a world of pagans, idol worshippers and lovers of philosophy?

Saul viewed the Lord’s calling as extremely personal: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16). 

As the authors point out in this excellent book (be sure to read Book Review 1 which looks at the first four chapters of The Gospel in the Markeplace), Saul of Tarsus, Paul the Apostle, was well qualified to take the Gospel of Christ to the philosophers on Mars Hill:

“Paul was knowledgeable about the philosophical and religious beliefs of the Athenians. One prominent Athenian school was Stoicism, founded by Zeno of Cyprus and developed by a later Zeno from Paul’s hometown–Tarsus, another of the three great centers of learning in the Roman Empire (the third being Alexandria in Egypt). Paul would have had plenty of opportunity to learn about Stoicism and competing worldviews. No wonder, then, when Paul was challenged to explain the new foreign gods that the Athenians thought he was proclaiming, he brought together his knowledge of Scripture and Jewish traditions and theology with the practices of Gentile idolaters and philosophers.” (p. 13).

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The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas (Book Review 1)

Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World (IVP Academic, 2014). Paperback – Kindle 

Gospel in Marketplace of Ideas

I remember hearing as a young Christian that the Apostle Paul made one glaring mistake in his ministry and that was his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens. Even though that seemed to be the majority opinion of Christians I knew at the time, I had a hard time understanding how a man chosen by Jesus Christ as the Apostle to the Gentiles and called and sent out by and filled with the Holy Spirit would have made such an error.

Drs. Copan and Litwak make the point very well that what Paul did was approach the philosophers in Athens on their own turf, using their rules, and demonstrated the superiority of the Christian worldview. Isn’t that what every Christian is called to do?

I love the way the authors use Paul’s experience in Athens to demonstrate both the need for meeting non-believers in the marketplace and God’s supply of wisdom for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

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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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Preach Like Jesus

Jesus and DisciplesNo one has ever preached the Gospel like Jesus Christ. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23) 

Jesus also taught His disciples to preach the Gospel in the same way He did. “So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:6) “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

If preaching the Gospel effectively is something that interests you, here are four brief insights into our Lord’s method —  

Truthful … Powerful … Personal … Sacrificial

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 13)

Church ApologeticsThe human race faces seemingly insurmountable problems. More than seven billion of us on the earth and we can’t climb out of the mess we’ve made. Politics doesn’t work, religion doesn’t work, sending good vibes around the planet doesn’t work. We treat each other with little to no respect and care even less.

The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. Step two is controlling the problem. Another way of understanding the process is the management phrase – “Name It and Tame It.”

Identifying the problem includes knowing what it is, where it came from, how it works and where it’s going. Controlling the problem includes “knowing, reasoning, choosing and behaving.”

Let’s use those management techniques in identifying and controlling Satan’s attack on the human race.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 12)

Church ApologeticsThe history of the human race is, unfortunately, the history of Satan’s attacks on mankind. We see the stamp of his wiles everywhere we look. We also see the stamp of God’s mercy as well. Even as Satan destroys, God saves. Satan hates, God loves. Satan brings low, God raises high. Satan mutilates, God revives. It’s the story of all people everywhere, for all time.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 11)

Church ApologeticsSatan desperately wants to be “like” God. He wants worship, praise and adoration from other angels, human beings and all creation.  That desperation drives him in a way humans cannot understand.

We’ve seen desperate people who will do anything to get what they want, but they are not supernatural beings with the mind and power of an angel. Satan is very old and has learned a great deal through the ages about how to wage spiritual war against God’s people. He is also very experienced in spiritual battles.

One of our biggest mistakes as members of the Church is underestimating Satan’s power and cunning. If you think I’m wrong about that, read Revelation chapters 12 and 13. Satan wants worship from the whole earth and he will get it, though for only a short time.

One of the best things we can do to prepare ourselves for spiritual battle with Satan and his forces (Ephesians 6:10-18) is to learn everything we can about him from the One who knows Satan best. God has given the Church a lot of information and insight into how Satan thinks, plans and works. For instance …

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 10)

Church ApologeticsHere’s an understatement – “the Bible is a very interesting Book.”

If you believe there is a God and that the Bible is God’s special Revelation to humanity (which I do), then you will find what He reveals about “the” attack on Christ’s Church to be not only interesting but also extremely important. I say “the” attack because there is really only one on Christ’s Church – Satan’s. It’s been that way from the beginning and will continue to be that way until the end.

Paul wrote concerning Satan in 2 Corinthians 2 that “we are not ignorant of his devices” (vs 11). He made that statement in the context of sexual immorality in the Corinthian church “as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1). This sin committed by a member of the Corinthian church was bad enough, but it gets worse. “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:2). Church leaders and members knew about this terrible sin and were “puffed up” about it! Instead of mourning over this terrible sin and correctly disciplining the man, they were “puffed up” (pephusiomenoi – to puff up, blow up, inflate, swelled … the word was used to describe someone swelled with pride).

It’s important that we as Christians and defenders of the faith learn the lesson Paul taught the Corinthians because it demonstrates how Satan works in the Church. We must not be ignorant of his devices.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 9)

Church ApologeticsPaul said something very interesting in 2 Corinthians 2 that pertains to our topic. He was writing in the context of loving and forgiving a brother in Christ.

“For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Paul made two important points about Satan:

  1. Satan can take advantage of Christians
  2. We are not ignorant of Satan’s devices

Paul was not ignorant of Satan’s devices, but unfortunately the vast majority of Christians today “are ignorant.” We’ve already seen that the majority of Christians in the United States do not believe Satan is a living being. That statistic shows just how ignorant Christians are of Satan’s devices because one of his primary devices is to get Christians to believe he’s not real.

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 8)

Church ApologeticsThe stage is set, the battle ready, the players on the field, the stakes high – very high. God created, Satan attacked, humanity failed, God loved and sent, Jesus came and died, believers saved and sealed.

This thing we call “Church” is real. Jesus Christ is building His Church, so it’s very real. And what does Satan do now? He doesn’t stop, he attacks again and again. Satan is relentless. Why? Why would a defeated foe keep attacking? Because he knows what’s coming.

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