Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 33

We come now to the Post-Exile and Second Temple periods in the Old Testament history of Israel. Cyrus the Great of Persia decreed in about 538 BC that Jews could return to their homeland from Babylonian exile. That is the beginning of what is called the Post-Exilic period where Jews lived under the rule of the Persians. Cyrus ordered that the Jews rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. After delays because of opposition, the temple was completed about 516 BC during the reign of Darius I of Persia.

That’s a lot of history, so there should be at least “some” archaeological evidence for it. Right?

[I say “some” archaeological evidence because only a small number of archaeological sites have been discovered and excavated in the Middle East. Even the small number of sites that have been discovered and excavated have not been examined thoroughly and published.]

Let’s see what evidence was available when I was investigating the Old Testament texts in 1971.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 1

Christian apologists must be thinkers. That means they must also be readers. Thinkers read. Readers think. The goal is to become a better thinker for the purpose of becoming a better truth communicator with both Christians and non-Christians. The goal is not to keep what you learn to yourself or amaze your friends with “feats” of knowledge. The goal has not changed since Jesus and His apostles told Christians what to do with the gifts the Lord gave them: 1. glorify God, 2. make disciples (teach them to obey Christ), and 3. equip the saints for their work of ministry for the edifying of the Body of Christ (to name a few).

Your passion for representing Jesus Christ to the world will drive what you read, how often you read, who you talk with, and what you tell them.

Here is the first part of a “Top Ten” list for reading based on what I’ve found most helpful through the years.

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Is “Progressive Christianity” Christian?

We receive many questions from readers at FaithandSelfDefense.com and a recent one was about “Progressive Christianity.” What is it? What do “progressive” Christians believe and practice? Are they right? Should all Christians embrace “progressive” Christianity? Let’s investigate.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 32

Convince Me Theres A GodBefore we move to the next phase of Israel’s history, let’s review what was available from archaeology about Israel’s kings and other Iron Age II (1000 – 539 BC) notables mentioned in the Bible during the time I was investigating the historical reliability of the Old Testament 45 years ago (except where listed with asterisk **).

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Screwtape and Anton LaVey

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Radio talk shows in the 1960s and 70s were much like TV talk shows today: it’s about ratings. I was both a radio talk show producer and host during that time and finding guests who would get listeners to both listen and call in was a big part of what we did every day.

One of the guests who could get a big audience to both listen and call was Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan and author of The Satanic Bible.

Why do I bring him up now? Because of today’s date and something I read in C.S. Lewis’ famous Screwtape Letters.

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Book Review: The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist

Atheist Who Didnt ExistThe Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (or: the Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments) by Andy Bannister (Monarch Books, 2015) is one of the best apologetics books about atheism I’ve read in a long time. It is by far the most humorous (more about that in a minute).

Dr. Andy Bannister is the Canadian Director for RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) and speaks and teaches in Canada, Europe, UK, the United States, and other countries around the world. He holds a PhD in Islamic Studies “and enjoys mountaineering, juggling, and cats (although not simultaneously).”

Dr. Bannister was involved in youth ministry before studying theology and philosophy (focusing especially on Islam). He worked with churches and organizations from his base in Oxford, England before moving to Canada. Dr. Bannister is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology. He is the author of An Oral-Formulaic Study of the Qur’an (Lexington Books, 2014), which reveals many of the ways the Qur’an was first composed.
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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 31

Convince Me Theres A God

In the last part of our series, we looked at historical evidence that supports some of the prophecies of Ezekiel. In this article we will look at some of the archaeological evidence supporting the details of those prophecies.

Ezekiel spent several years prophesying about God’s judgment on Jerusalem and other nations in the region (Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre, Sidon, Egypt). Those years are important to know when comparing prophecy “proclaimed” to prophecy “fulfilled.”

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Book Review: Grand Central Question

Grand Central StationGrand Central Question: Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews by Abdu Murray (IVP Books, 2014) is a great read for all Christians who are sharing or want to share the Gospel of Christ with people in their community.

Abdu Murray is North American Director with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Grand Central Question is his second book. His first was Apocalypse Later: Why the Gospel of Peace Must Trump the Politics of Prophecy in the Middle East (Kregel Academic & Professional, 2009).

Murray holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. He was named several times in Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyer. Murray is the Scholar in Residence of Christian Thought and Apologetics at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He is also a former Muslim.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 30

Convince Me Theres A GodEzekiel is known as one of Israel’s greatest prophets, but how good was he really? His prophecies against Israel’s enemies were specific, so how did Ezekiel do? How many did he get right and how many did he get wrong?

In recent studies we have looked at archaeological discoveries that support claims that Ezekiel prophesied in Babylon while in exile during the early part of the 6th century BC. In this study we will look at the accuracy (or lack thereof) of Ezekiel’s prophecies.

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Christianity — “Exclusive” or “Inclusive”?

Jesus told His disciples –

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:1-6″

That sounds exclusive.

The Apostle Paul wrote Christians –

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14 (NIV)

That sounds inclusive.

So is Christianity exclusive or inclusive?

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Book Review: Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side

51kasmTazTL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_“Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations To Help Them Build A Lasting Faith” by Natasha Crain (Harvest house Publishers, 2016) is a book I’ve been highly anticipating for the past year.

Natasha is founder of the very popular Christian Mom Thoughts website, the Christian Parenting Blog, and the Apologetics for Parents Facebook group.

Natasha is a wife and mother who left her corporate job to make a difference in the lives of families. Her new book (available March 1, 2016) is a great step in doing just that.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 29

Convince Me Theres A GodIn past studies we saw that archaeologists have discovered records of three ancient deportations of people from Judah to Babylon: 605 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC. Daniel was taken during the first captivity in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1-7). Many scholars believe Ezekiel was taken during the second captivity in 597 BC.

One thing the Books of Daniel and Ezekiel have in common among critics is they believe both were written later than the 6th century BC. The reason for that is simple – if Daniel and Ezekiel wrote during the 6th century BC, then the accuracy of their prophecies would be formidible to their opponents. As we saw in earlier studies, the Hebrew writing in Daniel is consistent with a 6th century BC dating, similar to Ezekiel’s Hebrew. Could it be that critics oppose these findings because of their anti-supernatural bias?

Let’s see what we can learn from archaeology – keeping in mind that this series is about what archaeological evidence existed in 1971 when I was an atheist investigating the claims of the Bible.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 28

Convince Me Theres A GodDarius or Cyrus?

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” Daniel 5:30-31

Daniel wrote that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon, but Herodotus wrote that Cyrus received it. Who is right?

In the last part of our series we looked at how archaeological discoveries from ancient Babylon support many of the historical claims found in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. There is support for the co-regency of Belshazzar (with his father Nabonidus) and Belshazzar’s death at the hands of the Persians. However, what archaeological support is there for a 62-year-old Darius the Mede receiving the kingdom?

That’s where I  had Christians when I was an atheist. All I had to do was ask Christians to ‘prove it’ and they were stuck. They were not able to present any proof that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon. In fact, Darius didn’t even become king until almost 20 years after Persia defeated Babylon. Right? Well …

Archaeologists have discovered evidence for two leaders named Darius during the 6th century BC. One is known as Darius the Mede and the other is known as Darius I.  Let’s begin with a look at the history of “Darius.”

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Book Review: Developing A Biblical Worldview

Biblical Worldview Book Image“Developing A Biblical Worldview: Seeing Things God’s Way” by Dr. C. Fred Smith (B&H Publishing, 2015) is an excellent book for any Christian interested in making disciples and defending Christianity.

Everyone has a “view of the world” that affects their perspective on life and guides the choices they make every day.

“… most people within any particular subculture, or demographic group, have a shared worldview that enhances the quality of community life and facilitates communication between group members. Our own worldview is affected by the perspectives that we see and hear.” (Introduction to Developing A Biblical Worldview, p 1)

Christians also have a worldview and it’s based on the Bible, God’s revelation of Himself.

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Beware of ‘Eastern Lightning’

 

Eastern Lightning Church of the Almight GodHave you heard of Eastern Lightning? If not, hang on because it’s quite a story.

Eastern Lightning is also known as the Church of the Almighty God, Church of the True God, Church of the Everlasting Fountain, and Real God and it’s a growing *cult in mainland China, Hong Kong, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Australia, Europe, Canada and the United States.

*Cult – “a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous” (Merriam-Webster)

Even though Eastern Lightning is believed by some to have more than a million members in mainland China, it is small in comparison with China’s population of about 1.4 billion people. (Some estimates are less than 100,000 adherents in China)

EL (as it is sometimes referred) is a relatively new cult and uses deception, sex and violence to grow bigger and flex its muscles on the back of a middle-aged Chinese woman that church members believe is the ‘Almighty God’ on earth.

The purpose for this post is simply this – be warned.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 27

Convince Me Theres A God“The handwriting is on the wall.”

The next time you hear someone use that phrase, ask them where it comes from. Many people have no idea it comes from the Book of Daniel.

“In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote … Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” Daniel 5:5, 24-25

In the last part of our study about archaeology and the Book of Daniel, we saw the evidence supporting the historical claim that Belshazzar ruled as a co-regent from Babylon. The “handwriting on the wall” concerns the last night of Belshazzar’s rule and the first days of the Persians conquering Babylon. Does archaeology support the details listed in Daniel? If so, what does that mean?

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Book Review: Truth in a Culture of Doubt

TruthInCultureDoubt_cover.indd“Truth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible” (B&H Publishing, 2014) is an excellent rebuttal to celebrity skeptic Bart Ehrman.

Ehrman is Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has written several books that question the deity of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible, including “How Jesus Became God,” “Did Jesus Exist?,” “Jesus Interrupted,” “God’s Problem,” and “Forged.” Ehrman is planning to release a new book in March 2016 titled “Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior.”

Ehrman has a large following within the atheist/agnostic/skeptic communities who are using his arguments in their attacks on the Bible and Christianity. Let’s meet the authors of “Truth in a Culture of Doubt” and see what they recommend for answering Ehrman and his followers.

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Does Science Disprove God and the Bible?

“God is dead. We do not need him. It’s time to give up childish things and think as adults. Become scientifically literate. Become informed. Grow out of religious belief just as you did with the belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.” John W. Loftus, Author and Atheist (Debunking Christianity Blog)

Science and BibleJohn Loftus is well known for his ‘conversion’ from Christianity to atheism. Is he right about God? Loftus claims that science is a better explanation of existing phenomena than the Bible. He also believes that Christians are ‘not’ scientifically literate and need to ‘become informed.’ Is he right about that?

Let’s take a closer look.

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Film Review: Mining For God

Mining for God CoverMining For God (A Search for Ancient Truth in a Modern World) is an excellent documentary about Christianity in the United States. As filmmaker Brandon McGuire points out, even though the U.S. has been called a ‘Christian’ nation and 70% of adults in the U.S. identify themselves as Christians, many of them are not sure what being Christian really means.

That’s where the story begins.

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Book Review: Hostile Environment

Hostile EnvironmentGeorge Yancey (PhD, University of Texas) is professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, specializing in race/ethnicity, biracial families and anti-Christian bias. He is the author, coauthor or coeditor of books such as Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education, Dehumanizing Christians: Cultural Competition in a Multicultural World, There Is No God: Atheists in America, Beyond Black and White, Beyond Racial Gridlock and Just Don’t Marry One. He is working to start the first academic unit on a secular campus that focuses on research that serves Christians and Christian organizations. (InterVarsity Press author introduction)

Dr. Yancey’s new book, Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias, is important for all Christians to read because it explores the growing anti-Christian bias in our society. Yancey calls it ‘Christianaphobia;’ defined as ‘an irrational animosity towards or hatred of Christians, or Christianity in general.’ (Macmillan Dictionary)

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