Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Book Review: Meet Generation Z

Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (Baker Books, 2017) by James Emery White is about our children and grandchildren, who White says, were born between 1995-2010. Based on those birth years members of Gen Z are already filling our schools and universities and beginning their careers. They will be the parents of a new generation and will lead business, education and government in the near future.

There are other researchers who date Gen Z a bit differently than White. Some date the births of this new generation from 1996 -2012 or even to the present (2017). However, for the purpose of this book review I will use White’s dating.

White wrote that “the rise of the nones and the coming force of Generation Z will inevitably challenge every church to rethink its strategy in light of a cultural landscape that has shifted seismically. If the heart of the Christian mission is to evangelize and transform culture through the centrality of the church, then understanding that culture is paramount.” (White, James Emery. Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (p. 12). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.19

We are looking at Christian apologists of the 3rd century. In our last study, we looked at Hippolytus of Rome, who is probably best known for writing ten books that refuted heresies of the early part of the 3rd century.

The Egyptian city of Alexandria was an early center of Christianity. Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, who lived during the 3rd and 4th centuries, wrote that John Mark (who wrote the Gospel of Mark) preached the Gospel in Egypt and established churches in Alexandria during the 1st century (Ecclesiastic History,  Book II, Chapter 16).

Three prominent Christian apologists in Alexandria during the 3rd century were ClementAmmonius  and Origen. We will look at some of their writings to learn more about what heresies they and other Egyptian Christians faced at that time.

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Street Epistemology – Take Two

I began writing about an atheist evangelistic project called “street epistemology” four years ago. A friend emailed me about a new book that was about to be published entitled “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Dr. Peter Boghossian. The book was released November 1, 2013, and I wrote my first response to it two weeks later.

I’ve written many articles about street epistemology since then, including an eBook titled “Street Epistemologists – ‘On Guard'”. The reason I’ve spent years writing about street epistemology is because it appears to me to be what could become one of the most powerful methods of how atheist evangelists try to “talk people out of their faith.” That’s a direct quote from Boghossian’s book. That is the primary purpose for street epistemology and explains why I use the term ‘atheist evangelist’ when describing street epistemologists.

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Book Review: How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets

How To Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets (Crossway, 2017) by Peter J. Gentry is an excellent book for any Christian who wants to understand the Old Testament prophets. I first encountered the prophets during an investigation into the reliability of the Old Testament. After becoming a Christian, I returned to the prophets and have enjoyed them through the years. As Hebrews reminds us – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets …” (Hebrews 1:1). That’s an amazing statement and well worth remembering as we read the prophetic writings.

Peter J. Gentry (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of Old Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Hexapla Institute. He served on the faculties of Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College, University of Toronto, Heritage Theological Seminar, and Tyndale Theological Seminary. In addition to writing How To Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets, Dr. Gentry has also written Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Crossway, 2012, with co-author Steven Wellum) and Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Crossway, 2015, with co-author Steven Wellum).

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.18

You will find many lineages in the Bible (also called genealogies). Genesis chapters 4, 5, 10 and 11 are examples. The first several chapters of 1 Chronicles contain one of the most extensive lineages in the Bible. Matthew 1 and Luke 3 contain the all-important genealogies of Jesus Christ. Lineage is apparently important to God.

Some of the Christian leaders of the 2nd Century AD were mentored by men who knew the Apostles of Christ. Those include Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. Others in the 2nd century were mentored by men who knew the men who were Apostles of Christ. One of the best known was Irenaeus,

The direct lineage to the teaching of the Apostles of Christ widened by the time Christianity got to the 3rd century. The persecution of the Church by the government of Rome and the many heresies swirling in and around the Church made for a challenging time for Christian apologists. In this next section about A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists we will look at some of the leading apologists of the 3rd century and what they wrote that might help us in our 21st century apologetics ministries.

As we have mentioned before, we can trust the writings of the Old and New Testament, but who we can trust after that will be more difficult to determine. The key, I believe, is in how closely the writer stays to the biblical text. That means we as Christian apologists must know the Scriptures well – very well. How else can we compare the writings of men to the Word of God? Though we can learn a great deal about early Christianity and the apologists who fought many battles in the name of Christ, we must not lose sight of the Authority of God’s Word when discerning truth and error.

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Book Review: Know Why, What and Who You Believe

I usually review new or recent books in this ongoing series recommending writings for Christian apologists to read. However, it’s also good to remember some of the good apologetics books from the 19th and 20th centuries that are still in print and available for purchase. Some of the older books might use the term “evangelistic” to describe their purpose. That’s not surprising since apologetics is a tool of evangelism and making disciples.

InterVarsity Press (IVP) has done a good thing by keeping the writings of Paul Little available for people to purchase. Know Why You Believe and Know What You Believe were first published by Scripture Press Publications, Inc. (1967 & 1970) and were based on Little’s ministry to students on college campuses. I remember them from my early years as a Christian. Vision House published Know Who You Believe under the original title of Faith Is For People in 1976.  IVP published revised editions of the books – with the latest revisions dating from 2008. The first two books contain a section on Study Questions at the back that you may find helpful for getting the most out of every chapter.

Paul Little and his wife, Marie, worked for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 25 years. Little was also associate professor of evangelism at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School until his death in an auto accident in 1975.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.17

We recently completed looking at some of the leading Christian apologists of the 2nd century AD. We move now to apologists of the 3rd century.

The early Christians lived  during the Roman Empire. We read about the impact of the Roman government on Jesus Christ, His apostles and other disciples throughout the writings of the New Testament.  As Christianity spread across the world from the 1st through 3rd centuries, followers of Christ faced the challenges of paganism and a government that became increasingly oppositional to Christianity.

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Book Review: Conversion – How God Creates A People

Conversion: How God Creates A People by Michael Lawrence (Crossway, 2017) is part of the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series from Crossway. Lawrence, who is the lead pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, has a PhD in Church History from Cambridge University and MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He also authored Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church (Crossway, 2010).

Dr. Lawrence started his book with Scripture, which I always appreciate because all of our thoughts should begin with God’s Word. Here’s what he chose to use –

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:10)

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.16

We’ve been looking at 2nd century Christian apologists for several months and after this post will move into the 3rd century. There are several more apologists to mention. Even though we don’t know as much about them as we do other Christians of that era, each played an important role in the early years of the Church.

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Book Review: IVP Academic’s Little Books

Many of the books I read and review are “large” books with hundreds of pages. This series of books is not one of them, but it doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of great material worth reading and sharing.

The title is IVP Academic’s Little Books and currently has four books in the series: A Little Book for New Theologians (2012), A Little Book for New Scientists (2016), A Little Book for New Philosophers (2016), and A Little Book For New New Bible Scholars (2017).

“These are books to put in the hands of beginning students. Take them to a high point to catch a view of the horizons beyond. Orient them to true north. Empower their imaginations. And kindle the virtues they will need to prosper in the field.” (Publisher)

I’ll begin by reviewing the newest addition to the Little Books set, then share some information about other books in the series.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.15

Reading the writings of 1st and 2nd century Church apologists helps modern Christians in many ways –

  • Helps us understand how Christians who knew the apostles or disciples of the apostles dealt with theological concerns in the Church as well as heresies and challenges from local and national governments
  • Helps us understand what early Christian leaders believed was important to members of their churches
  • Helps us understand how similar early heresies were to the heresies we face today
  • Helps us understand how to respond to challenges from local and national governments
  • Helps us dispel misconceptions about Christianity
  • Helps us develop strategies for responding to modern heresies
  • Helps us explain and demonstrate Christian faith and practice
  • Helps us support other Christians in their lives and ministries
  • Helps us understand how early Christians lived, worshipped, evangelized and discipled
  • Helps us understand how important the Bible and prayer were to the early Christians and how important they are to us today

We are currently reading the writings of 2nd century Christian apologists, including –

We now look at several more apologists from that era. As you read about them and their writings, look for insights to defending the Christian worldview and reaching people for Christ today.

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Book Review: Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

The full title of this wonderful book is Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017). The author, Dr. Michael Licona, is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus. Lee Strobel interviewed Licona for his book “The Case for the Real Jesus” and video “The Case for Christ.”

Dr. Licona is the author of several books including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010) and Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006). He is also co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Licona is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He is also a well-known speaker and debater and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.14

“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:29-30

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

The Apostles of Jesus Christ warned Christians in the 1st century AD that false teachers would come at them from both inside and outside the Church. They would secretly bring in destructive heresies and draw away the disciples after themselves. Those were prophetic words because it happened in the 1st century and continues today in the 21st century.

We are currently looking in this series at some of the Christian apologists from the early centuries of Church history to see how they addressed attacks on Christians and Christianity.

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Book Review: Inductive Bible Study

The full title of the book is Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application through the Lenses of History, Literature, and Theology (B&H Academic, 2016).

My first thought on seeing this title in the B&H Academic catalog was to ask “why?” Why do we need another book about how to study the Bible inductively?

I asked the question because of a book about inductive Bible Study I used in Bible college more than 40 years ago – Methodical Bible Study: A New Approach to Hermeneutics by Robert Traina (Asbury Theological Seminary, 1952). Though written 65 years ago, I couldn’t imagine the need for another book about how to study the Bible inductively. I have used the lessons learned in Dr. Traina’s book for more than four decades, so why something new?

While that may seem a strange way to begin a book review, I had to smile when I read the beginning of the Author’s Preface to their book on Inductive Bible Study. The authors asked the same question I did and gave a good reason to consider their new book.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.13

Christians should be thinkers and thinkers should be readers. Christian apologists should be critical thinkers and should read critically. That’s the purpose for this special series.

As we have seen so far in our series about A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists, the writings of Christ’s Apostles are vital to sound doctrine; the writings of the disciples of the apostles and the disciples of the disciples of the apostles are important to understanding how they defended the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. Christian apologetics is by definition a “defense” of the Christian faith.

We continue now with our look at some of the leading Christian apologists of the 2nd century. Next up is Tertullian.

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Book Review: Reformation Theology

The full title of this new book is Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2017). Its publication is certainly timely as we approach the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this October (October 31, 2017).

I understand Michael Horton’s concern about the upcoming anniversary –

“Frankly, I’m a bit ambivalent about this anniversary. If it is another occasion for liberals to hail Luther’s “Here I stand!” as the harbinger of modern autonomy, or for conservatives to celebrate Protestant values, or for confessionalists to rewatch the Luther movie and dredge up polemical grudges, then it will be at best a colossal waste of time. If, on the other hand, it is an occasion to allow God’s Word once again to break into our self-enclosed circles with a word of radical judgment and radical grace, then it will be a happy anniversary indeed.” Prologue, p 34

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.12

We are currently looking at the writings of some of the leading Christian apologists of the 2nd Century.  If you are reading this from your living room, office, porch, breezeway or other comfortable location, let’s remember that many early apologists wrote from prison or on their way to martyrdom. Defending the faith has never been about being comfortable. It’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Book Review: Dictionary of Christianity and Science

The Dictionary of Christianity and Science (Zondervan, 2017) is an exceptional resource for Christians who are engaged in apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship.

Christianity and science is a hot topic on college and university campuses. Many atheists claim science has “proven” that Christianity is not true and that God does not exist. The first question I ask atheists who say that to me is – “which science”?

They look puzzled and wonder what I mean. I then ask them if the science they believes disproves Christianity is astronomy, biology, chemistry or some other system of knowledge.

To make a general statement that “science” has proven Christianity untrue and God non-existent is to show how little the person knows about science.  As we see in The Dictionary of Christianity and Science, that atheistic claim cannot be supported from true scientific investigation.

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Book Review: Rational Faith

The full title of Dr. Stephen Davis’ book is Rational Faith: A Philosopher’s Defense of Christianity (Veritas Books, IVP, 2016).

I enjoyed reading it on several levels, one of them being that Dr. Davis is a Christian professor who has taught at secular colleges most of his adult life. His words are those of someone who knows from first-hand experience how the secular world views Christians and Christianity.

“The bottom line is that today in American secular colleges and universities Christian students (as well as Christian professors) often have a difficult time. In many ways the university gives them the impression that their religious beliefs are outmoded, superstitious and naive, and that their ethical views are old fashioned, oppressive and enslaving. The secular world thinks that Christians are inflexibly dogmatic about their beliefs and major in condemning other people.” Introduction, pp 10-11

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.11

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 

Before we continue looking at the writings of early Christian apologists, I’d like to share something important for us to remember as we read post-Scriptural Christian writings.

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