We are continuing to report about HOW atheist street epistemologists do what they do.
If this is the first time you’ve read anything in this series, we invite you to read these articles when you have time. You may find the background helpful –
You may also find it helpful to read about the history of atheist street epistemology in our free Ebook, Street Epistemologists ‘On Guard’.
I’m using four primary sources for this part of our report –
- A Manual for Creating Atheists by Peter Boghossian
- Complete Street Epistemology Guide: How to Talk About Beliefs (Last Update: 10 May 2016)
- Street Epistemology videos
We have been looking at Section 2.4 from the Complete Street Epistemology Guide (CSEG). That’s the section titled When to use it –
“You can use Street Epistemology whenever a truth claim is being made. However it is most useful for extraordinary claims, such as miracles and supernatural phenomena, including:
● Existence of one or more gods or immaterial persons (theism).
● Phenomena that violate or suspend the operation of natural laws (supernaturalism,paranormal and psychic phenomena, miracles, karma).
● Biological death does not end one’s existence as a conscious being (afterlife,reincarnation, resurrection).
● The effectiveness of healing modalities that science based medicine rejects asunproven or ineffective (quackery).
● The scientific validity of an idea or system which has never been adequatelyresearched or fails under scientific testing (pseudosciences).
● A covert but powerful force/group is responsible for certain events or situations,where evidence of that force/group is lacking (conspiracy theories). In such cases, we often encounter the following justifications, and the Street Epistemologistasks whether they are sufficiently reliable to warrant belief in the claim.
Christian Defense #4
We looked at Christian Defense #1, #2 and #3 in previous articles. Defense #1 is to teach your children not to engage with atheist street epistemologists until they train in faith defense. Defense #2 is to train your children in the basics of faith defense. Defense #3 is to model faith defense for your children.
We move now to Defense #4.
“Support your children as they defend the Gospel.”
It’s important that we teach our children what to defend and how to defend it. We also need to remember that when our children defend the Gospel they are involved in spiritual warfare. They will need our support in many ways.
The Apostle Paul wrote the Philippians that he was “appointed for the defense of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:17) He wrote the Romans that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) Paul wrote the Galatians that “even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
We and our children, like the Apostle Paul, are appointed for the “defense of the Gospel.”
So, what is the Gospel?
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The heart of the Gospel is this:
- that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture
- that He was buried
- that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures
- that He was seen
This is what God has appointed us to defend – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Notice an important aspect of the defense (apologia) – “according to the Scripture.” Our defense of the Gospel includes the defense of the Bible. The “Scripture” Paul referred to in the middle of the 1st century AD was what we call the “Old Testament.”
I think we sometimes forget about the importance of the Old Testament in Christian apologetics. Jesus died and rose from death “according to” the Old Testament Scriptures.
A complete apologetic will include defense of the entire Bible. How equipped are our children to do that? How equipped are we to do that?
Defending the Gospel
The Apostle Paul wrote that God had assigned him the work of defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ –
“Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:15-17
Paul wrote the Philippians later in his life, so he had many years to develop his ‘apologetic’ for defending the Gospel. Along the way, as he was developing his skills of faith defense, we are given some insight into how we can train and support our children.
One important area is to understand what’s on the battlefield and what’s not.
Let me say that again.
It’s important to understand what’s on the battlefield and what’s not.
Can you imagine an army fighting against things that are not on the battlefield? It can happen, so let’s be careful. Soldiers and sailers have been known to get into arguments and fights that have nothing to do with the battle they were assigned to fight. Their off-battlefield fighting often put them in military prison where they are of no help to the real battle. We have a certain number of fighting days on earth and we don’t want to waste one of them.
As we watch Paul move from city to city in the Book of Acts, we witness his focus on what’s important .. what’s on the battlefield and what’s not. Here are a couple of examples of things that can get Christians off-track from fighting the battles on the battlefield.
Politics – how did Paul deal with local, regional and empire politics during his travels? Did he dig in his heels and try to make changes to every political system he came across? Did he spend his precious days trying to make political changes or did he focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes people’s hearts, minds and lives?
It’s interesting that Paul told Christians to pray for political leaders, even though most of them were pagans and some even hostile to Christianity.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will [a]bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Romans 13:1-7
Worldly Philosophy – how did Paul deal with worldly philosophy when he heard it? Did he rail against the philosophers and try to change their way of thinking through philosophical means? or did he focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes people’s minds, hearts and lives?
One example is how Paul dealt with the worldly philosophies he encountered in Athens. Let’s look at Acts 17 beginning with verse 16 –
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.”
Did pagan idol worship bother Paul? Absolutely! His “spirit was provoked within him.” So, what did Paul do about it?
“Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”
Paul “reasoned” with Jews and Gentile worshipers in the synagogue and in the marketplace every day with whoever happened to be there. Paul encountered epicurean and Stoic philosophers in the marketplace.
Aaahh, you say. That’s evidence Paul used human philosophy to reason with the human philosophies of his day. Are you sure about that?
The Greek word for “reasoned” is διαλέγομαι (dialégomai). We get the English word “dialog” from it. The idea is to consider different views on a subject – “getting a conclusion across, speaking to a conclusion.” The reasoning process includes an exchange of logic.
That’s what Paul did in the synagogue with Jews and Gentile worshipers and in the marketplace with Epicureans, Stoics and other philosophers. So, did Paul use human wisdom to “dialog” with these people?
“He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”
While Paul certainly knew the arguments of human philosophy, his “logic” was Jesus crucified – the Gospel.
We see that clearly when Paul spoke at the Areopagus in Athens. The pagan philosophers wanted to know about the “new doctrine” Paul introduced to them as he “reasoned” with them. They viewed what he said as “strange things to our ears.” Here’s how Paul addressed the philosophers. Again, we’re in Acts 17. It’s a good lesson for us and our children when we’re reasoning with non-Christians.
“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.’ And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter.’ So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.”
Paul also wrote this about using human wisdom to fight the battles before us –
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Notice that Paul stayed on the battlefield and used the Gospel (Jesus Christ and Him crucified) to fight the spiritual battles he faced. He did NOT come to them with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to them the testimony of God. He said that his speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Why? “… that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Paul was not interested in fighting the wrong battles. He did not want to get off the battlefield God had assigned him. Paul focused on what God sent him to do. That’s what we need to do. That’s what we need to teach our children to do.
Read Paul’s accounts of his own conversion story from Judaism to Christianity and you’ll see that his focus was always on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” That’s where we need to be when we talk to people and in how we spend our time.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.