Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the category “Faith Defense”

Book Review: Understanding Postmodernism

We hear a lot about Postmodernism, but what is it? How does it work? How did we get here from there?

The new book Understanding Postmodernism: A Christian Perspective (IVP Academic, 2017) is a wonderful look into how societies have moved from premodernism to modernism to postmodernism through many centuries. The IVP web page lists the following categories for the book: Cultural Analysis, Ethics, Philosophy, Postmodernism, Worldview. Any or all of those work well for this excellent guide.

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Street Epistemology: Why?

Why do atheists do it? Why do they do street epistemology? What are the real purposes of street epistemology? What’s really behind this relatively new movement?

Atheist evangelists (street epistemologists) answer me this way:

“Boghossian himself says in his book that the purpose of SE is to help people embrace reason. His thesis, so to speak, is that this will cause people to stop using faith, which he considers an unreasonable epistemology.”

“Boghossian” is Peter Boghossian, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. He came up with the idea for and name “street epistemology.” Thanks to his book we have answers to questions about the “purpose” of street epistemology.

“This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith.”

That is the stated purpose of street epistemology. That is helpful to know what atheists are doing as they approach Christians with questions why they believe in God, but it doesn’t explain “why” atheists spend their time doing that. Given that atheists believe this life is all there is, why would they spend any of their limited lifetime to talk with people who believe something they don’t believe. Seems like a waste of the little time they have available to them. So, why do they do it? What do they get from it?

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Book Review: The City of God and the Goal of Creation

The City of God and the Goal of Creation (Crossway, 2018) by T. Desmond Alexander is part of a series of books about biblical theology. The editors of the series explained both the purpose and challenge –

“… one of the great advances in evangelical biblical scholarship over the past few generations has been the recovery of biblical theology—that is, a renewed appreciation for the Bible as a theologically uni ed, historically rooted, progressively unfolding, and ultimately Christ-centered narrative of God’s covenantal work in our world to redeem sinful humanity. This renaissance of biblical theology is a blessing, yet little of it has been made available to the general Christian population. The purpose of Short Studies in Biblical Theology is to connect the re-surgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers. Each volume is written by a capable scholar or churchman who is consciously writing in a way that requires no prerequisite theological training of the reader. Instead, any thoughtful Christian disciple can track with and benefit from these books.” Series Preface, Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt, p 11

T. Desmond Alexander is a Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Prior to that appointment he was Director of Christian Training for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and lectured for 18 years in Semitic Studies at the Queen’s University in Belfast. He has held the position of Chairman of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical and Theological Research since 2009.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.22

Alexandria, Egypt was a major center for Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Coptic Christians believe that John Mark (author of the Gospel of Mark) was the first to preach the Gospel in Egypt. The Catechetical School of Alexandria was started by Pantaenus toward the end of the 2nd century and many believe it to be the oldest Christian catechetical school. Clement of Alexandria became head of the school after Pantaenus’ death in about 200 AD. One of Clement’s prominent students was Origen.

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Convince Me There’s A God: Lessons From Classical and Evidential Apologetics

I began this exciting journey more than five years ago (October 2012). The journey is explaining what convinced me to leave atheism for theism (Christianity).

Here’s how I began the conversation:

“So, you don’t believe there’s a God. I understand. I didn’t believe in God either, until May of 1971. Most atheists I’ve talked with about the existence of God during the last 40 years have expressed their concern for me in one way or another. Some have asked if I was ill and on heavy medication at the time of my conversion. Others said I must have been a very poor atheist because good atheists don’t believe in God. I was not ill or on medication at the time and people who knew me said I was a ‘good’ atheist. Something happened that led me to look at various arguments for the existence of God, and once I looked I found something I had never seen before.”

The series, Convince Me There’s A God, currently has 44 articles and there are many more to come. Why? Someone has said of the evidence for the existence of God, the historical reliability of the Bible, and the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that it is an “embarrassment of riches.” There is so much evidence available to investigate.

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Life of an Apologist – On the Importance of Love

A Christian who determines to spend their life as an ‘apologist’ is committing to a life-long ‘defense’ of the Christian worldview. That includes the existence of God, reliability of Scripture, and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Life of an ApologistThe attacks on Christianity have increased tremendously since I left atheism for theism and Christianity almost 47 years ago. Some of that is because of increased online communication (e.g. email, posted comments, social media) with atheists and other non-Christians, but there is also a growing hostility toward the Christian worldview at a societal level.

How should Christian apologists respond to the hostility day after day, month after month, year after year? There is a secret to ‘defending’ the Faith longterm and we learn that secret from the greatest ‘faith defender’ of all history.

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Book Review: The Story of Reality

    I love the title!

The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between (Zondervan, 2017).

Greg Koukl is already well known for writing Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air (with Francis Beckwith – Baker Books, 1998) and Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Zondervan, 2009), speaking on scores of university campuses, hosting a radio show for almost 30 years, serving as an adjunct professor of Christian apologetics at Biola University, and being Founder/President of Stand to Reason. So, why a book about reality and why now? 

“The first question any of us learns to ask about anything—and we usually learn to ask it quite early in life—is ‘Why?’ … There are answers to life’s most basic questions, though, and in this book I want to give them to you. I know the answers not because I am especially clever and figured them out on my own. Of course, some things you can safely conclude if you think carefully about the cause … But the best way to get accurate insight into any story is to let the author tell you himself. Yes, life is a kind of story and this Story has an Author. This is one thing that’s fairly easy to figure out from the clues. In this book I want to tell you that story—the Story of reality—and help you see your place in it.” Preface, p 17-18

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.21

We are currently looking at the writings of 3rd century Christian apologists. We started with Hippolytus and Clement of Alexandria. We’ve looked at Clement’s Exhortation to the Heathen, To The Newly Baptized, and Paedagogus Books I, II & III.

Before we move to another apologist, let’s see what Clement of Alexandria accomplished in his Stromta series and what a 21st century Christian apologist can learn from him.

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Book Review: Theistic Evolution – A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique

I have written many times during our ongoing series of Book Reviews that “you should buy this book.” I meant what I wrote about those previous books, but “you really should buy this book!” – Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (Crossway, 2017).

I was a strong Darwinian evolutionist in the 1960’s and saw no reason to believe in the existence of a “creator god” because science had “proven” one was not needed. So, it was scientific arguments for “creator/designer theism” that first caught my attention as a hard-core atheist.  I followed the evidence from science to philosophy to historical to textual evidence and determined that the God of the Bible existed, that the Bible is a credible historical document, and that Jesus Christ came from Heaven to earth to offer us the gift of eternal life.

I benefited greatly from meeting Christians who presented me with scientific evidence for the designer God who created the Heavens and the earth. I have continued to read both sides of the argument since becoming a Christian and to stay up with relevant scientific discoveries and arguments.

However, there are Christians who believe the scientific evidence doesn’t support theistic creation and that’s what this new tome (1,008 pages!) addresses. Given the importance of this topic to my own conversion from atheism to Christianity, the conversion of many other former atheists, and the future conversion of non-believers, I view this new book of “vital” importance in the ongoing discussion about God and science.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.20

We began this series, A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists, 18 months ago for the purpose of emphasizing the importance of reading for apologists –

“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).” Reading Plan, June 2016

So far, we have published 23 articles that cover major Christian writings from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries. In our last two articles, we looked at the 3rd century writings of Hippolytus and Clement of Alexandria. We looked at Clement’s Exhortation to the Heathen and Paedagogus (The Instructor), Book I. We now turn to Books II & III.

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Book Review: Leaving Mormonism – Why Four Scholars Changed their Minds

Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds (RatioChristiBooks/Kregel Publications, 2017) is the best book I’ve read about the inner workings of Mormonism, but it’s much more than that. Four former Mormons who are scholars in various academic disciplines also share their deep love for Mormons and their desire to help them understand the truthfulness of the Bible and the errors of the Mormon religion.

Drs. Corey Miller and Lynn K. Wilder are the book’s editors and co-wrote chapters with Drs. Latayne C. Scott and Vince Eccles. Their combined range of doctorates from Philosophical Theology to Education to Biblical Studies to Physics brings a special perspective that makes Leaving Mormonism a must-have guide for every Christian who wants to better understand Mormonism and for every Mormon who may be having doubts about their religion.

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Developing An Apologetic That Works

Three questions I hear often are:

  1. What martial arts style do you teach?
  2. What church do you attend?
  3. What apologetics method do you use?

I know that when people ask those questions they are usually prepared to make a decision about me and what I do based on a judgment grounded in a presupposition. They already believe a particular martial art is the best martial art. They already believe one church denomination is the best denomination. They already believe one apologetic method is the best method. Their interest is often less about learning from me than discovering whether I can learn from them.

The question I don’t hear, but wish I did, is “does it work?” Does the martial art style I teach work in real life? Does the denominational church I attend work in real life? Does the apologetics method I use work in real life?

If a martial art is fun to learn but doesn’t work in a real-life physical situation, you might want to question whether it’s the right self defense to study since your physical life may depend on it some day.

If a denominational church is fun to attend but doesn’t work in a real-life spiritual situation, you might want to question whether it’s the right denomination to attend since your spiritual life may depend on it some day.

If an apologetic method is fun to study but doesn’t work in a real-life worldview situation, you might want to question whether it’s the right apologetic method to use since the spiritual lives of other people may very well depend on it some day.

If you’re interested in martial art styles that work, please visit our Grace Martial Arts Blog. If you’re interested in denominational churches that work, I would point you to a four-part series titled A Prophet’s Perspective About Preachers. If you’re interested in developing an apologetics method that works for you, please continue reading.

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Book Set Review: The Lightfoot Legacy

J.B. Lightfoot was one of the first names I heard as a young Christian studying about the Greek text of the New Testament. His name came up again and again as an expert in both the Greek language and commentary on the New Testament from the original Koine Greek. Some of Lightfoot’s best-known writings were about the Apostle Paul’s Epistles and the Apostolic Fathers.

InterVarsity Press (IVP Academic) has published an exciting set of three books based on hundreds of pages of unpublished commentaries by Lightfoot. The title of the three volume set is The Lightfoot Legacy (IVP Academic, 2016), edited by Ben Witherington III and Todd D. Still.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 36

Convince Me Theres A GodIn the last part of our series about archaeology we began looking at archaeological evidence for the Old Testament writings of Hebrew prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Prior to that we looked at evidence for the writings of the Hebrew leader and scribe Ezra. All three contain specific information about the relationship of Jews to the Persian government. The historical data of the Old Testament can be compared to historical information from extra-biblical sources, meaning the Bible can be tested.

I “tested” the Bible as an atheist in 1971 to see if the writings were credible. Was the Bible, as I believed at the time, only legends and fables? Or was it history? If it was just legends and fables, then it didn’t matter what it claimed was true .. but if it was historically accurate, then what about its truth claims? Would that make a difference to me as an atheist? Should it?

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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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