Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “atheism”

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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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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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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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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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 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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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: 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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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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Arguments for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 5

In our last post we heard from Dr. Mike Licona, co-author with Dr. Gary Habermas of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

Our next presenter on the subject of Christ’s resurrection is Jonathan McLatchie. Jonathan is a Christian writer, international speaker and debater in areas as diverse as  Darwinian Evolution (Jonathan holds a Bachelor’s degree in forensic biology, a Master’s degree in evolutionary biology, a second Master’s degree in medical and molecular bioscience, and is a PhD student in cell biology), Intelligent Design, Islam and atheism.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 35

Convince Me Theres A GodIn the last part of our series we saw that according to the Bible (Old Testament) King Solomon built the first Temple and the Babylonian Army destroyed it. We also know from the Old Testament that Zerubbabel built the second Temple. We learn from Jewish and other historical writings that the Hasmoneans refurbished the second Temple, King Herod expanded it, and the Roman Army destroyed it.

As I researched the Old Testament as an atheist to see if it was a credible historical document, I came across the writings of Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. They all refer to a time following the forced exile of Jews to Babylon. According to the Bible that forced exile began under Babylonian King Nebuchaddnezar in 605 BC (Daniel 1) and ended when Persian King Cyrus the Great allowed Jews to return to Judah in about 538 BC.

We have previously looked at evidence for Ezra, so let’s look next at archaeological evidence for Haggai and Zechariah.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 34

Temple Mount Archaeology

According to the Bible (Old Testament) King Solomon built the first Temple, the Babylonian Army destroyed it; Zerubbabel built the second Temple, the Hasmoneans refurbished the second Temple, King Herod expanded it, and the Roman Army destroyed it. Jesus Christ prophesied in the early part of the 1st century AD about the destruction of the Second Temple.

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44

About 40 years after Jesus spoke those words, the Roman General Titus (later became Emperor) led his soldiers to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple after a lengthy siege of the ancient city.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 1.1

The first and most important part of a reading plan for a Christian apologist is to have a powerful grasp on God’s Word – the Bible. We addressed that in Part 1 of this study and will continue to emphasize the importance of Christian apologists (and all Christians) being actively involved in regular Bible reading and study for the rest of our lives.

Before moving to Part 2 of the reading plan, I’d like to share personal thoughts about some of the “overarching” truths about God and the Bible I believe every Christian apologist should acknowledge. I’ve been involved in ministry for almost 45 years and am familiar with the fact that Christians disagree on many things. However, I believe Christians can and should agree on particular truths concerning God based on the clear teaching of the Bible.

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Book Review: Teaching Others To Defend Christianity

41WxlRjdEnL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Teaching Others To Defend Christianity: What Every Christian Should Know by Cathryn Buse (Crosslink Publishing, 2016) is one of the best new apologetics books I’ve read. Cathryn has a Master of Science in Engineering (summa cum laude) from the University of Alabama Huntsville and spent almost a decade working on military weapons systems, commercial rocket manufacturing, and NASA design programs. Cathryn loves science and Christian apologetics and that comes through strongly in her new book.

Cathryn Buse is the Founder of Defend The Faith Ministry and cares deeply about the challenges Christians face in society.

“The church can no longer neglect its responsibility to prepare the believer to navigate through all the competing ideas and philosophies the world offers. Schools, media, and society are peddling the idea that science trumps religion, that the Bible is out of date, and that all religions are equal. The church must begin educating and preparing its congregation to counter that kind of ideology.” Teaching Others To Defend Christianity, p. xi

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 33

Convince Me Theres A GodWe 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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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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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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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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