Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Christianity”

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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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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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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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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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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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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Book Review: Christianity on Trial

Christianity on TrialW. Mark Lanier is one of America’s top trial lawyers. He was awarded the coveted Clarence Darrow Award in 2012 and was named to the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Lawyers list for nine consecutive years. Lanier was also named as the 2013 Top Class Action Attorney in America, having personally won $10-billion in lifetime verdicts. His courtroom work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and he has been a frequent guest on CNBC and Fox Business News. Mark Lanier is also a Christian.

It’s interesting how that last fact surprises some people. They find it difficult to comprehend how someone who deals with evidence for a living could also be a follower of Jesus Christ. Isn’t Christianity about believing in things without evidence? Let’s see what Mark Lanier has to say about that.

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Book Review: Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness

Fools TalkOs Guinness wrote in his new book, Fool’s Talk: Recovering The Art Of Christian Persuasion (IVP Books, 2015), that his own journey to faith was more than intellectual. He said it included a long, slow, critical debate in his mind during his school years.

“On one side, I listened to the arguments of such famous atheists as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and on the other side to such Christian thinkers as Blaise Pascal, Fyodor Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.”

Guinness began writing books more than 40 years ago (The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture, and the Proposal for a Third Way) and quickly became known as one of the best thinkers in Christianity. He went on to write more than 30 books (e.g. The Call, Doing Well and Doing Good, The Devil’s Gauntlet, Dining with the Devil, Time for Truth, In Two Minds, God in the Dark, Unspeakable, A Free People’s Suicide, The American Hour, Long Journey Home, The Case For Civility, The Global Public Square, Renaissance: The Power Of The Gospel However Dark The Times) while working as a freelance reporter with the BBC, as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, and as a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies. He is also the founder of the Trinity Forum and project director of the Trinity Forum Study Series and was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter and the Global Charter of Conscience. Guinness is currently a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

Dr. Guinness (DPhil, Oxford University) is known around the world as an influential speaker, social critic and thought-provoking writer. So, with all that he’s already said, what else can he possibly write that Christians should read?

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Book Review: Reasons For Our Hope

Reasons For Our HopeReasons For Our Hope: An Introduction To Christian Apologetics by H. Wayne House and Dennis W. Jowers (B&H Academic, 2011) is a MUST for every Christian’s bookshelf. As Normal Geisler wrote in the Foreword to the book – “Never before has apologetics been needed more.”

Building an apologetics library that works in the real world of ‘faith defense’ is an important task for every Christian – especially parents and others who work with children, teens and young adults.

Reasons For Our Hope is a wonderful resource that addresses multiple aspects of Christian apologetics and is easy to use. The authors, who are both professors, bring the best of their seminary classes to this amazing document.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 11

Street EpistemologyWe’re getting close to the end of this series about the 5 Steps of Faith Defense, so let’s quickly review what we’ve learned so far.

First, an understanding of why the need for ‘faith defense.’

“Street Epistemology is a vision and a strategy for the next generation of atheists, skeptics, humanists, philosophers, and activists … Enter the Street Epistemologist: an articulate, clear, helpful voice with an unremitting desire to help people overcome their faith and to create a better world–a world that uses intelligence, reason, rationality, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, sincerity, science, and kindness to build the future; not a world built on faith, delusion, pretending, religion, fear, pseudoscience, superstition, or a certainty achieved by keeping people in a stupor that makes them pawns of unseen forces because they’re terrified.” A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Chapter 1, pg. 22, Pitchstone Publishing, 2013

Peter Boghossian and many atheists who agree with him are part of a growing number of street epistemologists committed to talking people ‘out’ of their belief in God. As Boghossian told fellow atheist Sam Harris – “My primary goal was to give readers the tools to talk people out of faith and into reason.” (Sam Harris Blog)

The problem with that statement is the atheist belief that ‘faith’ is based on something other than ‘reason.’ Christianity, for example, is based on evidence and a reasonable belief in the power of that evidence. Atheists don’t agree with that statement, but their disagreement doesn’t make the statement less true. Any statement that is true is true no matter who doesn’t believe it is true. That is the power of logic and reason.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 9

Street EpistemologyOur children and teenagers are in danger – spiritual and physical. As parents, grandparents and Christians involved in the lives of children and youth, we have a God-given responsibility to protect them. How do we do that and what tools does God give us for that work?

Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people … Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 9-10

How often should we teach our children God’s Word? At least once a week during church, right? God says we should teach our children every day.

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

Where do we begin? What is the first lesson our children need to learn?

Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Psalm 34:10

The ‘fear’ of the Lord is the first lesson – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a) – and an important part of the last lesson – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

From the beginning to the end, we need to be prepared.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 8

Street EpistemologyIn our last post in this series about street epistemologists, we looked at the Second Step in Faith Defense. We introduced the idea of a ‘complete’ model of biblical preaching which includes ‘warning’ and ‘teaching’ every man ‘in all wisdom.’ The purpose of this complete model of biblical preaching is that we ‘may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.’

“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Colossians 1:28

The word ‘warning’ is a translation of the Greek word noutheteo, which means ‘to put in mind, warn, admonish, exhort.’ The word ‘teaching’ is a translation of the Greek word didaskontes, which means ‘teach, direct, give instruction, admonish.’ The word ‘perfect’ is a translation of the Greek word teleion, which means ‘mature, having reached its end, finished, complete in all its parts, full grown, of full age.’

Let’s expand our view of Paul’s warning to the Colossian Christians to see how it can help parents and church leaders deal with the many challenges our children face today.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 6

Street EpistemologyYou’ve seen the reports …

About 70% of Christian youth leave the church after high school and 80% of those teens said they had no plans during high school to leave their church (LifeWay Research, 2007). Research showed that most of the dropout took place between the ages of 17 and 19. The majority of teens in the study said they stopped going to church because they no longer saw it as important to their life. Some eventually return to church attendance when they have children of their own, but many do not.

Less than 0.5% of the young adult population in the United States has a biblical worldview. (Barna Group Research, 2009)

I started questioning Christianity at the age of 12 and left the ‘faith’ of my parents at the age of 17 (I say my ‘parent’s faith’ because it was never my faith). Within one year of leaving the church I was an atheist. Unfortunately, that is the story of hundreds of thousands of Christian families in North America and Europe.

That fact makes the disguised ‘interventions’ of street epistemologists even more dangerous because the Church has not equipped children and young adults to know why they believe what they believe.

In this final section of our special series, Street Epistemologists – On Guard, we will share the 5 Steps to Faith Defense that will help prepare your children and the children in your church to face the enemy head on.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 5

Street EpistemologyStreet epistemologists are trained to ‘talk people out of their faith.’ That can mean many things and go in many different directions depending on what theists know about their beliefs and why they believe what they believe.

We started this series about Street Epistemologists – On Guard several weeks ago because the author of A Manual For Creating Atheists tweeted this to his followers:

. Peter Boghossian @peterboghossian

These attempts to discourage people from being honest, less dogmatic, & more humble, will fail. http://
faithandselfdefense.com/2015/01/18/breaking-down-street-epistemology/

That tweet brought hundreds of atheists and street epistemologists to FaithandSelfDefense.com and many of them began to engage me in what I recognized as an ‘intervention’ to talk me out of my faith.

Recognizing when a ‘discussion’ is really an ‘intervention’ is very helpful in Faith Defense, but that’s the beginning of being ‘on guard.’ In addition to knowing ‘why’ street epistemologists want to talk with Christians (to talk them out of their faith), we also need to know ‘what’ they will do and say and ‘how’ they will do it. Read more…

Book Review: Brian Morley’s ‘Mapping Apologetics’

Mapping Apologetics Cover ImageI want to begin this book review by saying ‘BUY IT!’ Okay, now to the review.

First, let’s meet the author: Dr. Brian K. Morley is professor of philosophy and apologetics at the Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California. He has been a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and the Society of Christian Philosophers. He is also the author of God in the Shadows: Evil in God’s World.

Dr. Morley’s new book is titled Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches (IVP Academic, 2015). He focuses on how people decide what to believe and poses the question this way: ‘How do we answer life’s most important question–the one on which everything else in life depends?” The subject of Morley’s book is the “foundational question of apologetics, the matter of proof.”

I strongly recommend that anyone interested in the “defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17) purchase this book and here’s why.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 4


Street Epistemology
Street epistemologists are trained in what their trainers believe are the best methods to ‘talk people out of their faith.’

In our previous post about street epistemologists, we saw that atheists are taught to ‘avoid facts’ when talking with theists. It’s part of what they call ‘intervention strategies.’ Street epistemologists believe that ‘faith,’ belief in God, is a ‘virus’ that must be removed from the ‘faithful.’ Street epistemologists are taught that theists experience ‘severe doxastic pathologies’ and need a cure. That cure, they believe, will come through an ‘intervention’ cloaked as a ‘discussion.’

I say ‘cloaked’ because street epistemologists are advised not to reveal their atheism during the intervention with a theist. They are also told that what they will be doing through the ‘intervention’ will be a great ‘help’ to the ‘delusional’ theist.

‘Your discussions with the faithful are a genuine opportunity for you to help people reason more reliably and feel less comfortable pretending to know things they don’t know. They also present an opportunity for you to further develop a disposition conducive to anchoring beliefs in reality.’ (A Manual For Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian, Pichstone Publishing, 2013, Chapter 4)

Let’s take a closer look at how street epistemologists are using their techniques for talking people out of their faith and read some examples.

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Street Epistemologists – On Guard 3

Street EpistemologyAvoid Facts. That’s the heading under ‘Part II: Strategies’ in atheist Peter Boghossian’s 2013 book titled A Manual For Creating Atheists. I find that both interesting and insightful to the methodology of what Boghossian calls ‘street epistemology.’

That statement, ‘Avoid Facts,’ is counterintuitive to my training and experience as an investigative journalist. ‘Fact’ is defined by a variety of dictionaries as ‘something that actually exists; reality; truth; something known to exist or to have happened; information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.’

People like journalists, detectives, educators, scientists and scholars use ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ as vital and necessary to their profession. The idea of ‘avoiding facts,’  it seems to me, is opposed to the search for truth.

Here’s how Peter Boghossian explains his reasons for training street epistemologists to ‘avoid facts.’

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