Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Existence of God”

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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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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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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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: 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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Hope For America’s Youth – Ratio Christi Regions

We introduced you to Ratio Christi in the last part of this special series. We looked at its purpose and history in reaching high school and college students and faculty members with evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview.

Ratio Christi started on one campus in the United States in 2008 and now has about 170 chapters across the country plus scores of chapters in many other countries of the world. Serving the needs of all those chapters is a challenge and Ratio Christi has developed a unique way of meeting the challenge.

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Hope For America’s Youth – Ratio Christi

In the first part of this series about Hope For America’s Youth we presented the conflict – millions of young people are leaving churches during or after high school. In the second part of this series we shared the resolution – giving answers to questions about the hope we have as Christians through reasoning and persuasion.

There are many ministries doing wonderful work in this area of providing answers and reason to young people in high school and college. In this part of our series we will share about one of the best Christian organizations currently doing this vital work.

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Hope For America’s Youth – Answers

In the first part of this series about Hope For America’s Youth we presented the conflict – millions of young people are leaving churches during or after high school. The statistics are staggering and sobering. How could this happen? How could parents and church leaders invest 15-18 years teaching a child about Christianity only to see that child abandon the Christian worldview for another belief system (e.g. atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism)?

If Christianity is true and every other worldview is false (which it is), parents and church leaders are faced with the dilemma of how to deal with young people’s rejection of the truth. Suggestions?

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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 2

The first part of a reading plan for Christian apologists is to read the Bible indepth, in context and often. If you haven’t read the first part of the series, please read that along with this new part.

The original writings of the Bible were in three ancient languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but parts of Daniel and Ezra were written in Aramaic. All of the New Testament was written in Greek.

The Bible has been translated into hundreds of languages, including English, so why bother learning to read/study the Bible in the original languages? Aren’t translations good enough to learn everything God wants us to know about His Word?

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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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