Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Jesus Christ”

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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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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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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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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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 3.18

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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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.17

We recently completed looking at some of the leading Christian apologists of the 2nd century AD. We move now to apologists of the 3rd century.

The early Christians lived  during the Roman Empire. We read about the impact of the Roman government on Jesus Christ, His apostles and other disciples throughout the writings of the New Testament.  As Christianity spread across the world from the 1st through 3rd centuries, followers of Christ faced the challenges of paganism and a government that became increasingly oppositional to Christianity.

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Book Review: Conversion – How God Creates A People

Conversion: How God Creates A People by Michael Lawrence (Crossway, 2017) is part of the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series from Crossway. Lawrence, who is the lead pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, has a PhD in Church History from Cambridge University and MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He also authored Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church (Crossway, 2010).

Dr. Lawrence started his book with Scripture, which I always appreciate because all of our thoughts should begin with God’s Word. Here’s what he chose to use –

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:10)

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.16

We’ve been looking at 2nd century Christian apologists for several months and after this post will move into the 3rd century. There are several more apologists to mention. Even though we don’t know as much about them as we do other Christians of that era, each played an important role in the early years of the Church.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.15

Reading the writings of 1st and 2nd century Church apologists helps modern Christians in many ways –

  • Helps us understand how Christians who knew the apostles or disciples of the apostles dealt with theological concerns in the Church as well as heresies and challenges from local and national governments
  • Helps us understand what early Christian leaders believed was important to members of their churches
  • Helps us understand how similar early heresies were to the heresies we face today
  • Helps us understand how to respond to challenges from local and national governments
  • Helps us dispel misconceptions about Christianity
  • Helps us develop strategies for responding to modern heresies
  • Helps us explain and demonstrate Christian faith and practice
  • Helps us support other Christians in their lives and ministries
  • Helps us understand how early Christians lived, worshipped, evangelized and discipled
  • Helps us understand how important the Bible and prayer were to the early Christians and how important they are to us today

We are currently reading the writings of 2nd century Christian apologists, including –

We now look at several more apologists from that era. As you read about them and their writings, look for insights to defending the Christian worldview and reaching people for Christ today.

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Book Review: Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

The full title of this wonderful book is Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017). The author, Dr. Michael Licona, is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus. Lee Strobel interviewed Licona for his book “The Case for the Real Jesus” and video “The Case for Christ.”

Dr. Licona is the author of several books including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010) and Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006). He is also co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Licona is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He is also a well-known speaker and debater and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.14

“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:29-30

“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

The Apostles of Jesus Christ warned Christians in the 1st century AD that false teachers would come at them from both inside and outside the Church. They would secretly bring in destructive heresies and draw away the disciples after themselves. Those were prophetic words because it happened in the 1st century and continues today in the 21st century.

We are currently looking in this series at some of the Christian apologists from the early centuries of Church history to see how they addressed attacks on Christians and Christianity.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.13

Christians should be thinkers and thinkers should be readers. Christian apologists should be critical thinkers and should read critically. That’s the purpose for this special series.

As we have seen so far in our series about A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists, the writings of Christ’s Apostles are vital to sound doctrine; the writings of the disciples of the apostles and the disciples of the disciples of the apostles are important to understanding how they defended the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. Christian apologetics is by definition a “defense” of the Christian faith.

We continue now with our look at some of the leading Christian apologists of the 2nd century. Next up is Tertullian.

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A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.11

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 

Before we continue looking at the writings of early Christian apologists, I’d like to share something important for us to remember as we read post-Scriptural Christian writings.

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