Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “theism”

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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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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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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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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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 28

Convince Me Theres A GodDarius or Cyrus?

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” Daniel 5:30-31

Daniel wrote that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon, but Herodotus wrote that Cyrus received it. Who is right?

In the last part of our series we looked at how archaeological discoveries from ancient Babylon support many of the historical claims found in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. There is support for the co-regency of Belshazzar (with his father Nabonidus) and Belshazzar’s death at the hands of the Persians. However, what archaeological support is there for a 62-year-old Darius the Mede receiving the kingdom?

That’s where I  had Christians when I was an atheist. All I had to do was ask Christians to ‘prove it’ and they were stuck. They were not able to present any proof that Darius the Mede received the Kingdom of Babylon. In fact, Darius didn’t even become king until almost 20 years after Persia defeated Babylon. Right? Well …

Archaeologists have discovered evidence for two leaders named Darius during the 6th century BC. One is known as Darius the Mede and the other is known as Darius I.  Let’s begin with a look at the history of “Darius.”

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 27

Convince Me Theres A God“The handwriting is on the wall.”

The next time you hear someone use that phrase, ask them where it comes from. Many people have no idea it comes from the Book of Daniel.

“In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote … Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” Daniel 5:5, 24-25

In the last part of our study about archaeology and the Book of Daniel, we saw the evidence supporting the historical claim that Belshazzar ruled as a co-regent from Babylon. The “handwriting on the wall” concerns the last night of Belshazzar’s rule and the first days of the Persians conquering Babylon. Does archaeology support the details listed in Daniel? If so, what does that mean?

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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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Does Science Disprove God and the Bible?

“God is dead. We do not need him. It’s time to give up childish things and think as adults. Become scientifically literate. Become informed. Grow out of religious belief just as you did with the belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.” John W. Loftus, Author and Atheist (Debunking Christianity Blog)

Science and BibleJohn Loftus is well known for his ‘conversion’ from Christianity to atheism. Is he right about God? Loftus claims that science is a better explanation of existing phenomena than the Bible. He also believes that Christians are ‘not’ scientifically literate and need to ‘become informed.’ Is he right about that?

Let’s take a closer look.

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Film Review: Mining For God

Mining for God CoverMining For God (A Search for Ancient Truth in a Modern World) is an excellent documentary about Christianity in the United States. As filmmaker Brandon McGuire points out, even though the U.S. has been called a ‘Christian’ nation and 70% of adults in the U.S. identify themselves as Christians, many of them are not sure what being Christian really means.

That’s where the story begins.

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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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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 26

Convince Me Theres A GodThe Book of Daniel is one of the most contested writings in the Bible. Atheists understand the significance of Daniel and attack it with regularity.

Here’s a note on the Secular Web about Daniel:

“The prophecies of the Book of Daniel have fascinated readers and created controversy for the past two thousand years. Evangelical Christians believe that the prophet Daniel, an official in the courts of Near-Eastern emperors in the sixth century BC, foretold the future of the world from his own time to the end of the age. Actually, the book was written in Palestine in the mid-second century BC by an author who expected God to set up his everlasting kingdom in his own near future, as we read in the mainline commentaries and Bible dictionaries.

We pointed out in our last article that many atheists attack Daniel as being written centuries after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and King Cyrus of Persia actually ruled. They know that a late dating of Daniel would bring Daniel’s visions and prophecies into question and would also cause problems with the New Testament texts where Jesus uses the term ‘Son of Man’ (from Daniel 7:13) for Himself.

I would have agreed with atheists 45 years ago when I was also an atheist. However, that was before I looked into the evidence for the historical accuracy of the Book of Daniel.

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