Apologetics Class Sunday 9-27

I will probably start to post notes about what we’re doing in our apologetics class at my church.  Currently, we are reading the book Unsilenced: How to Voice the Gospel by James Boccardo.  It is a great book about evangelism that also includes some information about Apologetics.  Here are the note from this past Sunday’s class:

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Hi All,

Thanks for attending and participating today.  We had a good class albeit some technical difficulties.  For those that were unable to make it today, here is a summary of what we did:

  1. Watched a short (3 min 20 sec) clip of Lee Strobel interviewing William Lane Craig on the question “What Is the Role of Apologetics In Evangelism?”  In it, he gave 3 reasons why apologetics is important in the church and in evangelism – please watch the video to see the 3 reasons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7umMcyW1R2I
  2. Practiced our memory verse – Philemon 1:6 – I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
  3. We read pages 81-91, covering problems 5 – 8.
  4. After problem 7, we (attempted) to watch 2 short videos (~3 ½ min. each):
    1. We don’t have the original manuscripts by Alan Shlemon – this was related to “Problem #6”: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/07/challenge-response-we-dont-have-those-original-inerrant-manuscripts.html
    2. [J Warner Wallace] Getting to the Original Message through Multiple Copies with Errors – this was related to both “Problem #6” and “Problem #7”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNfp6M8kMDc
  5. Then after finishing problem 8, I challenged everyone to give me an answer to the question someone might ask us about how we can know Mormonism is false if we haven’t read the Book of Mormon or that Islam is false if we didn’t read the Qu’ran.  We had some good discussion that topic. I then handed out an article (which I encouraged you to read on your own) entitled “Does One Need To Investigate Every Religion Before One Can Conclude That Christianity Is True?”.  I have put the text at the bottom of this message.
  6. Finally, we finished up by discussing the following questions:
  1. (pg. 81) Problem #5: You’ve Never Been to Heaven or Hell, so You Can’t Tell Me About It!
    1. (pg. 81) What question can you ask someone who states the charge above?
    2. (pg. 81/82) What are some prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and why can we know that they weren’t “written in later”?
    3. (pg. 82 bottom) Is it possible for anyone else to have fulfilled these prophecies?
  2. (pg. 84) Problem #6: The Bible Was Written by Man, and We Don’t Even Have the Originals!
    1. (pg. 84) Why doesn’t this objection work?
    2. (pg. 84) How is this similar to Darwin’s notes?
    3. (pg. 85) Why is it ridiculous to think that any handwritten notes about God are automatically to be considered false?
  3. (pg. 86) Problem #7: There Are so Many “Interpretations” and “Translations” of the Bible
    1. (pg. 86) What is the difference between an “interpretation” and a “translation”?
    2. (pg. 86-87) What is the common misconception about how we got our modern English translations of the Bible?
    3. (pg. 87) Where can you look up the pictures of the ancient manuscripts?  http://www.csntm.org/
  4. (pg. 90) Problem #8: Who Says the Bible Is True Anyway?
    1. (pg. 90) What 2 questions should you ask someone who says “who says the Bible is true anyway”?
    2. What should you say if someone asks if you’ve read the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an?

 

Does One Need To Investigate Every Religion Before One Can Conclude That Christianity Is True?

June 10, 2014 by Jonathan McLatchie

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend concerning epistemology (how we come to know certain ideas to be true) and religious propositional claims. My friend asked me how I could be so confident that the evidence supports Christianity when I have not investigated every other religion to find out whether they have any evidence going for them.

This is a common talking-point that I encounter in discussions with atheists. “Have you read the Qur’an?” I am frequently asked. In the case of the Qur’an, I can claim to have read it and I have in fact studied Islam in significant depth. But I have not taken the time to study every religion in comparable detail. Does that mean I cannot conclude Christianity to be true and all other religions to be false? Of course not. By the very nature of concluding that the propositional claims of Christianity are true, one is de facto excluding other possibilities. If, for example, one concludes based on the evidence that Jesus really claimed to be divine (as I argue here), one has excluded as an option all religions that insist that Jesus did not claim to be God (such as Islam). Likewise, if one concludes based on the evidence that the Universe had a definite beginning in the finite past, one has excluded as an option all religions that assert that the Universe is eternal in the past (i.e. pantheistic religions).

It is curious that such reasoning is employed in discussions about religious questions when we rarely use such methodology in any other realm of inquiry. A homicide detective does not need to investigate every single individual in the city before he can conclude that a particular suspect committed the crime. Investigators of John F. Kennedy’s assassination did not need to investigate all of Kennedy’s contemporaries as potential suspects before they could conclude that his assassination was carried out by Lee Harvey Oswald.

One does not need to weigh up the arguments pro and con for every single possible alternative that is out there in order to conclude that a certain hypothesis best explains the available data. When multiple independent lines of evidence converge on a single given hypothesis, other possibilities are by nature excluded and it becomes unnecessary to investigate every conceivable candidate hypothesis before one can reach a proper judgment. Of course, one should always be open to the possibility that one’s judgment is mistaken and be prepared to revise conclusions should new information come to light. But one certainly does not need to investigate the tens of thousands of competing religious propositional claims that are out there in order to conclude that Christianity makes sense of the pertinent available data. Moreover, the claim that one has to investigate every religious proposition in order to assert any religious position backfires on the atheist, for it renders it impossible to draw any religious conclusions — including atheism.

Nobody has the time or resources to invest in studying every religion that has ever been proposed. Although I would encourage people to, at the very least, be acquainted with the three major Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism — the only theistic religions to teach creation ex nihilo, a claim consistent with modern cosmology), for one to be rationally justified in affirming Christianity as true, one only needs to show that it possesses sufficiently good evidence to warrant belief.

 

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mid-week apologetics booster (9-24-2015)

Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ!

Here are some links for you to take a look at:

  1. Homo naledi, a New Human Ancestor? http://www.icr.org/article/8962
  2. What to make of Homo naledi? http://creation.mobi/a/10392
  3. Beautiful story of Muslim man who found Christ (~8 minute video): https://www.facebook.com/isaac.olujide/videos/10202667653795377/
  4. Do You Know How Complex a Single Cell Is? http://www.creationmoments.com/radio/transcripts/do-you-know-how-complex-single-cell
  5. A big, untold story: Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun searching for the Messiah, and for atonement for their sins. The media isn’t reporting this. But it’s worth examining: https://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/a-big-untold-story-since-last-yom-kippur-millions-of-jews-have-begun-searching-for-the-messiah-and-for-atonement-for-their-sins-the-media-isnt-reporting-this-but-its-worth-examining/
  6. The Solar System: Earth and Moon (Jason Lisle, Ph.D.): http://www.icr.org/article/7691/256/
  7. There are more atheists and agnostics entering Harvard than Protestants and Catholics – Scott M. Sullivan: http://www.scottmsullivan.com/sad-news/
  8. More evidence for the reality of genetic entropy: http://creation.mobi/a/10260
  9. Ignoring God’s Clues: https://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/ignoring-gods-clues/
  10. Key to Scientific Success: https://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2015/09/09/secret-to-scientific-success/
  11. Mosquito Mechanics: https://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/mosquito-mechanics/
  12. Why Christianity? http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/WhyChristianity.htm
    1. The Trilemma: http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/WhyChristianityPart1.htm
    2. The Resurrection: http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/WhyChristianityPart2.htm
    3. God and Revelation: http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/WhyChristianityPart3.htm
    4. The Gospel: http://www.shenvi.org/Essays/WhyChristianityPart4.htm
  13. How To Handle a Steamroller in Apologetic Discussions: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2015/09/18/18071/
  14. Why the Jesus Movement Would Have Died Without a Resurrection: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/why-the-jesus-movement-would-have-died-without-a-resurrection/
  15. Mann’s Word: Ashamed of the Gospel: The Charge of “Fundamentalism”: http://mannsword.blogspot.com/2015/09/ashamed-of-gospel-charge-of.html?m=1
  16. Believing a ‘literal Genesis’ is ‘flesh-minded’? http://creation.mobi/a/10335
  17. Discussion Topic: Neanderthal Man and the Bible: http://aliveapologetics.com/details.php?id4=50
  18. US physics professor: ‘Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life’: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100058265/us-physics-professor-global-warming-is-the-greatest-and-most-successful-pseudoscientific-fraud-i-have-seen-in-my-long-life/
  19. Roman Catholicism: R.C. Sproul – Download, Teaching Series | Ligonier Ministries Store (free teaching series): http://www.ligonier.org/store/roman-catholicism-download-and-stream/?mobile=off
  20. Dinosaur Soft Tissues: They’re Real! | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/4819
  21. 40 Shocking Quotes from Barack Obama on Islam and Christianity: http://conservativetribune.com/obama-islam-and-christianity/
  22. Doubt: A Splinter In The Mind: http://crossexamined.org/doubt-a-splinter-in-the-mind/
  23. The Giraffe’s Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve — a Stumbling Block for Intelligent Design? – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/09/the_giraffes_re099621.html
  24. Why Does God Allow Evil? (video blog – Sean McDowell): http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/why-does-god-allow-evil
  25. Proof of God in the Palm of Your Hand! http://realtruth.org/articles/091207-003-science.html

“The LORD is good; a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him!” Nahum 1:7

Blessings to you all

mid-week apologetics booster (9-17-2015)

Good morning,

Here are your weekly links. There is a ton here!  Just pick out something that interests you and become informed:

  1. If God Created Everything, Who Created God? http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/who_created_god.html
  2. Why Claiming “Belief is a Psychological Crutch” Backfires: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/09/why-claiming-belief-is-psychological.html
  3. Why Should We Evangelize? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiwjKTFhkV0
  4. Was Hitler a Christian? Is Nazism similar to Christianity? http://winteryknight.com/2015/09/10/was-hitler-a-christian-is-nazism-similar-to-christianity-3/
  5. Christian Objections to Apologetics: http://www.faithbeyondbelief.ca/2015/09/08/christian-objections-to-apologetics/
  6. Why are Christians So Judgmental? Doesn’t the Bible Say, “Do Not Judge”: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/why_are_christians_judgmental.html
  7. Did They Really Live That Long in Genesis?|How Is It Possible For People to Live That Long?|Two Possible Explanations: https://carm.org/questions/other-questions/did-they-really-live-long-genesis
  8. Reasons To Believe : New Discovery Hands Human Evolution a Challenge: http://www.reasons.org/articles/new-discovery-hands-human-evolution-a-challenge
  9. Eye Evolution: Assumption, Not Science | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/6313/295/
  10. Was The American (US) Constitution Really Based on Biblical Principles? http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/was-the-american-us-constitution-really-based-on-biblical-principles/
  11. Speak to Persuade, Not Just to Rally – Far too often, we let divisions and disagreements keep us from testifying to the power of God’s grace with one voice to those who disagree with us. Let this video teach you how to speak to them with courage, compassion, and an aim for unity (12 ½ minute video): https://vimeo.com/128886050
  12. 5 Proofs for the existence of God: http://www.findingtruthmatters.org/articles/5proofs/index.html
  13. The Elliott Argument: http://theatheistkilla.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-elliott-argument-official.html
  14. What is Apologetics? Explaining Why the Gospel is True and Reasonable: http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/431/What_is_Apologetics_Explaining_Why_the_Gospel_is_True_and_Reasonable_IV
  15. I’ve Been Where You Are. I Know What You’re Thinking. But You Don’t Know Where I Am Because I Have Gone Beyond That: https://www.giveananswer.org/ive-been-where-you-are-i-know-what-youre-thinking-but-you-dont-know-where-i-am-because-i-have-gone-beyond-that/
  16. Bad Arguments Against Christianity: Miracles | A Clear Lens: http://clearlens.org/2015/09/10/bad-arguments-against-christianity-miracles/
  17. Of 10 highest IQ’s on earth, at least 8 are Theists, at least 6 are Christians: http://www.examiner.com/article/of-10-highest-iq-s-on-earth-at-least-8-are-theists-at-least-6-are-christians
  18. Can Cosmic Collisions Create? | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/4527/256/
  19. Stephen Hawking Admits Intelligent Design Is ‘Highly Probable’ World News Daily Report: http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/stephen-hawkins-admits-intelligent-design-is-highly-probable/
  20. Portrait of a Fanatic – A top physicist’s embarrassing tirade – Professor Lawrence M. Krauss: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423851/lawrence-krauss-physicist-fanatic
  21. Five Investigative Principles That Will Help You Be A Better Christian Case Maker: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/five-investigative-principles-that-will-help-you-be-a-better-christian-case-maker/
  22. Cecil the lion: should we care? – CMI Mobile: http://creation.mobi/a/10388
  23. Can Your Congregation Answer the Questions of a Post-Christian Society? http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2015/03/25/can-your-congregation-answer-the-questions-of-a-post-christian-society/
  24. What Ought We Make of the Word “Proof?” http://douglasgroothuis.com/2015/04/02/what-ought-we-make-of-the-word-proof/
  25. The Case Against New Atheism: http://thereforegodexists.com/the-case-against-new-atheism/
  26. Scientists Recognize that We Have a Designer Earth: http://www.creationmoments.com/radio/transcripts/scientists-recognize-we-have-designer-earth
  27. Biblical Worldview: What It Is, and What It Is Not: http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/call-response/14732-perspectives-biblical-worldview-what-it-is-and-what-it-is-not
  28. Establishing the Gospels’ Reliability: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/establishing-the-gospels-reliability
  29. Answering Near Death Experiences Like 90 Minutes in Heaven: http://www.equip.org/article/answering-near-death-experiences-like-90-minutes-in-heaven/
  30. False Prophecies of Joseph Smith: https://carm.org/false-prophecies-of-joseph-smith
  31. Stand to Reason | Prosperity or Persecution? http://www.str.org/articles/prosperity-or-persecution#.Vfjjg73n_qB
  32. Apologetics Strategies: The Myth of a Bulletproof Argument | Reflections: https://reflectionsbyken.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/apologetics-strategies-the-myth-of-a-bulletproof-argument/
  33. Hypocrisy of UC Berkeley liberalism is unacceptable | The Daily Californian: http://www.dailycal.org/2015/09/08/hypocrisy-of-uc-berkeley-liberalism-is-unacceptable/
  34. Why You Cannot Poll Test Christianity | TGC: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2015/09/15/why-you-cannot-poll-test-christianity/
  35. 5 Trends Christians Millennials MUST STOP Doing | John Wesley Reid: http://johnreidblogs.com/2015/09/08/5-trends-christian-millennials-must-stop-doing/
  36. Keep Chipping Away: https://answersingenesis.org/wild-brothers/missionary-blog/2015/09/15/keep-chipping-away/

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

AWANA started last night!

It was so great to be back at AWANA last night!  All of the young Bible toting clubbers coming in their green or blue shirts and (most of them) excited that it was starting up again too.  In particular, I have responsibility, during book time, for a group of 3 5th graders.  They were all wanting to memorize verses, answer questions and talk about spiritual things.  How refreshing it was!  One of the 5th grade girls brought up the question of who created God.  In her start zone booklet, she had to name 3 attributes of God to her leader (me).  One of those attributes was that God is eternal and another was that God was the creator of the universe and everything in it.  We talked about the concept of God being eternal, and I thought she understood it.  However, shortly after that, she asked, “Who created God?”  This just reinforces the fact that we need to be teaching and practicing apologetics earlier and earlier.  I explained to her that no one created God – that since he is eternal, He has no beginning or end.  I wanted to get into the problem of infinite regress, but didn’t have the time.  Here is an article that addresses this topic well:

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/who_created_god.html

Anyway, it was great to have AWANA starting again and I’m looking forward to teaching, mentoring, discipling the next generation of Christians!

mid-week apologetics booster (9-10-2015)

Good Morning!

Hope you’re having a great week! Here are your weekly links. Read one or two of these and “be prepared to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15). Being prepared means doing some study ahead of time – BEFORE you’re in that conversation:

  1. I’m Sorry! But the Church Needs Apologetics: http://www.faithbeyondbelief.ca/2015/09/03/im-sorry-but-the-church-needs-apologetics/
  2. Reasons To Believe : God, Naturalism, and the Meaning to Life: http://www.reasons.org/articles/god-naturalism-and-the-meaning-to-life
  3. Is the Christian Faith Evidentially Reasonable? | Cold Case Christianity: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/is-the-christian-faith-evidentially-reasonable/
  4. Student Worldview Outreach » Three Reasons to attend an Apologetics Conference: http://akorman.org/?p=114
  5. Vital Function Found for Whale ‘Leg’ Bones: http://www.icr.org/article/vital-function-found-for-whale-leg/
  6. Precambrian rabbits—death knell for evolution? – CMI Mobile: http://creation.mobi/a/10249
  7. Why Do Students Leave Their Faith After Graduation? http://www.churchleaders.com/daily-buzz/260593-students-leave-faith-graduation-according-research-biggest-factor.html
  8. What Is Gender Fluidity? (And Why It Shouldn’t Surprise You) | A Mindful Millennial: http://amindfulmillennial.com/2015/08/31/what-is-gender-fluidity-and-why-it-shouldnt-surprise-you/
  9. RC Sproul: Why Apologetics? – Defending Your Faith Part 2 (23 min video): https://youtu.be/FHAdyws2MGU
  10. I don’t see God. Therefore, God doesn’t exist. | Coffeehouse Questions: https://ryanspauly.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/i-dont-see-god-therefore-god-doesnt-exist/
  11. 3 Attributes Critical for Effective Persuasion: https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/3-attributes-critical-for-effective-persuasion/
  12. A Quantum Christian – The Man for Whom Science Proved Religion: http://terrellclemmons.com/2015/09/01/a-quantum-christian/
  13. Trees: An Engineering Wonder | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/8941
  14. Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Four Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You! http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/09/four-ways-learning-to-defend-your-faith.html
  15. 50-Year Study Shows Coral ‘Clocks’ Unreliable | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/5885
  16. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell? http://www.apologeticscanada.com/2015/09/08/how-can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell/
  17. The Who, Where, Why, and What of Evangelism (Greg Laurie – 53 min video): https://youtu.be/t1Gp5_opWX0
  18. “I Came to Faith Through Apologetics”: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/i-came-to-faith-through-apologetics/
  19. Identifying Impostor Christianity: The Danger Of Being Deceived (video 5 min 41 sec): http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/09/identifying-impostor-christianity.html
  20. Are the Gospels Reliable? 10 Quick Points – Saints and Sceptics: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/are-the-gospels-reliable-sources-quick-points/
  21. The Darwin/Trotsky connection – CMI Mobile: http://creation.mobi/a/338
  22. Reasons To Believe : Attack the Argument, Not the Person: http://www.reasons.org/articles/attack-the-argument-not-the-person
  23. Should Christians Defend Themselves against Persecution or Take What’s Coming? – Stand to Reason Blog: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/09/should-christians-defend-themselves-against-persecution-or-take-whats-coming.html
  24. God Does Exist: Applied Apologetics: The Powerful Reasons to Know Christianity is True: Part I: http://goddoesexistallknowit.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-powerful-reasons-to-know.html
  25. ‘I’m a Christian, but the Bible’s all stories … ’ – CMI Mobile: http://creation.mobi/a/9961

Have a blessed rest of the week.

Lunch Meeting with Indian Couple

Recently I had lunch with an Indian couple. Having worked with the husband for a number of years, over and over he has told me that he “has a lot of respect for me”. Earlier this spring, I saw him at a social event and we were talking about some of our interests outside of work. I mentioned about a number of church activities I’m involved in, including Awana. When he heard about Awana, he sounded interested in it for his young child. So, recently I sent him an email telling him that Awana starts on September 9th and if he’s still interested, it would be a good time to register. Ultimately, due to time and location, we wasn’t interested in signing up this year, but he said that he is interested in me “teaching him” and just being around me to learn “the discipline”. Well, really, he was wanting me to teach his 3 year old. What an opportunity! So, I offered that maybe I could teach him first. He agreed and I set up a lunch meeting with him. It was kind of a surprise that he brought his wife along, but in the end, it turned out pretty good. We got to the restaurant and after ordering and some small talk, I got right into our topic. I commented about his having respect for me and how I appreciated that comment, but I have to give all credit Jesus Christ. He made me who I am today and without him I’m nothing. I explained a little bit about how my life changed so much after hearing the Gospel in that Easter service in 1999. We would get back to that more later.

I asked him what he knew about Jesus and Christianity. He started to recount the facts he knew. He said that Jesus was the guy that “killed himself”. Well, in a way, he was right because Jesus said in John 10:18 “No one takes it [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again…” But my colleague made it sound like Jesus committed suicide. I just agreed and clarified that Jesus died. I asked him and his wife whether they’d ever heard that Jesus was called Savior. They both said yes, that they’d heard that. I asked them if they knew why Jesus is called Savior. He replied, “because He died for our sins”. I thought – pretty good answer! Then I asked if he knew what sin was (since he’d mentioned sin). He said that sin was breaking God’s law. Again, I thought, pretty good answer. So, I asked him what God’s law was and where he could find it. He really didn’t know.

I thought it was a good time to introduce my gift to him. I pulled out a brown leather New Living Translation Bible and told him this was my gift to him. (I had found it for $2.99 at Goodwill, which I told him 🙂 ). So, I asked him whether he’d ever heard of the 10 commandments. He said he had, but he couldn’t tell me any of them. So, I turned to Exodus 20 and read through a number of them. While talking about the 10 commandments, I elaborated on several of them, like adultery, which can be committed in the mind as well via lust, murder, which can be committed in the mind via hate, and the first commandment having no other gods before God, which can be committed if you put anything else before Him (including your career, your family, your health or anything else). Later on in the conversation I would tell him that Jesus wants first place in his life, He wants all of him.

So, I told him that these laws are God’s standard – perfection in keeping them. Since no one in the history of the world has been perfect in keeping these (with the exception of Jesus), everyone is a sinner. I said that we may be “good people” when we compare ourselves to each other, but God doesn’t compare us to each other. God’s standard is 100% perfection. So, since we’re all sinners, we’ve got a problem, I told them, because God, as a righteous judge, cannot ignore sin – and give us a “free pass”. I told them about the example where if a person had murdered someone and then came in and asked the judge to let him off because of other good deeds he’d done, that judge would not be able to let the person off. The punishment for murder still needs to be carried out. In the same way, God has stated that the punishment for crimes against Him (sin) is death and eternal separation from Him, which is what is called hell. It is hell because everything good comes from God, so separation from Him is nothing good (and everything bad), which is hell. So, I told him, “As you said, Jesus was dying for our sins on the cross, paying the penalty we deserved”. I explained that He was able to pay for our sins because He was sinless and didn’t have to pay for His own sins. So, God’s word (the Bible) says that if we will repent, which means to change our minds about our sins and about Jesus and realize that we deserved the punishment that He took for us and if we embrace Him by faith, then God will forgive us of all our sins and declare us righteous in His sight. To reinforce this point, I quoted Romans 3:20

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”.

I shared how Jesus did start a religion in some sense, but religion seems to focus on what man must do to get God’s approval, while Christianity focuses on what Christ has done to save us.

Throughout the conversation, I checked with him and his wife to see if they were understanding what I was communicating. They are a very silent couple – just listening and absorbing the information like a sponge. I felt confident from their responses that they were understanding this material.

In order to communicate the heart of Jesus toward people, I told them 2 stories from the gospel of Luke. One was the parable of the 2 men that went up to the temple to pray – the Pharisee and the tax collector. I told them about how the Pharisees were the Jewish religious leaders of the day – very proud and very legalistic – trying to follow the law to a tee.  They had power and because Jesus made them look bad in the eyes of the people by pointing out their hypocrisy, they were His enemies. Then the tax collectors, who the Jewish people despised as the worst sinners and traitors to the Jewish people because they were collecting taxes on them for the Romans. In a conversational manner, I quoted this parable from memory (one of the big benefits of Scripture memorization):

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

I asked them to take notice that the tax collector – the despised sinner – is the one who went home justified before God because he acknowledged he was a sinner and asked God to have mercy on him. I said this is very important to understand and this is what everyone has to do to be right with God.

Then I also told him that account of Jesus being crucified on a cross in between 2 criminals. I recounted how earlier, those 2 criminals had seen how Jesus forgave the people who’d crucified him (Luke 23:34) and now, in a conversational manner, I quoted this account to them from Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.

So, I told them, see how the one criminal acknowledged his sin and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom? This was a deathbed conversion. This person had no time to do any good works – he was only hours from his death and yet he was saved by Jesus, which is evident because of Jesus’ statement “today you will be with me in paradise.”

Again, they seemed to understand all of this, but there were some points in the conversation where he indicated that he could never be as devoted as me. He asked me, “isn’t this kind of like a 2nd job for you? Don’t you work like 40 extra hours a week on this?” This grieves me to hear that people are pushed away after seeing my devotion to Christ. I turned his Bible to Philippians 1:21 and asked him to read it – out loud so his wife could hear it too. He read “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. We talked about this is the apostle Paul – one of those who met Christ. He was saying that if he goes on living in this world, it will be for Christ. But if he dies, that will be a gain, because he will actually go to be with Christ! They understood how it is good either way. He asked me how I got so devoted – how did this transformation of me happen? I told them that God did it. I said that when you repent and trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord, he gives you a new heart and new desires. That is called being born again. Just like we were all born physically, we all need to also be born spiritually. The reason is that when we were born physically, we were spiritually dead towards God. Jesus was talking to a guy named Nicodemus and told him that he must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus didn’t understand – he said how could he crawl back into his mother’s womb to be born again. Jesus clarified that he had to be spiritually reborn. I explained that this is a process that begins when you place your trust in Christ for your salvation, receiving Him as Lord and Savior of your life.

He also indicated that he doesn’t know if he can even understand all this. I told him – you’re smart and I have faith in your ability to understand this material. I said, “You know, the Gospel is so simple that even a 3 or 4 year old can understand it. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – that’s it. Is that difficult to understand?” He said, no it’s not difficult. And he said, I do believe in Jesus. I just feel like God has put me here to accomplish some things with my career. I want to be successful and do great things. He was basically communicating to me that he didn’t have time for all of the Christian activities and study he saw me doing. I said, well, you’re married – so what if you got married to your wife and then said “I have to go work on my career and education for a year and I won’t be able to see you or have any time for you”? Would your wife think that you really loved her? His wife smiled and laughed… That’s the same way with Jesus, I said. He wants to be number 1 in your life. Jesus said ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.’ (Matthew 6:33) Things like career, family, success, etc. will come, but you need to get right with God first. Get that relationship established and everything else will fall into place after that. The family that builds their lives on Christ first has their priorities right.

At the end of our conversation, I offered to meet again – even weekly if he’d like – to learn more about the faith and read the Bible. I showed him where the Gospel of John was in the Bible and put the marker there. I said if you want to start reading the Bible, start here. I showed him how small the book of John is – very thin – it should be a quick read. I took him to the end of the book where John explains his reason for writing the book:

John 20:30-31 – Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

I emphasized that last part “that by believing you may have life in His name”.

There were several other things covered in this conversation, which I cannot remember the detail or order of right now. My main concern is for this friend and his wife and child that, as it says at the end of the book of John, they may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, they may have life in his name.

Conversation with a 26 year old who left the church in high school

Here is a summary of the conversation held Tuesday August 18th at a Taco Bell between me, a Christian brother and his agnostic friend from work:

  1. Background – he was raised in church, and around the mid-teenage years, he started to have more and more questions that couldn’t be answered. Many of his questions seem to center around the Bible, who Jesus is and which religion of the many is correct. He appears to be agnostic about God’s existence, but open to evidence for all of his objections – he’s neither hostile nor apathetic toward Christianity. During these mid-teen years, his parents gave him the choice whether he would go to church or not. So, he decided to stop going and has never been back since then. He still talks to God, even though he’s not sure if He’s really there or not. He believes that Jesus was a real historical person. I did ask him how he came to that conclusion about Jesus? He said that he’d read about some research that confirmed He was a real person. Of course, I told him that was a good starting point. But I also reminded him that the same sources that tell us that Jesus was a real historical person, tell us about His deity and miracles.
  2. The Bible – I explained that the Bible is not just 1 book, but it is actually 66 books written by 40 authors (who, in many cases didn’t know each other) over 1500 years. Yet the Bible has one message – the salvation of mankind through Jesus Christ. He corrected me – saying that well, that message is only in ½ of the Bible (the New Testament), because Jesus doesn’t appear in the Old Testament. I told him that Jesus claimed to be God, so, faith in the one true God has always been the basis of salvation – from the beginning to the end. The Old Testament people looked forward to the promised Messiah and we now look back to the actual Messiah and are saved by faith in Him. I told him about the phrase that the Old Testament is “Christ concealed” and the New Testament is “Christ revealed”. We also talked about how the Bible is an amazing book – it was attempted to be eradicated many times (talked about Diocletian edict and Voltaire) but it still survives. Talked about the dead sea scrolls. It is the most stolen book, it is the most printed and purchased book. He was speaking about Judaism, so we covered the topic of prophesy, how the Messiah is talked about in many places in the Old Testament (which is the Jewish Bible).
  3. Manuscripts – the Bible has more than any literature from ancient history – not even close. We have close to 6,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and close to 24,000 total (including other languages – Latin, Coptic, Syriac, etc). Also talked about the science of textual criticism which allows us, with a great degree of confidence, to determine what the originals said (even though we don’t possess the originals).
  4. Sin – he understands conceptually what sin is. And from a Christian point of view, he knows he’s a sinner and would go to hell. We shared with him the reason Christ came and why he had to die – that we owe a sin debt that we cannot pay. My other Christian friend shared about the wrath of God. He asked whether it legitimate to believe in God just to avoid hell. We shared that it is ok to start there (the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom), but not to stay there. Once he becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit will come to live in him and he will love God and His Word. I gave the analogy of how you can both fear and love your earthly father and know that he loves you too, even though he punishes you and that it is similar with God.
  5. The disciples died to get this truth out – they could’ve recanted and they would’ve been spared.
  6. New Testament and extra-biblical sources report the same general storyline (spoke about Josephus and Tacitus). Many of the non-biblical sources (who are hostile to the Christian faith) corroborate many of the facts of the story of Christianity.
  7. Jesus’ resurrection – covered “the minimal facts” argument. Here are the historical facts that we know about Jesus (scholars, both skeptical and believing, agree on these):
    1. Jesus was a historical person – he did exist
    2. He was crucified on a Roman cross
    3. He was buried
    4. The tomb was found empty
    5. Many people (over 500) reported seeing him alive
    6. Belief in these events originated and grew in the very city where they occurred (Jerusalem)
    7. There are many theories that attempt to explain these facts, but the one that best accounts for all the evidence we have is the resurrection hypothesis. All the other hypotheses have deficiencies. (we talked about the disciples stole the body theory and the Roman guards guarding the tomb – we talked about the wrong tomb theory)
  8. Proof vs. Evidence: He said he needs proof, but I told him that we don’t demand proof in many other areas of our lives. For example we’ve never met George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, yet we believe they existed and did the things they were reported to have done. This food we just ordered, how do we know the people didn’t poison it? The average person exercises faith many times each day. You couldn’t live without faith. You can’t experience everything for yourself in order to believe it. Some things have to be taken on the authority of other people who have seen. I gave the example of a jury. The standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. That is not 100% certainty. It is more the approach of what is most likely to be true. I know of a cold case homicide detective who claims that every one of his cases is circumstantial – he’s never had a DNA hit – yet, he has won them all. So, circumstantial evidence can be legitimate evidence on which to base your beliefs.
  9. Miracles – he mentioned Jesus turning water into wine and touching a girl and she came back to life. We spoke about how if God created the universe, then that is the biggest miracle of all. Since He created the universe (and set up the laws of physics and chemistry), it is easy for Him to manipulate what is in the universe. Therefore, if He created the universe, then it is at least theoretically possible that the other miracles reported in the Bible happened.
  10. Consequences of Worldviews – we talked about who has more to lose if they’re wrong on their worldview. If his worldview is correct, then when he dies, he just goes into the ground. Nothing gained – just whatever pleasures he had in this life. At the end of it all, he and I are in the same position – non-existence – worm food. But if the Christian worldview is right, then we hit the jackpot and he will literally have hell to pay.
  11. Blind Folded men who are walking towards a cliff – some with parachute (Christians), others without parachute.
  12. Other religions – thinks that every religion believes it is the pathway to God. I tried to compare Islam and Mormonism for him. I talked about how both of those religions started with 1 man seeing a vision that no one else could verify. But in Christianity, 9 people who either directly knew Jesus or interviewed those who knew Him, wrote 27 letters and then were willing to die for their belief in His resurrection. Christianity is really unique among world religions.
  13. Objective morality vs. relative (societal) morality – he believes that all morality is based on your society – that nothing is wrong for all people, at all times and all places. I asked him about Hitler. He said that not everyone was for Hitler. Then talked about something else that would be wrong for everyone. I asked him if he thought, for example, torturing babies for fun is wrong for everyone at all times in all places? At first he said yes, but then as I explained that objective moral laws require an objective moral Lawgiver. Then he backed off and said “as much as it pains me to say, I have to say that it is not wrong for all people, at all times in all places”.
  14. Neutrality – we talked about how you cannot be neutral towards Jesus. He said that you’re either for Him or against Him. If you choose not to “vote” you’ve voted for the other side by default.
  15. Liar, Lunatic or Lord – I told him about C.S. Lewis’ famous trilemma. He said that a friend of his had given him a copy of ‘Mere Christianity’ to read and he was familiar with it. So, I told him that a person that said the kind of things that Jesus said is either an evil Liar (if He wasn’t God and knew it) or a Lunatic (if He really wasn’t God, but was deceived into thinking he was) or He really was Lord – that was the other option. Although, one more option has been added as of late – Legend (like Santa Claus). This legend hypothesis is that Jesus really was just a man and thought He was just a man, but his followers, over time started to deify Him – like first He was 25% of a god, then He was ½ of a god, then ¾ of god, then finally God Himself.
  16. Would be become a Christian? – I asked him “If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” and he answered yes. I told him that’s a good sign, because, believe it or not there are actually people who answer no to that question – they say they don’t want it to be true. I told him that this shows me that God is working on his heart now – the fact that he answered that – and also the fact that he’s even here talking to us for this long.
  17. Knowledge doesn’t save – we made sure that he knew that even after he believes beyond a reasonable doubt that Christianity is true, that doesn’t save him. He then needs to take a step of faith and trust in Jesus. We used a bridge analogy – like the Golden Gate Bridge. He could do all this research on each of the supports holding up the bridge – researching into how they were designed, seeing who manufactured them, what kind of weight they hold, etc. But ultimately, he’ll never get to the other side unless he places his faith in that bridge and drives across it. In our analogy, we explained that Jesus is the bridge.
  18. Eagerness – after this ~ 2 hour conversation, he was still willing to keep talking – we had to stop the conversation. I gave him a free copy of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” and wrote my name and phone number inside in case he’d like to talk more. He said he would be willing to do this again. He promised to read the book – he said he could probably read it in about a week. I told him that book was instrumental in giving me confidence that Christianity was actually true. He thanked us and looked forward to talking again.

mid-week apologetics booster (9-3-2015)

Good Morning Everyone!

Hope you’re having a great week!  Here are this week’s links:

  1. Should Christians Use Evidence and Logic to Proclaim the Gospel? http://askingthegodquestions.blogspot.com/2013/08/should-christians-use-evidence-and.html
  2. The Secular Humanist’s Dilemma: https://wellspentjourney.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/the-secular-humanists-dilemma/
  3. Why should we be punished for sin when sinning is our nature? http://www.blogos.org/theologyapologetics/punished-for-sin-nature.php
  4. Discovering God the Way Sherlock Holmes Would: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2015/08/discovering-god-way-sherlock-holmes.html
  5. Quebec’s Bill 59 criminalizes speech or writings that hurt anyone’s feelings | WINTERY KNIGHT: http://winteryknight.com/2015/08/29/quebecs-bill-59-criminalizes-speech-or-writings-that-hurt-anyones-feelings/
  6. How Heretics Help Establish the Historicity of Jesus | Cold Case Christianity: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/how-heretics-help-establish-the-historicity-of-jesus/
  7. Watch “Donall and Conall Meet Richard Dawkins” on YouTube (very funny): https://youtu.be/0d4FHHf00pY
  8. A Tale of Two Mountains: Introducing Intelligent Design – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/08/back_to_basics098811.html
  9. The Christian Parent Manifesto – We are THAT Family: http://wearethatfamily.com/2015/07/the-christian-parent-manifesto/
  10. 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/12-ways-to-love-your-wayward-child
  11. Apologists, Please Do Not Forget the Gospel: https://relationalapologetics.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/apologists-please-do-not-forget-the-gospel/
  12. 30 Common New Testament Challenges By Skeptics Answered | Historical Jesus studies: https://jamesbishopblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/30-common-new-testament-challenges-by-sceptics-answered/
  13. Apologetics: For followers, skeptics, or both? http://ratiochristi.org/marshall/blog/post/apologetics-for-followers-skeptics-or-both/2818#.VeWRsJdHSMK
  14. Calling All Apologists. “I want you!” – Southern by His Grace: http://southernbyhisgrace.com/calling-all-apologists-i-want-you/
  15. Will The Modernists Inherit The Earth? The Dismal Prospects for Secular Liberalism | Turley Talks: http://turleytalks.com/will-the-modernists-inherit-the-earth-the-dismal-prospects-for-secular-liberalism/
  16. My Goal in Every Conversation with Mormons – Stand to Reason Blog: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2015/09/my-goal-in-every-conversation-with-mormons.html
  17. Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Tips for Sharing Your Faith: #2 – Listen to People: http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2014/11/tips-for-sharing-your-faith-2-listen-to.html
  18. Growing a Bone Requires Foresight – Evolution News & Views: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/08/growing_a_bone098911.html
  19. Answering Eleven Objections to the Resurrection of Jesus – THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/answering-eleven-objections-to-the-resurrection-of-jesus-2/
  20. Watch “William Lane Craig Q&A: If God Knows My Decisions How Do I Have Free Will?” on YouTube: https://youtu.be/7USxGUOefrg
  21. Son, Don’t Check Your Brain at the Door – Jenni and Jody: http://www.jenniandjody.com/son-dont-check-your-brain-at-the-door/
  22. Creation: The better explanation – CMI Mobile: http://creation.mobi/a/10327
  23. Evil Is Evidence God Exists: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/evil-is-evidence-god-exists/

Lastly, I want to let you know that I have a site where I list ~250 Christian web sites with the ability to go to a ‘random link’.  If you want to just go an surprise yourself, you’ll find a lot of cool stuff that comes up.  Secondly, I have a custom google search engine (Steve’s Apologetics Search Engine) that utilizes these 250 Christian sites for searching.  Sometimes, if you want a Christian perspective on a topic, that search engine is better to use than the main Google search engine.

God bless you all!