Apologetics Class 4-23-2017

In our Apologetics class last Sunday, we started a series on young earth creation.  During the class, I’d primarily been exposing students to material that implicitly supported the ancient universe view of creation.  But now, in order to be “fair and balanced” (and because I believe they have some really good arguments), I’ve decided to show the “other side” of the argument.  Our first week started with Dr. David Menton speaking on the topic “Origin of the Species: Was Darwin Wrong?”  We watched this in 1 part, but I also found this on YouTube in 7 parts:

  1. Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UncGAsdIoS4
  2. Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXPGkz5wfyA
  3. Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd-4JLtH9uE
  4. Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=canaOhDOMuY
  5. Part 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qlfc-D_Xk8
  6. Part 6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlyXcD2lmag
  7. Part 7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUiru4dQc_0

Below is the note-taking form I made up for the students.  At the bottom of the post, I have provided a link to the answers.

Was Darwin Right? Dr. Terry Mortenson (Young Earth Creationist)

(He has a Ph.D. in history of geology from Coventry University)

  1. National Academy of Science – “There is no d____________ within the scientific community over whether evolution has occurred…”
  2. Evolution theory is based on assumptions, called “Ph__________ Na___________”, which says:
    1. Nature or matter is all that exists
    2. Everything can and must be explained by time plus chance plus laws of nature working on matter.
  3. “The influence of evolutionary theory on fields far removed from biology is one of the most spectacular examples in history of how a highly sp___________ idea for which there is no really hard scientific evidence can come to fashion the thinking of a whole society and dominate the outlook of an age. Ultimately, the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century.“ – Michael Denton, Evolution: a theory in crisis
  4. Creationist’s presuppositions come from the Bible (especially in Genesis – “after their kind”).
  5. God created the different kinds of plants and animals distinct. He built into their genetic information potential for v__________ w________ the k________, but not the ability to change from one kind into another.
  6. 2 Key Questions:
    1. How did the DNA In___________ for the supposed first living microscopic creature come into existence?
    2. How did the DNA Information in that “simple” creature get ch___________ and augmented to produce all the different kinds of plants and animals that we see in the fossil record and living today?
  7. 1953 – Miller / Urey experiment. Attempted to create “life” (amino acids) from n___-l_______.
  8. They had to create a “trap” to hold the organic compounds otherwise they would’ve been destroyed in the same environment in which they were created (that’s cheating).
  9. “Nobody knows how a mixture of l___________ chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.” – Paul Davies (Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Macquarie University)
  10. Does the fossil record support evolution or creation?
    1. Evolutionists created the Geological Time Scale (or Geological Column). This column does not exist anywhere in the real world, except in the text books and magazine articles.  We find m___________ fossils all throughout this column.
    2. Evolutionists claim that v__________ change has occurred. From single cell à Humans
    3. Creationists say that h_____________ variation has occurred – variation within kinds.
    4. “The extreme rarity of tr______________ forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not evidence of fossils” – Stephen J. Gould – Evolutionist-from Scientific American magazine
    5. The evolutionists can only point to a handful of very controversial examples (of transitional forms).
    6. According to Gould, 2 characteristics of the fossil record are:
      1. Ab__________ Appearance (creatures appear suddenly in the fossil record)
      2. St________ (once creatures appear in fossil record, they basically stay the same)
    7. Living fossils – organisms that we thought to have gone ex________ but are found alive
    8. Many creatures have not changed at all (comparing live specimens with fossils) in the “supposed” tens or hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
    9. Evolutionists sometimes commit misinterpretation based on in________ fossil evidence
    10. Whale evolution given as an example. U.C. Berkeley
  11. Embryonic re_______________ – that the embryo “rehearses” its evolutionary history as it develops (Ernst Haeckel – embryo pictures were a fraud, printed in some text books)
  12. Conclusions (Part 1):
    1. Evolutionists have NO idea how the first living cell came into existence by ch_________
    2. Evolutionists have NO INDISPUTABLE f_______ ev____________ that one kind of creature evolved into a different kind of creature.
  13. Does the study of living creatures support evolution (t_____ of life) or creation (f______ of life)?
    1. There is not an evolutionist on the face of the earth that would look at this (amazing sand sculpture) and say “look at what the ocean washed up on the shore last night!”
    2. Information comes from a m__________.
    3. “There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in m___________” – Werner Gitt
    4. Space shuttle, cell phones and other examples of man-made technology are s_______________ compared to a living cell.
    5. Information in DNA:
      1. DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid or D______ N__ A____________)
      2. DNA to cover a pin tip would be the information equivalent of a stack of books from the Earth to the moon ____ times
  • The amount of DNA in every cell of our bodies is the equivalent of 3 or 4 sets of the 20 volumes of the en______________ Britannica (Richard Dawkins)
  1. It’s the DNA that produces the variety (peas, horses, skin color, etc.)
  1. The Supposed Mechanisms of Evolution:
    1. Natural Selection
      1. Natural selection is a FACT – creationists believe in it
      2. Natural selection is NOT evolution
      3. Natural selection is a CO_________, not a cr________, process. Nature can only select what is already there.  It can’t create something new.
      4. Dogs – the question is “where did the first dog come from”, not how did you get the variety.
      5. This process of variation involves a l__________ of genetic information (e.g. poodle)
      6. Nature selects the long haired dogs because they have the characteristics that will allow them to live in that environment
      7. Natural selection can explain the SU__________ of the fittest but NOT the AR___________ of the fittest.
      8. Natural selection is the God-designed method of pr___________ representatives of the original created kinds
    2. Random Mutations
      1. Fruit fly experiments – bombard them with radiation and see what mutations occur. None of these is an im___________ on the original and none of these would survive in the wild – nature would select the healthy, “normal” ones and weed out these mutants.
      2. Mutations are a FACT
      3. But mutations nearly always re_________ information, they never IN____________ functional information
      4. “All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not to increase it” – Lee Spetner, Not By Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution
      5. Evolutionists will say that there are some b___________ mutations
      6. Pylori – bacteria, which is can be killed by absorbing the antibiotic which is converted to a poison. Mutant H. pylori lacks the ability to produce the enzyme.  No enzyme, no poison, no death. Survived by a L______ of information.
      7. “Whoever thinks macroevolution can be made by mutations that lose information is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up in volume.” – Lee Spetner, Not By Chance: Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution
      8. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:22)
      9. Mutations are the God-ordained c_____________ of His curse on creation because of Adam’s sin.
      10. Undirected, Random, Natural Processes + Time Complex, Functional Design (Information)
      11. Tools found in cave not result of random chance. SETI program (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), listen for organized pattern of sounds
    3. Summary:
      1. Natural selection? FACT
      2. Mutations? FACT
      3. Natural Selection + mutation=molecule-to-man evolution? NOT FACT
      4. Information does not come from matter.
      5. No indisputable transitional fossils
      6. Nature produces no new information
      7. The issue is not micro-evolution vs. macro-evolution
      8. The issue is not the s______ of change, it is the d_____________ of change
      9. The issue is the origin and addition of genetic information
      10. “A man who has no assured and ever-present belief in the existence of a personal God, or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those i__________ and i_________ which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” – Charles Darwin (Judges 17:6b)
      11. If ape is in your past, morality is r____________, man sets the rules
      12. Romans 1:18-20 (we are without excuse because of creation)

 

Link to answers

Apologetics class – Easter 4/16/2017 – Case for Christ

Yesterday in the Apologetics class at my church, I showed “The Case for Christ” – not the current movie that is out in theaters, but rather the documentary.  It is an hour and 11 minutes long, but very good.  We watched from DVD, but I also see this on youtube:

Here are the notes from the movie (with fill-in blanks):

The Case for Christ (documentary) – 1 hour 11 minutes

  1. Lee Strobel thought that, if Jesus existed, he was probably a nice guy and good teacher, but he certainly wasn’t the Messiah and he certainly wasn’t the Son of God.
  2. When Leslie started to go to church, Lee thought nothing good that would come out of it.
  3. Lee saw sermon on ‘Basic Christianity’ and realized that if this is true, this had h__________ implications for his life.
  4. He thought it was going to be so easy to expose the fallacious thinking behind Christianity.
  5. Lee didn’t accept the New Testament as the inspired word of God, but he had to accept it as a set of h__________ d____________, which it undoubtedly is.
  6. The expert witnesses interviewed by Lee
    1. JP Moreland, Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
    2. Mark Strauss, Professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary
    3. Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary
    4. Craig Evans, Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College
    5. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, United Kingdom
  7. What you find in the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John comes up in 3 dimensions and says, “My goodness, this actually belongs, it makes sense, it fits” – N.T. Wright
  8. These (the Gospels) are biographies. They are very clearly attempts by eyewitnesses to describe exactly what Jesus said and did.  – J.P. Moreland
  9. Luke’s prologue is one of the finest Greek sections in the whole New Testament … this is the work of a historian, someone who has done his research – Mark Strauss
  10. We have, actually, very early attestation of the authorship of the gospels – Mark Strauss
  11. Papias (a disciple of the apostle John) identifies Mark’s gospel as essentially the e______________ account of Peter – Mark Strauss
  12. Scholars generally agree that the gospel of Mark was written first, between 60-75 AD. Matthew (60-85 AD) & Luke (60-85 AD) were written shortly after, followed by John (65-95 AD).
  13. The New Testament Gospels are, by far, our earliest and most r______________ records of Jesus of Nazareth – Mark Strauss
  14. Eyewitnesses are still around. If they (the gospel writers) were passing around untruths we expect eyewitnesses to say “Wait a minute, this isn’t what happened” – Mark Strauss
  15. All of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses or they interviewed eyewitnesses – Mark Strauss
  16. In the first century, the primary way that information was preserved and passed on was through o_________ t_______________, which had been memorized. – Craig Blomberg
  17. The first century apostles, who passed on information about Jesus, were deeply concerned to get this information correct, because they saw it has sacred, holy tradition. – J.P. Moreland
  18. Oral tradition is a community event and is self-correcting – Mark Strauss
  19. Most of these ‘apparent contradictions’ between the gospel accounts are quite e__________ r______________ – Mark Strauss
  20. Had every single account given us exactly the same detail, we might’ve accused them of some form of collusion. – Craig Blomberg
  21. Its natural when you have multiple eyewitnesses to the same event, you’re going to get d________________ p____________. And that’s ok, you want that!  What you’re looking for is a “core” to the testimony that’s the same – that’s consistent. – Lee Strobel
  22. We have better m____________ a________________ for the New Testament than any other ancient document. – Mark Strauss
  23. Much of the New Testament is preserved in the quotations of the early church fathers, so that if we had no copies of it, we could r_____________ it from these quotations. -J.P. Moreland
  24. Non biblical Jewish historian Josephus, in AD 93, published ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ – talked about Jesus
  25. The G_________ G__________ – a collection of religious writings from the 2nd and 3rd centuries:
    1. Gospel of Thomas
    2. Gospel of Truth
    3. Gospel of the Egyptians
    4. Gospel of Peter
    5. Gospel of Philip
    6. Gospel of the Twelve Apostles
    7. Gospel of Mary Magdalene
    8. Gospel of Matthias
    9. Gospel of Eve
    10. Gospel of Judas
    11. Secret Gospel of Mark
    12. The Dialogue of the Savior
    13. Secret Book of James
    14. Gospel of Nicodemus
    15. Gospel of the Lord
    16. Pistis Sophia
    17. Acts of Thomas
    18. Acts of John
    19. First Apocalypse of James
  26. These documents are almost universally recognized to be much later than the gospels of the New Testament and to not record historically reliable material related to Jesus – Mark Strauss
  27. There’s a view among some that there were all these c___________ views of Jesus Christ and the one that “won out” became the o_____________ perspective of Christ reflected in the Gospels. All the evidence runs contrary to that.  Jesus was a 1st century Jewish teacher, who revealed and demonstrated himself to be the Messiah. – Mark Strauss
  28. What I’ve come to discover is that, the Gospels in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are our b______ s___________ for Jesus, and I’ve also found that they are reliable and that from these sources we can form a picture that I believe is very accurate – that tells us about Jesus – what He taught, how He was perceived by His contemporaries and what His life was really all about. – Craig Evans
  29. Jesus didn’t come to help me discover who I really am. He came to tell me who He knew I really was and to do something about it, and that’s much better news.  –N.T. Wright
  30. More scholars interviewed to determine ‘Who Was Jesus’:
    1. Michael Rydelnik, Professor of Jewish Studies, Moody Bible Institute
    2. Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Asbury Seminary
  31. People say that no one teaches like Him – he teaches with His own authority. – Michael Rydelnik
  32. He would clarify, even overrule in some ways the Old Testament law – Mark Strauss.
  33. Jesus (Yeshua) went into the s_______________ and read Isaiah 61:1 and claimed that it was r_______________ to Him.
  34. Jesus clearly presents himself as the self-revelation of God – Mark Strauss
  35. Over 80 times in the New Testament, Jesus refers to Himself as the S_____ of M______ – this refers to Daniel 7:13-14
  36. Jesus’ contemporaries – people who l_____ Him, people who were in__________ (neutral) and people who o_________ Him all acknowledged He did extraordinary things – Craig Evans
  37. The New Testament Gospels record at least 40 separate miracles performed by Jesus.
  38. One of the most astonishing things that Jesus did was when He claimed to forgive sins in Mark 2…Only God forgives sin. – Mark Strauss
  39. A guy typed out Isaiah 53 without any indication where it was from. He showed it to everyone in his office and asked them who it was describing and where it was from. All said Jesus, NT.
  40. In the Old Testament, you have 2 kinds of prophecies. You have those that are fulfilled u_________ in Christ and prophecies that are fulfilled ‘t____________’ in Christ. – Mark Strauss
  41. Some skeptics have said that Jesus could’ve engineered the fulfillment of these prophecies. But many of these couldn’t have been engineered. – Mark Strauss
  42. The odds of any human being f_____________ 48 of these ancient prophecies would be one chance in a trillion (13 times). – Lee Strobel
  43. Jesus recognizes Himself clearly as the c__________ of God’s plan of salvation – Mark Strauss
  44. There were so many reasons why I didn’t want there to be a God, because I didn’t want to be held a________________ for my life – Lee Strobel
  45. Lee got so mad over Leslie being part of this Christian sub-culture he didn’t fit into, that he kicked a hole in their wall.
  46. Expert witnesses for the resurrection of Jesus:
    1. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy, Biola University
    2. Gary Habermas, Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy, Liberty University
    3. Michael Licona, Director of Apologetics, North American Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention
  47. The resurrection of Jesus really is the pivotal event of history. Anybody can c_________ to be the Son of God, as Jesus clearly did.  The question is, ‘Can ya back it up?’ – Lee Strobel
  48. Chances of surviving crucifixion were extremely b____________ – Michael Licona
  49. Jesus was being tried and executed as a rebel leader, now in the Roman army, if you were responsible for looking after one p__________ of w_____, even if he was a rather insignificant prisoner of war, if you let him get away, your life would be forfeited in place of his – and life was very cheap. If you were looking after the execution of a rebel leader and you let him get away, you’re in deep trouble … the Romans were very, very good at killing people. N.T. Wright
  50. The presence of Joseph of Arimathea in the empty tomb narrative (in all 4 gospels), indicates that this is a h________ r___________ account of what really happened. – J.P. Moreland
  51. It is highly unusual to find that the person who, alone, has the courage to go Pilate and give Jesus an honorable burial is not: 1) members of His family, 2) faithful disciples who followed Him to the end. Instead it is a member of J__________ S_________, the very high court, all of whom Mark says, had condemned Jesus of Nazareth to the cross.  The fact that it is Joseph of Arimathea who is the person responsible for giving Jesus an honorable burial is an awkward and e_____________ fact for the early church, and yet this tradition is faithfully preserved in almost all of the traditions that we have about the burial of Jesus – William Lane Craig
  52. The empty tomb story features women, which is an embarrassment in 1st century Palestine where women were considered 2nd class citizens. – William Lane Craig
  53. If you were going to invent an account about an empty tomb, then why on earth would you invent p__________ w____________ whom no one would believe? – Michael Licona
  54. Justin Martyr and Turtullian both verify the charge by the Jewish Leaders that the disciples stole His body. If the body is still in the tomb, why are you saying that the disciples had stolen it? Michael Licona
  55. These people (who saw Jesus), Paul tells us, were still alive. The implication is, we have hundreds of people who actually saw Jesus risen from the dead.  If you don’t believe me, you can ask them about it, because they’re still alive.  – J.P. Moreland
  56. The accounts of the r____________ were creedal traditions that were passed onto Paul. So, if 1 Corinthians was written in the early to mid-50’s, these traditions were much earlier than that, going back to the period of Paul’s c______________. – Mark Strauss
  57. Critics say that Paul got this material (1 Cor. 15) in Jerusalem, in about 35 AD – Gary Habermas
  58. The full impact of the event (resurrection) is perhaps best measured by the subsequent growth of the early Christian church in the face of intense persecution.
  59. Without belief in Jesus’ resurrection, the e___________ C_____________ m__________ could never have come into being. – William Lane Craig
  60. When they met the risen Lord, their skepticism was transformed into a very confident faith, a great joy, and a determination to preach the good news to everyone else. – Craig Evans
  61. Somehow you have to explain the e______________ from scared followers, who run away, to “let’s worship Him, let’s sing to Him, let’s pray to Him”. – Gary Habermas
  62. If there was no resurrection, and more to the point, if there were no resurrection appearances of Jesus to those who doubted, denied and betrayed Jesus, we would not be sitting here talking about this today. – Ben Witherington III
  63. The t__________________ of the disciples, from a bunch of cowards to boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel, even to the point of d_____________, confirms that something happened on that first Easter morning. – Mark Strauss
  64. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples lived lives of hardship for 20, 30 or 40 years, suffered greatly in their ministries and eventually suffered martyrdom and execution, without r______________, for their belief that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. –J.P. Moreland
  65. You also have to remember that the disciples died, not just for something that they believed was true – they died for something they actually saw with their own eyes. – J.P. Moreland
  66. In light of this av_______________ of evidence pointing toward the truth of Christianity, it would require more faith for me to maintain my a____________ then to become a follower of Jesus Christ. Lee Strobel
  67. Jesus is the truth – everything hinges on His i___________ – in fact, everything hinges on the r____________. If Jesus really did return from the dead, then He is who he claimed to be and that changes everything!  -Lee Strobel.

In case you want to see the answers you can download the PDF here.

Apologetics Class and the bias of the publicly funded media

We’ve recently, in my Apologetics class at church, been placing a big emphasis on the historicity of Jesus, the resurrection and biblical reliability.  The reason for that becomes apparent when you take a look at the type of content the public is being served up on our (partially) publicly funded television PBS:

Last Days of Jesushttp://www.pbs.org/video/2365987523/

This was playing on Arizona PBS yesterday afternoon.  From what I could see, there was not a single known conservative scholar on the show (e.g. Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Michael Licona, Dr. Ben Witherington III, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dr. N.T. Wright, Dr. Craig A. Evans etc), but rather a whole load of liberal scholars (Dr. James Tabor – co-author with Dr. Bart Ehrman, Simcha Jacobovici who was co-author of the Lost Gospel, and others).  Of course, they were coming up with all sorts of speculative theories about Jesus’ last week – namely that it was not a last week, but more of a 6 month period and that it couldn’t possibly have been at Passover time because it would’ve been so difficult to harvest the palm branches for Palm Sunday triumphal entry.

They also mention that all the disciples and their wives were with Jesus, although the New Testament says that the disciples left their wives. It also says that the Last Supper Jesus told them to drink this cup and eat this bread to remember me, which is accurate, but they left out the part about the cup being the New Covenant in His blood. They also seem to indicate that Jesus had influence at the highest levels of government because of the wife of Chusa, and that that is the reason why when He overturned the money changers in the temple, the authorities did nothing about it, however the New Testament records Jesus as saying that His kingdom is not of this world and that He was so poor that He had no place to lay His head.

The show ended with no talk of the resurrection.  There were all sorts of weird theories about Jesus’ motivations.  To be honest, I was not surprised.  I’m always on alert whenever watching any public / secular television programming about Jesus or Christianity in general.

We pay public funds for PBS.  Since that’s the case, shouldn’t they be providing equal time to material presented by conservative scholars who hold the traditional (supported by evidence rather than speculation) view?  Well, that’s why it’s important for me to provide content for believers in the apologetics class, where they’ll hear the other side of the story.  Recently we’ve reviewed the following material:

(yesterday) Sean McDowell, on the Mystery Religions and dying and rising gods in the ancient near east:

http://www.coolgadgetssoftware.com/SeanMcDowellMysteryReligions.mp4

Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About The Resurrection Of Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbBVBUeHXZ4

Dr. Craig Hazen – Evidence for the Resurrection:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocbtjLgUnQY

Tim Barnett – is the Bible Full of Contradictions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQgR3BrBhss

Remember, your neighbors and family who are curious about Jesus at this time of year are possibly watching these PBS, History Channel and NatGeo shows to get their information about Jesus from “reputable” scholars.  As always, the words of the Apostle Peter are applicable:

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)

That is what we’re doing each week in the Apologetics class, getting ourselves ready.  Best not to “wing it” on this…

Blessings to you all

Apologetics Class (4/2/2017)

As Easter is approaching, in the apologetics class that I teach / facilitate at my church, I’ve started a series on the resurrection.  Yesterday we watched an excellent video.  The speaker was Peter J. Williams. He was a fast (and engaging) speaker and dumped a lot of information on us.  The video can be watched here:

Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – Things Which Ought To Be Better Known About The Resurrection Of Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbBVBUeHXZ4

Here is the note-taking form and the discussion questions we used:

Non-Christian Accounts of how Christianity Began

(Dr. Peter J. Williams)

Cornelius Tacitus

  1. Cornelius Tacitus from R_______ who was a R_______ H________ who lived 56 A.D – 120 A.D.
  2. Tacitus was writing about the f_________ in Rome (set by emperor Nero) about 64 A.D.
  3. How many times does the word Christian appear in the New Testament?
  4. Christians were being called Christians by outsiders as a term of derision.
  5. Tiberius was emperor from the year _______ to the year _________.
  6. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea from the year ______ to ________.
  7. Tacitus talks about v________ n__________ of Christians being arrested.
  8. Knowing how f_____ and how f_________ Christianity has spread is some of the background knowledge that we need to use when we come to judge whether it would’ve been possible for the story of the resurrection to have been made up later.

Pliny the Younger

  1. Governor of Bithynia, which is Northwest T___________.
  2. He wrote this letter to the R___________ E____________ in 1___ ___ A.D.
  3. His argument is this: don’t kill everyone who’s been called a C____________, only kill those who persist stubbornly to call themselves C__________ once you thr________ t_______.
  4. Here are the 3 tests you apply to check that people aren’t Christians:
    1. They have to w____________ other gods.
    2. They need to make s____________ to these other gods.
    3. They need to c__________ C____________, which it is said that no true Christian can ever be compelled to do.
  5. This is a later stage than Tacitus (~68 A.D. vs. ~112 A.D.). Not only are Christians willing to call themselves Christians, but non-Christians are also identifying themselves as Christians!
  6. Christians only worship o_______ G________.
  7. Pliny the Younger describes a first c___________ (approx.. 92 A.D.) Christian meeting, according to people who have renounced the Christian faith.

Josephus

  1. Josephus was a J_______ historian writing about what happened (~62 A.D.) in his home town when he was about 25 years old.
  2. Josephus mentions both J__________ and J____________.
  3. Josephus agrees with the New Testament that Jesus has a brother called J________ (Mark 6:3)
  4. Josephus reports that James was s_________ for belief in his half-brother J_________.
  5. Josephus reports that Jesus was called C_________.

 

Tacitus and Pliny tell us that people a long way away (in Rome and Bithynia) who are d____ for their b_____ and Josephus tells us that we also have people close to the events that are d___ for their b____.

Christian Accounts

Bias does not mean that something should not be c____________.

1 Corinthians was written approximately __ __ A.D.

Galatians was written approximately __ __ A.D.

The resurrection wasn’t a p______________ Christian belief, it was something that was really c______ and was there u_________.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to be able to speak about non-Christian accounts?
  2. Why does Peter J. Williams make a big deal about Tacitus saying that vast numbers of Christians were arrested?
  3. In Tacitus, believers were called Christians by outsiders (as a derogatory term), but in Pliny, believers called themselves Christians.  Why is this significant?
  4. Why is it significant that Christians were singing to Christ as a god in 112 A.D.?
  5. In what ways do both Tacitus, Pliny and Josephus agree with the New Testament?

 

This Past Sunday’s Apologetics Class – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

This past Sunday in our apologetics class, which has students from 7th grade through to adult, we watched the excellent video “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” featuring Answers In Genesis teacher Dr. David Menton.  This was an amazing 1 hour video that covers the many miracles involved in the conception and birth of a child.

Here are the notes for the video.  I passed out a version to the class that had fill-in the blanks, but here is the version with the answers:

Notes for Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Dr. David Menton

Intelligent Design in the process of conception and birth of a child

He is a former professor at Washington University School of Medicine, and has a PhD, Cell Biology from Brown University, and a BS, Biology and Chemistry, Minnesota State University.

credentials

  1. Psalm 139:13-16 – indeed we are knit, we are woven as the LORD tells us in this verse.
  2. A person, biblically, is someone who is known to God – someone who has a soul.
  3. As the baby is developing in the womb, God is “looking on”.
  4. The eggs leave the ovaries and enter the oviduct every 28 days an egg will be released from the ovary, one month from one ovary, the next month from the other ovary – this is a miracle.
  5. A baby girl, as soon as she comes out of the womb, she has approximately 400,000 eggs ready to go, and no more are made – the new born girl has all the eggs she’s ever going to have.
  6. The scar left behind from this corpus luteum (if fertilization doesn’t occur) is so large you can see it with the naked eye. One scar is created each month (assuming no fertilization).  This is the one scar on our body that gets totally removed.  This is a miracle, the hand of God.
  7. In the case of evolution, if you can’t get the egg down the oviduct, you’re not going to get a second chance to get it down the oviduct. Talk about irreducible complexity!
  8. Cilia – there are trillions of them in the oviduct which move the egg, but they can’t just move back and forth, they have to move like a “wave” in the crowd at a sporting event.
  9. With 30 hours, the first cell division occurs.
  10. The fertilization process is itself incredible. It is important that only 1 sperm fertilize the egg.  There are 3 barriers the sperm has to get through: The cumulus, The shell (zona pellucida), The membrane
  11. When God created the stars, He didn’t have to argue with them!
  12. You’ve probably met a clone in your life (an identical twin), but when God makes a clone, it works!
  13. 5-6 days after fertilization, the blastocyst implants into the wall of the uterus (miracle).
  14. The whole placenta is one cell – the biggest cell in the body. Placenta is called “Super-organ”.
  15. The mother and the baby’s blood never mix.
  16. Alcohol will go across from mother’s blood to baby’s blood “passively”.
  17. The placenta is part of the baby, not part of the mother, but it is not in the baby’s body.
  18. Special jelly that exists nowhere in the body so that when the baby is doing somersaults the blood vessels won’t kink or crimp.
  19. When the placenta “disconnects” during birth, there are 20 blood vessels inside the uterus that spray blood at approximately a ½ quart per minute. This is the biggest wound any human being gets and lives to tell the story.  Little sphincter on mother’s side crimps end of the open vessels.
  20. Haeckel’s Recapitulation – the drawings he made were completely falsified.
  21. “Folds” in the neck of the embryo are not gills and are not used for breathing.
  22. Analogy to someone who built a boat in the basement of their house and couldn’t get it out of the door. Same with baby in the uterus.  Bones in the pelvis widen so head can fit.
  23. Tail bone (coccyx) is not left over from our evolutionary history. Many muscles connected to it.
  24. The birth of every baby is a miracle!
  25. The placenta was doing everything (liver, lungs, intestinal tract, etc.), but after the baby is born all those seems need to be ready to perform their functions.

Apologetics Class Teaching on the Tapestry of New Testament History – Undesigned Coincidences

What follows is the content a Power Point that I will be using to teach today at my Church’s youth and adult apologetics class at 9 AM:

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Scared, aren’t you?  We’re going to try something a little different here today – I hope this works out like I think it will.

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We’re going to start off with a little exercise – a test if you like – to see if we can remember the details of an event that I’m sure we’re all very familiar with.

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It is very important that as you work on this, you work completely independently.  Don’t collaborate, look at each other’s answers or talk to yourself out loud as you do this…  I want to make sure that your work is original – not because I’m trying to test your ability, but just because I want to know what you specifically remember about this event.  The “test” has one question, and here it is (remember, don’t answer out loud):

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Pens down!!!! OK, so, how did you?  Was that difficult?  Let’s go around the room and you can each tell me what facts you included about 9-11-2001 (write the facts on the board).  [Take note of how (hopefully) each person reported different things in the account depending on what they remembered and their individual perspectives.]  Even though the details varied, we all agreed on the big event – that the planes hit the buildings.  If you had just one person write the account, you’d invariably miss some of those details…  But with the multiple independent accounts, just like there’s 4 Gospels, you get a much richer picture of the historicity of what happened on 9/11 and likewise, with the historicity of the events surrounding Jesus.  Everybody agreed upon the big picture, but they differed on the minor details.  We all agreed that each account is an eyewitness account and its an independent eyewitness account.  There’s no way to contrive 4 fictional accounts and have them agree on so much (as the Gospels agree on)!  If they’re true though, it makes sense.

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That exercise will hopefully help drive home the point of this message today, which is the Tapestry of New Testament history – How “undesigned coincidences” point to the historicity of the New Testament accounts.  This is a fascinating area of study and one that rarely gets talked about in Apologetics, but never-the-less, these “undesigned coincidences” that we’re going to be talking about today, show beyond any reasonable doubt that the new testament authors were actually telling the truth – that they really were recording eyewitness testimony of historical events that actually happened.

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As usual, when examining these objections, we want to first take a look at what the skeptics are saying…  Here are a few of them.  First, Sir Ian McKellen of Lord of the Rings fame says, “I’ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying, ‘This is fiction’.”

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And of course, our old friend, Richard Dawkins says, “The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality.  It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality.  As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture”.

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Blogger J.M. Green of the “Debunking Christianity” blog says “Claiming the Bible is true because it mentions some historical people and places is like saying that Sherlock Holmes stores are true because they contain descriptions of Victorian London.”,  So, these skeptics, and many others want you to believe that the Bible and specifically the Gospels are nothing more than fiction – something like a historical novel.

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I would like to start by reading a passage to you from the Gospel of Luke …

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This is a wonderful passage from a historian’s perspective because it puts “historical crosshairs” in the biblical text.  By historical crosshairs, I mean that Luke here references real historical figures and their timeframes.  He’s nailing down so many different things historically in this passage.  It is highly unlikely that this writing could be fiction – kind of like a historical novel – because it contains too many historically confirmed characters (give handout). The New Testament writers would have blown their credibility with their contemporary audiences by implicating real people in a fictional story, especially people of great notoriety and power. There is no way the New Testament writers could have gotten away with writing outright lies about Pilate, Caiaphas, Festus, Felix, and the entire Herodian bloodline. Somebody would have exposed them for falsely implicating these people in events that never occurred. The New Testament writers knew this, and would not have included so many prominent real people in a fictional story that was intended to deceive. Again, the best explanation is that the New Testament writers accurately recorded what they saw.

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He’s talking about the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry.  We know from history that the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar is 26 A.D. (he began a co-regency with Augustus Caesar in the year of 12 A.D.)  So you take 12 and you add 14 and a bit to it and you’re into the year 26.  And about a year later than that, Jesus begins his public ministry.  What is the first miracle worked by Jesus in His public ministry?

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It’s in Cana of Galillee…  It’s where He turns water into wine.  Luke doesn’t report this miracle, but John does.

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And right after that, He goes to Jerusalem and He cleans out the Temple for the first time.  Some of the people who’s tables He’s overturning are not happy with Him and they ask Him, “By what authority do you do this?” and He says “Destroy this temple and I’ll raise it up in 3 days”.  That’s probably as much of it as most of us remember.

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But there’s a peculiar finishing line…  In John 2:20, the Jews say to Him “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”  So, there’s just this strange detail (46 years to build the temple) stuck in there.  What does that mean? Turns out that in the year 18 B.C., Herod the Great began building the Temple.  So, using the Jewish method of reckoning (they count a year even if it is not complete), 46 years means 45 + something, and we move 45 years forward, we find that we’re in the year 27, which is 1 year after the year 26, which is the year that is the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.  So these 2 verses (from Luke and John) which have nothing else in common, both nail down, with a chronological specificity, that’s really quite remarkable, exactly the right time periods for the beginning of John the Baptist’s and of Jesus’ ministries.

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So, this is one example of what is called an undesigned coincidence… An undesigned coincidence (so-named by J.J. Blunt from his book and first discovered by William Paley) occurs when one account of an event leaves out a bit of information which is filled in, often quite incidentally, by a different account, which helps to answer some natural questions raised by the first.

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JJ Blunt was a Cambridge Professor and a Pastor, who had a kind of detectives eye…  When he looked at the New Testament documents, particularly the Gospels and Acts, he could see that the New Testament documents were true just by reading and comparing them.

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Frank Turek refers to this subject as “Elaborate Testimony” or “Interlocking Puzzle Pieces”.  This refers to evidence that is lying just below the surface of the New Testament narrative.  It is an elaborate series of interlocking puzzle pieces that reveal that the New Testament documents contain independent eyewitness testimony of actual historical events

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This material is so compelling, and yet, so few people know about it, that we really need to highlight it and that’s why I felt it was important to focus on this for one week.  Believe me this is so extensive and in-depth, we could go on about this for a month!

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Now let’s cover another example of one of these “undesigned coincidences”.  It’s one of those things where you see a puzzling statement and you go, “Hmmm, that’s puzzling, That doesn’t make any sense… I wonder why that’s in there?”  Or, it raises a question and then you read another Gospel and it gives you the answer.

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Let’s take a look at Jesus before Pilate – In Luke chapter 23, the Jews accuse Jesus before Pilate.  They say “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”

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And Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “You have said so.”

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Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man” Now, let’s assume, for the sake of argument that you only had Luke’s account of this incident – Now if this account is not puzzling to you, it should be…  The Jews say Jesus is basically guilty of sedition for claiming to be a king.  Pilate says “Are you the King of the Jews” and Jesus basically says Yes. (He says, you’ve said so – He didn’t try to defend Himself).  Then Pilate said “He’s not guilty!”  Wait a minute!  How could he be not guilty???  He just admitted what Pilate asked Him and what the Jews accused Him of!  It’s puzzling if you just read Luke

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But, if you go over to John…  You see that there’s a missing puzzle piece that solves what Luke says.  Here’s John’s account (starting in verse 33):  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?“ …  Then if you skip down to verse 36, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world….”  Aha!! – now you can see why Pilate (at least temporarily) let Jesus go and said “I find no guilt in this man”.

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He did so because Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world”, so He’s not claiming to be in some way trying to overthrow Caesar.  That was really the charge that the Jews were trying to bring up – or trying to get Pilate to believe anyway, in hopes that Pilate would do away with him. When Pilate sees he’s saying, “My Kingdom is not of this world”, he’s probably thinking, “He might be a loony or something, but he’s no threat to Caesar! Hey Jews, I find no guilt in him!” But you only get that by reading John!

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So John helps verify, or fill in details that are missing in Luke. He fills in a question that reading just Luke’s account may raise. Now, I say this is “inadvertent” because, its not like John is trying to give a different account than Luke, or that he’s trying to solve what Luke says – he just gives more detail, he just gives a little more of the narrative that actually occurred. Perhaps John actually saw the incident, it doesn’t say he was in the room, but who knows? Maybe he was close enough to see what was going on, or maybe Jesus later told him.

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It’s worthy to note here that John is different than what are called the Synoptics, Matthew Mark and Luke, John appears to have inside information. He’s traveling with Jesus and appears to have a lot of private conversations that the rest of them don’t have, such as the woman at the well, or with Pilate or with the disciples in the upper room, with Nicodemus, they’re more private conversations.  And remember … John is an eyewitness, Luke is not –

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Luke is creating an orderly account. And by the way, he may be creating an orderly account because perhaps the other accounts were not in chronological order. For example, Matthew is more thematic than chronological.  Even though Luke is not an eyewitness himself, he is interviewing eyewitnesses. So he leaves out the details maybe he didn’t know about. John fills these details in so, just reading these two you ought to walk away saying, “they’re witnessing the same event, but one is giving more detail than the other.”

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After you go through these elaborate testimonies, these interlocking puzzle pieces you realize that it would take more faith to believe that these accounts were contrived, than to believe that you actually have four independent eyewitness accounts of the same events and that’s why you get different details.

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Let’s do another one here. It involves Herod Antipas – he’s the son of Herod the Great. After Herod the Great died in 4 BC his kingdom got divided up and Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, got a portion of the kingdom. This Herod that you read of in the New Testament is the Herod that beheaded John the Baptist and also tried Christ.

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Now, when you read the Gospel of Matthew, you have a puzzle arise, when he talks about Herod. Here’s what Matthew says in Matthew chapter 14 verses 1 & 2 about Herod:

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At that time, Herod the Tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants “this is John the Baptist”, (referring to Jesus), “he has been raised from the dead, That is why these miraculous powers are in him.” Now, here’s the question, how would Matthew know what Herod had said to his servants?  Matthew is not in the room when Herod speaks to his servants! You say, well, maybe God told him. Well, yeah, you could say that. You could say this is revelation directly from God, but you don’t need to even go there …

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Because, if you compare Matthew’s account with Luke’s account, you’ll see that, in an unrelated story, there is a detail in Luke that helps us solve the puzzle that Matthew leaves. Here’s what it says in Luke 8:1: “and the twelve were with Jesus, “

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“and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, out of who had come seven demons, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for him from their substance.” There it is!  Just a passing detail! You can see here how it is possible that Matthew knew what Herod said to his servants, because one of his the women traveling with Jesus, is married to Herod’s steward (Chuza). Do you think maybe a little pillow talk may have ensued?

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Herod’s steward Chuza is saying to Joanna, (whisper)this is what Herod is saying about Jesus. He thinks he’s John the Baptist – just resurrected.” That’s why Matthew knows it, because Matthew is following Him around too. The twelve were with Him, as this passage says! This is so inadvertent. It’s such a passing detail! It’s not like Luke says explicitly, “Here’s how Matthew knew what Herod said to his servants about Jesus.” He just mentions that Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward is one of the ones following Jesus and this Chuza guy is one of Herod’s steward. So here, Luke helps solve Matthew.

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Here’s another one – a puzzling question that arises in Luke. Here’s what it says in Luke chapter 9: “And they kept silent and told no one in those days that any thing of what they had seen.” So, what’s the context of this…

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Peter James and John had just seen Jesus transfigured along with Elijah and Moses. And it says, “and they kept silent, and told no one in those days anything off what they had seen.” (Luke 9:36) So, what’s the puzzle (Again, assuming you only had Luke)? Why would they keep silent about this amazing event? They just seen the Transfiguration! Why would they not have told everybody? But, they kept silent, so Luke kind of leaves a puzzle.

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But you go over to Mark, and here’s what Mark account says, “As they were coming down the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man rose from the dead.“ Mark 9:9. Aha! Now you can see why Luke says they told no one. Mark gives us the command not to tell anyone, but he doesn’t say whether they obeyed it. Luke records their obedience to the command, but he doesn’t tell us what the command was, so Mark gives us what Jesus told them not to do. And Luke records that they obeyed what Jesus said! But, both accounts together give you a more complete picture. The puzzle raised by Luke, is solved by simply reading Mark

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Now, let’s take a look at a puzzle that is raised by Matthew. Matthew records Jesus pronouncing the following judgments. This is in Matthew 11:21 (ESV). He says, “woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida, for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Here’s the puzzle: what mighty works had been done in Bethsaida? Matthew doesn’t record Jesus doing any! It’s kind of a puzzle. Well, in order to answer this one, we’ve got to another puzzle before we answer this one.  So, let’s move over to John for a second, then will come back to Matthew.

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John leaves a puzzle as well, because at the feeding of the 5000, John records Jesus asking Philip in John 6:5, “where are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” Now here’s the puzzle: why is Jesus asking Philip, a relatively minor character, where to get a lot of money and food , instead of asking a leader, such as Peter or John or perhaps even Judas, because Judas was the keeper of the money, right? I mean, it just seems odd that he would ask Philip. Well, John leaves a puzzle, but Luke solves it.

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And here’s how Luke solves it – inadvertently by the way. Luke, and only Luke, mentions that Bethsaida was the location of the feeding of the 5000. In a passing comment in Luke 9:10, he writes that Bethsaida is the location of the feeding of the 5000. Now in other contexts in John chapters 1 and 12, John records that Philip was from Bethsaida in Galilee. Yet, in John chapter 6, where the feeding of the 5,000 is recorded, Jesus asked Philip where to get food. So, John and Luke interlock to help us solve the puzzle.  Philip is from Bethsaida. He would know where to get food and money because he’s in his hometown! Now, we wouldn’t know that from John alone. John tells us “the who”, while Luke tells us “the where”, thus the accounts are complementary here. These are passing details. John never says that Jesus asked Philip because Philip was from Bethsaida, because he never even says that they’re in Bethsaida! So Luke solves John.

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Matthew leaves a puzzle in his account of Jesus being beat by the Roman guards (this is chapter 26 from verse 57-67). After Jesus basically declares that he is the Messiah, it says (v65) “the high priest tore his clothes and said he has spoken blasphemy, why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy, what do you think?” And they answered, “He’s worthy of death!”

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Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists. Others said to Him, “prophesy to us Christ! Who hit You?”

As an aside…  Imagine this… The Creator of the universe putting on human flesh, coming here to earth, living a perfect sinless life in order to save the very people who are beating and spitting on Him! Amazing love…

Now back to the puzzle, why are they asking, “who hit you?” He can see them right in front of him, can’t he? Matthew kind of leaves a puzzle. Why would they be asking him to prophesy? He’s looking at them as they’re hitting him! Well, in order to solve the puzzle, you need to go over to Luke.

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Here’s Luke’s account (Luke 22:63-65): “Now the men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and demanded, ‘Prophesy, who hit You’? And they said many other insulting things to Him.” So in Luke’s account, he gives the detail that Matthew doesn’t give. What’s the detail? That he was blindfolded! That’s why they were asking, who hit you? You don’t get that just from Matthew’s account. This is just kind of inadvertent, it doesn’t appear to be contrived, that Luke would solve a puzzle that Matthew leaves. So here we have another internal, undersigned coincidence, or interlocking puzzle piece.

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Now we’re going to look at some interlocking puzzle pieces from non Christian writers, these are called extra-biblical writers – writers such as Josephus, Tacitus and Sutoneous.

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If you go to Matthew, he says this: Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus were in Egypt, to avoid Herod (the homicidal maniac), who is trying to kill the babies in Palestine. Then Matthew says that Joseph had a dream in Egypt, to return to Israel with Mary and the Child Jesus. But when Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.

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Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth , this is in Matthew chapter 2. Now here’s the puzzle piece. Why is Archelaus so scary? Why would Joseph want to avoid Archelaus ? Matthew doesn’t explain! He doesn’t even say who Archelaus is! He just says, when Joseph heard that Archelaus was reigning there, he was afraid, so he went north, he went up to Galilee. Galilee is north of Jerusalem. He didn’t go to the Jerusalem area, he went to Galilee. Well, who can actually tell us why Archelaus is so scary?

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Josephus, the Jewish historian, who lived from about 37ad – 100 ad. He tells us that

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Archelaus was one of the sons of Herod the great (older brother of Herod Antipas), and that Archelaus got a piece of Herod’s Kingdom, which happened to include Jerusalem. And even before he’s completely installed by Cesar, he decides to assert his authority. There’s a disturbance at the temple.

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Archelaus orders Roman troops into the temple, and he actually slaughters 3000 Jews. Passover was cancelled because of what Archelaus had done!

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So, imagine, Joseph is on the road from Egypt back up toward Israel, and there are Jews, who were at the Passover, returning to their homes maybe in Egypt, and they’re coming down from Israel, and

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Joseph says, why are you guys coming down from Passover? Why aren’t you still at Passover? We can imagine them saying, haven’t you heard? Archelaus ordered troops into the temple, and 3000 of our brethren have been killed! Passover has been cancelled! So, Joseph is thinking to himself, I left Israel to escape a homicidal maniac! I’m not going to go back there to another homicidal maniac the son of the first homicidal maniac, I’m going to go to another district, where he’s not in charge.

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So he goes to Galilee. Now, Matthew doesn’t give you all this detail, he just tells you the truth, that Archelaus was someone to be avoided, and that Joseph was afraid of him! Josephus gives us the detail! Josephus is writing probably 40 years after Matthew. How could Matthew control with a Jewish historian writes 40 years later? Mathews dead! He can’t! That’s why this is an undesigned coincidence. That’s why this is an interlocking puzzle piece. This elaborate testimony can’t be explained by some sort of contrivance. So Josephus comes in and actually verifies what Matthew is saying.

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And how about Jesus going to the temple at 12 years old? Luke says, every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was 12 years old, they went up to the feast according to the custom. Now, here’s the question: why did his parents go without him, and then bring Jesus when he was 12? Why didn’t they bring Jesus when he was 10 or 11? Well, I think Josephus has the answer again. Josephus says this: in the 10th year of Archelaus government both his brother and the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, they accused Archelaus before Caesar.

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Caesar, upon hearing what certain accusers of his had to say, and what reply Archelaus could make, banished Archelaus to Vienna, a city of Gaul. Gaul is present day France. So, the reason His parents are bringing Jesus to the temple when he is 12, is because that’s the year that Archelaus is no longer in charge. That’s what it appears to be anyway, we are reading between the lines here. Again, this is from Josephus, 30 years after Luke is writing! How could Luke control what Josephus says 30-40 years later? He can’t!

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So we’ve got Josephus not only verifying Matthew with regards to Archelaus – he solves a puzzle in Luke as well, it seems, as to why Jesus’s parents would wait until he was 12 to bring him to the temple. That’s the first year Archelaus  is not in power. They’ve been avoiding Archelaus for Jesus’s first 12 years, now Archelaus is deposed by Caesar, so, hey, now we can bring Jesus to the temple this year.

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Now how about another undersigned coincidence. Why did Claudius order the Jews out of Rome? In Acts 18, of course written by Luke, it says after these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth and he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. So there is this kind of parenthetical comment, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. That’s why Aquila and Priscilla where in Corinth, because they had been basically booted out of Rome by Claudius. The puzzle is this: who’s Claudius and why did he command and all the Jews to leave Rome? In other words, Luke doesn’t tell you who Claudius is or why he commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.

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But Suetonius, a Roman historian, writing about the 12 Caesars, (you know there were 12 Caesars, he did biographies of them) – he’s writing about 117 AD. Luke is writing about 60 AD (the book of Acts), no later than 62 AD. So writing 50 something years later, along comes the Roman historian Suetonius, and

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in the section on Claudius, Suetonius writes this: “the Jews at Rome had caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, so, Claudius expelled them from the city.” What? That’s why Luke parenthetically notes that Priscilla and Aquila were in Corinth because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart Rome. Now why do you think you would have commanded the Jews to depart Rome? Maybe the Jews were not happy that the Christians we’re claiming that Jesus was the promised Messiah! And so there was a disturbance there. You know there was a disturbance wherever Paul went, particularly when he went into the synagogue. The Jews didn’t like what he was saying. They may have tried to beat him… Or they may have tried to kick him out… There was a disturbance. Claudius said get these people out of my city! By the way, we know that there was a church there (in Rome). That’s why Paul wrote the book of Romans!

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He’s writing to the church at Rome! And, non Christian writers will tell you that Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome. Why? Because there is a resurrection! So, now you have another outside source , Suetonius, who affirms Luke when he gives us the explanation as to why Luke would say that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome. Amazing – these are eyewitness details that are not contrived, as if the writers were writing fiction.

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How about another external elaborate testimony? The question is, did Herod really kill John the Baptist? Now, which Herod? Herod Antipas, another son of Herod the Great, who beheaded John the Baptist and he also tried Christ. Whenever you see Christ is on trial, before Herod, this is the Herod – Herod Antipas. Here’s what Mark says about Herod beheading John the Baptist: the king, Herod Antipas, was greatly distressed. Because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her, so he immediately sent an executioner.  By the way, who’s “her”?  We’ve got to set the context here. Do you remember that Herod’s wife Herodias used to be married to Herod’s step brother, and he, Herod Antipas, got Herod’s step brother’s wife to marry him and John the Baptist said, this is an illegitimate marriage, you shouldn’t be doing this.

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And so, when, her daughter, Salome, danced for Herod Antipas, he said, “Wow, that’s very pleasing to me, I’ll give you up to half of my kingdom, what do you want?” So her mother said tell Herod that you want the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And here’s where we pick it up in chapter 6 of Mark. Herod was greatly distressed because she said give me John’s head on a platter, but because of his oaths & his dinner guests he did not want to refuse her so he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John head.  And the executioner went and beheaded John in brought back his head on a platter and he presented it to the girl and she gave it to her mother. Now, Mark does not say who the girl was. Who does? Josephus does! So, here, we have an event that is in the New Testament that Josephus says actually occurred and he actually gives us the name of the girl who danced, the daughter of Herodias, Herod’s illicit wife. In fact, Josephus also confirms that this actually occurred, 40 years later in antiquities, the 18th book. It says “now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God and that, very justly, as a punishment against what he did against John, called the Baptist, for Herod killed him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue both as to righteousness to one another and to piety toward God and so to come to baptism.” So here’s Josephus, again, writing 40 or so years after Mark telling us that Herod killed John the Baptist. The woman who was the daughter of his wife, whose name was Salome.   And that he was judged because of this and that John was a good man, and actually got the Jews to live a more virtuous life, and actually baptized them. All this comes all from Josephus! Now, how could Mark, or Luke, or Matthew, (who tell us to same story basically that Herod executed John the Baptist), could they get Josephus to confirm what they said, when Josephus lived long after they died? They couldn’t! That’s why these are undesigned coincidences, uncontrived!

slide64

How about the Bible, in its discussion of money? Do you remember when Jesus was about to be trapped? By the Pharisees, and they come to him and asked, should we pay taxes to Caesar? By the way, there was a dual taxation in that culture. There was taxation from the Romans, and also taxation from the Jews, for the temple tax. So there’s a double taxation going on. In the New Testament writers know about this! How would they know about this? Unless they were there, or had access to eyewitness testimonies. How would you know there was a double taxation system? There was also a dual system of justice. Remember, Jesus is tried twice. He’s tried by the Jews and the Romans. How would they know that? If they’re just making all this up? It seems to take more faith to believe that all this was just invented, when they got it all right, there is a dual taxation system, there is a dual system of justice.

slide65

Anyway, the Pharisees say to him, should we pay taxes to Caesar? They’re trying to trap him, and he says “show me a denarius. Whose image and description does it have?” And they said, Caesar’s, and he said to them, “then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” And if you look at archaeology, you can see these coins have been discovered. And on the denarius, it had a picture of “Augustus Tiberius Caesar”, and it said, “Son of the divine Augustus”. Now of course, that’s blasphemy to the Jews, that a man is divine? You shall have no other gods before me Exodus 20:3 says, one of the ten commandments, so that would’ve been blasphemous,

slide66

but you find these coins, and yes, Caesar’s image is on the coin, and so Jesus, brilliantly, says, “well give to Caesar what is Caesar’s then”. This is Caesar’s coin, not gods.

By the way, Caesars image was on the coin as archeology reveals, but whose image is on you? God’s image! So, give to God what is God’s. Are you truly giving to God you? That’s really what we’re here to do, to know God and to make Him known! Are you an ambassador for the God who created you? Give to God what is God’s!

slide67

Also, Josephus confirms that Matthew is correct about the temple tax, because in Matthew 17, Peter is asked if Jesus pays the two drachma tax, the temple tax. Well, Josephus tells us in antiquities 18, that every Jew paid the two drachma tax each year as an offering to God. That’s about 2 days wages.

slide68

And the coin that Peter found in the fish is called a stator. A stator coin is worth about four drachma. So when Jesus says to Peter, throw your hook in the water, the fish you pull out we’ll have a coin in there and it will pay the temple tax for me and you, four drachma, they actually have found these coins. They’re called stator coins, so archaeology confirms the coin Peter found in the fish mouth.

slide69

Also, Tacitus another secular writer, a Roman senator and historian, actually confirmed that a denarius was a day’s wages, which is what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 20. Tacitus actually points out that denarius was a day’s wage in one of his works called annals. So now you have not only Josephus and Suetonius confirming Matthew Mark and Luke, now you have Tacitus telling us that something is right in Matthew regarding the use of money,

slide70

so the Bible is on the money! I’m telling you, there’s too many details like this for this to be invented friends! this is a witness detail.

slide71

That was a lot we covered and I guarantee you – there is at least 10 times as much information out there on this subject.  We’ve reviewed examples of both internal and external “undesigned coincidences”.  When you look at all these undesigned coincidences, these interlocking puzzle pieces, they present a very compelling argument that the writers of the Gospels and Acts really were recording independent eyewitness testimony of actual, historical events.  I think the conclusion is unavoidable – they were telling the truth!

Apologetics Class 2/12/2017

Yesterday our topic was abortion.  Here were some videos we watched in class:

  1. The 180 Movie (~ ½ hour): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI
  2. The S.L.E.D. Test (total of 9 ½ minutes):
    1. Introduction: http://subspla.sh/cd6e7d6
    2. S – Size: http://subspla.sh/52200fa
    3. L – Level of Development: http://subspla.sh/c03b7b5
    4. E – Environment: http://subspla.sh/469db33
    5. D – Degree of Dependency: http://subspla.sh/fcd0a3f
    6. Conclusion: http://subspla.sh/60e03e2
  3. Trotting out the toddler: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ktPmgBX_FU

Unfortunately, all the people making the argument in these videos are men.  However, there are many strong pro-life women.  In some quick research, I also found this video from a woman abortion survivor to the Australian parliament:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOWMmx6eBjU

Very powerful.

This was not necessarily a “traditional” Biblical apologetics issue, but it is a moral issue that certainly flows from our Christian worldview.  There are a few Bible verses I quoted in the class, which are relevant to this issue:

  1. Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”.  This tells us that God forms us in the womb.
  2. Psalms 139:13-16For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Again, here we are told that God is the one ‘knitting us together in our mother’s wombs.
  3. Finally, I referenced how the baby John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy SpiritLuke 1:41.  This tells us that John was a human person – a baby, not just a fetus, when he was in Elizabeth’s womb.

It was a good class and we had a good discussion at the end.

After the class, I was talking to one of the students (a female student who is a senior in high school).  She expressed a few different concerns regarding the topic and the video:

  1. She might be considered hateful by others if she tries to convince them about the pro-life view.
  2. She’s concerned that the woman that have abortions do not feel loved, but rather, judged by Christians – that we need to show them more love and less judgment based on the situation they’re in
  3. It would be more effective to have women make these arguments for the pro-life position, since they’re in a position to know more about the special burdens and trials of pregnancy and childbirth

By the way, I do agree with all those points.  Part of my purpose in showing the videos in the class, was not only to equip the students to make their pro-life case, but at a minimum to convince them personally that the pro-life position is the Christian position and the most logical/moral position.  So, my biggest concern is that the students are personally convinced and have a chance to think through the issues their selves in a safe environment where they can ask questions.  So, I hope that at least watching these videos has had an impact on their personal views.

That being said, I completely understand that it is a daunting task, as a senior in high school, to go out and convince others of that position.  My hope is that the students would be able to stand up and say “I’m pro-life” if the issue ever comes up and will be able to defend their views if someone asks them why they’re pro-life.  That’s defensive apologetics – giving a reasoned answer for your views when challenged, and not being persuaded by the pro-choice view because you’ve taken the time to think deeply about the pro-life view.

I did share with this student the one pro-life video by a woman (15 minutes), who happens to be a survivor of an abortion that she would possibly be interested in watching:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOWMmx6eBjU

She did watch it and said “I watched the video and it was really powerful and got me to think more about abortion.”

I also shared with her some links to several female bloggers that blog about pro-life issues:

http://www.lifenews.com/author/mallory-quigley/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/kristan-hawkins/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/cora-sherlock/

http://www.lifenews.com/author/rebeccataylor/

It was a great class and I think it was a divine appointment for this particular student, because she had just been struggling with this issue.

Apologetics Class (2-14-2016)

Hi All,

Great class today.  Our topic was “Is God Just a Human Invention?”  Here is a video of the slides I used to present:

I’ve pasted the slide notes below (so you can watch the video and read the notes).

Additionally I handed out a small article called “Rubber Crutches”.  That and our note taking form and our discussion questions are pasted below.

Thanks for attending and we’ll see you next week!

 

Notes that go with each slide:

Slide 1

 

Today the question we’ll be examining is, “Is God Just a Human Invention?” Are we just deceived into believing in God because this belief makes us feel comforted?

 

 

 

Slide 2

 

The title of this talk is based on the title of an excellent book of the same title by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow.  I would highly recommend the book (hold up book).  As you can see, it attempts to answer this question and 17 other questions raised by the new atheists.

 

 

 

Slide 3

 

So, as usual, as we examine this objection, we will first take a look at what the skeptics and atheists say about this….

 

 

 

Slide 4

 

First, one of the New Atheists, Christopher Hitchens said “Freud made the obvious point that religion suffered from an incurable deficiency: it was too clearly derived from our own desire to escape from or survive death.  The critique of wish-thinking is strong and unanswerable.”

 

 

 

Slide 5

 

Former governor of Minnesota, and skeptic, Jesse Ventura said “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.”

 

 

 

Slide 6

 

Likewise, Larry Flynt (a publisher who produces sexually graphic videos and magazines, most notably Hustler) says “There’s nothing good I can say about it [religion]. People use it as a crutch.”

 

 

 

Slide 7

 

American media mogul Ted Turner, founder of the Cable News Network more popularly known as CNN, said “Christianity is a religion for losers!”

 

 

 

Slide 8

 

In 1843, Karl Marx penned his denunciatory statement on religion that it is the “opiate of the masses”

 

 

 

Slide 9

 

So, as we’ll see, there are various theories atheists and skeptics advance to try to explain the phenomenon of religious belief…

 

 

 

Slide 10

 

There are 5 prominent theories that we’ll be covering.  Each of these theories attempts to explain why people continue to believe in God.  They are:

  • Projection Theory
  • Opiate of the Masses
  • The God Gene
  • Richard Dawkins – Memes (and Religion is a Virus of the Mind) theories
  • Natural Selection

 

 

 

 

Slide 11

 

The first theory we’ll discuss, advanced by Sigmund Freud is the theory of projection.

 

 

 

Slide 12

 

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who founded the practice of psychoanalysis, a system espousing the theory that unconscious motives dictate much of human behavior.  Though championing atheism, Freud admitted that the truth of religion could not be disproved and that religious faith has provided comfort for untold numbers of people through history. However, Freud thought the concept of God was illusionary.

 

 

 

Slide 13

 

In one of his religious works, The Future of an Illusion, he wrote, “They [believers] give the name of ‘God’ to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves.”  As to the motivation for creating such illusions,

 

 

 

Slide 14

 

Freud believed two basic things about this: Number 1) people of faith create a god because (click) they have strong wishes and hopes within them that act as comfort against the harshness of life; number 2) The idea of God (click) comes from the need for an idyllic father figure that replaces either a non-existent or imperfect real father (who doesn’t have one of those???). Speaking of the supposed wish-fulfillment factor in religion, Freud wrote,

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 15

 

“They [religious beliefs] are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind. We call belief an illusion when a wish-fulfillment is a prominent factor in its motivation and in doing so we disregard its relation to reality….”

 

 

 

Slide 16

 

For Freud, God was nothing more than a psychological projection that served to shield an individual from a reality he does not want to face and cannot cope with on his own.

 

 

 

 

Slide 17

 

What are the problems with Freud’s theory of projection?

 

 

 

Slide 18

 

It begs the question against God…  Freud’s argument is essentially “Since we know God doesn’t exist, what are the psychological explanations of this belief?”  His argument assumes from the outset that no object of belief actually exists, which is fallacious, committing the fallacy of Begging the Question.

 

 

 

Slide 19

 

As a reminder, the fallacy of begging the question is committed when a person merely assumes what he or she is attempting to prove or when the premise of an argument actually depends upon its conclusion.

 

 

 

Slide 20

 

So, this approach of assuming there is no God is clearly invalid.  We actually do have evidence for God’s existence (for example arguments from cosmology, biology, morality, etc.) and that evidence must be dealt with.

 

 

 

Slide 21

 

As C.S. Lewis said “You must first show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.”  I think this is a powerful response that can be used to defeat any of these objections and theories we are examining today.

 

 

 

Slide 22

 

The second assumption made by the projection theory is that having beliefs that bring us comfort means that those beliefs are false.  But, this does not follow logically.

 

 

 

Slide 23

 

Philosopher of religion Paul Copan observes that “a belief that brings comfort and solace should not be considered necessarily false.  We find comfort in human relationships, and this is perfectly normal, reasonable and healthy.  It would be implausible to presume that our finding comfort in something is automatically defective or otherwise wrong.”

 

 

 

Slide 24

 

The 3rd problem with the projection theory is that it “cuts both ways”.  If it can be argued that humans created God out of a need for security or a father figure,

 

 

 

Slide 25

 

then it can just as easily be argued that atheism is a response to the human desire for the freedom to do whatever one wants without moral constraints or obligations.  As the poem Invictus boldly proclaimed, “I am the master of my fate – I am the captain of my soul”

 

 

 

Slide 26

 

Perhaps atheists don’t want a God to exist because they would then be morally accountable to a deity?

 

 

 

Slide 27

 

Or maybe atheists had particularly tragic relationships with their own fathers growing up, projected that on God and then spent most of their adult lives trying to kill a “Divine Father Figure”?

 

 

 

 

Slide 28

 

Finally, the 4th problem with projection – Perhaps the idea that humans invented God to meet their desires is precisely backward.  Perhaps the reason humans have a desire for the divine is because something or someone exists that will satisfy that desire?

 

 

 

Slide 29

 

C.S. Lewis powerfully articulates this point “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.

 

 

 

Slide 30

 

A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.

 

 

 

Slide 31

 

A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.

 

 

 

Slide 32

 

Men feel sexual desire: well there is such a thing as sex.

 

 

 

Slide 33

 

If I find in myself a desire, which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”  What a profound (and true) statement!

 

 

 

Slide 34

 

The 2nd of the 5 reasons why atheists theorize that people believe in God is that “religion is the opiate of the masses”.  This is related to the prior theory of projection, but since it is so popularly quoted by atheists, I decided to call it out separately.  In 1843, Karl Marx penned this famous statement on religion.  Marx’s contention was that religion gives people artificial, illusory happiness—like opium does to a drug addict—and freeing people from that unrealistic illusion was part of building a better society.

 

 

 

Slide 35

 

Critics such as Marx have charged that religion is an invention designed for people incapable of coping with life’s pressures. Some critics respond that they don’t need this type of emotional comfort, as though that fact falsifies Christianity.

 

 

 

Slide 36

 

Such individuals often claim to be “stronger” because they’re brave enough to face life without a “crutch.” However, to imply non-religious people don’t need a crutch is misleading. Dependence on drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, money, power, other people, and material possessions demonstrates people’s need for a crutch. Atheism—the belief that there is no God—can become a crutch for those addicted to a lifestyle contrary to God’s standards of morality.

 

 

 

Slide 37

 

However, rather than being weak, Christians are strong—not because they depend on themselves, but because they depend on Jesus. Everyone needs assistance. The question everyone has to answer is, what will you lean on? Christianity provides what atheism or other religions never can: spiritual fulfillment, peace, and forgiveness. I’m going to give you all a short article by Greg Koukl that discusses the idea that Christianity is crutch. (Hand out “rubber crutch” paper) Oddly enough, in this piece, he does not reject the idea that Christianity is a crutch, but rather makes the case that we all need a crutch and challenges each person to consider whether their crutch can actually hold them up.

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 38

 

The 3rd of the 5 reasons atheists and skeptics use to explain belief in God is “the God Gene”.  Some in the field of neuroscience are advancing the idea that belief in God is caused by the “God Gene”. Dean Hamer, American geneticist and author, wrote a 2004 book titled “The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into Our Genes”

 

 

 

Slide 39

 

In this book, Hamer explains the impact of genetics on belief in God.  The specific gene in question, is VMAT.  The author, claims that this gene accounts for the spirituality that emerges in some people but not others.

 

 

 

Slide 40

 

So, what’s wrong with this theory of the God Gene?

 

 

 

Slide 41

 

Firstly, the author himself admits his title is overstated.  In a later interview, he said there “probably is no single gene”…  Admissions after the fact like this are rarely ever publicized sufficiently to correct public misconceptions.

 

 

 

Slide 42

 

Additionally, none of Hamer’s work was subjected to peer review by other geneticists or published in any scientific journals.  And the study on which the book was based, was never repeated.

 

 

 

 

Slide 43

 

Human Genome project director, Francis Collins, responded to this theory by saying, very bluntly, “There is no gene for spirituality”

 

 

 

Slide 44

 

Finally, the last problem with the “God Gene” theory is that Neuroscience can’t prove that religious belief is nothing more than a by-product of brain states or chemistry. The mind or soul is clearly correlated with certain brain states or chemistry,

 

 

 

Slide 45

 

but the mind or soul is not identical or reducible to them.  This is a great challenge to the “materialistic worldview”. Materialists claim that the mind reduces to the brain – that there really is no such thing as the mind or consciousness.  However, they face major difficulties with this view. Here are what a few of the experts say about the mind-brain connection and consciousness…

 

 

 

Slide 46

 

David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist specializing in the area of philosophy of mind, says “No explanation given wholly on physical terms can ever account for the emergence of conscious experience.”

 

 

 

Slide 47

 

And Jerry Fodor, author of “In Critical Condition: Polemical Essays on Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind ”, says We don’t know… how a brain (or anything else that is physical) could manage to be a locus of conscious experience.  This …is, surely, among the ultimate metaphysical mysteries; don’t bet on anyone ever solving it.

 

 

 

Slide 48

 

Alan Wallace, author of “The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness”, says “if mental phenomena are in fact nothing more than emergent properties and functions of the brain, their relation to the brain is fundamentally unlike every other emergent property and function in nature.”

 

 

 

Slide 49

 

The 4th reason atheists advance to explain belief in God is something called “Memes”.  This view is put forth by Richard Dawkins, who suggests our beliefs arise from these “memes”, which are described as discrete memorable units, like catchphrases and slogans.  Additionally Dawkins is a strong proponent of the idea that religious beliefs are, what he calls, “viruses of the mind”.

 

 

 

Slide 50

 

But Alister McGrath responds in the book Dawkins’s God (Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life), “If all ideas are memes or the effects of memes, Dawkins is left in the decidedly uncomfortable position of having to accept that his own ideas must be recognized as the effects of memes.”

 

 

 

Slide 51

 

If ideas arising from memes are unreliable, then not only religion, but also materialism, science and reason are undermined.  On the other hand, if scientific ideas arising from memes can still be true, why can’t the same be said for belief in God?

 

 

 

 

Slide 52

 

Now we’ll cover some additional problems with memes and the “viruses of the mind” theory.

 

 

 

Slide 53

 

Unlike Genes (and genetics), there is no scientific evidence that memes actually exist.  Dawkins reveals as much. He says, “We don’t know what memes are made of or where they reside.  Memes have not yet found their ‘Watson and Crick’ [co-discoverers of DNA]; they even lack their Mendel [the founder of the science of genetics]”

 

 

 

Slide 54

 

Are we to conclude that there is a “meme for belief in memes”? Alister McGrath observes, “The meme concept then dies the slow death of self-referentiality, in that, if taken seriously, the idea explains itself as much as anything else.”

 

 

 

Slide 55

 

Let’s briefly return to the notion that religion is a virus of the mind.  This certainly gives a negative impression – that belief in God is a dangerous idea…  But, the question is, “how does one decide what is a dangerous idea and what is a beneficial idea?”  And “Why are the ideas that Dawkins dislikes (e.g., religion or God) viruses of the mind, but others like Darwinian evolution are pure, safe and beneficial?”

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 56

 

All these ideas would have infectiously leaped from mind to mind.  All would function as memes in his view.  It seems wholly arbitrary and subjective to prefer one set  of beliefs and condemn another.  Each and every argument that Dawkins advances for his idea of ‘God as virus of the mind’ can be countered by proposing the opposite – that ‘atheism is a virus of the mind’.  Both ideas are equally unsubstantiated and meaningless.

 

 

 

Slide 57

 

The 5th and final theory we’ll be covering today on why atheists and skeptics think that belief in God persists is the idea that it is a by-product of natural selection.

 

 

 

Slide 58

 

Some scientists turn to the emerging field of evolutionary psychology to explain the roots of religion.  Perhaps humans were hardwired to believe in God by the process of natural selection (they say)?  Maybe this belief was for human survival (they theorize)? Many experiments strongly suggest that “human minds come into the world with all sorts of ‘software’ both preinstalled and booted up” and that “some of this software manifests itself right from birth, while other bits of it become operative at specific times in human development.
 

 

 

Slide 59

 

Michael J. Murray, quoted in the book “Contending with Christianity’s Critics”, says “We have a mental tool that makes us think there are agents around when we detect certain sounds (bumps in the night), (click for next image) motions (rustling in the bushes), or (click for next image) configurations (crop circles) in nature.

 

 

 

Slide 60

 

This “Hyperactive Agency Detection Device”, as it’s called, (or “HADD”) causes humans

 

 

 

 

Slide 61

 

to hypothesize invisible agents that, for example, control the forces of nature.

 

 

 

Slide 62

 

And this disposes us to belief in the supernatural

 

 

 

Slide 63

 

“ROBIN HENIG writes in Darwin’s God,

 

 

 

Slide 64

 

“Hardships of early human life favored the evolution of certain cognitive tools, among them the ability to infer the presence of organisms that might do harm…Agent detection evolved because assuming the presence of an agent — which is jargon for any creature with volitional, independent behavior — is more adaptive than assuming its absence. (click) If you are a caveman on the savannah, you are better off presuming that the motion you detect out of the corner of your eye is an agent and something to run from, even if you are wrong. If it turns out to have been just the rustling of leaves, you are still alive; if what you took to be leaves rustling was really a hyena about to pounce, you are dead…. What does this mean for belief in the supernatural? It means our brains are primed for it, ready to presume the presence of agents even when such presence confounds logic.”

 

 

 

 

Slide 65

 

So, what’s wrong with the idea of natural selection and “agent detection” accounting for our belief in God? For one thing, this notion makes the assumption that God doesn’t actually exist – another example of “Begging the Question”.  But if God does exist it is reasonable to think that He has designed humans to form these beliefs

 

 

 

Slide 66

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

 

 

 

Slide 67

 

So, it needs to be pointed out that this “agent detection” feature of humans could be resulting from the fact that God actually exists and that He has designed humans to form these kinds of beliefs.

 

 

 

Slide 68

 

Blaise Pascal once famously said that “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man”…  So, this idea that our “hyperactive agency detection” was put there by our Creator, rather than simply evolved due to it having a “survival advantage”, is certainly reasonable.

 

 

 

Slide 69

 

This reminds me of a fallacy.  For those of you who went through the fallacies material with me last year, you may remember the formal fallacy “Affirming the Consequent”.  Here is one example that makes it clear what this fallacy is:

 

 

 

 

Slide 70

 

If it is snowing, then it must be cold outside.

It is cold outside.

Therefore, it must be snowing.

 

But clearly just because it is cold outside does not necessarily mean that it must be snowing, right? So, this argument is invalid.

 

 

 

 

 

Slide 71

 

In the same way, you could substitute the “Natural Selection” argument in there:

 

If natural selection is the reason for belief in God, then belief in God must have had a survival advantage

Belief in God can be shown to have a survival advantage

Therefore Natural Selection is the reason for belief in God

 

But, just because you can demonstrate reasons that belief in God confers a survival advantage, doesn’t mean that God does not exist.  Theists (those who believe in God) would also expect that belief in God would result in human flourishing.  So, in this way, the argument is shown to be fallacious.

 

 

 

Slide 72

 

If belief in God is hardwired, there are 2 possible explanations:

  • Blind process of natural selection produces religious belief over time as a by-product with some selective advantage
  • An Intelligent Mind designed humanity to naturally believe God exists.

 

 

 

 

Slide 73

 

So, its critical to ask the question, “What is the evidence for God?” and “Which view is more reasonable?”

 

 

 

 

Slide 74

 

So, let’s recap where we’ve been – we’ve covered a lot of material here.

 

 

 

Slide 75

 

The charge coming from the skeptics and atheists is that “God is Just a Human Invention”.  They try to support their case with several theories which we’ve examined here today…

 

 

 

Slide 76

 

Here are the theories we’ve covered:

  • (click) Projection Theory (which was advanced by (click) …  Freud) – the theory that God was created by man to comfort him against the harshness of life and to create a father figure
  • (the related) (click) Opiate of the Masses (which was put forth by (click) … Karl Marx) – The theory that religion was created by man to give people “artificial happiness”, similar to taking opiumn.
  • (click) The God Gene (which was written about by (click) … Dean Hamer) – the theory that some of us are just genetically hardwired to believe in God
  • (click) Memes / Virus of the Mind theories (proposed by (click) … Richard Dawkins) – the theory that our beliefs arise from “Memes”, which are memorable catchphrases and slogans, and he also proposed that religion is a dangerous idea that is transmitted from mind to mind like a virus.
  • (click) Natural Selection (which comes out of the field of (click) … evolutionary psychology) – the idea that belief in God gave humans an evolutionary advantage because we can detect invisible agents controlling things.

 

 

 

 

Slide 77

 

We’ve analyzed each of these theories, examining the ways in which they all fall short, failing to defeat the idea that God is simply a human invention.

 

 

 

Slide 78

 

I certainly hope that you will now find yourself to be more equipped to answer this objection – that you would feel confident knowing that the faith you hold is not mere wish fulfillment and that those who make that charge, impugn their own ideas in the same breath – they saw off the branch their sitting on.

 

Now do you have any thoughts you want to share with me or would like to comment on the material we’ve covered?

 

Rubber Crutches

Everyone has a crutch.  Will yours hold you up?

When people ask me, “Isn’t Christ just a crutch?” I have a simple reply.  I tell them, “You’re right.  Christ is a crutch.  But you’ve asked the wrong question.”

No one makes fun of a lame person who uses a crutch.  So the real question is, “Am I lame; am I crippled?” because crippled people need crutches.

The fact is, everybody leans on something.  As a Christian I lean on Jesus, because He’s a crutch that can hold me.  What about you?

When I was a kid and someone told a dumb joke, we’d say, “That’s as funny as a rubber crutch.”  The point is “rubber crutches” aren’t funny.  As it turns out, though, a lot of people are leaning on rubber crutches.

The real question is not whether you have a crutch or not.  Everybody does.  The real question is, “Can your crutch hold you?”

What’s your fancy?  What is it that makes your life work for you?  A relationship?  A secure job? Your bank account? Your health? Power?  All of those are rubber crutches.

If whatever you’re depending on for security and significance can be here today and gone tomorrow, then you’re in trouble.  You’re leaning on a rubber crutch.  And that’s not funny.

Yes, Christians lean on Christ.  Call it a crutch if you want, but our crutch can hold us.

One person put it this way:  A Christian is one who has come to the end of his rope. He admits his deep need.  He knows he’s crippled in many ways, and needs help.  When you finally come to your senses and realize you’re deeply crippled and dying, Christ isn’t “just” a crutch—He’s an iron lung.

 

 

Is God Just a Human Invention?

Purpose of the message:

 

 

Naturalistic / Atheist Theories Regarding Belief in God:

  1. P___________________________   T_________________________
  2. O_____________________ of the M___________________
  3. The G____________   G__________________
  4. M____________s   and  V______________ of the M_______________
  5. N____________________   S_________________________

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you see a common theme running through all these naturalistic theories about belief in God?
  2. What is projection theory and why does it fail to defeat belief in God as rational?
  3. What is the difference between “correlation” and “causation”?  How is that relevant to these theories?
  4. What is a “Hyperactive Agency Detection Device” and why is it relevant to this topic?
  5. Have you heard of any of these theories prior to this?  If so, were any of them compelling?
  6. Christians get accused of making “God of the Gaps” arguments (what we don’t yet understand, we attribute to God).  What line of reasoning do skeptics and atheist continually seem to resort to?  What is their “god”?
  7. How can these theories and arguments be turned around and used to explain atheist’s disbelief in God?

 

Apologetics Class Jan 17th 2016

Hi All,

We had the last session on the Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism Sunday.  We finished up the booklet!  At the beginning of the class, we watched 2 videos:

Joel Osteen Says Jesus Christ is Not the Only Way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwL1DThtxYg

How do you know that Christianity is the one true worldview? (Ravi Zacharias): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWY-6xBA0Pk

Here are the questions that drove our discussion after the reading:

From Wide to Narrow?

  1. (pg. 19) Does God owe any rebel a pardon?
  2. (pg. 19 – bottom) Explain the “source”, “ground” and “means” of salvation as God’s redemptive history unfolded through the Old and New Testaments.
  3. (pg. 20) Explain how Adam, Abraham and the other Old Testament saints trusted in God, thereby receiving salvation by faith alone.
  4. (pg. 21) What point is so critical that “it is repeated in various ways no less than 16 times in the New Testament (John 5:23b; 5:37-38; 8:19; 8:42a; 12:48-50; 14:7; 15:20b-21; 15:23; 16:2-3; 1 John 2:22-23; 4:2-3; 4:15; 5:1; 5:9-12; 2 John 1:7-9a)?

The God-Fearing Gentile

  1. (pg. 22-23) Why did Cornelius, “a righteous and God-fearing man” whose “prayers and alms had ascended as a memorial before God”, need to hear the rest of the story – the specifics about Christ and the cross?  Why go through all this detail?
  2. (pg. 24) If the clear testimony of the Apostles and the ancients gave “little hope for the salvation of those who, since the time of Christ, have had no chance of hearing the gospel”, what good reason do we have to abandon their message in the modern era?

Paschal Redux

  1. (pg. 24) What is Pascal’s wager?  Explain it.  How can the same “wager” be applied to the doctrine of inclusivism?
  2. (pg. 25) How is the preaching of inclusivism giving “false hope to the lost”?

Next weekend we start a new series where we will examine one question or objection per week about the Christian faith.  This first week’s question is:

“Is the Bible Divine Rather than Simply Human in Origin?”

mid-week apologetics booster (1-14-2016)

Good morning all,

Here’s a bunch of stuff that may help you “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3):

  1. Short video where Dr. @Frank_Turek shares evidence that the New Testament was written early: https://t.co/8TmRF4xLUY
  2. Reasons To Believe : Can Science Identify the Intelligent Designer? http://www.reasons.org/articles/can-science-identify-the-intelligent-designer
  3. Short Answers to Big Questions: http://www.rzim.ca/events/sabq/
  4. Is the Gospel of Thomas as Reliable as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2016/01/is-gospel-of-thomas-as-reliable-as.html
  5. The case of the ex-Christian Jihadi bride shows that apologetics matters: http://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-case-of-the-ex-Christian-Jihadi-bride-shows-that-apologetics-matters
  6. With Gentleness and Respect: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/gentleness-and-respect/
  7. Take atheism for a test drive! The misperception that atheism is based upon logic, and that Christianity is based upon blind faith, is the result of a deceptive definition of faith. Specifically, atheists frequently portray Christian faith as blind faith: http://godevidence.com/2016/01/test-drive/
  8. The Church Is an Embassy, Not a Social Club: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-church-is-an-embassy-not-a-social-club
  9. What is Sikhism? http://www.gotquestions.org/Sikhism.html
  10. Earth’s Magnetic Field | The Institute for Creation Research: http://www.icr.org/article/earths-magnetic-field/
  11. Does Your Dog Understand You Because You Share an Ancestral Bond? | Answers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/animal-behavior/intelligence/does-your-dog-understand-you-because-you-share-an-ancestral-bond/
  12. Is Your Church Raising an Army of Skeptics? http://www.becauseitstrue.com/blogarticles/is-your-church-raising-an-army-of-skeptics
  13. The Strange Case of Julian “The Apostate”: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/876-strange-case-of-julian-the-apostate-the
  14. The Holy Scriptures-Indestructible: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/31-holy-scriptures-indestructible-the
  15. Unity of the Bible: https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/3-unity-of-the-bible/
  16. Fulfilled Prophecy | Answers in Genesis: https://answersingenesis.org/is-the-bible-true/4-fulfilled-prophecy/
  17. Is the Bible Really the Word of God? http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/bibletru.html
  18. Chapter III–Inspiration of the Scriptures, Systematic Theology, Augustus Hopkins Strong, Christian Classics books at BibleStudyTools.com: http://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/strong-systematic-theology/part-iii-the-scriptures-a-revelation-from-god/chapter-iii-inspiration-of-the-scriptures.html
  19. Former Atheist Academic Who Rejected God and Believed ‘Smart People Don’t Become Christians’ Reveals What Changed Her Mind Entirely | TheBlaze.com: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/10/16/former-atheist-academic-who-rejected-god-and-believed-smart-people-dont-become-christians-reveals-what-changed-her-mind-entirely/
  20. Tough Topic Tuesday: The Problem of Evil, Pt. 8: http://truthbomb.blogspot.com/2016/01/tough-topic-tuesday-problem-of-evil-pt-8.html
  21. Reflections On Doing Apologetics On A Major College Campus: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/reflections-on-doing-apologetics-on-a-major-college-campus/
  22. Apologetics: Two Reasons Not to Use: http://www.timothypauljones.com/2015/01/05/apologetics-two-rotten-reasons-believe-jesus/
  23. More Sweat, Less Blood: http://clearlens.org/2014/09/27/funsized-tactics-chapter-fourteen/
  24. Do the Deaths of the Apostles Prove Anything? – Sean McDowell: http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/do-the-deaths-of-the-apostles-prove-anything
  25. Who Created God? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yY9a2SwNx4
  26. Information Enigma – Information drives the development of life. But what is the source of that information? Could it have been produced by an unguided Darwinian process? Or did it require intelligent design?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA-FcnLsF1g

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Hebrews 2:10

Blessings to you all

Apologetics Class (1-10-2016)

Hi All,

Very good class today.  Great discussion  We started off by watching the following 4 minute video by Greg Koukl:

That’s Just Your Opinionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_r51x10Paw

Then we read pages 18 – 22 of the Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism.  Here are the notes we covered in the class:

Jousting With Giants / Anonymous Christians?

  1. (pg. 13-14) What is the story Emeth serving Tash, when he finally meets Aslan in the “The Last Battle” (Chronicles of Narnia)?  What relevance does that have to pluralism?
  2. (pg. 15) According to recent polls, more than half the Evangelicals in this country are comfortable confessing Jesus is t_____ Savior, but are reluctant to say Jesus is the o____ w___ for everyone else.
  3. (pg. 16) What is the difference between honoring every person as equal before God and honoring every person’s belief about God is equal before God?
  4. (pg. 17) Why do people (including Dinesh D’Souza) get confused on the issue of whether people need to believe in Jesus to be saved?

A Jealous God

  1. (pg. 18) What are some ways in the Old Testament that God was “narrow in His demands”?

I also mentioned about how this Christian friend of mine and I have started role playing through a list of the “Top 100 Questions and Objections to Christianity”.  I would recommend the same to all of you. Here is the site with all the questions and answers.

Next week we’ll finish the booklet and the following week we’ll start on the series where we examine one question or objection per week (and yes, I may draw from the above list, although I have other sources as well).

Blessings to you all

Apologetics Class 1-3-2016

Hi All,

Good class today.  We started off by watching 2 videos today:

Faith Under Fire: The Future of Faith – Gregory Koukl vs. Deepak Chopra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYyWOu_xIMo

Oprah Denies Jesus is the Only Way to Salvation & Heaven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noO_dCWtB1E

Then we read pages 11-17 of “The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism”.  Here were the questions we discussed in our time together:

One Way And Many Ways

  1. (pg. 11) What is “inclusivism”?  How is it different from pluralism?
  2. (pg. 11) Inclusivism is only promoted by Christians who agree that, as the New Testament claims, Jesus is the o_____ w___  of s_________.
  3. (pg. 11) Would it be just for God to condemn people for not believing in a Jesus in whom they have never heard?  What do you think John 15:22 means?
  4. (pg. 12) What is the difference between “modest inclusivism” and “radical inclusivism”?
  5. (pg. 13) Are there people who reject Jesus “through no fault of their own” as many inclusivists claim?  What is the biblical alternative presented by Jesus in John chapter 3?

We will probably start up by going through the questions we didn’t get to today next week.

Have a great week!

Apologetics Class 12-27-2015

Hi All,

Thanks for joining and participating in the class yesterday.  I enjoyed it.  We started off by watching a short video by Sean McDowell on religious pluralism:

Are All Religions True?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wCF6Q-ZVmM

Then we re-read pages 4-10 of the booklet “The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism”.  Here are the questions from the first 10 pages:

One Way for Some pg. 4-7

  1. (pg. 4) How does lack of knowledge and the inability to defend our faith lead to religious relativism?
  2. (pg. 4-5) How does Christian Apologetics (defense of the faith) help to elevate “mere belief” to “credible and justified conviction”?
  3. (pg. 5) Why is it unreasonable to claim that Jesus is your Savior, but not the world’s?
  4. (pg. 5) Jesus is either the savior for a____, or He is the savior of n_____.
  5. (pg. 6) Do most people recognize that they are guilty before God?  If not, how can we convince someone that they have a “sin problem”?
  6. (pg. 6 – bottom) What reason can you give (outside of “the Bible says so”) that Jesus the only way?
  7. (pg. 7 – top) What is “the problem”?  What is “the solution”?

Many Ways for All (Now Starting to Talk About Pluralism) pg. 7-10

  1. (pg. 7) What are the 2 kinds of religious pluralism?  Which is the most concerning kind?
  2. (pg. 8) What is the parable of six blind men and the elephant? How is it used as an argument for religious pluralism?
  3. (pg. 9) Why does the parable fail to demonstrate the legitimacy of religious pluralism?
  4. (pg. 10) Does further investigation into different religions lead one to believe they can be harmonized, or do more contradictions become apparent?
  5. (pg. 10) Someone could respond, “From God’s perspective, the details don’t matter.  He is satisfied with any sincere religious effort”.  How would you respond?

Next week we will continue reading starting at page 11, “One Way And Many Ways”, where the author starts to talk about the concept of inclusivism…

Have a blessed week!  See you next year 🙂

Apologetics Class 12-20-2015

Hi All,

I enjoyed the class on Sunday with our small little group (the 4 of us).  We read pages 1-10 of the booklet, “The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism”.  We also watched a short (4 min 21 sec) video of John Lennox talking about the concept of religious pluralism:

Religious Pluralism: Do all Religions Lead to the Same Goal?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRfOb3WL4cA

Here are the notes that we used to drive our discussion:

No Other Name (The Confused Confession) – pg. 1-4

  1. (pg. 2) How can someone both confess Christ and retreat from the Gospel at the same time?
  2. (pg. 2) What is a “confused confession”?
  3. (pg. 2) Why is no one offended when you both align with Christ (in one sense) and deny Him (in another)?
  4. (pg. 2) What would Jesus say about such a “confused confession”?  What about Paul or Peter?
  5. (pg. 2-3) Christian is not a term the early followers of Jesus applied to themselves.  What did they call themselves?
  6. (pg. 3) How did Jesus respond at His trial when asked if He was the Christ?  Why were His words important?
  7. (pg. 3) What was Peter’s confession in front of the “rulers, elders and teachers of the law” in Acts 4?  What important description of Peter is offered in Acts 4:8 that explains his boldness?
  8. (pg. 3) How do the “ancient confessions” of Jesus, Peter and Paul differ from many modern proclamations of Jesus?
  9. (pg. 4) Is it important that we experience inconvenience or discomfort to fulfill the Great Commission?
  10. (pg. 4) What is “have your cake and eat it too” Christianity?

One Way for Some pg. 4-7

  1. (pg. 4) How does lack of knowledge and the inability to defend our faith lead to religious relativism?
  2. (pg. 4-5) How does Christian Apologetics (defense of the faith) help to elevate “mere belief” to “credible and justified conviction”?
  3. (pg. 5) Why is it unreasonable to claim that Jesus is your Savior, but not the world’s?
  4. (pg. 5) Jesus is either the savior for a____, or He is the savior of n_____.
  5. (pg. 6) Do most people recognize that they are guilty before God?  If not, how can we convince someone that they have a “sin problem”?
  6. (pg. 6 – bottom) What reason can you give (outside of “the Bible says so”) that Jesus the only way?
  7. (pg. 7 – top) What is “the problem”?  What is “the solution”?

Many Ways for All (Now Starting to Talk About Pluralism) pg. 7-10

  1. (pg. 7) What are the 2 kinds of religious pluralism?  Which is the most concerning kind?
  2. (pg. 8) What is the parable of six blind men and the elephant? How is it used as an argument for religious pluralism?
  3. (pg. 9) Why does the parable fail to demonstrate the legitimacy of religious pluralism?
  4. (pg. 10) Does further investigation into different religions lead one to believe they can be harmonized, or do more contradictions become apparent?
  5. (pg. 10) Someone could respond, “From God’s perspective, the details don’t matter.  He is satisfied with any sincere religious effort”.  How would you respond?

We only got through the first 10 questions, so next week, we will finish covering these questions.

Have a great week and a blessed Christmas celebrating the birth of the God-Man, our Lord and Savior (Luke 2:10-11; Philippians 2:5-11).

Apologetics class 12-13-2015

Hi All,

With the holidays and all the activities going on, we only had 1 person in class today 🙂  But it was a good discussion!  We started on the booklet “The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism”.  We read the first 3 ½ pages.  Here are the questions we used to drive our conversation:

  1. (pg. 2) How can someone both confess Christ and retreat from the Gospel at the same time?
  2. (pg. 2) What is a “confused confession”?
  3. (pg. 2) Why is no one offended when you both align with Christ (in one sense) and deny Him (in another)?
  4. (pg. 2) What would Jesus say about such a “confused confession”?  What about Paul or Peter?
  5. (pg. 2-3) Christian is not a term the early followers of Jesus applied to themselves.  What did they call themselves?
  6. (pg. 3) How did Jesus respond at His trial when asked if He was the Christ?  Why were His words important?
  7. (pg. 3) What was Peter’s confession in front of the “rulers, elders and teachers of the law” in Acts 4?  What important description of Peter is offered in Acts 4:8 that explains his boldness?
  8. (pg. 3) How do the “ancient confessions” of Jesus, Peter and Paul differ from many modern proclamations of Jesus?
  9. (pg. 4) Is it important that we experience inconvenience or discomfort to fulfill the Great Commission?
  10. (pg. 4) What is “have your cake and eat it too” Christianity?

We started off by previewing the teaser video I created for the next section of the class (questions about the faith).  You can look at the longer version (~ 5 minutes) here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rUeXTRopmQ

I will be showing a shorter (2 minute) version of the video in church probably early in the new year to try to create some interest for the next section of the class.

During the class we also watched this 3 minute video about why Jesus is the only way of salvation from the author of our booklet (Greg Koukl):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6zpySZDBo0

Have a great week!

Apologetics Class 12-6-2015

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.

————————————————————————-

Hi All,

Class today was good as usual.  Thanks for all your participation.  We finished the book today!  The last chapter was chapter 9, which was only 4 pages long.  Here are the questions we used to drive our discussion:

Unsilenced Chapter 9 ‘Final Encouragement’ (4 pages:  pg. 167-170)

  1. (pg. 167)  How often should we expect discouragement and disappointment when sharing our faith?
  2. (pg. 168) How might other Christians react when you get bold and start sharing your faith?  Will other Christians always share your enthusiasm?
  3. (pg. 170) What kind of “pain” might sharing your faith bring?
  4. (pg. 170) Why don’t you take a small risk and start sharing your faith?
  5. (pg. 170) Everything you do a_______ you put your f________ in J_________ counts in e______.

We started off the class by watching a video:

You Know What’s Funny About The Whole Jesus Thing?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ywumx3BcKN0

It is about a 6 ½ minute witnessing clip of Ray Comfort talking to an atheist who was wearing a “666” hat.  Pretty good.  The video made mention of Mithras – one of our class participants gave a good overview of that.  I added on that the Zeitgeist Movie was very popular with young people and communicated this idea about Jesus was just a legend copied from prior mythologies.  Here are a few articles on these objections and how to respond to them:

  1. The Zeitgeist Movie & Other Myth Claims About Jesus: http://www.str.org/articles/the-zeitgeist-movie-other-myth-claims-about-jesus#.VmSMR79HSMJ
  2. Is Christianity a Copycat Religion?  http://coffeehousequestions.com/2015/09/26/is-christianity-a-copycat-religion/
  3. Is Jesus a Copycat Savior? (Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast #1): http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/is-jesus-a-copycat-savior-cold-case-christianity-broadcast-1/
  4. How to Respond to Claims Jesus Is a “Copycat Savior”: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/how-to-respond-to-claims-jesus-is-a-copycat-savior-free-bible-insert/

Finally, we spoke about where we’ll go next.  We decided that we’ll start with a short booklet “The Ambassador’s Guide to Pluralism”, then, about 5 weeks later, we’ll switch over to the idea of exploring 1 question or objection per week!

I’m excited about our direction of the next few months!

See you next week.

Ps. Here are all the content/questions that we covered while reading the Unsilenced book:

Goals for this portion of the Class

  1. That we would gain an understanding of a way to share our faith with others
  2. That this would result in action: actually sharing our faith.
  3. That we would share our successes and “failures” with the class, although, I believe if you just get in the batter’s box, there are no failures.

Unsilenced Chapter 1 (4 pages long.  Pages 3-6)

  1. (pg. 3) If we claim the truth (that Jesus is the only way to be saved), how can we look silently at all these unsaved people around us?  Why is it the case that we do look silently at them?
  2. (pg. 3) Are we more concerned about “going to Christian Schools” and “not getting drunk” (than sharing our faith – the uniqueness of our message)?  Why is that?
  3. (pg. 4) Have you ever invited someone to lunch and asked if they wanted to hear about Jesus?  If not, why not?
  4. (pg. 5) Have you ever begged for someone to listen to you about your Savior?
  5. (pg. 5) How is it damaging to our witness when we become “people who are really good, while everyone else isn’t”?
  6. (pg. 6) What is the “uniqueness of our message”?
  7. (pg. 6 – last sentence) What should we be known for?

Unsilenced Chapter 2 (7 pages long.  Pages 9-15)

  1. (pg. 9) What is sin?
  2. (pg. 10) What is the purpose of the Law (the 10 commandments)?
  3. (pg. 10 and top of 11) What would happen if God were only “fair with us”?
  4. (pg. 12) What do we have to offer the world? (What is the “good news”?)
  5. (pg. 12) How does the Old Testament sacrificial system tell us about the Gospel?
  6. (pg. 12) How is God not “overlooking sin” by forgiving believers?
  7. (my own question – pg. 13 top) How is it just to punish a “3rd party” (Jesus) for sins I commit against another person?
  8. (pg. 13) How does the Christian concept of ‘substitution’, compare with other religions way of turning away the anger of “the gods”?
  9. (pg. 13 bottom / 14 top) When we say we are “saved”, what are we saved from?
  10. (pg. 13 bottom / 14 top) How are we saved from sin’s power over us?
  11. (pg. 14) What does “born again” mean?  Do most non-believers understand the phrase “born again”?  What kind of reactions have you heard from non-Christians about the phrase “born again”?  From where in the Bible do we get information about “born again”?
  12. (pg. 14) Was it your experience when you were saved that you felt different about your sin?  If so, how did you previously think about it?  And how do you think about it differently now?  How is this a sign of repentance and regeneration?
  13. (pg. 15) At what point is a person “justified” before God?
  14. (pg. 15) Does being made right with God have anything to do with “doing good things”?

Unsilenced Chapter 3 (3 Pages long.  Pages 19-21)

  1. (pg. 19) How did the first followers of Jesus live in light of the message they were entrusted with?
  2. (pg. 19) What is one of the biggest issues with Christians today according to the author?
  3. (pg. 19 bottom and 20 top) What does the account in Acts 4 tell us about what the first Christians were like?  What did the Christians in Acts 4 pray for?
  4. (pg. 20 middle) What were the first Christian’s attitudes like regarding suffering for Christ?
  5. (pg. 20 bottom) Paul tells us to “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  What was he doing in Acts 17 that we should be imitating?
  6. (pg. 21) Do we have any excuses for not sharing our faith?  If we don’t share our faith are we still saved?

Unsilenced Chapter 4 ‘The Famous Excuse List’ (19 pages long.  Pages 25-43)

  1. Church Services are the best way to reach people:
    1. (pg. 25 bottom, 26 top) Why is inviting someone to Church (instead of just sharing the Gospel with them yourself) sometimes not good enough?
    2. (pg. 27) Do you sometimes overlook certain “types of people” as potential candidates for sharing your faith with?  If so, why?
    3. (pg. 27) How would you react if someone you were talking to said “religion is stupid”?  What is the distinction between “religion” and “the Gospel”?
    4. (pg. 27) If you’re honest with yourself, how many opportunities (to share the Gospel, or to do something of eternal significance) do you waste?  How many opportunities to “get in the batter’s box” have you squandered?
    5. (pg. 27) Why don’t the thousands of people who go to churches just share their faith in Jesus with everyone they know?
  2. You Don’t Believe the Unreached Go to Hell:
    1. (pg. 28) How do we know that God won’t give people a second chance to accept Him after they die (having either rejected Him their whole life OR never having heard of Jesus)?
    2. (pg. 29) How is it “fair” for God to send someone to hell that has never heard of Jesus?  Is it reasonable that this doctrine (God sending someone to hell who’s never heard of Jesus) would prevent someone from accepting Christ themselves?
    3. (pg. 30) What will actually happen to us if God is “fair and does the right thing”?  (Think of the definitions of grace and mercy – are grace and mercy “fair”?)
    4. (pg. 31 – top) What kind of thinking does it lead to if believe that God will let people into heaven who’ve never heard of Jesus?
  3. Share Your Faith, but Be Friends First (pg. 31):
    1. (pg. 31-32) Was your impression that you had to be friends for a while before sharing your faith?
    2. (pg. 32) What kind of apprehensions would you have in sharing your faith with a Muslim like Mosab Yousef?
    3. (pg. 33) Have you ever been brave enough to share your faith with a stranger or “short term” acquaintance?
    4. (pg. 33-34) What does the apostle Paul’s approach in the book of Acts tell us about whether we need to make friends before sharing the gospel with someone?
    5. (pg. 34) How do conversation skills help us in sharing the gospel?
  4. Most People are “Led to Jesus” Through a Close Friend (pg. 34):
    1. (pg. 34) What percentage of people are led to Christ through a close friend (according to statistics)?
    2. (pg. 35 – top) If you think you need to be good friends in order to share your faith, how does this show lack of faith in Christ?
  5. Everyone in my area has heard this already (pg. 35):
    1. (pg. 35-36) Once you hear that someone already goes to Church, how does that affect your desire to share the Gospel with them?
    2. (pg. 36-37) Does everyone who goes to a Church hear and understand the Gospel?
  6. Fear of all kinds (pg. 39):
    1. (pg. 39) Why do “being outgoing” and “being fearless for Jesus” not necessarily go together?
    2. (pg. 40) When we see or hear examples of people being brave enough to share their faith, how does it make us feel?  (read Philippians 1:12-14 and discuss):
      1. Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
    3. (pg. 40) Do you have the belief that most people are hostile toward the Christian faith?  If so, why?
    4. (pg. 40-41) Have you prayed for the courage to share your faith?
    5. (pg. 41 – middle) What does it mean to “start fearing the right things”?
  7. So, after you heard all these excuses, do you have any excuses that are not on the list?

Unsilenced Chapter 5 ‘What Should I Say?’ (21 pages: 47-67)

  1. (pg. 47) What kind of tone should you have when you start to talk to someone about eternal things?
  2. (pg. 48) How long will a conversation about Jesus take?
  3. (pg. 49) What does it mean to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable”?
  4. (pg. 49) Are you afraid of rejection?
  5. (pg. 49) Have you ever been surprised by someone that was willing to talk about spiritual things?
  6. (pg. 50) Have you ever seen love open someone’s ears to hearing the gospel who initially didn’t want to hear it?
  7. (pg. 51 – top) What is our basic “If, then idea”?
  8. (pg. 51) What makes “asking people about their views on the afterlife” a great way to start?
  9. (pg. 52 – top) What is the biggest hurdle you have to overcome?
  10. (pg. 52 – bottom) What will you learn when you ask “the question”?
  11. (pg. 53 – bottom) What about the “I don’t think anything happens” guy?
  12. (pg. 54-55 top) Why would a skeptic change their mind on the afterlife when asked about Hitler? What is “the great switch”?
  13. (pg. 56 top/middle) What is the follow-up question that we should ask after the first question?
  14. (pg. 58-59 top) What is it important to do after you walk people through the commandments?
  15. (pg. 60 middle) Why is it important to “include yourself” when talking about having committed sins?
  16. (pg. 61) Why do you need to convince people they are in “massive trouble”?
  17. (pg. 62 bottom) What is a great question to ask someone after they’ve admitted that they’re guilty before God?
  18. (pg. 63 top) What information is necessary for Jesus’ sacrifice to “make more sense” to people?
  19. (pg. 63) What is a “sin-record-eraser”?
  20. (pg. 63-64) What 2 things do people need to do in order to have their sin records erased?
  21. (pg. 64) Is it biblical to tell people to “accept Jesus into their hearts”?
  22. (pg. 67) What is the one question you want to end with?

Unsilenced Chapter 6 ‘Bumps in the Road’ (32 pages:  pg. 71-122)

  1. (pg. 71) Where is “the power”? (Romans 1:16)
  2. (pg. 72) What is the analogy about “air in the tank”?
  3. (pg. 73) Problem #1: God Will Send Someone to Hell for Lying?  That’s Ridiculous.
    1. (pg. 73) How does 50 years of sin equal and eternity of punishment?
    2. (pg. 74) How is this similar to the chemistry test in college?
  4. (pg. 75) Problem #2: Everyone is a Sinner
    1. (pg. 75) Is it reasonable to think that God “grades on the curve”?
    2. (pg. 75 bottom / 76 top) Why is it important to say “us” rather than “you”?
  5. (pg. 77) Problem #3: I Think We’re in Hell Right Now
    1. (pg. 77) What questions can you ask a person who thinks we’re in hell right now?
  6. (pg. 78) Problem #4: Oh Please, What if Christianity Isn’t True?
    1. (pg. 78-80) What would you say to the charge “Look, the Bible was written by a bunch of illiterate sheep herders 2,000 years ago.  And by the way, a man in a huge boat escaped a big flood?!  Give me a break”?  (See page 78 bottom and 79 top for answers)
    2. (pg. 80) Are you just throwing out evidence to win an argument?
    3. (pg. 80) After giving the evidence, it is important to get back to the Gospel.  Why?
  7. (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?
  8. (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?
  9. (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/
  10. (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?
  11. (pg. 92) Problem #9: What if Someone Never Hears About Jesus?
    1. (pg. 92) Has anyone lived a “good life”?
    2. (pg. 92) What should you say to a person who brings up the problem about people who’ve never heard of Jesus?
    3. (pg. 93) Why is it important to get the focus off of “unknown people half way around the world”?
  12. (pg. 95) Problem #10: No One Can Be Sure He’s Going to Heaven.
    1. (pg. 95) How can you answer this objection in a way that points people to Jesus (and not to yourself)?
    2. (pg. 95) What’s the difference between “acting religious” and “pointing people to Jesus”?
  13. (pg. 97) Problem #11: God Could Never Forgive Me of All the Wrong I’ve Done.
    1. (pg. 97) How could you use the story of Moses, Paul or even David to minister to someone who says the above statement?
  14. (pg. 99) Problem #12: Well That’s Good for You, but It’s Not True for Everyone Else.
    1. (pg. 99) How could you give an example that if something is true, it is true whether someone knows it or not?
    2. (pg. 99-100) What would Jesus have said about the above statement? Did He make any exclusive claims in the Bible (like in the book of John)?
  15. (pg. 101) Problem #13: Well, All of the World Religions “Teach the Same Things.”
    1. (pg. 102-103) Provide an example showing that all world religions do not teach the same thing.
  16. (pg. 105) Problem #14: A Lot of People Have Had Followers Like Jesus.
    1. (pg. 105-106) How are Jesus’ followers different than those of the likes of David Koresh (Waco, TX)?
  17. (pg. 107) Problem #15: I’ve Done a Lot of Good Things.
    1. (pg. 107) What example could you give to cast doubt on the idea that people who do more good things than bad things go to heaven?
    2. (pg. 107) Why is it important to make a person see that doing good things has nothing to do with being forgiven of a crime?
    3. (pg. 108) Why does the “fine have to be paid” in order for the sin to be removed from your record?
  18. (pg. 110) Problem #16: There Are “So Many” Contradictions in the Bible
    1. (pg. 110) What question could you ask someone who claims there are a lot of Bible contradictions?
    2. (pg. 110-111) Several common examples of contradictions brought up by skeptics could be understood as ______________ rather than _______________.  What is an example?
  19. (pg. 112) Problem #17: I Don’t Like When People Push Their Religion on Me
    1. (pg. 112) It is hard to share the Gospel with someone who says this.  What question can you ask them that may open a door (or “call their bluff”)?
    2. (pg. 112) Besides someone pushing their religion on them, is there an alternative reason why someone may not want you to share your faith with them?
    3. (pg. 113) Don’t “push your religion” on them, but do what instead?
  20. (pg. 114) Problem #18: What About the Guy on Death Row?
    1. (pg. 114-116) We’re all “on death row”…  150,000 people die each day.  Does anyone really know when that final breath will come?
    2. Can you provide a biblical example of a “deathbed conversion”?
    3. What do the guy on death row and the average person have in common in God’s eyes?
  21. (pg. 117) Problem #19: What about the “Sinning Christians”? Those Hypocrites!
    1. (pg. 117) What would happen if people saw how serious their sin was in God’s eyes?
    2. (pg. 117) Is everyone who calls themselves a Christian actually a Christian?  What did Jesus say about this?
    3. (pg. 118 – top) Since Christians still sin after they become Christians, why aren’t they necessarily hypocrites?
    4. (pg. 118) What question could you ask someone to get them to consider the fairness of judging all Christians by the “hypocrites”?
  22. (pg. 120) Ending notes:
    1. (pg. 120) How are we supposed to take advantage of “the stunned moment” after answering an objection?
    2. (pg. 121) Is it always your fault if someone is not interested and just walks away from you?  What does Jesus say about this in John 7:7?
    3. (pg. 122) How do you handle an awkward pause in the conversation?  What questions can you ask?
  23. Todd Friel video – witnessing tips:
    1. Start in the natural
    2. Swing to the supernatural
    3. Open God’s Law
    4. Warn of God’s Judgment
    5. Law to the Proud, Grace to the Humble:
      1. If the sinner is proud and self-righteous, uphold the law.
      2. If the sinner is broken-hearted and contrite, offer grace.
    6. Share the Good News!
    7. Call them to repentance and faith

Unsilenced Chapter 7 ‘More Than Knowing What to Say’ (11 pages:  pg. 125-135)

  1. (pg. 125-126) How is sharing your faith mysterious?  What does Mark 4:26-29 teach regarding this?  What is our job?  What is God’s job?
  2. (pg. 128-129) What are some things you should keep in mind after long periods of sharing the gospel without seeing any results?
  3. (pg. 130) We should share what we believe about Jesus with our ________s and our ________s.
  4. (pg. 129-130) What does the phrase “Good Works: Don’t Just Do Them, Use Them” mean?
  5. (pg. 131-133) What purpose do Gospel tracts serve?
  6. (pg. 134-135) How can we be persistent in sharing our faith?

Unsilenced Chapter 8 ‘The Varsity Team’ (25 pages:  pg. 139-163)

  1. (pg. 140-142) What 2 things to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have in common that distinguishes them from Christians?
  2. (pg. 143-144) What does 2 Nephi 25:23 (in the Book of Mormon) say and how does that compare with Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 and Galatians 2:21?
  3. (pg. 144-145) Did David forfeit his inheritance in heaven because of his adultery with Bathsheba, or was he saved despite his many sins?  Why and how?
  4. (pg. 145) How would you respond to the argument that Abraham was saved by good works based on James 2:21?
  5. (pg. 146) We’re not saved from _____ and don’t enter ______ by ________: only through _______.  That _______ will result in _______ because of the _________ that God gives us.
  6. (pg. 147-151) Where in the New Testament does it say that Jesus is God? Explain the difference between ‘direct references’ and ‘indirect references’.
  7. (pg. 150-151) Does the phrase ‘firstborn’ in Colossians 1:15 mean that Jesus is not eternal? What does Psalm 89:27 tell us about the phrase ‘firstborn’?
  8. (pg. 152) Why worry about people who say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m good with the Lord”?  Well, they might ___   ___________.
  9. (pg. 152) How does Matthew 7:21-23 speak about the issue?  Jesus is talking about people who ________  ________  ________  Him.
  10. (pg. 153) What is a question that you can ask a self-proclaimed “Christian” that tell you a lot in less than 10 seconds?
  11. (pg. 154) If the person says yes to the above question, but sounds shaky, what follow-up question can you ask them?
  12. (pg. 152-154) Should we just assume that every person attending church is saved? One of my favorite lines is “Tell me about ________  ____________  _________.”
  13. (pg. 156) Do you have to be knowledgeable about other religions before you can talk with someone of another religion?
  14. (pg. 158-160) Why does DNA give evidence that God exists?
  15. (pg. 159-160) In order for the first cell to replicate like Darwinists thought it did, what needed to happen with respect to DNA?  Why is that compelling evidence of intelligent design?
  16. (pg. 160) What critical thing is needed to get from a single cell to a more complex organism?
  17. (pg. 162) What is the “famous fruit fly experiment” and why doesn’t it prove Darwinian evolution?
  18. (pg. 162) The big idea to focus on is not just that there is a d_______, but w____ h_____ when you m____ H___.  Your job is not to d______ e______; it’s to l_____ p_____ to J_____ so that their sins can be f_________ and so that they can have e_____ l_____.
  19. (pg. 163) How did the conversation with the college microbiology student go?

Unsilenced Chapter 9 ‘Final Encouragement’ (4 pages:  pg. 167-170)

  1. (pg. 167)  How often should we expect discouragement and disappointment when sharing our faith?
  2. (pg. 168) How might other Christians react when you get bold and start sharing your faith?  Will other Christians always share your enthusiasm?
  3. (pg. 170) What kind of “pain” might sharing your faith bring?
  4. (pg. 170) Why don’t you take a small risk and start sharing your faith?
  5. (pg. 170) Everything you do a_______ you put your f________ in J_________ counts in e______.

Apologetics Class 11-29-2015

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.

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Hi All,

Very good class today. Since our reading was primarily on evolution, that was pretty much the whole content of what we spoke about!  We read from pages 158 – 163 in the book.  The author’s focus was primarily on the evidence of the DNA in all living things, so that is where we focused.  We started off by watching a 6 ½ minute video with John Lennox (professor of Mathematics at Oxford University in the U.K.).  The video was John’s response to a student’s question during a Q&A session at an event.  He talks primarily about DNA and the information contained therein.

I also handed out a paper copy of an article on “Mutations” from the web site “Darwinism Refuted”.  I would encourage you to read the whole thing if you get a chance.  Here is the section we focused on because the book reading (from the Unsilenced book) mentioned the “famous fruit fly experiment”:

Every effort put into “generating a useful mutation” has resulted in failure. For decades, evolutionists carried out many experiments to produce mutations in fruit flies, as these insects reproduce very rapidly and so mutations would show up quickly. Generation upon generation of these flies were mutated, yet no useful mutation was ever observed. The evolutionist geneticist Gordon Taylor writes thus:

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, evolutionary biologists have sought examples of useful mutations by creating mutant flies. But these efforts have always resulted in sick and deformed creatures. The left picture shows the head of a normal fruit fly, and the picture on the right shows the head of fruit fly with legs coming out of it, the result of mutation.  fly

It is a striking, but not much mentioned fact that, though geneticists have been breeding fruit-flies for sixty years or more in labs all round the world- flies which produce a new generation every eleven days-they have never yet seen the emergence of a new species or even a new enzyme.

After our Unsilenced book reading of the 6 pages, we used the following questions to drive our discussion:

  1. (pg. 158-160) Why does DNA give evidence that God exists?
  2. (pg. 159-160) In order for the first cell to replicate like Darwinists thought it did, what needed to happen with respect to DNA?  Why is that compelling evidence of intelligent design?
  3. (pg. 160) What critical thing is needed to get from a single cell to a more complex organism?
  4. (pg. 162) What is the “famous fruit fly experiment” and why doesn’t it prove Darwinian evolution?
  5. (pg. 162) The big idea to focus on is not just that there is a d_______, but w____ h_____ when you m____ H___.  Your job is not to d______ e______; it’s to l_____ p_____ to J_____ so that their sins can be f_________ and so that they can have e_____ l_____.
  6. (pg. 163) How did the conversation with the college microbiology student go?

It was a very good discussion.  During our conversation, several other topics came up:

  • Irreducible Complexity: http://www.conservapedia.com/Irreducible_complexity
  • Bacterial Flagellum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRF0HeG-mhM
  • Blood Clotting: The function of the blood clotting system is to prevent the escape of blood from a damaged vessel. To do this, the blood has a special and very complex repair procedure in place. Once initiated by a cut, the first component in the process is activated, which in turn activates the next component, and so on, in a series of cumulative, mutually-dependent steps. This physiological chain of production, or cascade, results in the formation of a solid obstruction (a clot) in order to seal over the damage.  Some of the main components of the clotting cascade are the proteins fibrinogen, prothrombin, Stuart (anti-hemophilic) factor and proaccelerin. None of these are used for any other purpose in the blood. The system is very finely tuned to result in a repair process that achieves just the repair needed at just the right place and time to stop bleeding and begin the process of healing. Importantly, the process is also self-limiting to ensure that coagulation (clotting) of the entire blood supply does not occur.  The Intelligent Design advocate Michael Behe, in his book Darwin’s Black Box, has noted that the clotting cascade is an example of irreducible complexity. The removal or degradation of just one, any one, of the components or steps would cause the cascade to fail. Obviously this would have dire consequences for the organism. It is exceedingly difficult to see how the clotting cascade could have evolved, as any postulated simplified or ‘primitive’ version of the process would result in failure.
  • Micro-evolution vs. Macro-evolution: http://www.gotquestions.org/microevolution-macroevolution.html
  • Ben Stein / Richard Dawkins interview where he talks about aliens (here is a 2 minute clip of that interview): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8
  • I also mentioned that I’m reading “God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe”, which has in Chapter 4 (“Signs of Design”) 8 recognizable and detectable signs of intelligent design using the acronym D.E.S.I.G.N.:
    • Dubious Probability
    • Echoes of Familiarity
    • Sophistication and Intricacy
    • Informational Dependency
    • Goal Direction
    • Natural Inexplicability

Next week we will be finishing up the book and discussing where we’ll go next.

Apologetics Class 11-22-2015

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.

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Hi All,

Thanks for attending the class today.  We had a full(er) house today 🙂  I was glad to see and talk to y’all!  We continued reading chapter 8 today. We also watched and discussed the following witnessing clip from Living Waters:

How you were raised determines your faith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpgnYX2Xp-4

In our chapter 8 reading we covered pages 152-157.  Here are the questions we covered after the reading:

  1. (pg. 152) Why worry about people who say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m good with the Lord”?  Well, they might ___   ___________.
  2. (pg. 152) How does Matthew 7:21-23 speak about the issue?  Jesus is talking about people who ________  ________  ________  Him.
  3. (pg. 153) What is a question that you can ask a self-proclaimed “Christian” that will tell you a lot in less than 10 seconds?
  4. (pg. 154) If the person says yes to the above question, but sounds shaky, what follow-up question can you ask them?
  5. (pg. 152-154) Should we just assume that every person attending church is saved? One of my favorite lines is “Tell me about ________  ____________  _________.”
  6. (pg. 156) Do you have to be knowledgeable about other religions before you can talk with someone of another religion?

Since we were talking about other religions, I was going to show you this following video, but didn’t have time:

Living Waters University: a Catholic, a Muslim, & a Hindu girl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBZtTwOk1iQ

Also during our discussions a point came up related to Roman Catholic theology – the idea of inclusivism.  Here are a few articles that speak about the issue:

When Catholicism Hinders the Gospel: http://www.str.org/articles/when-catholicism-hinders-the-gospel#.VlJOhr9HSMI The following is a quote from the article:

“I first started doing public advocacy of Christianity on a secular program called “Religion on the Line” on the ABC affiliate here in Los Angeles (two hours on religious topics with a rabbi, a priest, a minister, and a host).  I was stunned when the first time a Protestant called in to share Christ with the rabbi he was opposed not by the rabbi, but rather by the Roman Catholic priest (“Rabbi, I’ll handle this one.”) 

The Jews have their own covenant, the priest argued.  They have their own way to God which does not require belief in Jesus.  That is also true for every other faith.  God can be found through virtually any religions.  The blood of Christ—which is necessary to forgive sins (this is the only sense in which Christ is the only way)—is not just for Christians, but is applied to anyone who sincerely and obediently pursues his own religion.  He is forgiven through Jesus, though he never believes in Jesus.  Put simply, the good Buddhist is saved by the blood of Christ.  This is called inclusivism.

I almost fell off my chair the first time I heard this.  Yet, every single Roman Catholic priest on that program since then—a show I’d done more than twenty times—held the same thing, even a bishop. ”

And Salvation: Truth, Not Just Sincerity: http://www.str.org/articles/salvation-truth-not-just-sincerity#.VlJPB79HSMI Here is quote from the article:

This difference of opinion is a historically new development in Roman Catholicism that stunned me when I first encountered it in the early days of being on Religion on the Line in the late eighties, a radio panel Dennis Prager hosted for many years. The priests on the panel uniformly held the conviction, informed by Vatican II, that Jews don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to receive the benefits of Jesus’ salvation. This is a view called “inclusivism.” It’s not the same as pluralism, but in my view, it seems to have the same impact: “Yes, Jesus is necessary for salvation, but you don’t have to believe in Jesus to benefit from Jesus.”

Finally, here is an article from catholic.org entitled “Pope Francis says atheists can do good and go to heaven too!”.  It is very hard to figure out what he’s really saying, but it certainly doesn’t sound like an orthodox, biblical view on soteriology (study of the doctrine of salvation):  http://www.catholic.org/news/hf/faith/story.php?id=51077

Next week, we should finish chapter 8, which covers evolution.

Have a great week and a great Thanksgiving celebration!

Apologetics Class 11-15-2015

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.

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Hi All,

In class this past Sunday, we started reading chapter 8 ‘The Varsity Team’.  The chapter seems to focus on some more advanced topics such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness.  We also watched a short video on the following topic:

“Which Jesus Do You Follow?” by Living Waters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trwOqDnITvc

It is a 2 minute 43 second video which examines some of the false conceptions of Jesus that other religions subscribe to.  It was a good introduction to the content of the first part of this chapter.

We read pages 139-151 during our time together.  Here are the notes that we discussed after the reading:

  1. (pg. 140-142) What 2 things to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have in common that distinguishes them from Christians?
  2. (pg. 143-144) What does 2 Nephi 25:23 (in the Book of Mormon) say and how does that compare with Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 and Galatians 2:21?
  3. (pg. 144-145) Did David forfeit his inheritance in heaven because of his adultery with Bathsheba, or was he saved despite his many sins?  Why and how?
  4. (pg. 145) How would you respond to the argument that Abraham was saved by good works based on James 2:21?
  5. (pg. 146) We’re not saved from _____ and don’t enter ______ by ________: only through _______.  That _______ will result in _______ because of the _________ that God gives us.
  6. (pg. 147-151) Where in the New Testament does it say that Jesus is God? Explain the difference between ‘direct references’ and ‘indirect references’.
  7. (pg. 150-151) Does the phrase ‘firstborn’ in Colossians 1:15 mean that Jesus is not eternal? What does Psalm 89:27 tell us about the phrase ‘firstborn’?

Next week we will probably be finishing chapter 8, reading about the following topics:

  1. What if you meet a “Christian”?
  2. What if I meet someone of another religion that I know nothing about?
  3. Evolution – your grandpa wasn’t a monkey

Thanks for participating!

Apologetics Class 11-8-2015

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.

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Hi All,

Thanks for your attendance and participation on Sunday’s class.  I really enjoyed the discussion as usual.  We read all the way through chapter 7! We also watched a short, 4 ½ minute witnessing clip:

God is for People Who Believe, But I’m Not a Religious Person: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H46Fr_n2m6U

Here are the questions we used to drive our discussion

Unsilenced Chapter 7 ‘More Than Knowing What to Say’ (11 pages:  pg. 125-135)

  1. (pg. 125-126) How is sharing your faith mysterious?  What does Mark 4:26-29 teach regarding this?  What is our job?  What is God’s job?
  2. (pg. 128-129) What are some things you should keep in mind after long periods of sharing the gospel without seeing any results?
  3. (pg. 130) We should share what we believe about Jesus with our ________s and our ________s.
  4. (pg. 129-130) What does the phrase “Good Works: Don’t Just Do Them, Use Them” mean?
  5. (pg. 131-133) What purpose do Gospel tracts serve?
  6. (pg. 134-135) How can we be persistent in sharing our faith?

Next week we’ll continue with chapter 8 (The Varsity Team).  It is a 25 page chapter, so we’ll definitely be splitting it up into 2-3 weeks.

Have a great week!

Apologetics Class 11-1-2015

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.

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Hi All,

We finished reading the closing notes for Chapter 6 (Bumps in the Road) and we watched a 10 minute witnessing clip where Todd Friel shares the gospel with a soft-spoken British guy on a train.  Really good video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY6CXOAIsTc

Here were the questions that we discussed related to the reading, as well as some witnessing tips from the video:

  1. (pg. 120) Ending notes:
    1. (pg. 120) How are we supposed to take advantage of “the stunned moment” after answering an objection?
    2. (pg. 121) Is it always your fault if someone is not interested and just walks away from you? What does Jesus say about this in John 7:7?
    3. (pg. 122) How do you handle an awkward pause in the conversation? What questions can you ask?
  2. Todd Friel video – witnessing tips:
    1. Start in the natural
    2. Swing to the supernatural
    3. Open God’s Law
    4. Warn of God’s Judgment
    5. Law to the Proud, Grace to the Humble: 1) If the sinner is proud and self-righteous, uphold the law. 2) If the sinner is broken-hearted and contrite, offer grace.
    6. Share the Good News!
    7. Call them to repentance and faith

Next week we start on chapter 7 (More Than Knowing What to Say).

Have a great week!

Apologetics Class 10-25-2015

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.

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Hi All,

Class yesterday was good as usual.  Very good discussion.  Here is what we covered:

  1. Shared conversations we’ve had with some people and objections they raised.
  2. Watched a 2 min 38 sec video called “Is There Absolute Truth?” by Living Waters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lvSGCaicEg
  3. 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”.  Then we talked about the meaning of that – specifically why sharing our faith will help us to “have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ”.  We also looked at the difference in the HCSB translation.  Here is a list of how this verse looks in many different translations: http://www.biblestudytools.com/philemon/1-6-compare.html
  4. We read from page 112 to 119, covering problems 17 – 19.

Here are the questions we talked about during those sections:

  1. (pg. 112) Problem #17: I Don’t Like When People Push Their Religion on Me
    1. (pg. 112) It is hard to share the Gospel with someone who says this. What question can you ask them that may open a door (or “call their bluff”)?
    2. (pg. 112) Besides someone pushing their religion on them, is there an alternative reason why someone may not want you to share your faith with them?
    3. (pg. 113) Don’t “push your religion” on them, but do what instead?
  2. (pg. 114) Problem #18: What About the Guy on Death Row?
    1. (pg. 114-116) We’re all “on death row”… 150,000 people die each day. Does anyone really know when that final breath will come?
    2. Can you provide a biblical example of a “deathbed conversion”?
    3. What do the guy on death row and the average person have in common in God’s eyes?
  3. (pg. 117) Problem #19: What about the “Sinning Christians”? Those Hypocrites!
    1. (pg. 117) What would happen if people saw how serious their sin was in God’s eyes?
    2. (pg. 117) Is everyone who calls themselves a Christian actually a Christian? What did Jesus say about this?
    3. (pg. 118 – top) Since Christians still sin after they become Christians, why aren’t they necessarily hypocrites?
    4. (pg. 118) What question could you ask someone to get them to consider the fairness of judging all Christians by the “hypocrites”?

When we were discussing the last section about hypocrites, we also discussed how the person complaining about hypocrisy is actually agreeing with Jesus and we looked a bit at Matthew chapter 23:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

We also talked about 2 other teachings about or from Jesus:

Luke 23:39-43 (regarding deathbed conversion)  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.

And Luke 18:9-14 (regarding the contrast between the self-righteous Pharisee and the humble tax collector, who acknowledged his true predicament): 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.

 

Next week, we’ll finish up chapter 6, watch a few witnessing clips and may get started on chapter 7 if we have time…

Apologetics Class 10-18-2015

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.

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Hi All,

Great class today!  Great interaction/discussion.  We read pages 105-111, which covered ‘problems’ 14-16.  Here were the questions associated with those sections:

  1. (pg. 105) Problem #14: A Lot of People Have Had Followers Like Jesus.
    1. (pg. 105-106) How are Jesus’ followers different than those of the likes of David Koresh (Waco, TX)?
  2. (pg. 107) Problem #15: I’ve Done a Lot of Good Things.
    1. (pg. 107) What example could you give to cast doubt on the idea that people who do more good things than bad things go to heaven?
    2. (pg. 107) Why is it important to make a person see that doing good things has nothing to do with being forgiven of a crime?
    3. (pg. 108) Why does the “fine have to be paid” in order for the sin to be removed from your record?
  3. (pg. 110) Problem #16: There Are “So Many” Contradictions in the Bible
    1. (pg. 110) What question could you ask someone who claims there are a lot of Bible contradictions?
    2. (pg. 110-111) Several common examples of contradictions brought up by skeptics could be understood as ______________ rather than _______________.  What is an example?

Just prior to reading and discussing problem #15, we watched this short witnessing clip with Ray Comfort of Living Waters:

Good Works Don’t Save (5 ½ min video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7G2-FW-1C0

Here are the few additional items we talked about today and that I said that I’d send to you:

  1. On Guard Conference: Gary Habermas – The Resurrection of Jesus. This was the video that was mentioned when we were talking about 1 Corinthians and Galatians and how secular (skeptical) historians treat these letters as valid historical sources (1 hour 40 min video lecture, but a good one): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNdmSQKyzgc
  2. Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Volume 1 – Introduction (Dr. Jason Lisle):   https://answersingenesis.org/answers/books/demolishing-supposed-bible-contradictions-1/introduction/

Next week we will probably finish up the ‘Problems’ chapter with 17-19.

Have a great week and I pray that we may have opportunities to use this information as we witness to those God brings into our paths!

Blessings to you all

Apologetics Class 10-11-2015

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.

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Hello All,

Well, we didn’t do any reading yesterday.  Instead, we just caught up on the questions that we didn’t cover from last time.  Here are the questions we covered yesterday:

  1. (pg. 95) Problem #10: No One Can Be Sure He’s Going to Heaven.
    1. (pg. 95) How can you answer this objection in a way that points people to Jesus (and not to yourself)?
    2. (pg. 95) What’s the difference between “acting religious” and “pointing people to Jesus”?
  2. (pg. 97) Problem #11: God Could Never Forgive Me of All the Wrong I’ve Done.
    1. (pg. 97) How could you use the story of Moses, Paul or even David to minister to someone who says the above statement?
  3. (pg. 99) Problem #12: Well That’s Good for You, but It’s Not True for Everyone Else.
    1. (pg. 99) How could you give an example that if something is true, it is true whether someone knows it or not?
    2. (pg. 99-100) What would Jesus have said about the above statement? Did He make any exclusive claims in the Bible (like in the book of John)?
  4. (pg. 101) Problem #13: Well, All of the World Religions “Teach the Same Things.”
    1. (pg. 102-103) Provide an example showing that all world religions do not teach the same thing.

We had very good discussion on these – thanks for your participation!

Also, at the beginning of the class, we watched this short video from the One Minute Apologist:

Are Evangelism And Apologetics Complimentary? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rln559rzYM

We will continue reading with “Problem #14” next week!

Apologetics Class 10-4-2015

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.

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Great class today.  Thanks for your participation.  You’re doing a lot better on your memory verse (Philemon 1:6) – keep up the good work!

Today we read pages 92 – 104, covering problems 9-13.  Here are problems 9-13 that we covered along with the questions:

  1. (pg. 92) Problem #9: What if Someone Never Hears About Jesus?
    1. (pg. 92) Has anyone lived a “good life” (the author references a talk show host referring to some theoretical person in Tibet before the invention of Radio or TV who has lived a “good life”)?
    2. (pg. 92) What should you say to a person who brings up the problem about people who’ve never heard of Jesus?
    3. (pg. 93) Why is it important to get the focus off of “unknown people half way around the world”?
  2. (pg. 95) Problem #10: No One Can Be Sure He’s Going to Heaven.
    1. (pg. 95) How can you answer this objection in a way that points people to Jesus (and not to yourself)?
    2. (pg. 95) What’s the difference between “acting religious” and “pointing people to Jesus”?
  3. (pg. 97) Problem #11: God Could Never Forgive Me of All the Wrong I’ve Done.
    1. (pg. 97) How could you use the story of Moses, Paul or even David to minister to someone who says the above statement?
  4. (pg. 99) Problem #12: Well That’s Good for You, but It’s Not True for Everyone Else.
    1. (pg. 99) How could you give an example that if something is true, it is true whether someone knows it or not?
    2. (pg. 99-100) What would Jesus have said about the above statement? Did He make any exclusive claims in the Bible (like in the book of John)?
  5. (pg. 101) Problem #13: Well, All of the World Religions “Teach the Same Things.”
    1. (pg. 102-103) Provide an example showing that all world religions do not teach the same thing.

Since we didn’t even come close to finishing discussion of those questions, we will start by finishing the discussion of problems 10 – 13 next week.  Thanks for the feedback that this discussion time is important to you all.  I will make sure from now on that we finish discussing the questions.

We started off the hour by watching this short (~2 min) video by Sean McDowell:

What Is Apologetics And Does It Still Matter For This Generation?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2_GOceY73Y

Then, after the reading of problem #9 “What if Someone Never Hears About Jesus?”, we watched this ~6 min video featuring Ravi Zacharias responding to a similar question from someone in the audience:

What of those who haven’t heard about Jesus?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImKLHfslVa4

During his answer, he opens with this passage:

Acts 17:24-27 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

And then he finishes up with a story about someone who came to Christ by having dreams for 7 years about Jesus.

Finally, I mentioned a video which I was going to show you but we didn’t have time where Greg Koukl answers the same question referring to Romans chapters 1 & 2.  Here is that video (~4 min):

What about those who’ve never heard?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIXs5wOSVk4

Hope you have a great week!

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.