Defending the Faith

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Our men’s group on Sunday morning has been working through the 6 week Tactics course by Greg Koukl. We are in our final two weeks and have enjoyed some good discussions over comments, claims, or statements made by unbelievers. Some I find in books I have read, others on various atheist web sites, or simply Facebook, which can be a plethora of anti-Christian material.

In the DVD series, Greg Koukl covers the material in his book Tactics, providing multiple examples for the topic of that day. Generally, I do some work ahead of time, and find other material we can wrestle with and discuss once we have exhausted the samples provided by the series.

In part, this is why I have not blogged as much as I normally do. My time has been used preparing for the Sunday morning class by previewing the DVD, taking notes, and searching for additional material we could discuss.

During third session, I provided some claims to the group for them to consider. Part of being a Christian is dealing with opposing views or comments made by skeptics or unbelievers. I pointed out to our group how easy it is for all of us to converse with the church choir, but having a thoughtful response to an atheist, who does not believe a word of the Bible, can be challenging. It requires time and effort, and in part that has been one of my goals in the Tactics series – to provide a comfortable environment where we can engage and discuss world views outside our own.

Here are some claims we discussed in our men’s group. How might you respond to someone who said any of these to you?

1.    There is no evidence for the existence of God.
2.    If God created the universe, then who created God.
3.    Believing in God is the same as believing in Santa or the Tooth Fairy.
4.    Christianity arose from an ancient and ignorant people who did not have science.
5.    You are only a Christian because you were raised a Christian or born in a Christian culture.
6.    History is full of gods, and the Christian God is no different.
7.    God is evil, or he would not allow evil and suffering.
Maybe more importantly, how might your son or daughter respond to questions like those above? Are they prepared to engage the culture?

Would you rather they hear those questions first from a non-believing friend at school? A skeptical teacher, or an atheist professor at college? Wouldn’t it be better to ask them, and to tackle tough questions and the discuss the answer with you first, or among friends at church?

How about these three that I have written about?

Why do innocent children have to suffer with terminal diseases such as cancer? What part of ‘God’s plan’ is this exactly? Answer

In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, why would God kill Lot’s wife, Sarah, by turning her into a pillar of salt for simply looking in the wrong direction? Answer

Why won’t God heal amputees? Answer

Paul Copan explains in his book, When God Goes to Starbucks – A Guide to Everyday Apologetics, that we can’t remove all objections, mysteries or questions. At times we do need to confess we don’t have an answer, but we will look for one. Copan said, “…discussing such questions in the context of a gracious, respectful relationship goes a long way to setting the context for robust, in-depth conversations. Christians should engage their non-Christian friends prayerfully, in dependence on God’s Spirit to awaken, convict, and provoke.”1

All Christians have doubts. This is normal, but what you do with your doubts, with the questions you have, is important. Even John the Baptist had doubts. In Matthew 11, John was in prison, unable to go anywhere himself, so he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was ‘the one’, or if they should look for another.

Matthew 22:37 calls us to love the Lord our God with all our mind. How is that possible without being able to give reasons for the faith we have within us? 1 Peter 3:15 says “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….”

Part of the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our mind. I personally don’t see how to satisfy that commandment, (Matthew 22:35-40) without investigating the claims of Christianity. For example, someone might say Jesus was not a real person. In his book Tactics, Greg Koukl teaches us to ask two questions.

First we ask, “What do you mean by that?” Someone who makes the claim that Jesus was not a real person might be saying he was an alien from another planet. Or he might be claiming that Jesus was not even real, simply a made up character from the early church to consolidate power and influence. Asking someone to explain a statement can often clear the smoke filled air in a heated debate or discussion. After they clarify their statement, you can then move on to a second question to ask.

Simply, you would ask, “How did you come to that conclusion?” We can learn from their reply, if it is a sensible conclusion. And maybe you will not have a response; that is OK. You can tell them you want to think about it and will get back to them after you have had time to consider the question or claim. More likely though, you will find they are just parroting what they take in from the world, and do not have any solid reasons for what they believe.

Christian apologist Alex McFarland gave an example of a student that came up to him after a lecture at the University of Virginia, asking Alex how he could, “…possibly believe in a book that is full of errors?” Alex asked him which error he was talking about. After a long moment of consideration, the student replied, “Well, everybody knows the Bible has errors. You know, being so old and all.”2 Again Alex asked what error or errors he was referring to, but the young man could not give Alex any. He was just echoing what other skeptical or atheist friends had said to him.

Often unbelievers need to hear apologetic answers to help them see the truth of the message that would lead them to Christ. No question, the Spirit is required, but why would someone ‘not’ want to have an answer for the hope they have within? Romans 12:1-6

Lee Strobel was an atheist reporter who investigated murders in Chicago. When he began to research the claims of the New Testament, he became a believer. Abdu Murray, who by the way, spoke to my children at the recent Summit Ministries in Colorado, was a trial lawyer and a Muslim who also began to research the claims of Christianity. It took a few years, but Murray eventually caved in to the overwhelming evidence for Christianity.

Apologetics is an evangelistic tool that can aid unbelievers, but also believers, who find evidence to support their faith. Apologetics goes beyond faith anchored in feelings, emotions, or personal experience. Apologetics gives people trust in the object of Christ because of the evidence.

Toward the end of his book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller shares this about faith and trust. “The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word, ‘trust’. Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to a weak faith in a strong branch.”3

 

Sources:
1.    Copan, Paul. When God Goes to Starbucks. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2008. Print.
2.    McFarland, Alex. The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2007. Print.
3.    Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York, Riverhead Books, 2008. Print.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Defending the Faith by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

Sex or Shelter

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Part of the beauty and wonder of being alive is the opportunity to make your own choices and create your own meaning. Instead of having a predetermined “destiny” or some powerful guiding hand calling the shots in your life, you are free to seek your own meaning and value by making your own choices and discovering your own unique path.1

There is no outside force imposing meaning on the events of your life. There is not evidence whatsoever that people’s life events conform to some sort of divine plan or predestination. Life is, objectively meaningless; given the size and scope of the universe and our tiny role within it, it’s absurd to think that we might have any sort of cosmically vital role.2

We have the ability to create meaning for our lives by setting worthwhile goals, working to improve the lives of those around us, enjoying our time on earth, making connections to other humans and loving our families. All of these activities are worthwhile, and none of them require the existence of God.3

These above statements are an unabashed post-modern world view made by Armin Navabi in his book, Why There Is No God, a view that each and everyone of us has the ability to make our own life meaningful, in our own way. There is no set meaning or purpose that guides or directs our behavior.

Since there is no objective meaning in life, it is simply subjective. What does that mean? Subjective meaning is substance of life based on feelings, tastes, opinions, and emotions. If I ask you what your favorite flavor of ice cream is, you opinion will be ‘subjective’. It will be based on your taste of ice cream. Your favorite flavor may be Chocolate Chip Mint, while mine may be Pralines and Cream. No right or wrong answer is possible since it is a subjective opinion.

We may have a most popular flavor of Baskin Robbins ice cream, but popularity does not make it right. In fact, the top five most popular flavors are: Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Pralines and Cream and Chocolate Chip. Howard Hughes’ favorite flavor for a time was Banana Nut, but after ordering 350 gallons, he only wanted French Vanilla.4 That is the nice feature about subjective meaning, you can change it any time you want, any time it suits your purpose or meaning in life. It is up to you and your feelings only.

So when Navabi says we can create meaning for our lives with worthwhile goals and making efforts to improve the lives of those around us, it is based on subjective meaning. That is, it may be meaningful to him, but maybe not to me because it is a subjective opinion. Just like the flavor of ice cream.

When he stated, “Life is, objectively meaningless;” he removed any possibility of significant meaning beyond the flavor of ice cream. One man may set his worthwhile goal as to have sex with a different woman every week for the next year. Another man may set his worthwhile goal as providing shelter to a different homeless person every week for a year. When you remove an objective standard for good, then you are only left with a subjective standard. Sex or shelter, vanilla or banana nut. You pick, it is your own opinion, your own feelings that matter, not anyone else.

While exploring the idea of an objective moral law that applies to our very nature, C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Consequently, this Rule of right and wrong, or law of human nature, or whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing – a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves…It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men’s behavior, and yet quite definitely real – a real law, which none of use made, but which we find pressing on us.”5

Navabi mistakenly claims that there is no objective meaning to life, but in his next breath tells us we can set worthwhile goals such as, “…working to improve the lives of those around us, enjoying our time on earth, making connections to other humans and loving our families.” How can they be worthwhile if they are simply an opinion, like a favorite flavor of ice cream?

Sadists enjoy hurting others. They find satisfaction, pleasure, in worsening people’s lives, not improving them. They enjoy their time on earth by connecting with others and making them suffer. Not only that, they actually will make the extra effort, extra work, to ruin the lives of those around them. Two studies at the University of British of Columbia by Erin Buckels found, “People who score high on a measure of sadism seem to derive pleasure from behaviors that hurt others, and are even willing to expend extra effort to make someone else suffer.”6

Making people suffer is a worthwhile goal for sadists. It give them meaning to live, even a desire. Without an objective moral standard, a banner we can all rally to, then the meaning of life is nothing more than an opinion on what is meaningful to the individual. Everyone can say, ‘That is just your opinion’, and what you, I, or anyone else, thinks of their opinion, does not matter.

Atheist Sam Harris wrote in his book, Waking Up – A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, “Sometime around her third birthday, my daughter asked, ‘Where does gravity come from?’ After talking about objects that attract each other – and wisely ignoring the curvature of space-time – my wife and I arrived at our deepest and most honest answer: ‘We don’t know. Gravity is a mystery. People are still trying to figure it out.’”7

Harris is correct, science is still trying to figure out gravity, but there is something else about gravity that is significant in this post I will share. Gravity is true for you and true for me. You may stand on the edge of Shanghai Tower, (2nd tallest building in the world, most use the 1st) and say that gravity is a subjective reality, but the truth is, gravity is true for me and true for you, because if you jump off without a chute, you will find out how wrong you are. Gravity is an objective truth, not a flavor of ice cream. It is true for everyone no matter what they say, no matter what they believe.

Claiming that you can make your own meaning in life is like claiming that you can make your own gravity, or even dispense yourself of it. This view of truth is a Post-modern view of truth. David Noebel wrote in his book, Understanding The Times, “For Postmodernists, since there is no universal Truth (capital ‘T’), there are only ‘truths’ (small ‘t’) that are particular to a society or group of people and limited to individual perception. Written or verbal statements can reflect only a particular localized culture or individual point of view. A well-worn catchphrase we hear in this regard is, ‘That may be true for you, but not for me.’”8

Small t’s or small ‘truths’ have not only invaded our culture, but the church.

Christians everywhere are unwilling to engage on issues such as abortion because it has become a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. A personal small ‘t’ truth choice. Yet, when you see a friend who is pregnant, do you ever ask her, “How is your body?” No, we all ask, “How is the baby?”

Christians everywhere are unwilling to engage on the issue of homosexuality because sexual orientation is a personal, small t ‘truth’. Yet it is obvious to everyone that as a rule, as a group, and by nature, heterosexual’s produce the next generation. It should come as no surprise that governments, until recent years, provided incentives toward heterosexual couples, and not same sex couples.

Christians everywhere are unwilling to engage on the issue of tolerance toward other religions because religion is a small t ‘truth’. Christianity may be true for you, but not for me. All roads lead to Rome. All path’s lead to God. There is no one ‘correct’ religion. Yet, with only a moment’s consideration, we realize that Jesus either was the Son of God or He was not. There is no middle option. Christianity is true or false, just like every other religious view the world has seen.

Christians have been unwilling or unable to address post-modern views, but with a little effort in the area of apologetics, (defending the faith), they can give thoughtful comments to some of the most pressing issues in our culture today.

 

Sources:

1. Navabi, Armin. Why There Is No God. Atheist Republic, 2014. Print.
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. “Fun Facts.” Baskin Robbins. Baskinrobbins.com, n.d. Web. 30 August 2015
5. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 1952. Print.
6. “Everyday Sadists Take Pleasure In Others’ Pain.” Association For Psychological Science. Psychologicalscience.org, 12 September 2013. Web. 2 September 2015.
7. Harris, Sam. Waking Up A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. Print.
8. Noebel, David A. Understanding The Times. Manitou Springs: Summit Press, 2006. Print.

 

 

Creative Commons License
Sex or Shelter by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/.

Pin It on Pinterest