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.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I was talking with a friend at church not long ago and he shared with me his recent sleep study experience. Apparently, he has stopped breathing at night sometimes, and was tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual does not receive all the oxygen they need because of a blocked airway. It is fairly common for men over 40, especially those who are overweight, and the medical community believes that a large percent of men actually have this condition without knowing it.

I know a bit about this myself, having been diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago after my own sleep study. I was surprised to have had it, but the signs were there. Always tired, sweating at night, and my wife telling me that at times I would stop breathing. It surprised me, because I was not overweight, at least not in the sense we might picture someone being overweight. I was 6’2” tall and about 225lbs. I worked out on a regular basis, and granted, could have lost some weight, but I did not have ‘the gut’ some men tend to carry. My extra pounds tended to spread out, so looks were deceiving.

I was prescribed the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine and after about a year, my doc told me if I would lose about 20 pounds I might not have to use the machine at all. I did as he suggested, and now keep my weight around 205 pounds, and have no need for the machine.

My initial experience of using the CPAP machine was something I will not forget. The first few nights opened up a whole new world to me, better put, it placed me back in a world I had forgotten all about. I had not dreamed for years, and after the first few nights, I would wake up with memories of these vivid and colorful dreams. I cannot emphasize enough to you what a shock that was for me. As I aged into my forties, the weight I had gained over the years brought on the sleep apnea, but did so so slowly, that I never noticed when I stopped dreaming at night.

Over the months and years, I dreamed less and less, till the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, stage of sleep where we all dream, was nothing but a memory forgotten. The dreams I began to have again when using the CPAP machine were graphic, clear, and filled my mind when I first woke up in the morning. I would share them with my wife and think about them for hours. It had been so long since I dreamed, I had forgotten how enjoyable they were. Dreaming again, coupled with the fact that I was getting the sleep I needed, just heightened the euphoric feeling I had after I started using the machine.

As our children grow and experience the world, they are surrounded and inundated with secular media that undermines how they were raised. This daily secular dose that comes in every imaginable color, flavor, and texture. It is consumed by our children, friends, family, culture, and acts like the weight someone gains over the years, nudging them toward a sleep apnea condition.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, our children who are raised in Christian homes gain the weight of the secular world, till they no longer dwell on God, trust in the Bible, or even believe in God. This is also true of adults who once believed and followed Jesus, but over time the message of the world and its daily, soft, cottony, relaxing, peaceful dose of anti-God, anti-religion, anti-faith, much like a Charmin toilet paper commercial, erode even the most fervent Christian.

One example of the thousands we see and experience every day is the CoExist symbol on bumpers everywhere. If you look carefully, you will see several different versions of these. The message is quite simple, and very naive. No matter what you believe we should all get along. Each letter represents a belief system, or a system of thought that many use to guide their lives. Commonly seen in the Co-Exist symbol are the crescent and star for Islam, the pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, Star of David for Judaism, Karma Wheel for Buddhism, Ying and Yang symbol for Taoism, and finally the cross for Christianity.

Typically, those that have such a bumper sticker have not fully embraced any one of those systems, but more than likely, adopt a little bit here or a little bit there, so that they end up with their own belief system. You might hear someone say that all religions are basically the same, promoting love, kindness, and brotherly love for one another. The problem with this train of thought is the focus on similarities.

For example, if a man and woman are attracted to each other, they often find similarities in their interests, such as reading, hiking, or cooking. These similarities serve them well as they grow to know each other, but what will break a relationship is their differences. When two people are divorced, the courts often give the reason of irreconcilable differences. Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, gives another revealing example of the importance of difference by drawing two small circles on a board and telling the class they represent two pills. They talk for a moment how similar they are, but he points out it is the differences that matter. This becomes very apparent when he explains one is an aspirin and the other is arsenic.

Religions often have similarities, but it is the differences that make them incompatible, and to suggest naively that all religions can all just get along and be accepting of those differences is foolish. Some of these faiths have followers who believe the lives of everyone outside their faith hangs in the balance. You could liken it to someone who is going to drink poison, and we are told to be tolerant and accepting of their right to do so. Which of us would sit silently as those around us consumed poison?

Not long ago, a former student of mine posted on Facebook, “It doesn’t matter people, Christian Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, it really doesn’t matter as long as you love.” Her sentiment we can all understand. Matthew spells it out rather plainly. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is important, but would an atheist who loves make it to heaven, a place he does not even believe in?

Some might say that ‘Coexist’ is just a bumper sticker with a positive message about tolerance; what harm could that possibly have to our culture? For starters, the message is not pointed at cultures, but religions, and how they should be accepting of one another, all the while ignoring core, incompatible differences.

The death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, are just a few hot topics that religions have very clear opinions on, but they are told to be tolerant and not force their views on others. Tell someone who is active in the pro-life abortion issue to accept Roe v. Wade and see how silent they will be. Tell gay activists to be tolerant of laws that discriminate against them, and listen to how accepting they sound, or better yet, have gay activists try protesting for gay rights in Iran to see what intolerance is.

Deep are the differences in religions, and for those active in their faith, it is often an eternal life or eternal death that hangs in the balance. To expect them to be accepting of other faiths, and be tolerant when lives hang in the balance, is absurd.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in one God. Hindu’s believe in thousands of gods. Buddhists believe we are God. Atheists believe there is no God. They can’t all be right, and if they all can’t be right, then those who feel they have the truth understandably want to share it with others. The world would rather have us remain silent about our faith. The world wants us to consider our religion a private and personal affair, and to keep our noses in our own business.

Ever wonder/consider how time and culture has eroded our reasons for celebrating certain holidays? A Roman priest executed in Rome for his Christian faith. After that things get pretty fuzzy, and no one knows for sure how Valentines Day morphed into the current money making holiday we now have. Santa Claus in Christmas? He is harmless. Easter Bunny for Easter? Makes Easter fun for the kids, but when they out grow the Easter Bunny, make sure to call it Spring Break, so as not to offend those that want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The world can make anything look good, no matter what it is used for. The world can make toilet paper look good, and the world can steal your faith so slowly, you will never know it happened. These changes don’t happen over night. A paper cut is irritating, but a thousand cuts aimed at destroying religion will cause death as sure as a shot through the head.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Mommy can I kill this?

Mommy can I kill this?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above image by Nicci Coertze-Kruger from Pixabay

On the first day of school a little boy whose father owned the local apple farm brought his teacher a gift in a box.

Many others had done the same, but his was the largest and last to be opened. It was a game they were playing, and before she opened each gift, she had to try to guess what it was. The boy placed it on her desk and stood waiting for her to open it. All the other little boys and girls were gathering around to see what it was because children are naturally curious about things, and the little boy had refused to tell anyone what it was.

The teacher, who was young in years and to the profession, stood up and noticed the bottom of the box was wet, and a small puddle was forming on her desk. She exclaimed, “Oh Johnny, I think it must be broken!” Johnny said, “Oh no, it can’t be broken.” The teacher dipped her finger in what looked like apple juice, tasted it, and asked, “Is it apple juice?” The boy smiled and said, “Nope.” The teacher again dipped her finger in the puddle, tasted it again and asked, “Lemon-ade?” Again the boy smiled and said, “Nope!” Unable to contain his excitement any longer he exclaimed, “It’s a puppy!”

It is so important to know what things are before we take action. The above story is an amusing example of someone taking a simple action, (tasting what she thought was apple juice), and it turns out to have been a poor idea. Hollywood often runs with that kind of theme where aliens, (the kind from another planet, not just south of the border), come to visit earth, and they encounter someone who assumes they are hostile invaders. Inevitably, someone takes a shot at an alien and starts a war, when all along everyone could have been best of friends.

New hunters are reminded never to pull the trigger unless they know what they are shooting. I know about this first hand, having been shot myself. 

Swat teams have the same mindset and can’t just kick in doors and start shooting at anything that moves. Members of the sheriff or police departments can’t just start banging away at every bad guy they think they see, not with the valid concern of shooting innocent people, or worse yet, children.

I know Hollywood does not portray these kinds of actions very accurately. Most often, in Hollywood shootouts, hundreds of rounds are zipping through the air, the majority of which hit buildings, cars, and windows because everyone is such a lousy shot. Anyone that does get hit is often just an expendable good or bad guy. It is important to know what someone is shooting at before they pull the trigger.

With that in mind, it would also be important for someone to ‘know’ what they are aborting in an unwanted pregnancy. If it is just a ‘mass of cell tissue’ or a ‘lump of flesh’, then we have nothing to discuss, but if it is more than that, it would be valuable to know.

I did hear Greg Koukl give this example of a boy walking up behind his mom, who was doing the dishes. The boy was behind her and asked, “Mommy, can I kill this?” 1 Well, what is the first reaction out of the mouth of the mother? She would turn and look, or she would ask, “What is it?” Now, if it was an unwanted household pest like a spider or a cockroach, most of us would give permission. If it was a snake or a bird, then probably not. If it was a dog or a cat, definitely not. If it was the infant from next door, emphatically not!

I don’t know if it was Greg Koukl who came up with the acronym SLED, or if someone else had thought of it first, but it can be a simple tool to make your case for the right to life. SLED stands for:
Size
Level of Development
Environment
Degree of Dependency

Let’s take a moment and look at each one. Starting with size and equating the value of a person on how large or small they are is foolishness. I don’t think anyone would dispute this. Are basketball players more valuable due to their size? Are parents more valuable than their children? How many of you remember William Perry, aka The Refrigerator, who played for Chicago Bears after being hand-picked by Mike Ditka. In high school, he played at 295 pounds! Those of you over the age of 40 might remember the song by Randy Newman, “Short People”.  A song I would play for my girlfriend back then, (she was short). We can laugh at songs like that, especially those of us who are tall, but in all seriousness, height or size has nothing to do with the inherent value of a person.

Level of Development is another consideration for those considering an abortion. Does the value of a human being lessen because of their level of development? Is a 16 year old boy more valuable than a 6 year old boy? If the level of development matters, then anyone prior to puberty would have less value than someone past puberty. Same would be true from an infant to a toddler, or a newborn to an infant. Does a fetus in the first trimester have less value than one in the 2nd trimester? Some might argue that point, but if that is true, then we should be able to apply that to everyone. Obviously we can’t, so level of development cannot determine the value of a human being.

What about environment, or location? Does your value increase or decrease depending on where you are located? Do you have more or less value because you are at work, home, in your car? Do you have more value on the left side of your sofa then on the right side of your sofa? How about those in another country? Do those that live in third world countries have less value than those in developed countries? Does the value of an astronaut change if he is orbiting the earth or walking on the moon? Does your value change when you have traveled from mother’s uterus, though the birth-canal, to the hands of a waiting physician? Absolutely not. Value cannot be placed on a person depending on where they are found.

Finally, we have the degree of dependency which again is a point some might argue. If you look at this issue sensibly, then you will see it has nothing to do with the value of a person. How many of you know someone with skills or talents that have allowed them to be less dependent on others, in particular parents, sooner than others. Is the young adult who is pro-active and finds a job right out of high school have greater value than another who has not found a job? As a child grows and matures, do they have greater value as the months pass and they become less and less dependent? Do those that collect welfare have less value than those contributing to our tax base and have full time work? Do those working full time have more value than those working part time? How about those who need dialysis or heart medication on a weekly basis; is their value less due to the medication they need? Obviously the answer to this is no, and to suggest the value of a person is dependent on their level of dependency is foolish.

After hearing these reasons, someone might respond, “So what? I agree with all this, but you still should not take away a woman’s right to choose.” I would respond, “Choose what?” Think about it, a woman’s right to choose what? Do women have the right to choose to kill an innocent human being? No, they don’t and neither does anyone else, because if size, level of development, environment, and level of dependence does not make a difference in the value of a person, then abortion is the killing of innocent human beings.

Someone might respond, “So you believe even in the case of rape, you would take away a woman’s right to choose?” Again I would ask, “A right to choose what?” “Because a woman was raped, does that give her the right to kill an innocent human being?” Ray Comfort asked, “Which is worse, rape or murder?” 2

Greg Koukl puts it this way, “Let me put the issue plainly. If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.” 3

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (NIV)

Psalm 127:3-4 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. (NIV)

1. Koukl, Greg. “Abortion-Only One Question”. Ambassador Basic Curriculum. Signal Hill, 2003. Lecture.
2. Comfort, Ray. “180 Movie” YouTube Video. YouTube. 21 September. 2011. Web. 25 July. 2013.
3. Koukl, Greg. “Abortion: One Key Issue” str.org. Stand To Reason, 30 March. 2013. Web. 20 July. 2013.

Sources:
http://standtherefore.com/blog/sled-the-case-against-abortion/
http://www.nrlc.org/NewsToday/SLED.html
http://www.str.org/videos/women-will-die-from-back-alley-abortions-if-abortion-was-made-illegal#.Ue8aJW3akQk
http://www.prolifetraining.com/five-bad-ways.asp
http://hopeafterabortion.com/?p=103
http://www.safehavenministries.com/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI
http://www.str.org/quickthoughts/abortion-one-key-issue#.Ue8adG3akQk

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