Apologetics

4 Apologetic Methods for God’s Existence

The word apologetic doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It comes from the Greek word ἀπολογία–to speak in defense of one’s worldview. In our case, Christianity. Therefore, when discussing the 4 different types of apologetic systems, I am referring to the various methodologies Christians use to defend their faith. Are you ready to learn? Let’s begin.

The first methodology is entitled Classical Apologetics. It focuses the use of logical criteria such as the law of noncontradiction, self-consistency, comprehensiveness, and coherence. A famous apologist, William Lane Craig, often uses the classical approach when debating the Christian worldview.

For example, he may argue for the teleological argument, which states the intricate design in nature points to an intelligent Creator. Other common classical apologetic positions include the moral, ontological, and cosmological arguments.

Christian philosopher Norman Geisler summarizes this position well: “The basic argument of the classical apologist is that it makes no sense to speak about the resurrection as an act of God unless, as a logical prerequisite, it is first established that there is a God who can act” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics).

The second approach to apologetics is known as Evidentialism. It’s primary focus is to ground the Christian faith on historically verifiable facts. Instead of arguing for unequivocal proof of God through logical necessity like Classical apologists do, Evidentialists argue that a high degree of probability can be articulated in favor of Christianity. The evidence for creation, prophecy, deity of Christ, and especially the historical significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are the main subjects in this apologetic approach.

The apologist who pioneered the evidentialist approach was Joseph Butler (1692-1752). In 1736 Butler published The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature. Butler wrote this work to transform the old metaphysical and rationalistic argumentation in Britain to a more scientific and empirical form of reasoning.

He admitted that revealed religion like Christianity was gripped with intellectual problems, but could still be found probabilistically reasonable and justifiable. But not objectively definitive like the Classical approach.

The third apologetic position is Reformed apologetics. It attempts to argue for the Christian faith on the authoritative word of God through revelation rather than empirical or scientific knowledge.

This position would encourage the believer to base their truth in God, not through scientific inquiry, but with the presupposition or fundamental assumption that the Christian faith is already true. There is no need to ground reasoning in God by the physical sciences alone since it’s already intuitively understood by all human beings. Thus, all are without excuse (Rom. 1:20) when they deny the existence of God.

This approach was inspired by John Calvin from the 1500s and has become popularized in recent times by Cornelius Van Til. This is what Dr. Van Til said that summarizes his perspective:

“I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other beliefs, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.” -Van Til

The main criticism of this view is that it uses circular reasoning to argue it’s case. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy that occurs when the conclusion of an argument is used as a premise of that same argument. In other words, the premise would not work if the conclusion wasn’t already assumed to be true.

Proponents of this view have offered a rebuttal to this claim.

“We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the ultimate biblical approach to apologetics. The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.” – Answers in Genesis Darius and Karin Viet

The final apologetic system is called fideism. The term comes from the latin word fide, meaning “faith.” Instead of being rational (Classical), empirical (Evidentialist), authoritarian (Reformed), it is intuitive (Fideist). Furthermore, fideism maintains that human knowledge of truth is most especially found in the heart or will rather than in the intellect. For example, Fideists would contend that no matter how intellectually sophisticated an argument becomes for the existence of God, those who are living a rebellious sinful life will reject it.

People reject Christianity because Christianity is found in a person, not a religious system or intellectual program. A person requires a relationship. So then, you may know about someone, but until you meet them, intellectual knowledge makes no difference. Fideists would argue the same is true in Christianity.

Fideism was popularized by Martin Luther and was further stressed by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He once said, “It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.” This statement expresses the idea that belief and obedience are interconnected. Therefore, if one doesn’t love God or obey Him, it’s almost impossible to convince him or her to intellectually commit to God.

What are your thoughts? Which apologetic approach do you find most beneficial? Do you think all of these approaches are valid? Why or Why not? Please comment below. Have a good day!

Quantum Mechanics Points to an Intelligent Creator

Can quantum mechanics objectively prove God’s existence? Yes and No. Let me explain. Looking at the science objectively, I can demonstrate, for instance, that the wavelength of a photon can be determined by taking the velocity of the wave and dividing it by the frequency. This can be measured and proven in the observable universe.

From this data, I can only infer subjectively that it’s possible some intelligent mind gave quantum mechanics the sophisticated brilliance to work so elegantly. Does this therefore conclude God exists? In my mind, I can’t think of any better explanation for the data given.

Some have contested this statement, saying, “Why would you infer a mind or that it is intelligent? The universe “works” in such a way that it comes on as all of this, but terms like sophisticated, brilliant or elegant are meaningless here. Do those words even really describe it?

I would argue yes, quantum mechanics does point to an intelligent Creator. For instance, Eugene Weigner, a Nobel Prize Physicist, had argued materialism is no longer logically consistent with present quantum mechanics. Beforehand, Einsteins theory of relativity maintained the universe was deterministic and mind independent. Now, through the double slit experiment, scientists discovered a wave function collapses when there is an observer. When no observation takes place, the photon continues as a wave. When it is observed, it quantizes into a particle.

If the laws of physics weren’t affected by the minds observation, then mechanical materialism or physicalism would be a tenable theory. However, quantum mechanics suggests the opposite.

If the human mind transcends matter then it’s possible there are other minds that transcend the physical universe. And might there not even exist an ultimate mind? Quantum mechanics help bridge the gap between the pure sciences and the metaphysical world. This is huge because no longer are we “inferring” a mind, but the experiments are rather proving it.

In conclusion, it’s hard to make a definitive statement that science “objectively” proves the existence of God. We can’t experimentally test this in a lab. But that doesn’t mean science can’t point to God being a more probable explanation for the existence of the universe than string theory, multiple universes, or naturalistic processes.

Why? Because as I said before, the real world is more sophisticated than a computer machine. Computer machines don’t just spontaneously pop in and out of existence. There was an architect with a mind who gave it code and mathematical computations. Software programs are not self-sufficient; they require a designer. If computers require a programmer, how much more does the fine-tuning universe need one? That’s why I still contend that God is the best explanation for the universe. Thoughts?

 

Answering Sam the Skeptic’s Objection to the Resurrection of Jesus

If you don’t believe Jesus was God, then how do you explain the historical fact that his tomb was empty, there were several eyewitnesses to his postmortem appearances, and many of his disciples died for their faith?

SAM THE SKEPTIC: Personally, I don’t even think Jesus existed. First, no secular evidence outside the Bible supports the life of Jesus. No birth records, no trial transcripts, no death certificates, nothing.

Second, the earliest NT writers seemed confused about the details and theology of Jesus’s life, which became clearer later on in the history of Christianity. For instance, the Trinity wasn’t developed until 200 years after Jesus’s death by the church leader Tertullian.

Third, the resurrection story is contradictory. John 20:1 says only Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on Sunday morning, Matthew 28:1 said Mary the Mother of Jesus and Mary of Magdalene showed up, and Mark 16:1 says both Mary’s plus a woman named Salome. Which one is it? Also, after finding the tomb empty, Mark 16:8 states they ran away and said nothing to anyone, but Matthew, Luke, and John all say the women ran to tell the disciples.

Now to the supposed resurrection. There are various hypothesis that explain the apparent resurrection of Jesus. The swoon theory argues that Jesus did not die on the cross, but fell unconscious and was later revived in the tomb in the same mortal body.

The second hypothesis argues Jesus was stolen from his burial. His tomb was found empty not because he was resurrected, but because the body was hidden somewhere else by the apostles or some unknown person. Grave robbing was a known problem in the first century Judaea.

Lastly, the vision hypothesis argues the sightings of a risen Jesus were visionary experiences. It’s similar to modern day ghost hunters who desperately try to find the supernatural that they hear and even say they “see” ghosts. However, there is no empirical evidence for this.

These are just some of the reasons why I don’t think Jesus rose from the dead or even existed. Thanks for your question.

CHRISTIAN ANSWER: Sam stated there was no secular evidence outside the Bible that supports the life of Jesus. This is simply false. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about Christ in his historical document “Annals” in AD 116. He mentions the emperor Nero and how he tortured Christians for following Christ, the one who suffered crucifixion during the reign of Tiberius.

Then there was the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote Antiquities of the Jews in AD 74 about Jesus who transgressed the law and was punished. Moreover, there was a letter written in AD 72 by an Assyrian Stoic Philosopher named Mara Bar Serapion. The letter refers to the unjust treatment of the execution of the “wise king” of the Jews.

Finally, to say one must appeal to a source other than the Bible to confirm the historical Jesus is like telling someone else to write my own biography. Shouldn’t the disciples be able to write a story about the person they followed? 

Sam the skeptic mentioned three counter arguments to the resurrection of Christ: The swoon theory, the stolen body, and the visionary theory. Let me briefly show the weaknesses of these three views. The swoon theory argues Jesus did not die on the cross, but fell unconscious and later revived in the tomb. Medical authorities have reviewed the 1st century Roman execution process and found this theory unwarranted. First, they would scourge them with 39 lashes. This would produce deep lacerations and much blood loss, which most likely set the stage for hypovolemic shock and was the reason Jesus fell climbing up Golgatha. At the crucifixion, Jesus’ wrists and feet were nailed to the cross, which caused him to slowly suffocate to death. It also states a soldier thrusted a spear into Jesus side, and both water and blood came out. The reason water came out was because sustained rapid heart beat causes the fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and lungs. It’s called a pericardial effusion. Jesus was definitely dead.  

The stolen body is another argument. Ironically, many skeptical NT scholars have been convinced that Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to have been a Christian fabrication. Given the hostility Christians had toward the Sanhedrin, it is unlikely Jesus’ followers would have invented a tradition about a member of the Sanhedrin using his own tomb to provide Jesus with a respectable burial. Second, the Jewish authorities knew exactly where this burial was so when rumors starting going around that Jesus resurrected from the dead, they would try to dispel this immediately and show the dead corpse since it would cause rioting in Jerusalem. However, the tomb was empty.

That’s why they accused the disciples of stealing the body in Matthew 28. But why would they accuse the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body if the tomb still contained the dead body of Jesus? Third, all the reports indicate the tomb was discovered empty by women. In first century Jewish society, women were not even allowed to testify in a court law. So if you were making up a story in an attempt to persuade others that Jesus was resurrected, why would you use women as your primary witnesses? The testimony of men would have provided much needed credibility to the story. Lastly, if the disciples stole the body, why would they die for a lie?

The last hypothesis states that the followers of Christ so badly wanted to experience the resurrection of Christ that they hallucinated. However, Jesus offered himself to be touched at least three times and he ate food with his disciples on 3 different occasions. When he appeared to Mary, she didn’t recognize him until he spoke her name. When he appeared to the apostles on a mountain in Galilee and to 500 others, it said some worshipped, and some were doubtful. All of these specific details indicate that the witnesses were not hallucinating or victims of group thinking.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!

4 Ultimate Questions about Existence

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There are four ultimate questions I want you to think about. These four questions make up a worldview. A worldview is how you personally interpret the world. It includes your beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and values about society, yourself, and existence. Each of us, whether we are aware of it or not, interpret the world. Let’s run through these.

The first question I want you to think about is: what is the nature of reality? Is there a God or not? If there is, what is that God like? Is he one God like Judaism or Islam or three distinct persons yet one God (The Trinity) many gods like Hinduism, or is the universe itself god (Buddhism)? If there is no God like Atheists believe, is the universe all that exists? Or is there a supernatural realm like angels and demons we can’t see? If you get really skeptical, a question you might ask: Is the physical world really real or are we in some dream state right now and just haven’t woken up yet? Like a dream within a dream.

The second question is What is a Human Being? Sounds simple to answer but there are many interpretations. Are you and I just a highly evolved biological machine similar to a crocodile or bird? One Atheist has said: You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, and all the things that matter for evolution and for life – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today. The Bible has a radically different worldview. It says you were in fact created in the image of God who is creative, intellectual, has a will, and develops personal relationships with people.

The third question: What happens to a person at death? Do people stop existing when their brain waves no longer function? Are individuals transformed to a higher state of existence? Will we reincarnate into another life form on earth? Hindus believe that if you live a good life you will go to heaven and not return to this life again, and if you are bad, you will turn into some lower animal form like a giraffe or fish. If you are really bad, maybe you will turn into a cat. Just kidding, I am a dog fan. Then there’s the Christian belief that individuals will enter into the spiritual realm (heaven or hell) based on their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The fourth and final question is: How do we know what is right and wrong? Is right and wrong strictly products of human choice. Are right and wrong determined by what makes us feel good? Atheists say a sense of right and wrong are an evolutionary development as a survival mechanism for the species. So lying isn’t really wrong; only if you get caught. The Scripture says because we are made in the image of God, whose character is good and who has revealed what is right, we are to obey him. An example might be a strategy game. You have to play by the rules in order to win the game. Same is true in this world. God is the Creator and we are the characters in His story.

These are 4 ultimate questions people ask when framing their worldview. Do you have any other suggestions to add to this article? Your comments are appreciated. Thanks!

How to Share the Gospel with Confidence and Ease

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Last summer, Time to Revive, an evangelical non-profit organization led by Kyle Lance Martin, marched through the city of Kokomo, Indiana. They helped revive and equip our churches to share the gospel effectively with our neighbors and loved ones.

It was an exhilarating experience. The churches, who were normally divided by subtle differences in church government, politics, and end-times eschatology, came together with the most important common ground shared: Jesus, the God-Man, died on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16).

Instead of arguing over secondary issues, the churches imitated what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

This strategy worked. The churches were united. And they were not united by liberal ecumenicism telling them to forsake their core beliefs of Christendom to get along. Instead, the churches realized their differences were only preferences, not biblical requirements. Thus, unity came as a result of obedience for God to be glorified (Eph. 4:4).

In fact, one of the pastors belonging to the Wesleyan Holiness Movement was surprised he was praying with a Pentecostal. Baptists and Presbyterians were evangelizing together. Even predominately white churches were serving the community with black churches. This doesn’t happen that often in America. And that’s why I believe it was a move of God.

When God moves, he is not concerned with denominational preferences. He is not weighing the pros and cons of traditional versus contemporary service. And he surely is not involved in racial segregation–He died for that. Racial Reconciliation is not a social issue; it is a Gospel issue!

How was the gospel preached? 

Each individual involved with Time to Revive received a couple of Bibles and wristbands. The Bibles and wristbands are color-coded by themes: Yellow represents sin, black symbolizes death, red stands for God’s love, blue shows faith, and green corresponds to life.

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The first step is to walk up to someone and ask, “How are you? Is there anything I can pray for you about?” Nine out of ten times, the person says, “Of course.” After they inform you what’s on their heart, you actually pray for them…right there.

Next, you give them a color-coded wristband as a reminder you prayed. Usually the person looks at it. “What is this?” they may inquire. You tell them each color represents a theme of the Bible. Would you like for me to share these themes with you? Once they agree to this, you have your Bible ready to flip to each verse. The nice thing about it is these verses are already marked for you in the Bible. Because there are thumb-tabs that directly flip to your page, there is no need to panic. It’s all there for you to adequately explain the gospel.

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Once you go through the gospel, on the back of the Bible there is this question: “Is there anything or anyone keeping you from accepting the free gift of life in Jesus today?” If they confess there is nothing holding them back, you simply pray for them. There is a paragraph on the back that shares God’s message.

“Lord, I know I am a sinner, but I thank you for Your Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and rose on the third day so that my sins could be forgiven and I can be with you forever. Thank you for loving me. I am ready to follow You and give my life to You. Please help me along the way and allow me to know You better each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

If you have any further questions, you can learn more on their website http://www.timetorevive.com. I hope this was an encouragement to you. Have a great day!

Six Characteristics of God that Help in Counseling

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There are at least six attributes that describe God. They are: wrath, mercy, holiness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. These attributes are theologically important and ought to be applied practically for life and counseling. I will briefly explain each one and how they are pertinent to our conversations with counselees.

The first attribute, God’s wrath, is His hatred towards sin and anything that contradicts His holy nature. For example, when the Israelites disobeyed by serving false gods, the Lord was very angry with Israel (Judg. 2:20-21). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul said that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness (Rom. 1:18; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10, Heb. 3:11, Rev. 6:16-17).” In our counseling sessions, people need to be told both God’s hatred towards sin and His willingness to forgive through the act of repentance.

The second attribute, God’s mercy, is defined as “God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress”.[1] Oftentimes, mercy, grace, and patience are mentioned together, but the main difference concerning mercy is its specific relationship to individuals in difficult circumstances (2 Sam. 24:14; Ps. 86:5; Tit. 3:5; Heb. 4:16). Jesus was the prime example for showing mercy towards the poor, blind, and lame people of His day. Mercy is an attribute we should extend to our counselees since they are at a low point in their lives.

The third attribute, holiness, is his uniqueness. God is the only being in the universe that is wholly independent and self-sustaining. He is necessary whereas everything else in the cosmos is contingent. The Bible states in Ex. 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness awesome in glory, working wonders?” Theologian Louis Berkhof calls His uniqueness the “majesty-holiness” of God.[2]

When a counselee understands the absolute purity or goodness of God, it should bring both fear and joy. Fear because God is pure and we are impure, but joyful because our purity is a result of knowing Christ rather than attempting to become pure ourselves. The holiness of God should always remind our counselees to swallow their pride and trust in the righteousness of Christ, which is given freely to all who believe in His name.

The fourth attribute, omnipotence, is the idea that God is all-powerful. The term is not found in the Bible, but the term refers to two biblical ideas: God can do anything He pleases and nothing is too hard for Him.[3] Job 23:13 states: “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever He pleases (Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Isa. 14:24-27; Dan. 4:35).” The Bible also makes it clear in the gospels that nothing is impossible with God (Lk. 1:37).

When speaking truth to a counselee, we should encourage them that they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength (Phil. 4:13). That means overcoming addiction, reconciling a marriage, becoming debt-free, etc. God can help us achieve the impossible.

The fifth attribute of God, omniscience, is the notion that God knows all things. There is nothing hidden from Him. The author John writes in his epistle: “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything (1 Jn. 3:20).” When interacting with our counselees, it’s important to emphasize that God knows all our burdens, anxieties, and fears. This should give counselees confidence to be transparent with God.

The sixth and final attribute, omnipresence, means that God is everywhere present, both in time and in space. The psalmist states: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there (Ps. 139:8).” This characteristic of God should remind both the counselor and counselee that they can communicate to God at any time, whether in a car on the way to work, in the kitchen, or jogging on the road. God desires to hear from His children all the time.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand rapids: Intervarsity Press, 1994), 200.

[2] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p.73.

[3] John Frame, The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002), p. 515.

The Bible: Fact or Fiction?

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I often hear skeptics argue that the Bible is not true. It’s just a mythological book that a bunch of people made up with no historical validity. These opinions may be rampant today, but they are not grounded in truth. There is strong evidence suggesting the Bible is historically trustworthy. I will provide just a few examples from independent sources in the 1st century claiming for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote about Christ in his historical documentation entitled “Annals” in AD 116, book 15, and chapter 44. He states: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition.”

Jewish historian Josephus, who would have been the most bias against Jesus because of his blasphemous claims of deity, wrote this in his historical document, “Antiquities of the Jews”, written 93-94 AD. Josephus states: “Ananus thought that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinas was still on the way.  And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, the one called Christ, whose name was James, and certain others, and accusing them of having transgressed the law…”

Mara bar Serapion, an Assyrian Stoic philosopher, wrote a letter in AD 72 after the annexation of the ancient city Samosata by the Romans. The letter refers to the unjust treatment of the execution of the “wise king” of the Jews. Based on Serapion’s writing style, it demonstrates he received sources from non-Christians because the title given, “wise king,” was not the title recorded in the gospels. Rather, Jesus was referred as King of the Jews or Son of Man.” Moreover, to prove Mara was an independent source from the gospels is his failure to understand the monotheistic teachings. For example, Serapion said that this wise man lives through his teachings in contrast to the concept that Jesus continues to live because of the resurrection.

Lastly, the gospel writers had a proven track record of historical reliability. For example, Luke writes in the first four verses to “Most excellent, Theophilius.” Scholars today recognize that the classical style of Greek Luke uses in these verses demonstrate his profound mastery of history. Luke also correctly mentioned the following people who lived during that time period, such as Sergius Paulus, Herod the Great, Annas, Felix, Caiaphas the High Priest, King Herod Agrippa I and Agrippa II, Gamaliel, etc. and his precise geographical locations were proven.

Sir William Ramsay, a renowned Archaeologist, stated: “I began with a mind unfavorable to the book of Luke and Acts; I did not then in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely. But more recently I found myself often brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”

These are just a couple of truths that help demonstrate the validity of the Bible. If you want to know more, I suggest watching this video by William Lane Craig as an introduction to the topic on whether or not we can trust the Bible.