Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Required Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

The following is a biblical response, written by a friend, to someone who asked him the following questions:

"Why did Jesus have to die for our sins to be forgiven?"

"Why can't man just repent and be forgiven without Jesus' sacrifice?"

Reasons that Sacrifice is Required for Salvation and Not Repentance Alone
By Guest Writer: Edwin Mills (Ed-head)

1) God is Holy- "Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy" (Psalm 99:9).

2) Sin separates man from a Holy God- "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).

3) God is Just- "I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He" (Deu. 32:3-4).

4) He (God) must punish sin and the penalty for sin is death- "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).

"For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a).

5) He (God) requires the shedding of blood of a man to remove sin to bring God and man back together- "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4).

"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off and made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who...hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Ephesians 2:13-14).

"Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

6) It was God's Will for a perfect man to die as a substitute for the rest of mankind; Jesus died on the Cross to remove sin and allow mankind to enter into God's presence for Eternity- "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame*, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2)

*the shame due to mankind's sin

7) Therefore, those who believe/trust in Christ's Salvation work of the cross are forgiven, but those who reject His Sacrifice are condemned- "For God so love the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:16-19).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Truthbomb Apologetics January Newsletter

A Ministry of Faith Christian Fellowship

The New Atheists- Part 2

Greetings and Happy New Year! As we kick off 2008 here at Truthbomb Apologetics, we once again zero in on the New Atheism movement and some of their most common arguments. For those of you who may have missed the November Newsletter(Pt. 1) it's posted in the December archives.

Our goal is to answer some of the most common objections coming from the New Atheist camp in a way that is easy for the Christian to apply to an atheist who may live on their block or whom they work with.

When dialoguing with unbelievers, it is important to remember that an argument is not going to convince them to follow Jesus, however, we can be prepare with intelligent answers and evidence to challenge their presuppositions about God, Jesus, and the Bible.

Some Practical Tips before We Begin

When talking with unbelievers, in the short time I have been a Christian, I have had the privilege to talk with various kinds of people with various beliefs. The following tips have served me well when discussing truth claims:

1) Pray- Before, during, and after you are discussing the gospel with someone you need to pray. It must be God working through you for your words (or His) to have any impact.

2) Listen- When sharing the gospel message with an unbeliever, it’s important that we make sure that we are taking the time to listen to their frustrations, points, and objections that they may have about Christianity.
This is important for the simple reason that if you listen to someone they will be more willing to listen to you. As the Bible says, “Be swift to hear; slow to speak” (James 1:19, KJV).

3) Ask questions- Many times someone will make a claim and the best thing you can do is ask them a question to force them to consider what they just said.

For example, if someone says, “Evolution disproves the Bible” you can ask “How does evolution disprove the Bible?” This forces the person making the truth claim to back up their statement with sound thinking and/or evidence. Many times they cannot and that is when you can challenge them with evidence from God’s creation or the simple gospel message.

4) Don’t be intimated- Many times, when talking with an unbeliever, they can sometimes put forth an argument that sounds quite convincing. Don’t be intimated! If you don’t have an answer to their question simply let them know that you are going to look into it and get back to them. It is impossible for anyone, no matter how intelligent, to have the answer to every question about Christianity. The fact that you take the time to research their question shows them that you not only care about what you believe, but that you also care about them! If what we believe is true it should stand-up to sincere inquiry and criticism.

5) Focus on what you do understand- Followers of Christ can sometimes get discouraged when studying a certain truth claim or doctrine in-depth. I have found it very helpful to prayerfully approach the topic I am focusing on and dwell on the things I do understand and not mull over the things I don’t. I find that as I continue to study the topic the information I didn’t understand will many times become clear.

6) Utilize your brothers and sisters- Since I have been a Christian, there have been numerous times that I have had to go to my pastor, a friend, or someone I know whom is knowledgeable about a subject I am investigating. A question that seems really difficult to you, someone else may have already studied out and they may be able to explain it to you or point you toward resources that can help.

7) Know where the ammunition is- Within the massive body of evidence for Christianity there are wonderful resources that are easy to access, understand, and use when dialoguing with the lost. The home church for Truth Bomb Apologetics, Faith Christian Fellowship, offers an entire page entitled The Apologetics Arsenal that is designed to equip believers to be able to present Christ to everyone, regardless of what they believe.

We strongly encourage you to check it out: http://www.explorefcf.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=39031&PID=478231&Style=

Answering Six Common Atheist Objections

As I stated prior, my purpose here is not to answer each of these objections exhaustively, but to give the Christian an easy to understand answer that he can share with someone questioning the validity of Christianity and/or its claims.
In my readings, dialogues, and debates with skeptics, the following are some of the most common objections I am presented with:

Objection #1- Jesus Christ is not a historical figure; a myth

Some modern day skeptics assert that the only evidence we have for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is found within the pages of the New Testament (NT). While we have strong reason to trust that the NT is reliable as a historical document, we do not need it to make a case for the historical existence of the man Jesus Christ.

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek, in their book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, shatter the so called “Christ-myth” theories without even appealing to the testimony of the scriptures:

“Just how many non-Christian sources are there that mention Jesus? Including Josephus, there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of his life. By contrast, over the same 150 years, there are nine non-Christian sources who mention Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus. So discounting all the Christian sources, Jesus is actually mentioned by one more source than the Roman emperor. If you include the Christian sources, authors mentioning Jesus outnumber those mentioning Tiberius 43 to 10!

Some of these non-Christian sources-such as Celsus, Tacitus, and the Jewish Talmud- could be considered anti-Christian sources. While these works do not have any eyewitness testimony that contradicts events described in the NT documents, they are works written by writers whose tone is decidedly anti-Christian. What can we learn from them and the more neutral non-Christian sources? We learn that they admit certain facts about early Christianity that help us piece together a storyline that is surprisingly congruent with the NT. Piecing together all ten non-Christian references, we see that:

1. Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar.
2. He lived a virtuous life.
3. He was a wonder-worker.
4. He had a brother named James.
5. He was acclaimed to be the Messiah.
6. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.
7. He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover.
8. Darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died.
9. His disciples believed he rose from the dead.
10. His disciples were willing to die for their belief.
11. Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.
12. His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshiped Jesus as God.

In light of these non-Christian references, the theory that Jesus never existed is clearly unreasonable. How could non-Christian writers collectively reveal a storyline congruent with the NT if Jesus never existed?” [1]

Clearly, the claim that Jesus never existed is simply put forth by the skeptic to avoid examining the available evidence.

For a more in-depth look at the Historical Jesus, see:
http://www.garyhabermas.com/books/historicaljesus/historicaljesus.htm

For a more in-depth look at the Resurrection of Christ, see:



http://www.newmediaministries.org/Jesus/Scholarship_S.html by Gary C. Burger

Objection #2- Who Made God?

This is a common objection posed by both believers and unbelievers; those who sincerely want to know the answer and those who feel that this argument alone somehow destroys Christianity.

Simple put, no one made God. God by definition has always been. In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah refers to the “everlasting God” (Is. 40:28). God has always been and always will be. Now before someone says, “Hey, you can’t just say the Bible says so therefore it’s so,” I would like to build upon the above scripture with the following argument.

We know that there is something otherwise we wouldn’t be here. A great question to ask an atheist is, “Why is there anything at all?” Atheism has no concrete answers to questions like these.

Science tells us that sometime in the past the universe exploded into existence out of nothing. All matter, space, and time came into existence (big bang).

Logically, nothing inside of the natural world could have caused this because nature did not yet exist. Therefore, something outside the natural world i.e. supernatural had to have caused the big bang.

So if there is something and science tells us that EVERYTHING must have a cause, then there had to have been one uncaused cause for there to be anything at all. In other words, something can’t come from nothing, but something can come from someone. We are left with two options: 1) nothing + nothing = everything, or 2) Someone + nothing = everything. Clearly, only one makes sense.

For a more in-depth look at the question of Who Made God, see our article here:
http://www.explorefcf.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=39031&PID=463673&Style=

Also, for a closer look at the evidence for the Big Bang and the Origin of the Universe, see:


http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/ultimatequestion.html (highly recommended)

Objection #3- The Bible is full of contractions

If we are honest with ourselves, there are certainly portions of the Bible that are hard to understand and can certainly appear to contradict. A few ways to deal with this objection is as follows:

1) Challenge them to show you a contradiction. Many times unbelievers will simply put forth this objection because they have heard it said by someone else. I did that for many years of my life!

If they actually can show you an apparent contradiction and you are not sure how to explain it, let them know that you will research it and get back to them. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord, as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (ESV, Emphasis mine).

2) Explain that just because something isn’t easy to understand doesn’t immediately mean that it’s contradictory or false. There are answers to their questions and scores of scholars who have dedicated their life to answering the so-called difficulties and/or contradictions in the Bible. Like any other topic of study, certain topics may demand a more in-depth investigation.

3) Here are some great links that answer many supposed Bible contradictions that skeptics may challenge you with:

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/contralinks.html- Here you will find answers to numerous Bible difficulties and apparent contradictions.

Objection #4- It’s intolerant to say Jesus is the only way to heaven!

It really doesn’t matter if it’s intolerant; it matters if it’s true! You may want to mention to this person that they are being intolerant of those who believe Jesus is the only way to heaven!

There are various ways to approach this question, depending upon the person airing the question:

1) Ask the person if they would say Jesus Christ Himself is “intolerant.” If they say no, you can inform them that He Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). As a result, they are no longer dealing with you, but with Jesus and His claims.

If they say yes, gently explain to them that if Jesus really did die on the cross for the sins of mankind we would expect Him to be the only way! Logically, why would God send his “only begotten” (Jn. 3:16) to be killed and hung on a cross if there were multiple ways to enter the kingdom? This idea rests in pure sentiment, not in logical reasoning.

2) Explain to them that all religions have exclusive truth claims and to say that they all lead to God makes no sense. Then you can share with them that Christianity alone offers forgiveness of sins and what Jesus has done on the cross. It’s been well said that all the world religions are spelled D-O, while Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E.

3) As apologist Ravi Zacharias has done, pose the question “Instead complaining that there is only one way, why aren’t we happy that there is one way?”

Finally, encourage the seeker to investigate the claims of Jesus Christ with an opened-mind and opened-heart and challenge them to constantly ask themselves the questions, “What is true?”

Remember, it’s not about what we think is right or what we feel is right, but what is true.

For more on this topic, see: http://www.carm.org/devotions/intolerant.htm

Objection #5- Religion is the cause of most of the evil in the world

This objection is the one put forth and argued the most by the New Atheist camp and admittedly they can put forth a seemingly solid case that its true on the surface, however, upon deeper investigation, this objection rests on shaky foundations:

1) Even if the objection were true, it would not make Christianity false! So those who use this objection as a means of disproving the Christian faith are mistaken.

2) For the atheist to object to religious belief based upon the claim that it causes evil exposes a great hole in the armor of the atheist’s worldview. If you are to admit evil, don’t you also have to admit good? And if you admit good and evil, don’t you have to admit to some objective moral standard in which you are referring? Otherwise terms like “good” and “evil” are rendered meaningless because it’s just someone’s opinion and you are under no moral obligation to adopt their opinion as your own.

For good and evil to exist we must have an objective moral standard in which we refer to that exists outside of mankind otherwise we have no right to tell someone else they are doing something wrong. God alone provides that objective moral standard and/or compass.

3) Openly admit that the churches history hasn’t been spotless and then pose the question, “Were those who acted in the crusades, mass murders, or killings in the name of god, acting in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the New Testament?” Of course the answer should be, “no” and if the answer is “I don’t know,” you can show them some of the teachings of Jesus or encourage them to check them out.

4) Point out that Joseph Stalin was an atheist and killed millions of his own people, but that does not disprove atheism nor prove that all atheists are murders.

Those who hold to atheism and live a “moral” lifestyle live above the conclusions of their worldview; however their worldview cannot justify nor sustain their actions. As famous atheist Friedrich Nietzsche admitted, atheism is devoid a conscience.

Objection #6- Religion and Science are enemies or incompatible

A very common misconception about the Christian faith is that it is illogical or unscientific. However, the key modern scientific disciplines were developed by those who believed in a Creator God. Consider the following names:

Physics: Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin
Chemistry: Boyle, Dalton, Pascal, Ramsay
Biology: Ray, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur
Geology: Steno, Woodward, Brewster, Agassiz
Astronomy: Kepler, Galileo, Herschel, Maunder

As Henry M. Morris and Gary E. Parker write in What is Creation Science?:

“These men, as well as scores of others who could be mentioned, were creationists, not evolutionists, and their names are practically synonymous with the rise of modern science. To them, the scientific enterprise was a high calling, one dedicated to “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” [2]

Not only is science compatible with Christianity, it is founded upon those who believed in a Creator God and desired to learn more about Him through their research.

For a more in-depth look at the relationship between science and faith, see the following article by Dr. Alister McGrath:
http://www.bethinking.org/resource.php?ID=336&TopicID=2&CategoryID=1

Conclusion

The Christian should not fear the questions of unbeliever, but welcome them. There are credible answers to the questions of the skeptic, however, we must be willing to diligently study and research to answer their inquiries. Sometimes it’s very hard work. It can be a frustrating, time consuming, and discouraging, however, it’s all in the name of the One who came and gave His life for you and I. Shouldn’t we give it back?

Book Review

The Truth Behind The New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity by David Marshall

In this book, author David Marshall responds to the New Atheists with humor, sound research, and clear thinking. I can honestly say that I enjoyed this book from start to finish and found Marshall’s approach very respectful, despite the absurdity of some of his opponent‘s claims.

Mr. Marshall responds with great clarity to many of the sermons the New Atheists insist on preaching, regardless if the evidence is for their argument or against it. He debunks the assertion that science is the only way to understand reality, demonstrates how evolution does not dismiss the need for God (if it is true), and destroys the false notion that belief in God (particularly the Christian God) results in war, violence, and/or evil. On the contrary, this Marshall provides a compelling case that it is atheist thought and not Christian, that is more likely to lead to evil.

This book also irrefutably demonstrates the inadequate historical and philosophical skills possessed by Oxford biologist, Richard Dawkins.
Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, Climbing Mount Improbable, and most recently, The God Delusion, is adored by militant atheists around the world.

One example Marshall gives of Dawkins’ sloppy approach to history is when, referring to Gnostic texts such as The Gospel of Thomas, Dawkins writes:

“It is these additional gospels that Thomas Jefferson was referring to in his letter to his nephew… ‘You should read all the histories of Christ.’

Marshall writes regarding this comment:

“But Jefferson did not, I think, claim the gift of prophecy. That would have been required for him to refer to Thomas, Mary, or Philip, which were lost in the Egyptian desert at the time Jefferson allegedly recommended them to his nephew.” [3]

I highly recommend this book to those who want to familiarize themselves with the key arguments coming from modern day atheism’s key players.

Article of the Month


http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5933
In this article, William Lane Craig responds to a reader regarding a question submitted about the now infamous “Flying Spaghetti Monster” argument that is so popular among atheists as of late. There is even a picture of the “Monster!” How exciting…or sad.

Website of the Month

http://www.theologue.org/- A massive collection of articles on various topics including theology, apologetics, and sermons. Enjoy!

Truthbomb Apologetics Update

1) We added an article to our home site, explorefcf.com, entitled Jesus and His Virgin Birth.

Apologetic Verse for the Month

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
- Colossians 4:6, ESV

Future Newsletter Topics

· Evidence for the Resurrection
· Mormonism: What is it and is it true?
· We welcome any suggestions…

Prayer Requests

1) I will be preaching on February 24 at Faith Christian Fellowship in Williamsport, MD. Please pray that my words will be a “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4).

2) Impact Thursdays- Please pray that the Lord will send forth laborers into the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).

3) The unsaved- Pray for those who do not know Christ and pray that the Lord will open their hearts to the gospel message.

4) Truthbomb Apologetics Ministry- Pray that God will guide us in the material we present and help us to reach those who are truly seeking answers about God, Jesus, and His Word. We must have God leading the way!

5) “Hot Topic” Sundays- Pray for Pastor Vance as he researches and answers questions; that God will minister to and through him.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Resources

1) Norman Geisler and Roman Turek, I Don’t have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 222-223.
2) Henry Morris and Gary E. Parker, What is Creation Science?, as quoted in The Evidence Bible, by Ray Comfort.
3) David Marshall, The Truth behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to God and Christianity, p. 122.