Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Debate Video: William Lane Craig vs Mike Begon-"Is God A Delusion?"


This debate took place at the University of Liverpool  in 2007.  There is a very interesting Q and A afterward.  

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Giveaway: No God, but One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi

This week, to celebrate the release of Nabeel Qureshi's latest book No God, but One: Allah or Jesus?, we are giving away 5 copies!

Our review is here.

There are three ways you can enter:

1. Follow this blog.

2. Comment on this post.

3. Follow us on Twitter here.

Please make sure that if you leave a comment, your blogger profile links to an email address we can contact you with if you win. If not, please leave your email address with your comment.

We will draw 5 winners one week from today!  Good providence!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Book Review: No God But One- Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi

Introduction

Nabeel Qureshi1 is the award-winning author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Our review is here.) and Answering Islam: A Better Way Forward.  He is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and his credentials are impressive.  He holds degrees in medicine (Eastern Virginia Medical School), Christian apologetics (Biola University), and religion (Duke University).  Qureshi is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford University.

Qureshi begins this work by thanking the reader for taking the time to read his current offering.  He then explains how No God, But One: Allah or Jesus? differs from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

He writes:

"That book [Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus] is the heart of my story, detailing the relationships, emotions, and spiritual struggles in my search for God.  No God but One: Allah or Jesus? is the mind of my story, examining the religions and their claims.  In the course of this book, I hope to elucidate two overarching matters in particular: that the differences between Islam and Christianity have great implications, and that the evidence of history strongly supports the Christian claims." [p. 11]

The author wisely continues by explaining the importance of defining one's terms when discussing Islam and Christianity.  He is careful to explain what he means by Muslim and Christian and this nicely lays the groundwork for the forthcoming discussion.

Book Layout

The book is organized into 10 parts.

Parts 1-5 deal with the question, "Are Islam and Christianity really all that different?"  They are as follows:

Pt 1: Sharia or the Gospel?  Two Different Solutions
Pt 2: Tawhid or the Trinity? Two Different Gods
Pt 3: Muhammad or Jesus?  Two Different Founders
Pt 4: The Quran or the Bible?  Two Different Scriptures
Pt 5: Jihad or the Crusades?  Two Different Holy Wars

Parts 6-10 deal with the question, "Can we know whether Islam or Christianity is true?" and it is as follows:

Pt 6: Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Pt 7: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
Pt 8: Did Jesus Claim to Be God?

Midway Summary to Question 2: Assessing the Case for Christianity and Islam's Efforts to Account for Christian Origins

Pt 9: Is Muhammad a Prophet of God?
Pt 10: Is the Quran the Word of God?

Strengths of the Book

Qureshi's latest work is a treat to read for a variety of reasons.  This reader greatly appreciated how fair-minded the author presented the Muslim position.  The Islamic doctrines and beliefs that Nabeel deals with were once dear to him and he understands that they are still dear to those who are Muslim.  And while he doesn't hold back in his examination of Islam, he treats the tenets of Islam, and those who hold to it, with respect and dignity.  For example, when discussing what can be known about the historicity of Muhammad, the author notes:

"When we read about the life of Muhammad, there is no doubt that Muhammad taught many good things.  This goes beyond the simple proclamation of monotheism and submission to God.  Muhammad taught people to feed the poor; to love others for God's sake; to abstain from theft, fornication, and infanticide; to release slaves, help the weak, and serve those who cannot work for themselves; and much more.  When considering the historical record of Muhammad's life, one has to conclude that he taught many things that were very moral and noble." [p. 293-294]

Quershi strives throughout the text to present the best arguments Islam has to offer against Christianity and this is to be commended.  Other authors should take note.

This reader also appreciated how concise the author presented his case for the Christian faith.  This was especially evident in his arguments for the deity of Jesus Christ.  Quershi argues persuasively that the Gospel of Mark, which most believe was written first, was "designed to teach that Jesus is Yahweh."[p. 258]  He concludes:

"After reading Mark through the lens of Jewish scripture I could no longer avoid the obvious.  From introduction to climax, Mark's Gospel is an exposition of the deity of Jesus." [p. 258]  This portion of the book was flawlessly argued and this reader will be referring to it time and time again.

Finally, it must be noted that Nabeel's case for Christianity is explained with his own story of conversion serving as the backdrop.  This makes, what some would consider to be a dense book on comparative religion, highly readable.

Arguments Dealt with in the Book

The author spends the first part of the book contrasting the core message of Islam with the core message of Christianity.  He notes, "Where the difference matters most is in the ultimate message of each religion." [p. 29]  This reader was very impressed with Quershi's explanation of the effects sin has had on humanity and  how Jesus uniquely addresses this problem.  When describing sin he writes:

"...in the Christian worldview, sin against God is more than just doing something wrong.  It is rebellion against the Sustainer of the universe.  It is the most destructive force in the cosmos, the ultimate root of every pained heart, every broken family, every pointless war, every heinous genocide.  Sin spreads through generations like a malignant cancer, and it razes civilizations like a plague.  The effect of sin is cataclysmic.  Like taking a sledgehammer to a mirror, sin shatters the image in which man is made.  When Adam sinned, the image of God in man was irreparably broken.

This is the Christian worldview: Sin has ravaged our souls and the entire world.  There is no way for us to un-sin.  We cannot simply do a few good deeds to unshatter our souls.  There is nothing on earth that we can do.  It would take a miracle, an act of God, to restore us and save this world." [p. 34]

Such is the condition we find ourselves in and the author argues that the gospel "resonates with reality: People are broken in their hearts and souls, and no matter how educated or self-reflective we become, it does not appear that following rules will be enough to address the problem.  The problem lies deeper than what we do; it is embedded in who we are.  Having spent some time working with the dejected and downtrodden, such as those whose lives have been ravaged by various addictions, I do not think ignorance is their problem.  It is brokenness."[p. 45]

Quershi argues extensively and persuasively that "If we misdiagnose what ails us, the treatment won't work and we will continue to suffer.  Islam diagnoses the world with ignorance and offers the remedy of Sharia, a law to follow.  Christianity diagnoses the world with brokenness and offers the remedy of the gospel, a relationship with God that leads to heart transformation." [p. Ibid.]

The author then shifts from the nature of man to the nature of God and this leads into a discussion about the Muslim belief in Tawhid vs. the Christianity belief in the Trinity.  For those who saw Nabeel's debate with Muslim apologist Shabir Ally,2 some of these arguments will be familiar; however, this reviewer was particularly impressed with two of the arguments made by the author in this section.

First, he argues persuasively that "there are five elements found repeatedly throughout the Bible's text that are best interpreted through the lens of the Trinity:

1. There is only one God (e.g., Rom. 3:30)

2. The Father is God (e.g., John 6:27)

3. Jesus is God (e.g., John 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 2 Peter 1:1)

4. The Holy Spirit is God (e.g., Acts 5:3-5)

5. These Three are distinct persons (e.g., John 14:16-17)

He further demonstrates that the Trinity is hinted at in Genesis 1:1 and makes sense of numerous Old and New Testament passages.

Second, Qureshi masterfully argues that far from being self-contradictory, the complexity of the Trinity is what makes Yahweh logically consistent and self-sufficient!  Consider the basic Islamic teaching of Tawhid: God is absolutely one.  As the author explains, "This means that, in eternity past, before He had created anything, Allah was alone.  One person, all by Himself.  It was not until He chose to create the universe that Allah had anything to relate with.  This is a significant theological problem because...Islam teaches that Allah is a relational being.  But if He had nothing to relate with before creating the universe, how could He be a relational being?" [p. 69]  Therein lies the problem.  In order for Allah to actually be gracious and merciful, as Islam teaches, He has to first create the universe and this makes Allah dependent upon His creation in order to be Allah!

After demonstrating this theological fault in the doctrine of Tawhid, Qureshi argues that the Trinity actually makes sense of an eternally existent being that is merciful, just and relational:

"...the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the three persons of God have eternally loved one another with a selfless love.  God has always been relational, always been loving.  His mercy and justice are not contingent upon His creation, because they are the expression of His eternal love toward humans. That love was never contingent upon mankind's existence.

Because of Tawhid, Allah depends on mankind to be Allah.  Because of His Triune nature, Yahweh is truly independent and self-sufficient."[p. 70]

After assessing the merits of both religions and investigating their origins, the author turns his sights to the second vital question: "Can we know whether Islam or Christianity is true?"  The author admits that when his investigation began he was "absolutely convinced that Islam was correct..." and he was "more than ready to challenge Christianity's truth claims in order to call people to Islam."[p. 171]

Before starting his investigation, the author, and his Christian friend David Wood, wanted to examine "matters more systematically" so they "tried to distill Christianity and Islam to their cores." [p. 172] Qureshi realized that "The central claims of Christianity are explicitly rejected by Islam.  Islamic doctrine is antithetical to the core message of Christianity.  Evincing the case for Christianity disproves Islam, and vice versa."[p. 174]  With this in mind, and "after careful consideration, David and I chose to study these five points:

1. Jesus' death by crucifixion.

2. Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

3. Jesus' claim to be God

4. The prophetic authority of Muhammad

5. The divine inspiration of the Qur'an

Together, these five points constitute the case for Christianity and the case for Islam."[p. 176]

The author admits that pursuing the truth about your worldview and assessing it honestly is difficult. Further, he admits that "we can never completely overcome our biases, the most important step we can take is to pursue fair-mindedness with intentionality.  While considering the data, we need to repeatedly ask ourselves the question: 'Would an objective observer find the arguments compelling?'"[p. 178-179] For the remainder of the book, this question is repeatedly raised.

To investigate the resurrection of Jesus, Qureshi examines "the historical facts surrounding Jesus' crucifixion that virtually all historians agree upon, and by far the best explanation of those facts is that Jesus rose from the dead."[p. 214]  These facts are:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion

2. Jesus' followers truly believed the risen Jesus had appeared to them

3. People who were not followers of Jesus truly believed the risen Jesus had appeared to them

The author goes on to consider the Islamic responses to these facts and finds them wanting.  This reviewer especially appreciated Qureshi's responses to the Islamic claim that the Apostle Paul infiltrated and corrupted the message of the early church.  He concludes:

"The common Muslim assertion that Paul hijacked Christianity, imposed his own teachings, and corrupted the true religion not only goes against the biblical records but also is unwarranted from a historical point of view and enjoys almost no scholarly support." [p. 240]

Furthermore, as I have already mentioned, Qureshi's defense of the deity of Christ is executed flawlessly in this work and is worth the price of the book.

The author concludes his investigation by examining Muhammad's life and character and the reliability of the Qur'an.  He finds that the arguments he once found so persuasive crumbling under the weight of the evidence.

In regard to the historical Muhammad he states:

"Though other Muslims and I often said that Muhammad ought to be followed because of his excellent character, I could not sustain that argument in the face of the counter-evidence.  Although Muhammad gave plenty of moral teachings and exhibited merciful and peaceful character at times, there are many other accounts of Muhammad's brutality and exultation in war, his spiritual shortcomings, and his troubling treatment of women, among the concerns." [p. 305]

He concludes:

"Either I could trust the historical sources of Muhammad's life and find a man I would never want to follow as a prophet, or I could question the sources and have no reason to consider him a prophet.  Either way I could not conclude, based on the evidence, that Muhammad was a prophet of God."[p. 315]

Finally, Quershi examines the claim that the Qur'an is "the jewel of Islam" and the "why" of Muslim belief.  He explains that the Qur'an's place "in Islamic theology is that of Jesus in Christian theology, and as a Muslim, my confidence was built on nothing less than the text of the Qur'an and its excellence."[Ibid.]

He then examines some of the most common arguments put forth by Muslims to argue for the excellence and divine origin of the Qur'an.  They include the literary excellence of the Qur'an, the fulfilled prophecies of the Qur'an, the supposed miraculous scientific knowledge in the Qur'an, the mathematical marvels in the Qur'an and the perfect preservation of the Qur'an.

He concludes:

"The arguments for the divine inspiration of the Qur'an all prove unconvincing when we begin to dig beneath the surface.  The literary excellence of the Qur'an proves to be untestable, subjective, and non-sequitur; the prophecies of the Qur'an are not compelling; the science of the Qur'an is actually problematic; the numerical patterns are often distorted data combined with exaggerated interpretations; and the Qur'an has not been preserved in any miraculous sense.

Because there is no compelling argument, there is no reason to accept the Qur'an as the Word of God."[p. 337]

Conclusion

This book is a must read for those desiring to better the understand the vast differences between the core tenets of Christianity and Islam.  Qureshi simplifies the investigation by focusing on the two questions that guide his quest: 1. Are Islam and Christianity really all that different? 2. Can we know whether Islam or Christianity is true?

Moreover, this reader could sense the tension throughout the author's investigation as he wanted to confirm the truth of Islam, but found himself leaning more and more toward the opposite conclusion.

This work would also be very instructive for those who desire to investigate the truth of their worldview, but are possibly held back by their strong feelings, fears or other outside factors. Qureshi desires the truth and no matter what the cost, he seeks it.  Again, this is instructive for us all.

Qureshi wrapped a fair-minded, systematic approach in his own story of how he set out to confirm Islam and became a follower of Christ.  Because of this, the book is highly recommended.

Qureshi himself sums up who would would best benefit from the book:

"...I often come across two kinds of people: Christians who enjoy criticizing Islam, and Muslims who want to argue but do not want to learn.  I am not writing this book for either of them.  I am writing for people who...need the answers to these questions:
  • What are the differences between Islam and Christianity?
  • Can we be confident that Christianity or Islam is true?
  • Is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth?"[p. 21]
In No God but One: Allah or Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi answers these questions comprehensively and demonstrates just how important it is to seek the truth no matter what the personal cost.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnotes:
1. Readers should know that I find the claims made by both Christians and non-Christians that Qureshi was not a "true Muslim" before his conversion to Christianity to be absurd and ridiculous. For those who would offer this view, I challenge you to watch this video by David Wood of Acts17 Apologetics.
2. You can find that debate here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Almost Everything the Media Tell You About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Is Wrong

In the subject article, Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation summarizes a new report on sexual orientation and gender identity recently published.  Here are the four vital conclusions from the report:

  • The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.


  • Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.


  • Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.


  • Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.
You can read Anderson's full article here.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Bart Ehrman on the Earliest Christian Claims about Jesus

"The idea that Jesus is God is not an invention of modern times, of course...it was the view of the very earliest Christians soon after Jesus's death."1

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Related Posts 

Quote: Bart Ehrman on the Post-Resurrection Appearances

Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona Dialogue on the Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Common Objection #14- "Jesus' Disciples were Uneducated and Illiterate."

Footnote:
1. Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York: Harper One, 2014), 3 as quoted by Nabeel Qureshi in No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, p. 275.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Thinking Series by Andy Steiger of Apologetics Canada

Recently, I was looking for some good online resources as I prepare to assist with teaching students in my church's youth ministry.

I was fortunate to come across the Thinking Series by Andy Steiger of Apologetics Canada.  The series provides short animated videos and discussion cards that can be used to help facilitate interaction.  I look forward to looking more into the content and providing these resources to young people to assist with challenging questions they may be facing or asking to themselves.

Below is the video from session 2 entitled "Does God Exist."  Also, please check out the discussion cards that are available as well.




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why Can’t God Just Forgive Us? Part 2.

Real Love is a Personal Exchange


Why can’t we just concentrate on teaching about how God is a God of love? The answer is that if you take away the cross you don’t have a God of love.

In the real world of relationships it is impossible to love people with a problem or a need without in some sense sharing or even changing places with them.

Think…of emotionally wounded people. There is no way to listen and love people like that and stay completely emotionally intact yourself. It may be that they may feel stronger and more affirmed as you talk, but that won’t happen without you being quite emotionally drained yourself. It’s them or you. To bring them up emotionally you must be willing to be drained emotionally.

John Stott writes, “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be.”

If that is true, how can God be a God of love if he does not become personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that we experience? …only one major world religion even claims that God does.

To understand why Jesus had to die it is important to remember both the result of the cross (costly forgiveness of sins) and the pattern of the cross (reversal of the worlds values). On the cross neither justice nor mercy loses out – both are fulfilled at once. Jesus death was necessary if God was going to take justice seriously and still love us.

From The Reason for God, Chapter 12, The (True) Story of the Cross, by Timothy Keller.


Don’t take my word for it, read the book, don’t wait for the movie.


Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What is the Difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims?

Taken from gotquestions.org here:

The main difference between Sunnis and Shias lies in their interpretation of the rightful succession of leadership after the death of the prophet Muhammad. The declaration of faith to which all Muslims assent is this: There is no God but Allah, whose prophet is Muhammad. However, the Shiites add an extra phrase at the end: and Ali is the friend of God. Because the Shiites passionately attest to Ali being the successor to Muhammad, much feuding and division have been caused in the world of Islam, not unlike the feuding between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Europe during the Reformation. However, the schism that sets up the major sects of Islam is not due to doctrinal issues, as between Protestants and Catholics, but is grounded in the identity of the “true successor” to Muhammad.

Among the close disciples of Muhammad was Ali, his son-in-law, who was most familiar with his teachings. However, when Muhammad died in A.D. 632, the followers bypassed Ali, whom the Shiites claim as the rightful successor to Muhammad. Instead, a cousin of Muhammad’s third successor, Uthman (A.D. 644-656), called Mu’awiya Umayyad, declared himself caliph. When he died in A.D. 680, his son Yazid usurped the caliphate instead of Ali’s youngest son, Hussein. The feud between rightful successors or caliphs was fought at the battle of Karbala. Hussein was slain, but his sole son, Ali, survived and continued the line of succession. Yazid, however, gave rise to the Ummayad line of succession, from which modern-day Sunnism arose.

As for their beliefs, both Sunni and Shia Muslims agree on the five pillars of Islam. While the Sunnites honor Ali, they do not venerate their imams as having the gift of divine intercession. Sunnites conduct community prayers and believe they can have a direct relationship with God. Of the two, Shiite Muslims have a burning desire to engage in martyrdom and believe that suffering is a means of spiritual cleansing. They dwell on the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein, especially over the ten-day period of Ashura. Also noteworthy is the veneration that Shiites give to the imams, believing they are endowed with infallibility in their interpretation of the Qur’an. In many ways, this mirrors the way the pope is venerated in Rome.

In terms of actual practice, the Sunni Muslims pray five times a day: the fajr, the zohr, the asar, the maghrib and finally the isha (“darkness”). Shia Muslims only pray three times—morning, lunchtime and sunset. Another important difference between the two sects is that Shia Muslims permit fixed-term temporary marriage, known as muttah. Muttah was originally permitted at the time of the Prophet and is now being promoted in Iran by an unlikely alliance of conservative clerics and feminists, the latter group seeking to downplay the obsession with female virginity which is prevalent in both forms of Islam, pointing out that only one of the Prophet's thirteen wives was a virgin when he married her.

Iran is overwhelmingly Shia - 89 percent. Shia Muslims also form a majority of the population of Yemen, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60 percent of the population of Iraq. There are also sizeable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in Lebanon. The well-known guerrilla organization Hezbollah, which forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000, is Shia. Worldwide, Shias constitute 10 to 15 percent of the overall Muslim population, but they make up the majority of the radical, violent element of Islam.

For more great resources, go here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

7 Characteristics of a Mature Thinker

Over the years I have had the privilege to interact with people of various beliefs, backgrounds and disciplines.  This has allowed me to observe and identify characteristics that I believe those that are "mature" in their thinking consistently put into practice.  These are characteristics that I desire to emulate and incorporate into my own thinking and work.

Mature thinkers:

1. represent opposing views fairly and charitably.

2. don't overstate their case.

Their conclusions are humble and they let the evidence speak.

3. attack the argument and not the individual making the argument.

4. acknowledge when there is a weakness in their case or argument.

5. can admit when they are wrong.

6. know when to continue a discussion and when to end a discussion.

7. can acknowledge when someone that holds an opposing view makes a good point or argument.

What do you think of my list?  Are there any that you would add?  Please feel free to share in the comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Related Posts

William Lane Craig on What Makes for a Good Argument

What I've Learned from Blog Comments

Logic Primers from Apologetics 315

Saturday, August 20, 2016

J. Warner Wallace on Sharing Your Christian Convictions Online

"If you’ve ever interacted with hostile atheists online, you’ve probably been frustrated at times and wondered if your efforts were worthwhile at all. At times like this I try to remind myself of the three reasons anyone “shuns” a truth claim; many of us are committed to our position for other than rational evidential reasons (that’s true for everyone, including Christians). It’s important to see your efforts to reach the opposed as a baseball game rather than a tennis match. The goal isn’t points, it’s advancing people around the bases. You’re not alone on the court, you’ve got help on the field. I’m not always trying to hit home runs with people who disagree with me. Instead, I am simply trying to be faithful to my Master, reflect his image, and leave people with something to think about."

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Friday, August 19, 2016

Blog Post: Did the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Exist? by Sean McDowell


I had the pleasure of reviewing Sean McDowell's excellent book The Fate of the Apostles.  You can find our review here.  His book is an excellent treatment of the historicity of the apostles and their martyrdoms.

In this featured blog post, McDowell shares a simple case for the historicity of the Twelve.  

His case includes:

1. Multiple Attestation
2. Criterion of Embarrassment
3. Lack of Flowery Details in the Early Church
4. Onomastic Studies

You can read Sean's case here.

Sean recently debated mythicist Ken Humphreys on Premier Christian Radio and you can listen to that here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why Can’t God Just Forgive Us? Part 1.

Real Forgiveness is Costly Suffering

Why would Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t God just forgive us? The death of Jesus for our sins is at the heart of the gospel, the good news. The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed to be appeased by human sacrifice. Why can’t God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?

When damage has been done, repayment for repair of the damage must be made. The wrongdoer can make restitution, the wronged party can offer to pay, or some combination of the two parties together can pay for the damage.  But, the cost of the damage must be borne by someone. The repayment does not vanish. Forgiveness means the wronged party bears the cost of the damage.

When one has been wronged and there is a just debt that cannot be dismissed, there are two options. 1) Make the wrongdoer suffer and pay for what they have done. 2) Forgive, which means refusing to make them suffer and pay for what they have done. This means that the wronged party absorbs the debt and takes the cost completely on themselves. True forgiveness is always a form of suffering.

God cannot just forgive us, because no one just forgives. Forgiveness means bearing the cost and absorbing the debt of sin instead of making the wrongdoer do it. God did this for us in Jesus Christ on the cross. The Christian faith has always understood that Jesus Christ is God. God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the cross absorbed the pain into himself. Therefore, God is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. God became human and offered his own lifeblood to offer mercy and honor justice.

Jesus death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid – God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be borne – God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

From The Reason for God, Chapter 12, The (True) Story of the Cross, by Timothy Keller.


Don’t take my word for it, read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sermon Audio: The Fuse of Racism by Pastor Steve Spuler

I am blessed to be currently sitting under the preaching of Pastor Steve Spuler of "Life in Christ" Church in Dillsburg, PA.  In his message this past week (8-14-16), Pastor Steve offered a biblical response to racism.

I greatly appreciate Pastor Steve's preaching because he understands that issues such as racism must be addressed in the pulpit so that Christians can be ready to offer a biblical response when these topics are discussed in the public square.

Furthermore, Spuler consistently models how to incorporate philosophy, logic and ethics into theologically sound sermons.

Pastor Spuler addressed the following issues:
  • What is the root cause of racism?
  • What is the true Christian teaching regarding race?
  • What can Jesus' parable of "The Good Samaritan" teach us about how we should treat others?
  • How should a follower of Jesus Christ treat those that are "different?"
You can find more of Pastor Spuler's messages here.

Many thanks to Pastor Steve for allowing us to share his sermon on Truthbomb.  As you will hear, this is Pt. 1 in a 4 Pt. series.  We will share the other messages when they are completed.

You can listen to "The Fuse of Racism" here.

Enjoy!

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Monday, August 15, 2016

Habitability for Redemption

In the subject piece posted on Southern Evangelical Seminary's blog, Dr. Hugh Ross summarizes his most recent book Improbable Planet.  Below is a portion:

These recent scientific discoveries of the extraordinary fine-tuning required for advanced life suggest that God designed every aspect of the universe, every event in its history, and every life-form that has ever existed to enable billions of humans in a very short period of time to hear and respond to the gospel. Indeed, the latest biblical and scientific research increasingly affirms this conclusion.

Read this post in full here.  Dr. Ross will also be speaking on this at Southern Evangelical's National Conference on Christian Apologetics.

Stand firm in Christ,
Chase

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Common Objection #30- "God Sending Jesus to Die for the Sins of the World is Cosmic Child Abuse!"

When someone offers this type of objection they are unwillingly demonstrating that they fail to fully understand the deity of Christ or the Triune nature of the Christian God.

Nabeel Quershi explains:

"Christian do not believe that God is punishing a random victim.  Jesus is God.  The Judge is Himself voluntarily paying on behalf of the criminal...a more apropos illustration is shared by Brennan Manning in his book Ragamuffin Gospel.  In 1935, Fiorello LaGuardia, the major of New York, presided over a court case in which an old woman had been caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren.  Although LaGuardia wanted to offer her mercy, the shopkeeper demanded justice.  LaGuardia judged her guilty and imposed a fine of ten dollars, but in the same moment he took ten dollars from his own wallet and paid the fine on her behalf.  Acknowledging the woman's guilt, the judge himself paid the penalty and let her go free.

This is a beautiful illustration of mercy and justice, but if we tweak one minor detail it will accord better with the gospel: if LaGuardia had not just been the judge but also the shopkeeper from whom the woman stole.  When we sin, we sin against God.  He has to judge us guilty, but then He pays for what we have done.  It all make sense when we remember the Christian view of Jesus: He is God."1

When you understand that Jesus is God, the second person of the Trinity, you begin to comprehend how much He loves us and just what His sacrifice means.

You can find our answers to other "Common Objections" here.

You can find a more in-depth view of this question here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. Nabeel Quershi, No God, But One: Allah or Jesus?, p. 99.

Related Posts

The Incarnation: Could God Become Man Without Ceasing to Be God? By James A. Parker III

Jesus as God in His Parables

Article: The Case for the Historicity and Deity of Jesus by J. Warner Wallace

Friday, August 12, 2016

Apologetic Non-Starters: Arguments to Avoid in Defending Christianity


Below is a  good read from Douglas Groothuis regarding arguments to avoid when defending your Christian Faith:

Apologetics is a necessary discipline for the Christian faith. Jesus and the Apostle Paul regularly defended their beliefs through rational arguments. The Apostle Peter tells us to be ready to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). This lost world needs to hear and believe the gospel of God. So, when unbelievers ask questions about the truth and rationality of Christianity, we must be ready with sufficient answers, trusting in the Holy Spirit to apply the message to their souls (Acts 1:8).
However, some apologetic arguments—no matter how sincerely or repeatedly stated—are nonstarters. They fall flat and do not serve the cause of Christ simply because they are bad arguments. Four of these arguments are so common and so detrimental to the cause of rational Christian witness that they need to be addressed. As T. S. Eliot wrote in his play Murder in the Cathedral:
The last temptation is the greatest treason;
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.[1]
Defending Christianity as true, rational, and pertinent is right; to do so for the wrong reasons is wrong.
Nonstarter #1: Since we do not know everything, no one can disprove the existence of God. God might be somewhere outside of our knowledge. Moreover, if we knew everything—which is the only way to disprove God—we would end up being God ourselves and, thus, atheism would be false!
Although starting from a legitimate insight, this argument extends its claim too far. Proving a universal negative is more arduous than substantiating a universal affirmative. A man once insisted to me that the Bible contained the sentence, “God helps those who help themselves.” (Sadly, many Christians believe this as well.) I denied this and informed him that I had read the Bible many times, but never read those words. He replied, “It must be in there somewhere.” Proving that the Bible does not contain this statement was considerably more difficult than proving that the Bible does contain the statement: “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son” (John 3:16). (This encounter occurred before computer searches made things simpler.)
However, the existence of God is not like the placement of a statement in the Bible. God is not a finite, empirical object that can be perceived in the way that a sentence is perceived. God is not directly visible under normal conditions. (Theophanies—or divine appearances—occur in Scripture, but are unpredictable. However, at death, we will all see God.). Arguing for or against God’s existence is, therefore, a more involved and multidimensional endeavor.[2] Simply appealing to people’s ignorance as finite beings in no way by itselfshows that unbelief in God is not justified. Moreover, one need not know everything to deny the existence of some objects. The belief that there are no unicorns is rationally compelling, even though I cannot rule out the possibility that a flesh-and-blood unicorn may be hiding somewhere. The odds are tremendously against unicorns being anything other than a fantasy animal. So one does not have to know everything even with respect to perceptible objects in order to rule out the existence of some types of entities. The same argument applies to centaurs, fairies, pro-life Democratic candidates for high elected office. Nevertheless, the astute apologist should argue that if the unbeliever has not sufficiently investigated the case for the existence of God, then she is not in a good position to deny God’s existence or even to remain skeptical.
Just as the person who has heard only a few pieces of jazz music is not qualified to make an aesthetic judgment on jazz, so the philosophical neophyte is in no position to make an informed and wise judgment about God’s existence. Serious intellectual work needs to be done, especially given the potential benefits and losses relative to one’s relationship to the God of Christian theism: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
Nonstarter #2 People do not die for a lie. But the apostles died for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus, so they must have died for the truth.
On the contrary, people do die for lies all the time in our fallen world. The Muslim hijackers of September 11, 2001, died for the belief that they would be rewarded for their savagery with attending virgins in paradise. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker still believing in Nazism.
The problem with nonstarter #2 is that it is nearly true, but it misses the truth nevertheless. The truth is something like the following: People do not die forwhat they know to be a lie, unless they can find some tremendous advantage in so doing. Therefore, it makes no sense to think that Jesus’ first disciples went to their deaths for their belief in Jesus as the resurrected Messiah, if they in fact knew he was moldering in a tomb. One might argue that they created the idea of the resurrection out of whole cloth in order to benefit themselves in some way, but this does not hold water. There is no evidence that they would have bettered themselves in any earthly way by this tactic. Nor is there any reason to think that they should believe themselves to be in that advantageous position even if they were not. Preaching a dead messianic pretender as the Lord of Life had no sales potential whatsoever. Even if these benighted religious opportunists thought that the scheme might work, they would have surely recanted in the face of the sword. But there is no evidence that they did. As Pascal so wisely put it:
The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’ death and conspiring to say that he had risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny this story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.[3]
Nonstarter #3: Evolution (meaning Darwinism) cannot be proven because it is not scientific. Science demands repeatable and empirical observation: things that can be observed through a microscope or a telescope or chemical reactions in a test tube. Therefore, evolution is unscientific and has no final claim on reality.
The true insight in this argument is that Darwinism is based on forensic considerations about the distant past. One cannot observe speciation or life coming from non-life (abiogenesis) as part of experimental science. Yet scientific enterprise encompasses far more than repeatable or directly observable matters. It considers singularities such as the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species, among others. Science addresses both present day operations, such as virus mutations, and events in the remote past, such as geological formations, animal and human migrations, and so on. These are all properly part of science.[4]
This “it isn’t really science” approach to origins can only yield intellectual parity (or a kind of stand-off) with the Darwinian account. The claim is that neither option is really scientific nor can either be proved; but one can have faith in either. If so, Darwinism and a biblical view of creation are on an even footing. But there is considerable empirical evidence at both the macroscopic and the microscopic levels for intelligent design in nature.[5] Present day observations of the bacterial flagellum along with the principles of design detection warrant the inference that it was designed in the distant past, even though we cannot observe any such designing activity in the present. We may not see the cause of the design, but we can discern the effects of design through scientific observation and reasoning.
Nonstarter #4: You cannot argue with a changed life. A Christian’s testimony is the most powerful and irrefutable apologetic. (Some say it is the only apologetic needed.)
The germ of truth here is that Jesus Christ does radically change people for the better. We are “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). If there were no evidence of moral and spiritual change (and continued faith and growth) in Christians, Christianity would be refuted, since it predicts such things. Francis Schaeffer earnestly argued that Christians, as the bride of Christ, must bear fruit through their status as God’s justified and sanctified children.[6]Moreover, Christianity has been, on balance, a far better force for good than for evil in history. Christians outlawed the slave trade, promoted education and hospitals, gave women the vote, and more.[7]
Nevertheless, there is much more to apologetics than telling one’s testimony, no matter how dramatic. Even if God has brought powerful changes for the better in our lives, the unbeliever may still question the source of the change. The effect is real, but what is the cause? Some wonder if belief may act as a placebo. Even though the new birth is available only by the reception of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit (John 3), positive life changes occur for many non-Christians as a result of new beliefs or behaviors. They, too, have testimonies. Mormons are noteworthy in this respect.
But where Christians differ from Mormons and others is that they have a whole toolbox of apologetic arguments at their disposal. A strong testimony and a godly life since conversion must be supplemented with the ability to give honest answers to the unbeliever’s honest questions about the existence of God, the problem of evil, the reliability of the Bible, the claims of other religions, and so forth.
In order for a Christian to defend the faith given once for all to the saints (Jude 3), he must never commend this glorious gospel with shabby or hollow arguments. God has something far greater in mind for us: believing the right thing for the right reason.
God Bless,


[1] T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral (New York: Harcourt, 1964), (44).
[2] See William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994) and J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1987).
[3] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, ed. Alban Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin, 1966), (310/801).
[4] See Norman Geisler and Kerby Anderson, Origin Science (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987).
[5] See William Dembski, The Design Revolution (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004).
[6] Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, 30th anniversary ed. (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2001).
[7] See Alvin Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).

Thursday, August 11, 2016

C.S. Lewis on Marriage

In light of our current cultural dilemma over marriage, I found C.S. Lewis thoughts on Christian Marriage from Mere Christianity insightful and especially relevant for today.


“[The] Christian doctrines on this subject are extremely unpopular.

[A] man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism…[God] was not expressing a sentiment, but stating a fact…The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined.

Christianity teaches that marriage is for life…[They] all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body.

Consider [marriage] in relation to another virtue, namely justice. Justice…includes the keeping of promises. Now everyone who has been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) partner till death…If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep. It is true that by living together without marriage they will be guilty (in Christian eyes) of fornication. But one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding perjury.

The idea that “being in love” is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage for a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made…As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises…The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way.

[Ceasing] to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit… They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other.

A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of…people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.”

The statement calling for "two distinct kinds of marriage" is especially relevant. As we are all aware, recent legal rulings have changed the definition of marriage. So how should our culture acknowledge an institution that is recognized both as a religious rite and as a legal agreement? Wouldn't recognizing two kinds of marriage satisfy both the church that holds to the "extremely unpopular" doctrine and those who wish to enter into "marriage" relationships outside of that religious doctrine? Would this not satisfy the "separation of church and state" on this issue? What do you think?

Having recently celebrated 34 years of marriage, you can take my word for it. But if you're not sure about my word, read the book, don't wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Counterpoints: George H. Smith and W. Bingham Hunter on Faith and Reason

Atheist George H. Smith- "Reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms: there is no reconciliation or common ground...Faith is belief without, or in spite of, reason."1

Christian Educator W. Bingham Hunter- "Faith...is a rational response to the evidence of God's self-revelation in nature, human history, the Scriptures and his resurrected Son."2

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Footnote:
1. George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God, 98 as quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith, p. 11.
2. W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears (Downers Grove, III.: Intervarsity Press, 1986), 153 as quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith, p. 11.

Related Posts

Ye Have No Definition of Faith?

Article: Intellectual Faith? by Brett Kunkle

Faith and the Whole Picture

Monday, August 08, 2016

So you want to be a pro-choice Christian? Here’s what you need.


Melissa Cain Travis begins the subject post by discussing what the central question is in the abortion debate and then lays out what we know from science and the Christian doctrine of man.  Travis then challenges the individual who wishes to harmonize their Christianity with the pro-abortion choice position to produce the following:

A well-grounded argument that produces 100% certainty that the entity within a pregnant woman’s womb does not have a human soul and thus does not bear the Image of God.

To read Travis's thoughts on the ability to do this, and the post in its entirety, go here.

Stand firm in Christ and stand firm for the preborn,
Chase

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Is Voting for Donald Trump a Good Moral Choice?

I want to go on record as saying that I have been horrified with Donald Trump since the very first Republican debate.  His childish behavior and ignorance of policy quickly signaled him out as the least qualified candidate on the stage.  This seemed obvious to me and the more I have watched and listened to Trump, the more this conviction has been confirmed.  Furthermore, he has proven to be, among other things, sexist, dishonest and prideful.

So imagine my surprise when theologian Wayne Grudem, who I greatly respect, released a piece entitled, "Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice."  In the article, Grudem contends that:

"...the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court, thousands of Christians who will be excluded from their lifelong occupations, thousands of the poor who will never again be able to find high-paying jobs in an economy crushed by government hostility toward business, thousands of inner-city children who will never be able to get a good education, thousands of the sick and elderly who will never get adequate medical treatment when the government is the nation’s only healthcare provider, thousands of people who will be killed by an unchecked ISIS, and millions of Jews in Israel who will find themselves alone and surrounded by hostile enemies. And you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny."

A scary picture for sure!  However, philosopher John Mark Reynolds, who I also greatly respect and admire, believes that Grudem is dead wrong.  In his piece, "A Good Man Justifies a Wicked Deed: Grudem on Trump," 

Reynolds contends that the Christian must not vote for Trump.  He writes:

"...let me be simple for Professor Grudem: I do not want a perfect candidate, but I will not vote for a man who bought and owns a strip club. This is not a 'high standard.' So far every nominee of a major party, but one, could pass it. I will not explain to my daughters why the objectification of women for profit was good.

Trump is a Neo-Fascist. How can I say this? He advocates a personality cult: his movement is about his power to 'fix it.' He invokes external and internal enemies to stoke fear. He is cozy with big business, but has a populist flair.

I don’t know why Professor Grudem wishes to support a neo-Fascist for President. I assume it is the triumph of hope over reality, but Donald J. Trump is immoral, ignorant, and incompetent. I challenge Professor Grudem to name one qualification for President that Donald Trump has.

Here is what we know for certain: if we back the man who is proud, sexist, racist, libertine, a lover of money, then we will lose the right to say 'character counts' forever.

Wayne Grudem is wrong, dangerously, tragically wrong."

I encourage readers to read these pieces and draw their own conclusions.  Please feel free to share your comments below!

Update: Since writing this post, Wayne Grudem has changed his mind and decide that "I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election."

You can read his comments in full here.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad