Thursday, October 30, 2014

Randy Alcorn on Suffering

"While Western atheists turn from belief in God because a tsunami in another part of the world caused great suffering, many brokenhearted survivors of that same tsunami found faith in God. This is one of the great paradoxes of suffering. Those who don't suffer much think suffering should keep people from God, while many who suffer a great deal turn to God, not from him." 

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Randy Alcorn, If God is Good, p. 102.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Video: Is Jesus a Copycat Savior?

As I have argued elsewhere, the claim that Jesus is a "copycat" savior is popular on the internet, but virtually dead within biblical scholarship. 

In this brief video, J. Warner Wallace explains how to reason through this claim.

For more from J. Warner Wallace, see here.

For more from the One Minute Apologist, see here.

You can hear my treatment of this topic here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Haven Today Interview with Nabeel Qureshi

During the summer, Nabeel Qureshi sat down with Haven Today to talk about his book Seeking Allah Finding Jesus which describes his journey from Islam to Christ. In the five part series, Nabeel talks about his book, Ramadan, what it is like being a Muslim in America, a little about what God is doing in the lives of Muslims and more. Each part can be listened to from the following links:  Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.

Stand firm in Christ,

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Does it Mean to Say God is Infinite?

The Kalam cosmological argument for God's existence is as follows:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. [1]

One argument offered in support of Premise (2) is the impossibility of an actually infinite number of things.  The argument goes like this:

1. An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.
2. A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.
3. Therefore, a beginningless series of events in time cannot exist. [2]

However, this often raises the question, "If an actually infinite number of things cannot exist, how can God be infinite as theists claim?"

As William Lane Craig explains, this question is based on a misunderstanding:

"When we speak of the infinity of God, we are not using the word in a mathematical sense to refer to an aggregate of an infinite number of finite parts.  God's infinity is, if you will, qualitative, not quantitative.  It means that God is metaphysically necessary, morally perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, etc." [3]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. To learn more about the Kalam cosmological argument, checkout this outstanding short video.
2. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd Ed., p. 116.
3. Ibid., p. 119; Emphasis mine.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Quote: Dr. Paul Brand on the design of nerve cells

“The more I delve into natural laws – the atom, the universe, the solid elements, molecules, the sun, and even more, the interplay of all the mechanisms required to sustain life – I am astounded.  The whole creation could collapse like a deck of cards if just one of those factors were removed.   Some people really believe that all the design and precision in nature came about by chance, that if millions of molecules bombard each other long enough a nerve cell and sensory ending at exactly the right threshold will be bound to turn up.  To those people I merely suggest that they try to make one, as I did, and see what chance is up against.” - Dr. Paul Brand

Dr. Brand was the first physician to recognize that leprosy did not cause the loss of tissue, but is actually the loss of sensation that makes sufferers susceptible to injury.

In his book Where is God When It Hurts?, Philip Yancey states, “Dr. Brand received a several-million-dollar grant for the express purpose of designing an artificial pain system…  After five years of work, thousands of man-hours, and several million dollars, Brand and his associates abandoned the entire project…  A warning system suitable for just one hand was exorbitantly expensive, subject to frequent mechanical breakdown, and hopelessly inadequate to interpret the profusion of sensations…  The body’s pain network includes several hundred million sensors that function maintenance free throughout a healthy person’s life.”

Have a little hope on me,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Video: Homosexuality- Compassion and Clarity by Sean McDowell

As the culture war continues to heat up, homosexuality continues to take center stage.  It seems that one cannot even share an opposing opinion on the topic without being labeled "bigoted" or "homophobic."

In this featured talk, apologist Sean McDowell works through a number of Bible passages to explain the biblical view of homosexuality.  Sean also gives helpful advice on how the follower of Jesus can address this issue in a Christ-like manner.

Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Favorite Analogy of the Trinity

I had the pleasure of attending the Mt. Airy "Defending the Faith" Conference this past weekend and heard an excellent lecture given by Marvin Patrick entitled, "Three Gods or One?  Defending the Trinity."

Later that day, during lunch, Truthbomb team member Chase Deener and my atheist friend were discussing the various analogies that Patrick had shared and the strengths and liabilities of each and I shared my favorite analogy brielfy.  It is the musical analogy originally offered by theologian Jeremy S. Begbie.  Peter S. Williams explains it in his outstanding article Understanding the Trinity:

"...A musical chord is essentially composed of three different notes (to be a chord all three notes must be present), namely the first, third and fifth notes of a given musical scale. For example, the chord of C major is composed of the notes C (the root of the chord), E (the third from the root) and G (the fifth from the root). Each individual note is ‘a sound’, and all three notes played together are likewise ‘a sound’. Hence a chord is essentially three sounds in one sound, or one sound essentially composed of three different sounds (each of which has an individual identity as well as a corporate identity). By analogy, God is three divine persons in one divine personal being, or one divine personal being essentially composed of three divine persons. Moreover, when middle C (the root of the chord) is played it ‘fills’ the entire ‘heard space’. When the E above middle C is played at the same time, that second note simultaneously ‘fills’ the whole of the ‘heard space’; yet one can still hear both notes distinctly. When the G above middle C is added as well, a complete chord exists; one sound composed of three distinct sounds: [1]

What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three-note-resonance of life, mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion and yet without merger, each occupying the same ‘space,’ yet recognizably and irreducibly distinct, mutually enhancing and establishing each other? 
So the doctrine of the Trinity isn't self-contradictory, and there are some analogies that help us to conceptualize the Trinity." [3]
I agree with those who hold that the Trinity is unique and there is nothing that one can point to that is a strict analogy or parallel to it; however, I find the above analogy helpful in demonstrating that the Trinity is not self-contradictory or illogical.
What do you think of the analogy?  What is your favorite analogy of the Trinity?  Sound off in the comments below!
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Peter S. Williams, Understanding the Trinity, 2012. 

2. As quoted by P. Williams- Jeremy Begbie (ed.), Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts, (Baker, 2000), quoted by ‘Hearing God in C Major’, Stillpoint,
3. Ibid., 2012.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Proverbs for the Apologist

The one who gives an answer before he listens - this is foolishness and disgrace for him.1

This is critical for the apologist to adhere to as it can result in tackling straw-men arguments and alienating the person you are engaging in dialogue. Using the following tactical questions Greg Koukl has honed will help us to listen:

1. What do you mean by that?
2. How did you come to that conclusion?
3. Can you clear this up for me?

Stand firm in Christ,

1.  Proverbs 18:13. Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Apologetics from the Pulpit

When talking to pastors and church leaders I have noticed that sometimes they are not sure how to share apologetics from the pulpit.  The following are examples of how apologetics can be shared with a Sunday morning congregation.

Arguments from Morality

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Investigating the Resurrection

Courage and Godspeed,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video: The Pastor and Christian Apologetics by William Lane Craig

In this video Dr. William Lane Craig shares at a pastor's conference why all Chrisitans need to be trained in apologetics.

Craig contends that apologetics aids in:
  • shaping culture
  • strengthening believers
  • winning unbelievers
This is an outstanding message to send to your pastor or youth pastor.

Courage and Godspeed,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walter Martin on the Rise of Cults

"The rise of the cults is 'directly proportional to the fluctuating emphasis which the Christian church has placed on the teaching of biblical doctrine to Christian laymen. To be sure, a few pastors, teachers, and evangelists defend adequately their beliefs, but most of them–and most of the average Christian laymen–are hard put to confront and refute a well-trained cultist of almost any variety.'" [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As quoted by Charlie Campbell here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Fifth Gospel

This past weekend at the National Conference on Christian Apologetics, hosted by Southern Evangelical Seminary, I heard Bobby Conway speak about his new book; The Fifth Gospel.  The inspiration for his book came from the following words of nineteenth-century British evangelist Rodney Smith:

There are five gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian. But most people never read the first four.

Conway spoke about five ways, based on his reflections of Matthew 5:13-16, by which the follower of Christ can be that fifth gospel.

1. Serve as cultural preservers (i.e. preserving culture from moral decay).
2. Carefully guard character.
3. Focus on standing out not fitting in.
4. Seek to awesomely display God’s greatness.
5. Aim to see others powerfully glorify God.

This book sounds like it will give the follower of Jesus practical ways to not only speak apologetically but live apologetically.

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Thirteen: Trusting

“If God were small enough to be understood, he wouldn’t be big enough to be worshipped.” – Evelyn Underhill

Dr. Keller begins this chapter with the narrative of Joseph from Genesis, then asks, “What does this have to do with how we face disappointment, pain, and suffering?  Everything.”  In all those years when everything was going wrong for Joseph, wasn’t God there?  Of course he was, and he was busy.  He was hidden, but he was in complete control.  Just think about what would have happened had Joseph not ended up in Egypt?  The spiritual corruption that would have occurred to Joseph and his family – not to mention the starvation of so many people.  Joseph would have been devoured by his pride, his brothers by their anger and their father by his idolatrous love for his youngest sons.  After twenty or so years of silence for his prayers, Joseph, in a dungeon, seeks God’s help to interpret a dream.  He is still trusting God.  His relationship with God has remained, and we must do the same.

It is at this point of the book that you will find what I consider to be some of the most wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement.  “[Very] often God does not give us exactly what we ask for.  Instead he gives us what we would have asked for if we had known everything he knows.  We must never assume that we know enough to mistrust God’s ways or be bitter against what he has allowed.  We must also never think we have really ruined our lives, or have ruined God’ good purposes for us…Ultimately, we must trust God’s love.”  As Paul explains in Romans chapter 8, “neither death nor life, not heaven or hell, nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Nothing.  All the powers of evil inside of you and all the powers of evil outside of you cannot separate you from the love of God.  Once you give yourself to God through Christ, he is yours and you are his.  Nothing can ever change that.”

Against the background of Joseph we can understand the words of John Newton as he wrote to a grieving sister, “Your sister is much upon my mind.  Her illness grieves me: were it in my power I would quickly remove it: the Lord can, and I hope will, when it has answered the end for which he sent it…I wish you may be enabled to leave her, and yourself, and all your concerns, in his hands.  He has a sovereign right to do with us as he pleases; and if we consider what we are, surely we shall confess we have no reason to complain: and to those who seek him, his sovereignty is exercised in a way of grace.  All shall work together for good; everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds…

[There] can be no settled peace till our will is in a measure subdued.  Hide yourself under the shadow of his wings; rely upon his care and power; look upon him as a physician who has graciously undertaken to heal your soul of the worst of sicknesses, sin.  Yield to his prescriptions, and fight against every thought that would represent it as desirable to be permitted to choose for yourself.

When you cannot see your way, be satisfied that he is your leader.  When your spirit is overwhelmed within you, he knows your path: he will not leave you to sink.  He has appointed seasons of refreshment, and you shall find that he does not forget you.  Above all, keep close to the throne of grace.  If we seem to get no good by attempting to draw near him, we may be sure we shall get none by keeping away from him.”

I cannot help but continue with the words of Dr. Keller himself.  “Imagine you have been an avid follower of Jesus.  You’ve seen his power to heal and do miracles.  You’ve heard the unsurpassed wisdom of his speech and the quality of his character.  You are thrilled by the prospect of his leadership.  More and more people are flocking to hear him.  There’s no one like him.  You imagine that he will bring about a golden age for Israel if everyone listens to him and follows his lead.

But then, there you are at the cross with the few of his disciples who have the stomach to watch.  And you hear people say, ‘I’ve had it with this God.  How could he abandon the best man we have ever seen?  I don’t see how God could bring any good out of this.’  What would you say?  You would likely agree.  And yet you are standing there looking at the greatest, most brilliant thing God could ever do for the human race.  On the cross, both justice and love are being satisfied – evil, sin, and death are being defeated.  You are looking at an absolute beauty, but because you cannot fit it into your own limited understanding, you are in danger of walking away from God.

Don’t do it.  Do what Jesus did – trust God.

Again and again in the bible, God shows that he is going to get his salvation done through weakness, not strength, because Jesus will triumph through defeat, will win by losing, he will come down in order to go up.  In the same way, we get God’s saving power in our life only through the weakness of repentance and trust.  And, so often, the grace of God grows more through our difficulties than our triumphs.”

Next week Chapter Fourteen: Praying

Until then, don’t take my word for it, read the book – don’t wait for the movie,
and have a little hope on me,

To learn more about Timothy Keller and his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you can check out his 
personal website, his Facebook page or the church homepage.

Keller, Timothy (2013), Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-525-95245-9

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Stephen Hawking the Atheist

In a recent interview, famous scientist Stephen Hawking has openly admitted to being an atheist.  I'm not sure why this is such a surprise, especially to those who read Hawking's latest book The Grand Design.

In the book, Hawking wrote:

"...because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist… It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”

As I have mentioned beforeI would like to ask how something can come from nothing. If we are speaking of "nothing," in the correct philosophical sense, then how could the law of gravity be included in the so-called "spontaneous creation" of the universe? That would be something rather than nothing.

Moreover, I wonder why atheists, who are so quick to note that Hawking claims the universe created itself out of nothing, never mention that in his book he also claims, when contrasting young earth creationism with the big bang theory, that "neither model can be said to be more real than the other." [p. 51]  

Regardless, I thought this was a good time to feature John Lennox's lecture entitled "A Matter of Gravity: God, the Universe and Stephen Hawking."


Courage and Godspeed,

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Does Apologetics Work?

As I have noted in other recent posts, sometimes it is necessary for the Christian case maker to make a case for apologetics.  One common objection sometimes offered by those who are opposed to apologetics is the claim that apologetics doesn't really work.  I have written before about how I have seen apologetics work in the lives of unbelievers here.

In this featured article, J. Warner Wallace tells how his book Cold-Case Christianity  [Our review is here.] helped a once atheist trust in Christ.  Further, he offers tips about how to reach the skeptics in your own sphere of influence.

You can read the article here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Monday, October 06, 2014

What Students Are Asking

Brett Kunkle hosted this Google hangout this past Thursday as a follow-up to Stand to Reason's reTHINK Conference on the 26th and 27th of September. Enjoy!

Stand firm in Christ,

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering

Chapter Twelve: Weeping

Luther and the German Reformers believed that the churches teaching that salvation is merited through patience under suffering led to a paganistic stoicism and therefore sought to restore a biblical approach.  Unfortunately, what resulted was a culture in which Christians were taught to demonstrate their faith through unflinching, joyful acceptance of God’s will.  Questioning God, like Job, was considered sinful.  Job expressed himself with strong emotion and rhetoric and did not pray politely to God.  He was brutally honest with his feelings.

But as Dr. Keller explains on page 242, “It is not right…for us to simply say to a person in grief and sorrow that they need to pull themselves together.  We should be more gentle and patient with them.  And that means we should also be gentle and patient with ourselves.  We should not assume that if we are trusting in God we won’t weep, or feel anger, or feel hopeless.”

I Kings chapters 18 – 19 tell the narrative of Elijah, a great prophet who is despondent, even suicidal.  He is a human being who is capable of taking only so much disappointment, opposition and difficulty.  He is not handling his stress very well.  He doesn’t say “I’m rejoicing in the Lord.”  No, he wants to die.  And how does God respond?  He sends an angel.  Not to scold him or tell him to rejoice or even ask probing questions, but to touch him and feed him.  It is later that God comes to him and challenges him out of his despair.

“Some today conceive of depression as all physical, simply a matter of brain chemistry, and so they just need medicine and rest.  Others, often Christians, may instead come upon a depressed person and tell him to buck up, to repent and get right with God to pull himself together and do the right thing.  But God here shows us that we are complex creatures – with bodies and souls…suffering people need to be able to weep and pour out their hearts, and not to immediately be shut down by being told what to do.  Nor should we do that to ourselves.”

In The View from a Hearse, by Joseph Bayly, a man who is grieving the loss of his sons describes a pair of offerings from friends seeking to help.  “I was sitting, torn by grief.  Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave.  He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true.  I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away.  He finally did.  Another came and sat beside me.  He didn’t talk.  He didn’t ask leading questions.  He just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.  I was moved.  I was comforted.  I hated to see him go.”

Unfortunately, the church is seldom seen today as a place where those suffering have the freedom to weep and cry out to God, “Where are you? Why won’t you help me?”  In Psalm 88 we learn several things about dealing with suffering.  First, the Psalm ends without any note of hope.  It is possible to be praying faithfully and enduringly with no improvement in our circumstances.  One can live right, yet remain in the darkness of difficult circumstances or spiritual pain.  Next, continuing struggles can reveal God’s grace in new depths.  We can lose our temper and speak irreverently to God, yet he understands.  Our God is still our God, not because we put on some happy mask and reel in our emotions, but because of grace.  We need to be afraid to be candid and express ourselves honestly with God.  Finally, in unrelenting times of darkness we have the opportunity to truly defeat the forces of evil around us by choosing to serve God just because he is God.  There is no opportunity to give service because of something we have been given or are expecting to receive.  We can serve him because of who he is and we can trust him.  Jesus suffered the ultimate darkness for us, who better to trust in our own times of darkness?

Dr. Keller concludes this chapter with a brief exploration of what it means to “rejoice in suffering”.  To rejoice cannot simply mean to “have happy emotions”.  In 1 Peter 1:6-7, Peter describes his readers as rejoicing in their salvation while at the same time suffering great trials and sorrow.  But how can that be?  Not only can we do both, but he argues that we must do both.  “To rejoice in God means to dwell on and remind ourselves of who God is, who we are, and what he has done for us.  Sometimes our emotions respond and follow when we do this, and sometimes they do not…Rejoicing in suffering happens within sorrow.”  Jesus was perfect, and yet he was considered a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.  When we are not all absorbed in ourselves, we can feel the sadness of the world.  And when that happens, the joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow, not after.  “The weeping drives you into the joy, it enhances the joy, and then the joy enables you to actually feel your grief without it sinking you.  In other words, you are finally emotionally healthy.”

Next week Chapter Thirteen: Trusting

Until then, don’t take my word for it, read the book – don’t wait for the movie,
and have a little hope on me,

To learn more about Timothy Keller and his work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you can check out his 
personal website, his Facebook page or the church homepage.

Keller, Timothy (2013), Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-0-525-95245-9

Friday, October 03, 2014

Documentary: Jesus of Testimony

Documentary Description

Did Jesus really exist? If so, what can we know about Him historically? For any Christian, the historicity of Jesus isn't merely a matter of curiosity. The Christian faith is dependent upon the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as historical reality. But how can we know if the Jesus of the the Gospels is historical or legendary? Jesus of Testimony answers many of the important questions for skeptics as well as Christians in the area of Christian apologetics.

In Part 1: Lord or Legend, the historicity of Jesus Christ is demonstrated by the important non-Christian historical sources that are available to us today. 

Part 2: Are the Gospels Reliable? examines the historical reliability of the Gospels as eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus. 

Part 3: Miracles provides strong evidence that miracles happen today and happened in history. 

In Part 4: The Testimony of Prophecy, many of the Old Testament messianic prophecies are quoted along with their New Testament fulfillments which establish a solid confirmation of Jesus' credentials as the Messiah. 

In Part 5: The Resurrection -- Fact or Fiction? the case is presented for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

Finally, Part 6: The Good News concludes that the portrayal of Jesus in the Gospels, dependent on eyewitness testimony, is more plausible than the alternative hypotheses of its modern detractors and presents the Jesus' message of the Gospel.

The participants in the film include many of todays top Christian apologists, authors and scholars including Richard Bauckham, Craig Blomberg, Michael Brown, Paul Eddy, Steve Gregg, Gary Habermas, Craig Keener, Mike Licona, Dan Wallace and Ben Witherington III. [1]

Learn more about the film here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Documentary description originally found here.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Apostle John on Jesus Christ

"No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known." [1]

Courage and Godspeed,

1. English Standard Version Bible, John 1:18.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Video: The Biology of the Second Reich- Social Darwinism and the Origins of World War I

This 14-minute documentary tells the little-known story of the influence of Social Darwinism on German militarism leading up to World War 1, including an exploration of the German military's genocidal policies in Southwest Africa (modern Namibia). The video features the work of California State University historian Richard Weikart, author of the book From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan). [1]

You can learn more about Weikart's work here.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Text originally found here.