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Concerning Proselytization

Having previously attempted to establish a foundation for the use of apologetics by the Christian, it seems to me appropriate now to give some space to give some thoughts about evangelism andjesus-1545217 proselytization. Since Christian apologetics is so closely tied to evangelism, perhaps some justification is needed for the evangelism project itself?

For the Christian, I am going to assume this is uncontroversial. Scriptures such as Matthew 28:18-20Matthew 5:14-16, 1 Peter 3:15, Philippians 2:14-16, Colossians 4:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9 indicate that we as a church are to spread the good news of the gospel to the earth. (If you as a Christian disagree with this, feel free to send me a message and we can discuss, if you wish.)

More often though, when I hear the word “proselytization,” it is being used pejoratively to condemn the work of (usually) a Christian sharing about Christ trying to convince someone else to believe. I think it is legitimate to ask, then, if evangelism is really a moral, loving, and respectful thing to engage in with others. Shouldn’t we just let others come to their own conclusions and arrive at their own beliefs without our pressuring them?

To be clear, no Christian I know wants a government-enforced religion; none of us want to force you into a belief. However, we Christians do believe that the Bible does reflect an accurate view of reality, and shows the way to human flourishing and eternal satisfaction. In other words, the implications of the Christian truth claims extend even beyond this life into infinite eternity future. Since we believe this to be true and available for any and all who will accept, what is more moral, loving and respectful of others than to persuasively extend to them the invitation to participate, on the winning side, in the greatest story ever told? To be sure, this great story is not full of bliss from start to eternity for the believer, and so alternate stories told by others may be more appealing. Since flourishing of humanity occurs by embracing, and not denying reality, the views that most accurately reflect reality are the ones that should be pursued, even if those views involve short-term suffering.

Christianity is messy. There are uncomfortable passages in the Bible that I wish weren’t there. God expects things of us that put us in the line of fire of those who refuse Him. But these are because reality is messy and uncomfortable at times. We as Christians need to think and study and have some answers, but also to say “I don’t know” in honest humility when we are stumped. If Christianity truly is the best explanation for the way things actually are, reconciliation of the difficult biblical passages and daily struggles will come.

Since I believe Christianity does best explain reality, what more loving thing is there to do for others than share it with them?

Atheist entertainer Penn Jillette gets it:

I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there is a heaven or hell, or that people could be going to hell, or not get eternal life, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…and atheists think people shouldn’t proselytize, just keep religion to yourself… how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

 

In my prior posts on the introduction to Christian case-making, I explained the origin of term and practice of “apologetics,” gave the Biblical model of Jesus and Paul, and showed how the Bible

Women too!

Women too!

explicitly commands each of us as Christians to be prepared to offer a persuasive defense of our hope through Christ. In this entry, I’d like to offer some other reasons that should offer further motivation for you to take Christian apologetics seriously.

  • Preparation to defend the faith entails that we learn more deeply about what we are defending. If you want to really master a subject, offer to teach it to someone else! Sharing the information in a methodical, careful way requires that you understand what you are talking about, especially if you are going to be talking to a skeptical or hostile audience. The preparation process helps gather one’s thoughts and reasons in a more careful way than they might do otherwise. We need to learn how to discuss the details of the deeper issues and doctrines without using churchy terms and jargon with the uninitiated. Even among church-goers, the terms can be overused and under-explained such that the meaning and understanding is lost.
  • Apologetics is a counterpart and often a prerequisite to evangelism. Many people won’t be open to hearing the gospel until they have justification for believing in God and the reliability of the Bible.
  • Developing and articulating careful reasoning skills concerning Christian beliefs can help counter the negative image many have of Christianity of being narrow-minded and self-righteous due to strong and culturally controversial opinions that we cannot justify, such as with homosexuality. As stated in Matthew 5:13-16, we are to be salt and light among non-believers, offering correctives to our culture by confronting ideas and arguments that seek to disprove Christian truths.
  • Through careful study and learning of the truths of Christianity, the apologist can be positioned to help keep his local body of believers from teachings that would lead towards cultism by distorting the essentials of Christianity.
  • Apologetic study can also help to counter the claims of cult groups and show the truth of the gospel to these adherents that he or she may come in contact with in their lives.
  • A general increase in apologetic knowledge among Christians will help preserve the Christian culture in America that is lost in Europe and quickly fading in America. We need to do more than just quote Bible verses, since the Bible is not commonly seen as an authority anymore. We need to be able to give reasons why it should be.
  • “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” – C. S. Lewis.  Atheist and anti-Christian apologists exist, as an apologist is basically someone who defends a belief or point of view using reason and persuasion. Colossians 2:8 gives us this warning: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” This, of course, is not a warning against philosophy, but of philosophy and empty deceit. Philosophy means “the love of wisdom,” and represents the pursuit to discover truth and ultimate reality. This should be the aim of every individual.

So here over these last several posts you have seen and hopefully have been tracking with the arguments that I’ve made. But perhaps you still have some doubt or hesitation or question in your mind about this approach? In my next post, I’ll address some objections I’ve come across concerning the role of apologetics in the life of the believer.

Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!

(All Scripture in this post is from the ESV translation)

shhhhI have not been posting much recently, as you may have noticed, and when I have posted, it has largely been links to articles and blogs elsewhere, with little commentary from me.

There are multiple reasons for my relative silence.

  1. While I am still very much interested in writing on issues of evidential Christian apologetics, I have been concentrating on local teaching and activities in this area, because…
  2. My time and energy to devote to developing my online presence have been in short supply over the last year, mostly (but not entirely) due to …
  3. The weight of my perceived responsibility to reply to any and all challenges to the information posted, if not for the sake of the trolls, then for those watching who might be swayed, further drains my energy for engaging in this type of interaction.
  4. Additionally, the seeming futility of persuasion via comment box on Facebook, Twitter, or even this blog makes me reluctant to post due to the controversial nature of the items I generally post and the time and energy drain with no apparent return that looms in the subsequent interactions.

However, since I want to continue producing helpful content without burning myself completely out, at this point I am going to be making the following changes:

  1. I have disabled comments to posts on this blog. I think it’s going to be the only way I can stay sane.
  2. I will be creating a new Facebook page for Fans of the Woodshed. This is where I will be directing you who wish to follow and interact (nicely).
  3. I will also provide an email address for those who would like to converse with me privately on the topics posted.
  4. If challenges raised to the posts warrant, I will be following up with further thoughts/clarifications/explanations in a subsequent posting.

I believe with these changes for these reasons, I can offer regular postings, interact responsibly with fair objections, and not feel like my life is dedicated to maintenance of this blog. I hope this makes sense and seems reasonable to you, and that you will find this to be a consistent and helpful resource for you in investigating and defending Christian truth claims.

As a parent, I’m always interested in age-appropriate resources to teach my kids why they should believe the Bible and give them reasons to present to others as they grow up. Here’s a great list.

Beyond Teachable Moments

free

Are you looking for material to help you teach your young children about Christian apologetics? Four years ago, so was I. But I couldn’t find anything that was designed to be hands-on, memorable and fun.

So I started to invent activities to teach our kids the basics about Christian apologetics. For a long time I’ve been meaning to corral all my training materials into one place, and in some kind of logical order.

This post does just that.

Consider the window of influence you have to train your children to have and hold on to a faith in God throughout their lives.

I’m not talking about a blind faith. And I’m not suggesting that your kids should have faith in God just because you do.

I’m suggesting that you investigate the evidence for and against God’s existence with your children and help them to understand where the weight of evidence…

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Free apologetics resources. Note, some of the links don’t work. Also not all books below are ones I endorse, but are good reading nonetheless.

THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM

We want to thank Chad at Truthbomb Apologetics for putting together this Free Online E-book Library. Keep in mind that the people at Truthbomb don’t necessarily endorse every book here.

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Earlier this month, the author of the blog WellSpentJourney offered a bit of debunking of some of the popular attempts at debunking Christianity.

Well Spent Journey

I’m writing this post primarily for my own convenience. During my online journeys to r/atheism, “freethought” blogs, and beyond, I encounter the following arguments so frequently that it seems sensible to fact-check them all at once.

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The Claim: “Religion has been the primary cause of war and oppression throughout the history of mankind.”

photo source: http://radiomankc.blogspot.com/

The Truth: In their comprehensive Encyclopedia of Wars, Phillips and Axelrod document the recorded history of warfare. Of the 1,763 wars presented, a mere 7% involved a religious cause. When Islam is subtracted from the equation, that number drops to 3.2%.

In terms of casualties, religious wars account for only 2% of all people killed by warfare. This pales in comparison to the number of people who have been killed by secular dictators in the 20th century alone.

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The Claim: “Thanks to modern science, the days of religion are numbered. Humanity’s superstitious…

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On the issue of same-sex marriage, Amy Hall of Stand to Reason notes that in speaking of “marriage,” it is firstly important to define what is intended on both sides by the word. Once we establish the boundaries set by the definition, it 2014-10-15 12.44.24becomes difficult to see how anyone’s rights are being violated in withholding the ability of people of the same sex to be married.

She describes the approach she takes in discussion her article here: http://www.str.org/articles/we-re-arguing-definitions-not-rights#.VD6wNvldV8E

J-Warner-WallaceIf 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. —J Warner Wallace (from, How Christian Case Making Impacts the Convinced, the Opposed, and the Undecided)

 

(from The Poached Egg)

Bart Ehrman and James Crossley, two critical biblical scholars, both argue that there are no good grounds to believe in the resurrection of Jesus as reported in the New Testament.  They say that by using the process of methodological naturalism, the approach to investigation that searches for natural causes for events and phenomena, we cannot make any historical fact claims about the resurrection.  In his article on the subject on his blog Saints and Sceptics, David Glass writes,

Neither Crossley nor Ehrman claim to be able to demonstrate that the resurrection definitely did not happen. Rather, they claim that from the perspective of the historian there are no good reasons to believe in the resurrection. Essentially, they are claiming that historiansas historians cannot seriously entertain the possibility that a miracle might have occurred. Ehrman claims that “it is not appropriate for a historian to presuppose a perspective or worldview that is not generally held”. The problem with miracles then is that they require theological beliefs and “since historians cannot assume these beliefs, they cannot demonstrate historically that such miracles happened.”

In ruling out supernatural explanations from the start, are they begging the question?  Read more of the article here: http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/ehrman-and-the-resurrection/.

Thoughts on marriage

1. I think you have to go into it mutually looking to the long term, and keep “divorce” out of your vocabulary. I think it would make a big difference in marriage statistics if the partners agreed that divorce was not an option; this would cause each to realize that they were going to be with this person for the rest of their lives, so they better work it out! Naturally this requires humility and self-sacrifice at times.
2. What is the institution of marriage? The answer to this question for you will decide the parameters of “success in marriage” for you. If it is only a legal contract for shared liability and property ownership or a symbol of status, it will be dissolved as soon as these benefits cease to outweigh the costs.
3. Marriage is under attack in modern entertainment. How many television shows or movies aired/released in the last 5-10 years have had any couples with a healthy marriage in it, even as supporting characters? I struggle to think of any. I find it humorously ironic that the only time marriage seems to be mentioned in a favorable light is as regarding same-sex marriage.