Tag Archive: Bible


Many different arguments can be used to demonstrate that God does actually exist. Individually, these arguments are compelling, and I believe when brought together, they make a very strong case, indeed. I want to go through a few of them with you. These are, of course, not original with me, and much more has been said about each of them, but I hope to explain in an easy-to-understand way the intuitive and powerful nature of these arguments.

Causes and Beginnings

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

To start with, let’s look at an argument about the beginning of the universe, called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Reasonable Faith has put together several great videos presenting these arguments, and so I want to start with one of them. Have a look:

The Kalam Cosmological argument goes like this:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This is a deductive argument, and it is in a valid form, so the task is to examine the premises to see if they are true, and so show the conclusion as also being true.

The first premise, “Everything that begins to exist has a cause,” matches our uniform and repeated experience in everything in life and science. To deny this is to say that some things could spontaneously come into existence with no cause and no reason; there is a rather large burden of proof on the one who would want to assert this counter-intuitive claim. An overthrow, or even an exception to the foundational principle of causation would create a massive undermining of the process and understanding of the scientific endeavor. I simply have not seen any convincing arguments or alternative explanations for the tried-and-true principle of causation that we adopt as the first premise.

Secondly, “the universe began to exist” matches the evidence of modern scientific observation, and is the best explanation of the evidence. But let’s consider some alternative theories that have been suggested.

  1. The steady state theory says that the universe has existed in stasis for eternity past. Cosmological observations and discoveries have rendered this theory obsolete, as there is data that shows the universe is expanding outwards from a central point.
  2. Another theory attempts to modify and salvage the steady state theory by postulating a continuous expansion, in which the universe is and has eternally been expanding, and that as it does so, new matter comes into existence from that central point. But this theory seems rather implausible as well, as (referring back to the first premise) our uniform and repeated observation and experience tells us that nothing begins to exist without a cause. Some sort of reasonable mechanism would need to be proposed and explained to redeem this theory, and none exist.
  3. Another model, the oscillating universe theory, suggests that our universe eternally, past and future, oscillates between cycles of expansion and contraction in which the gravitational forces in the universe cause the universe to collapse back in upon itself, after which it will expand back out. In this proposal, we are observing the universe presently in one of the expansion cycles. The problem here is that the force of gravity is not strong enough to pull all the universe back together; a collapse is not possible through this means. It appears we have a one-way expanding universe.

Therefore God?

It seems that we cannot escape the conclusion that the universe has a cause. How does this help our case for God’s existence? As I said in the last post, we are taking baby steps here. I won’t assert that this proves Christian theism, but I do think it provides some good evidence that is hard to ignore. Some of the properties of the causal agent of the universe would include these:

  • Uncaused – the “first cause” must be uncaused or else it would not be the first cause; something beyond would have caused it, into an infinite regress of absurdity.
  • Exceedingly Powerful – even omnipotent, to cause the universe to exist from literally nothing
  • Personal – only a personal agent with will, intent, and consciousness can explain the beginning of the universe with no prior causes.

I believe there are more attributes we could infer from this argument, but again, I want to be modest and not stretch out beyond our reach. These three attributes are certainly God-like as described in the Bible, and as we go on, we’ll see that the other arguments will bring us even closer to the God of Christian theism.

In the next post, I will briefly discuss some objections that may be raised to the cosmological argument and address my views on the age of the universe, another implication of this argument.

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)

2 Cor 10:5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christworking-1229720-1279x977

Previously, I took a great deal of time to show that not only does objective truths exist, but that we can reasonably approach and assess truth in many important areas of philosophy, theology, history, and science. Confidence in our knowledge in these areas can be gained and increased by careful reasoning and critical thinking through argumentation. Having laid the philosophical foundations to justify the use of these tools, I now want to apply them towards our knowledge of God.

Can Truths About God Be Known?

Rom. 1:20“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [unbelievers] are without excuse.”

But first, perhaps it would be appropriate to say a few words addressing the question, can truths about God be known? Is God too “other” for finite humans to comprehend or in any way grasp His properties? One agnostic trend makes the claim that this is impossible. Paul, in Romans 1 indicates that some amount of knowledge about God is indeed possible through observation and reflection. I think the agnostic claim itself fails philosophically as an absolute claim, as it claims to have knowledge of God, namely that knowledge about God is unattainable. So what is gained by the destruction of this claim? Well, we can escape the prison of ignorance concerning God; it seems that it is not logically impossible to know something about God (if He exists). This, of course, doesn’t take us very far towards positive knowledge claims about God, but it does make forward progress possible, at least in principle.

Baby Steps

In the posts that follow, I want to move, with slow and careful steps, through some arguments that have installed in me confidence that God exists and is accurately reflected in Christian theism as laid out in the Bible. Slow and careful, I say, because these are not philosophical word games, some smoke-and-mirrors rhetorical trick. I’m not going to try to take you all the way from skepticism to true believer all in one argument, as that seems an awful lot to ask from one argument [1]. Instead, I want to build a cumulative case for you that grows in stages from previous groups of arguments, as laid out in my earlier post about the goals of Christian case making. As a reminder, here is the model I’m following in this method.

                      | Has God spoken? |

                |        Has God acted?         |

     |                     Does God exist?                 |

|    Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable?         |

We have completed step one, concerning Truth, and are now moving up to the next step, “Does God exist?” The arguments will not, as I said, make the full case in one step, but will move us forward, bit by bit, with evidence for God’s existence, His attributes, and how Christian theism seems to fit best with reality and history among other religions. I think this careful case-building strategy can be persuasive, as the Holy Spirit softens the heart and removes hostility towards God. Overthrowing one’s worldview in favor of one very different is no small matter, and one which I would expect not to happen quickly.

Please join me next time as we begin with arguments for God’s existence, and I hope that you will have your confidence and trust strengthened in the truth of the Bible as we see how reality truly is reflected, described, and prescribed. I certainly found it convincing, and I pray you will too.

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)

[1] Although not impossible – the Minimal Facts argument for the resurrection strikes me as very persuasive, and implies much of content of Christian theism.

In previous posts, it has been my goal to set the groundwork for a study in Christian case-making for the believer, showing the importance of doing so as commanded by the Bible and modeled

by important figures in the Bible itself. I also gave some practical reasons for study. The prior post made a brief defense and explanation for evangelism and proselytization for the intended benefit of those who are not believers and have questions or problems with the idea.

Today, I want to lay out the outline for where the following posts will be going. I think you’ll see the strategy and intuitive nature of the outline, but credit for this particular layout of the plan goes in large part to Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason and Frank Turek of Cross Examined. In short, this model of study assumes nothing. We will establish foundations for each step from which we will build the next foundation to the next level until we have fully demonstrated the reasonable nature of the fundamental Christian claims.

                      | Has God spoken? |

                |        Has God acted?         |

     |                     Does God exist?                 |

|    Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable?         |

 

Starting in the next post, I’ll begin at the bottom-most level and begin working up on these topics:

  • Does Truth exist? Is Truth knowable? Christianity claims to be historically, factually, and existentially True; not just useful or subjectively relevant, but True for everyone. If there are no absolute truths, or there are but we cannot know them, the claims and assertions of Christianity make no sense, and no sense can be made of them.
  • Does God exist? If truth can be shown to exist and be accessible in some way, in whole or in part, the next important question to investigate is that of God’s existence. And if a God exists, which one is it? Can we discover some attributes of this God and by comparison to the deities of different world religions come to narrow down the possibilities?
  • Has God acted? Are miracles possible? Has modern science and philosophy shown that a belief in miracles are irrational?
  • Has God spoken? How does God communicate to us? Which holy book contains the real words of God to man? How well does the Bible stand up under tests for accuracy and reliability?

Join me next time as we start talking about Truth!

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

Previously, I spent a good bit of time and space examining one of the most often objections I hear to apologetics, that concerning “Doubting Thomas.” I’d like to discuss a few more objections,stop-1-1428620 and I’m going to try to hit several in a less exhaustive treatment than the last. Most of them are more easily dispensed with anyhow.

“God doesn’t need defending.”

Yes, this is true. But truth does need defending. It is under attack all the time. Christian case-makers are not in the business of defending God; we give reasons to believe in Him, and offer corrections to faulty thinking and ideas about God. In accordance with 1 Peter 3:15, we offer a reasoned response for our beliefs: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

“God can’t be known by reason.”

In support of this objection, 1 Corinthians 1:21 may be quoted: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” The good news of the gospel may seem like foolishness to those in whom the Holy Spirit has not yet removed their hostility towards God, but certainly the Bible isn’t teaching that the gospel itself is folly. As is pointed out in Romans 1:19-20, unbelievers suppress belief, but that is not the same as saying God cannot be known. The foolishness of salvation is only in the eyes of the hostile unbeliever.

“Without faith, you can’t please God. Apologetics is contrary to faith.”

If Christianity is shown to be reasonable, is there then no room for faith? Does belief then become cold, non-relational facts as head knowledge takes the place of faith?

Except by accident, I try not to use the word “faith” anymore. I think this English word no longer captures the meaning of the biblical concept translated in most bibles now as “faith.” We are talking about trust now, not blind faith, and I think this is a better, more precise word to use. Belief without evidence leads to irrationality which is, as pointed out in previous posts, contrary to Biblical model and instruction.

“The word apologetics is not in the Bible.”

The English word apologetics is the anglicized form of the Greek word apologia, so yeah, it kinda is in the Bible. Anyway, even if the word itself is not in the Bible, the use of it is throughout the work of the apostles, in particular with Paul in Acts 17 on Mars Hill. Also, the words Bible and trinity are not in the Bible, either, but we as Christians are certainly not ready to throw out those concepts for that reason.

Next up, a few more objections and how I would approach them. Are there other objections you have heard or thought of? 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)

 

doubt-1429549Christian Apologetics involves making a reasoned defense of the things we believe as Christians. In the last several posts, I’ve tried to give you good reasons, both biblical and pragmatic, why every Christian ought also to be a good case-maker. However, some Christians think the Bible actually teaches the opposite, that apologetics actually goes against biblical mandates. Since I’ve made a biblical case previously, and a biblical case is being raised to show the opposite, we must carefully consider each and decide which is the most accurate and true.

So, to start with, let’s tackle what is probably the most often raised, and at first approach, appears to be the most challenging: Doubting Thomas. Here’s the passage, from John 20:24-29 (NASB):

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him,“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

It seems that in this passage Jesus condemns evidentialism. After all, he says “Do not be unbelieving, but believing,” and “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” It sounds like Jesus is saying to Thomas, “The only reason you believe is because you have the evidence in front of you. That’s weak faith. Those who believe without evidence are the ones who are truly blessed.” Is that really what is going on here though?

Remember, in a previous post I showed how in John 14:11, John 10:25, 37-38, and John 5:36 Jesus presented the evidence of his miracles as foundation for belief in the eyewitnesses. Jesus continually seemed to be saying “I didn’t just assert, but I demonstrated and gave evidence.” So then, in this context, what was meant by “blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed?” I think usually when reading this passage, we stop too soon; we need to continue reading through John 20:30-31 (NASB, emphasis mine), immediately after this passage about Thomas:

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

In his gospel, John repeatedly affirms Jesus’ miracles as evidence of His divinity. Why then would Jesus have continued providing these miracles if He was promoting a blind faith? Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17:20-21 is instructive:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

In this passage, Jesus is praying for his disciples, for their protection and for the next generation of disciples that follow them. Here we have a proclamation by Jesus, not only for those who saw Him personally and knew Him, and knew that what He said was true because they had seen the miracles with their own eyes. He’s also praying for those who would not get to see the miracles with their own eyes, but would have to trust the reliable eyewitness testimony of those who did. You and I were not there to see the risen Christ and to touch his wounds, so we are those who did not see. But we have reliable testimony of eyewitnesses who did. Did Jesus condemn apologetics in this passage? Certainly not; just the opposite. He continually provided evidence and called those “blessed” who would come to a reasonable faith because of this testimony.

Next time, I’ll run through several other objections to apologetics that I’ve heard from Christians.

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

[This post inspired by and largely paraphrased from J. Warner Wallace on his excellent site Cold Case Christianity.]

 

Having previously given several examples of Jesus’ and Paul’s use of persuasion and careful reasoning approaches to evangelism, let me now show you how God, through His inspired authors,studying-2-1475294 has given us the commission to each be careful and considered Christian case-makers.

Let me start by reminding you of Paul’s instruction to the church in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Through careful reasoning and persuasion we are to destroy the arguments raised against the knowledge of God, not through empty rhetoric, intimidating personality, abusive use of Scripture, or threat of force.

Over in Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul writes concerning the Christian’s gifts and design:

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. [NASB, emphasis mine]

Does the thought of evangelism make your palms sweat? Relax, that may not be your gifting. Paul says that some, not all, received the gifts of being apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. However, no such qualifiers are given in 1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

This command is not issued to “some” of the believers, but seems to have the expectation that all believers should be ready to make a persuasive defense (apologia) of their faith. God expects all Christians to engage in apologetic study; this should not be simply a niche, academics club within the church, or a peripheral topic relegated to a specialist teacher or occasional special guest lecturer, but a discipline in which all Christians ought to apply themselves. As J. Warner Wallace puts it, “Christianity does not need another million-dollar apologist, we need a million one-dollar apologists.” We need people studying, getting into the game, engaging and improving their interaction skills as they do so.

Move down towards the end of the New Testament into the book of Jude, in which we will find this verse in Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We are to stand up for and contend for the faith! Not just as “true for me,” or a private experiential and subjective faith, but as a public, objectively true reflection of reality. Repeatedly we are called to a convinced and reasonable trust in Christ:

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Romans 14:5b…Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

2 Timothy 3:14 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.

You are probably familiar with the passage in Matthew 5:13-16 in which Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I believe that these verses instruct us to provide cultural correctives towards Biblical truth and morality as it goes astray, and do so by confronting ideas and arguments. If Christianity truly reflects reality as it is, even apparent contradictions between it and contemporary thought can be shown to be faulty. We need to approach each situation with care, tact, and discernment, using the right tool for the job at hand; use “gentleness and respect,” as instructed in 1 Peter 3:15 above. This tactical approach is summarized in Colossians 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

In the next post, I will give you some practical reasons why you as a Christian should study apologetics (if the previous posts haven’t yet convinced you!).

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)

As you know if you’ve been reading along, I’ve been attempting to persuade the Christian who reads this that the Bible expects us to be able to make a good case for what we believe as corinth-greece-1212506-1920x1440Christians. Most recently, I have been working on showing how the Bible models the use of apologetics; in The Biblical Model, Part 2, I described how Jesus used careful logic and philosophy to show the truth of His claims. Today in this post, I want to lay out for you the way Paul used and instructed the church in apologetics.

Let’s start in Philippians 1:16, in which Paul is writing to the church in Philippi. In this section of his letter, he is talking to them about his imprisonment, and how he is in this circumstance in order to provide “a defense of the gospel.” The word “defense” as used here is the Greek word apologia, which you will remember refers to making a case as in a court of law, and is where we get the word “apologetics”.

Since Paul considered himself a Christian case-maker, so let’s examine one example of his use of philosophy in making his case. As a Christian missionary, Paul concerned himself very much with proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as actual events that took place. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15:17-20:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

In this passage, Paul takes a big risk, putting his finger on an area where those who were hostile to Christianity could show it to be false. He hinges the entire belief system on the resurrection of Jesus: if He did not, in fact, come alive again after his death, Paul says that Christianity is a sham and that we as Christians are living a delusion. This sort of falsifiability clause strikes me as quite intellectually honest. If he was making this all up or otherwise knew this was false, there would be no reason for him to point out the way in which Christians, and Paul himself, could be shown to be fools. There certainly were plenty of people, then and now, eager to do just that. So by showing how to falsify Christianity, namely by producing the dead body of Christ, Paul provides another unique stamp on Christianity among religions, placing it in the realm of the empirical and historical, where it belongs.

The example above in 1 Corinthians is one specific example, but it isn’t the only one. Throughout the book of Acts, we have accounts of Paul reasoning and persuading wherever he went, finding common ground and building from what his audience accepted as authoritative. Several examples of this can be found all through Acts 17:

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds.14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

This is quite a bit longer of a passage than I usually quote, but there are so many relevant things in this chapter that I want to draw your attention to, so I have bold faced the verses of note. To elaborate, notice in verse 2 how Paul reasoned from the Scriptures with the Jews. In verse 17, Paul is reported to have reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace, every day. And in verses 19-34, Paul reasons using the philosophical wisdom of the day among the assemblage of the wise in the Areopagus.

Paul’s method is the heart of cultural apologetics: knowing your discussion partner and what they consider to be authoritative, be it the scriptures, science, philosophy, or something else, and building on that foundation to show the truth of Christianity and the satisfying answers that Christianity offers.

Here is Paul’s description of the job of the Christian case-maker in 2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

How does one destroy arguments? Not through raised voices, brainwashing, or even hurling Bible verses, but through better arguments.

So, if the model of Christ and the apostle Paul isn’t enough to convince, in the next post I intend to point out the specific commands in the Bible instructing us as Christians to be case-makers.

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)

stained-glass-2-1257741-1279x1705In my last post, I spent some time showing the biblical examples of how Jesus operated as an evidentialist in his ministry. He never called people to blind faith, but gave good reasons to believe he is who he said he was: the Messiah and the son of God. This time, I’d like to examine some more Bible passages in which Jesus interacted with questioners and demonstrated the sharpness of his mind and the logic and philosophy with which he answered them. Much of this material is paraphrased from Douglas Groothuis’ book On Jesus.

Jesus the Philosopher and Logician

To begin with, let’s look at Matthew 12:22-28 in which Jesus is challenged by Pharisees upon driving out a demon from and healing a blind and mute man:

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

In this passage, Jesus uses the philosophical tool called reductio ad absurdum, sometimes colloquially referred to as “taking the roof off.” A point of view is taken seriously for the sake of argument and then shown how, taken to its logical conclusion, produces something ridiculous. When this happens, it is a signal that there is a problem with one or more of the argument’s supporting premises.

Another example of Jesus’ sophisticated ability to apply logic is in Mark 2:5-12. This is the account of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic who was lowered in through the roof by his friends.

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus,perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Let me lay out the deductive argument that Jesus makes here:

  1. If Jesus can perform miracles, then His claim to be the Son of God who can forgive sins is true.
  2. Jesus can perform miracles (healing of the paralyzed man)
  3. Therefore, Jesus is the Son of God who can forgive sins.

Finally, let’s read the account below from Luke 20:27-40 in which the Sadducees attempt to trap Jesus concerning marriage relationships of believers in the afterlife:

There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

There are actually two philosophically very interesting things going on. In the first part, the Sadducees are trying to show that Jesus has committed a logical fallacy (or error in thinking) by applying reductio ad absurdum to Jesus’ teachings, saying that their hypothetical but potentially real situation would create a ridiculous situation in the afterlife. However, Jesus responds by showing the Sadducees understanding of His teachings is flawed. Jesus exposes their argument as being itself fallacious, being a false dichotomy, which is when two options are presented as the entire selection of options available, when there are actually one or more additional options not mentioned.

So we should be able to see from this post and the last that Jesus had a well-developed mind and expected His followers not to be dumb, blind sheep, but to follow Him because of the strength of evidence and in his living example of a sharp thinker.

Next time, I’ll show you how the apostle Paul modeled for us the use of reason, philosophy, and apologetics in his evangelistic work.

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)

jesus-1233747Previously, I described what the purpose and activity of Christian apologetics, or case-making, and then showed the history of the word “apologetics” as a means of demonstrating the goals of presenting a rational defense, as would be used to persuade in a court of law. Today, I’d like to show you some examples of how Jesus used logic, reason, and apologetics in his ministry, as recorded in the Bible. By doing so, I hope you will see that the use of these things are not new or unbiblical for the life of the mind of the believer.

Jesus the evidentialist

Jesus did not ask for blind faith without evidence. John 14:11 says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” To paraphrase, Jesus is saying, “If you don’t believe me, believe the evidence I’ve given you. Believe me when I say that I am in the father, and the Father is in me. Or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

Jesus’ good works (his miracles) testify to his claims of deity. John 10:25, 37-38 “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me.'” “‘If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’”

In John 5:32-46, Jesus’ points out that his claims to deity are supported by testimony from five sources. Here is the passage I am talking about; notice the five corroborating sources mentioned here: John the Baptizer (32-35), Jesus’ miraculous works (36), the Father (37), Old Testament Scripture (39), and Moses (45-46).

32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

In Luke 7:20-23, John the Baptizer’s disciples come to Jesus to ask if He is truly the Messiah. I think it is important and instructive that Jesus does not say “try harder” or “have more faith,” but that he references the evidence of the miracles he had done and invited the disciples to draw a reasonable conclusion.

And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Lastly, look at the introduction to the book of Acts in Acts 1:1-3:

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

After Jesus’ resurrection, and before he ascended back to heaven, He stuck around for 40 more days, showing himself to people individually and in groups, giving them convincing evidences that he had truly risen bodily from the dead. He ate fish, he allowed his wounds to be touched, and he gave ample opportunity for people to verify for themselves the truth of the resurrection. The testimony from these eyewitnesses would then be an important apologetic in the apostles’ evangelism methodology and personal convictions.

There are more examples that could be given, but this is a good selection of passages that I hope will be persuasive for you that Jesus did not expect “blind faith” or trust without reasonable evidence. In the next post, I’ll present for you examples of the sharpness of Jesus’ mind and how he shrewdly used logic and philosophy to persuade people of truth and expose the errors of others’ thinking.

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)

This question is offered to followers of Christ, sometimes as a challenge, sometimes simply asking for information. I don’t like the question because I think the question is ambiguous the way it’s asked.  Saying bibleyes doesn’t really give an accurate answer about the “literal” view of the Bible.  I don’t mean that the people who are asking it have bad motives.  I think this is the way they think of asking the question.  It’s not surprising then that followers of Christ who believe in the Bible and take it “literally” get themselves into a little bit of a bind when they answer directly because what they mean when they say yes is something different than what the questioner means when he asks the question.

– Greg Koukl; read more here: http://www.str.org/articles/do-you-take-the-bible-literally#.VBrgVvldV8E