Tag Archive: Religion and Spirituality


In previous posts, I’ve attempted to show that argumentation (as distinguished from bickering or fighting) is a good thing – the process in which we take observations and evidence and draw the-great-detective-1425530-1920x1440conclusions about the world around us. We saw the first principles of logic that form the foundation of reason, and that true, biblical faith is based on reason, rather than being opposed to it, as some misunderstand. Building on this, let’s now look at the most common types of arguments: deductive, inductive, or abductive.

Argument Types

In a deductive argument, the premises lead to a conclusion which, if the premises are shown to be true, follows irresistibly. So, for a famous example:

  1. All men are mortal. (premise 1)
  2. Socrates is a man. (premise 2)
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (conclusion)

Intuitively, this should make sense. The conclusion follows from the premises, if they are accepted as true. This is the strongest form of argument.

Inductive arguments contain a conclusion that is established by the strength of their premises, and so rather than the conclusion irresistibly following the premises, it is only probable, not certain. Take this example:

  1. It has rained every day for the last thirty days in Birmingham. (premise)
  2. Therefore, it will probably rain today in Birmingham. (conclusion)

Is the conclusion certain? By no means, but probability seems to be in favor of its being true.

Abductive arguments, sometimes known as inference to the best explanation, draws a conclusion taking into account multiple pieces of data and attempts to most comprehensively explain them all. This is the form of argument frequently used by criminal detectives (such as Sherlock Holmes). Here’s an example:

Let’s say I am in a room with no windows in the interior of a building.

  1. Someone walks in the room with wet shoes and a dripping umbrella. (data 1)
  2. I’ve been hearing some ominous booming and rain-on-roof sounds. (data 2)
  3. The weather app on my phone says there are thunderstorms in my area. (data 3)
  4. A reasonable conclusion would be that it is raining outside currently. (conclusion)

An interpretation of the data occurs which lead to possible explanations which are compared with one another. The chosen conclusion is not certain, but it seems more likely than alternate explanations that may be offered.

Argumentation Gives Knowledge

So to sum up, concerning arguments, two or more premises (including hidden premises) are put together to lead to a conclusion.  The premises must each be evaluated for probability of truth in order to determine the strength of the conclusion.  Since in most cases the premises are assigned probability less than 100% certainty, it usually leads to conclusions which are themselves less than 100% certain.  However, this is simply the way we operate in life.  In many instances, we consider ourselves to have knowledge on topics for which we have varying degrees of certainty.  Different subjects require differing levels of certainty to claim knowledge, yet we navigate reality, personally and corporately making important decisions on what we consider to be (un)acceptable levels of certainty.  For example, criminals are executed through a decision of guilt rendered beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond all doubt.  If we are justified at this level of moral certitude to impose a death penalty on another, surely, then, absolute certainty is not required to claim knowledge.  Through diligence and clear thinking, we work to make livable decisions for life, morality, and religion. Through proper exercise of deduction and induction, we are able to approach truth.

Having established (I hope!) the existence and knowability of objective truth, and the value of good argumentation to apprehend truths, I will hereafter shift gears from the mechanisms of knowing truth to the arguments themselves that have been particularly convincing in my mind, as well as many others, for the truth of Christian theism and worldview. I hope you’ll join me!

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

Faith and Reason, Part 2

In my last post, I hopefully clarified the difference between biblical faith and the contemporary understanding of that word. Often, it seems to be put in opposition to reason, and it was my goal handshaketo show they are complimentary, not opposites.

What is Reason?

First, I want to make some important distinctions. We will be talking about argumentation here in our discussion of reason, and this word often has some bad associations because of the way we use it. When my kids are in the back seat of the van being nasty to one another with their words, I might finally yell back to them, “Stop with the arguing already!” But I want to use the concept of arguing in a different way here. So here’s what I don’t mean: arguing and reason is not quarreling, bickering, squabbling, or contradiction. It is also not judgmental, narrow-minded arrogance.

When we have a verbal interaction with someone, it usually takes on one of these four forms: [1]

  1. Discussion – A discussion is where people are sharing information and opinions with one another.
  2. Disagreement – Disagreements happen when people have conflicting opinions, but are not trying to change the other’s mind about it.
  3. Argument – People with differing opinions are now giving reasons to support their beliefs in order to persuade the other.
  4. Fight – Name-calling, insulting, and other nastiness happens in a fight; it is abusing the other person and not giving reasons at this point.

I love this classic Monty Python skit to illustrate:

Reason is a tool by which we evaluate observations to form conclusions about reality; it is working out what follows from what and evaluating the relationship between real and possible objects and other real and possible objects. This often involves others, challenging ideas and being challenged; this is argument, part of loving the Lord with all your mind (Mark 12:30). Arguing well is a good thing, as it helps us distinguish truth from error.

Is Faith Opposed to Reason?

If you say yes, then your view of the relationship between faith and reason looks something like this:

FvR2 FvR1

As one grows, the other shrinks: the more evidence and reason one has, the less need for faith, until it is eventually all squeezed out. Conversely, one with “perfect faith” then has no doubts and no need for logic and reason.

But, as I pointed out in my last post on faith, this isn’t a picture of biblical faith at all. Instead, it is more accurately illustrated this way:

F&R

In reality, the more evidence and reasons we have concerning the trustworthiness of a thing or proposition, the more trust or faith we place in it. This is biblical faith and the true model of the relationship between faith and reason.

In the next post, I will talk more logic and putting together your toolbox for clear and critical 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!

[1] As seen in The Fallacy Detective

“…for this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” – Jesus, John 18:37cthe-truth-shall-make-you-free-1201069

“Follow truth, wherever it may lead.” – Thomas Jefferson (attrib.)

To establish the foundations of a reasonable trust in Christianity, we will start at the bottom of the study structure I outlined in my last post, and begin by talking about the nature and existence of truth. Although when in conversation with someone about the rationality of our beliefs it will not usually be required that you justify your understanding of truth, at times it will come up, and having thought through your foundational beliefs will serve you well in your defense. No Christian should fear fully investigating and seeking out truth, since, as Augustine puts it, “let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master.” Establishing and understanding the existence and definition of truth is also needed for following arguments to build upon.

Correspondence Theory of Truth

So what is truth? According to the correspondence theory of truth, it is an accurate description of reality; a proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to the way things actually are. This is really quite intuitive. “Jonathan Wood owns a cherry red Ferrari” is true if and only if I actually own a cherry red Ferrari (I don’t, more’s the pity). This theory seeks to explain the conditions under which a proposition would be true, not how or if we can know the truth value of that proposition. “There is a hot pink golf ball on the planet Pluto” has a truth value of true or false, even if it is impossible for anyone to know that truth value.[1]

This illustrates the meaning and difference between two important philosophical terms pertaining to truth and knowledge which we will come back to frequently. Ontology relates to existence or being, while epistemology relates to how we attain and justify knowledge. These are important to understand as different, as it is not uncommon to mistakenly think that because one may not know the truth value of a particular sentence, it therefore has no truth value.

Attacks on Truth – Tolerance and Pluralism

The modern usage of “tolerance” is nearly useless; it is used now to mean that one should not indicate that another person is wrong about their beliefs.  If a moral or philosophical rule cannot meet its own standards, there is a problem. This new definition of tolerance self-destructs if applied to itself: questioning if this is itself a correct belief, or if a person who rejects this kind of tolerance should be tolerated.  No, tolerance only applies when there is a disagreement: disagreement is required.  Without a disagreement, there is nothing to tolerate.  Therefore, a proper view of tolerance should be applied to people, not ideas.  People are tolerated when they disagree with others, but no idea is so sacrosanct that it should be immune from evaluation and critique.

Concerning “religious pluralism,” if in using this concept one refers to the right to choose one’s religion without coercion, this is a good thing.  However, in today’s culture, the term has come to mean much the same as “tolerance” in that one ought not make exclusive truth claims about religious beliefs.  It fails in the same way that the redefinition of “tolerance” fails: it decries exclusivism in religious beliefs, but is itself an exclusive belief about religion, namely that only inclusive religious beliefs are acceptable.

Moreover, it should be clear that even if one is to accept this view of religious tolerance and pluralism, it cannot survive more than the most superficial and patronizing treatment of religious beliefs.  One does not have to look far to see that almost all the most important core beliefs of the world religions are in conflict with most other religions’ views.  As examples, regarding the concept of God, is God personal, impersonal, monotheistic, polytheistic, dualistic?  Is mankind part of creation but different in kind, an evolved ape, an illusion along with the rest of “reality”?  What about afterlife, does man cease to exist on death, go to heaven or hell, merge with the impersonal spirit force, or reincarnate?[2]  All of these views could be wrong, but they cannot all be right.  We must investigate the truth of which, if any, of the world’s religious views (including atheism) is correct.

Next time, we’ll investigate the question, What is knowledge?

Comments, questions? 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] Cowan, Steven B., and James S. Spiegel.  The Love of Wisdom. (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 36.

[2] Dean C. Halverson, ed., The Compact Guide to World Religions (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), 15.

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)

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)

cross-and-bible-1158304-1919x2844In part 1, I began to explain what apologetics, or Christian case-making is and isn’t, showing the goals and the practical use for Christians who seek to persuade others to follow Christ. In this post, I want to give you the origins of the word “apologetics,” and in doing so, I think you’ll start to see how Christianity has a rich origination in reason and evidence.

Origin of “apologetics”

The case-making concept, and the origins of the word “apologetics,” comes from the Greek word apologia meaning rationale or defense, as in a court of law, and can be found eight times in the New Testament:

  • Acts 22:1 – “’Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.’”
  • Acts 25:16 – “I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:3 – “This is my defense to those who would examine me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 7:11 – “For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”
  • Philippians 1:7 –  “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
  • Philippians 1:16 – “ The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:16 – “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!”
  • 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 is also related to the Greek word apologeomai used ten times in the New Testament in a similar way as above:

  • Luke 12:11 – “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say”
  • Luke 21:14 – “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer”
  • Acts 19:33 – “Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.”
  • Acts 24:10 – “And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense.'”
  • Acts 25:8 – “Paul argued in his defense, ‘Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.'”
  • Acts 26:1 – “So Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You have permission to speak for yourself.’ Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense”
  • Acts 26:2 – “‘I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews,'”
  • Acts 26:24 – “And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'”
  • Romans 2:15 – “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:19 – “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.”

So now that you better understand the origins of the word “apologetics,” the biblical concept it comes from, and what its purposes are, why should we think that God wants us to defend Christianity in this way? In the next post, I’ll show the biblical model and commands concerning our responsibilities for making a defense.

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)

gavelAnd behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

– Luke 10:25-28

What is Christian Apologetics?

In brief, it is the bridge between faith and the intellect, and is part of loving God with our minds. In this, and the next few posts, I’d like to go into some detail about the “what’s” and “why’s” concerning Christian apologetics. I intend to make the case for you both from a biblical standpoint as well as from a purely pragmatic one as to why you (if you are a Christian) should care about Christian apologetics and hone your skills in Christian case-making.

What apologetics isn’t

“Apologetics” is a word that may not hold much meaning for most, and may lead others to think it has something to do with being sorry. As in, “I’m a Christian, and I’m really sorry about that!” or “I apologize for what these other Christians are doing!” No, this is not what I’m meaning by the word.

Others may hear the word “apologetics” and think about someone who just really likes to debate and beat people into submission with their rhetoric and personality, someone who knows a few facts and is just looking to shout down any opposing viewpoint. While this sort of apologist does exist, this is not what I believe the Bible calls us to be, and not what I am going to try to show you.

Prepared to make a defense

Because of the unfamiliarity with the word by most, and the negative association many have who do know the word, I have been moving away from the word “apologetics.” Instead, taking a cue from J. Warner Wallace, I think a better term is “Christian case-making,” although for the purposes of this introductory post, I will be using the two terms interchangeably. The goal of apologetics, then, is to demonstrate the reasonable nature of Christianity and its ability to best explain reality among the competing hypotheses. It is the field of theology that provides defense of Christian truth claims by providing evidence in favor of those claims and carefully investigating opposing viewpoints. Christian case-makers are concerned with answering the question “what is the rational warrant for Christian truth claims?”

Broadly speaking, apologetics provides two services. For the Christian, evidences are marshalled which serve to strengthen our belief and trust that the Christianity is an accurate guide to reality. This also gives us courage and confidence to work to persuade others without having to rely only on our subjective experiences as evidence. As the Stand to Reason tagline goes, we want to show that Christianity is something worth thinking about. For the non-Christian, apologetics is pre-evangelism. It is not common that people on hearing Christian gospel presentation will immediately convert.  Often they will need convincing that it is an intellectually viable option. How can someone accept “God loves you and has paid for your sins,” if they are predisposed in belief that God cannot exist?

In part 2, I’ll show you the origins of the word “apologetics,” and in doing so, give a hint of the flavor of what and how apologetics should be.

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)

Greg Koukl speaks on the claim that “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship”:

I understand how there could be a perfunctory religious practice without any life in it that would cause one to hunger and yearn for something much more personal. And the offer of relationship touches that hunger.

But here’s the problem: “having a relationship with God” in this sense is not at all unique to Christianity. Virtually every religion, it seems to me, has as its goal something intensely personal.

More here: http://www.str.org/articles/relationship-vs.-religion#.VBH3XvldV8E

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