Tag Archive: religion


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)

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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)

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)

Jason Wisdom at the Because It’s True blog asks the question, “Is your church raising an army of skeptics?”

I don’t know how many times I have heard people downplay the need for doctrine and apologetics by saying things like, “What people really need is not a theology or evidence, but an experience. No one can take an experience away from you, and no argument can override what you have actually experienced.” Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am about to say, I believe that the Holy Spirit indwells every regenerate follower of Jesus. I believe that there is a first-hand, personal, experiential component to knowing and walking with God. So don’t hear me say what I am not saying. I am not trying to de-supernaturalize or de-personalize Christianity (though some will no doubt accuse me of doing precisely that). At the same time, I think there has been a movement within evangelical Christianity, especially over the past 30 years, to focus so heavily on the personal, relational element that it has almost become a new branch of Christianity–one where subjective experience trumps both revelation and evidence.

See the rest of the article here: http://www.becauseitstrue.com/blogarticles/is-your-church-raising-an-army-of-skeptics

Amy Hall, of Stand to Reason, reports in her article “Cal State Universities Derecognize InterVarsity Clubs,”

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s requirement that leaders in their campus clubs be Christian has been declared unacceptable discrimination by the Cal State University system. The clubs were told they must cease enforcing their requirement that leaders hold Christian beliefs. InterVarsity declined, and after a one-year exemption period, the 23 university campuses in the Cal State system “derecognized” InterVarsity. This means the clubs no longer have free access to campus meeting rooms, nor can they receive student activity money, participate in student fairs, or use the university name in the name of their clubs.

Reread that first sentence: Intervarsity, a Christian campus ministry, is being derecognized by the Cal State University system because they won’t consider leadership applications from those who are not Christians.  This is deemed unacceptable discrimination.

Hall continues,

It seems obvious to me that a Christian club choosing Christian leaders is legitimate religious discrimination. It should seem equally obvious that kicking out any Christian group that doesn’t conform to the administration’s ideas of the right kind of theology is illegitimate religious discrimination, and yet there we are.

I suppose it’s possible that this ridiculous situation is merely the result of a bureaucratic inability to make a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate discrimination rather than a targeted strategy to remove religious groups from campuses. But if that were the case, wouldn’t they also “derecognize” every fraternity and sorority on campus? After all, those clubs discriminate on the basis of gender, something clearly frowned upon in the university, so if no distinction can be made between legitimate and illegitimate discrimination, that should be it for the Greek system. But surprise, surprise, fraternities and sororities are exempted from this new non-discrimination policy, making this situation look less like a poorly reasoned principled decision and more like an excuse to excise “the wrong kind” of religious groups.

(See the rest of this article at the STR blog here: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2014/09/cal-state-universities-derecognize-intervarsity-clubs.html)

So how does one distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate discrimination? Or is discrimination always wrong?

Merriam-Webster defines discrimination in these ways:

: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

: the ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not

: the ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing

By these definitions, clearly the first describes a morally negative condition, but the other two are not. Most often, when people use the word discrimination, they are using it in the sense of the first definition, and they forget the other definitions.  But I’m not just playing a word game here; even if we aren’t using the word as defined by the second or third definition, we still know and live by the concepts in a common-sense way. Let me give some examples of what I consider to be appropriate discrimination (and you probably will too).

When I committed myself to my wife in marriage, I began discriminating against every other person in the world by promising exclusive faithfulness to her.

If some life-threatening disaster occurred in which my family amid a larger group could be saved, yet I could only save a small group, I would discriminate in favor of my family.

If a Hollywood production decided to make a movie depicting the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., the casting crew would racially discriminate in favor of a black man to play the role of Dr. King.

Sororities and fraternities engage in appropriate discrimination when they disallow membership based on gender.

Religious clubs and other organizations discriminate in favor of members of the same religion when appointing leaders within that organization.

Of course, I saved for last the one that is the point of the discussion at hand. Is Intervarsity guilty of discrimination in their leadership appointment? Absolutely. Is it discrimination in which a group is unfairly treated differently than another group? Absolutely not. If Intervarsity dismissed from consideration for leadership in the student club applications based on gender, or body features (eye color, hair color, etc.), or ethnicity, then there would be grounds for a complaint of illicit discrimination. But of course that’s not what is happening here, is it? This student club, whose reason for existence is based on Christian beliefs and dedicated to the spread of the same, is being required to give equal weight in deciding the leadership to atheists, agnostics, muslims, hindus, whatever. If this was, say, a chess club, then that would make sense. Yet to assign in leadership of a religious club someone who may be completely opposed to that religion is to undermine the goals, effectiveness, and perhaps even the existence of the club itself.

I suppose it will be too much to expect consistency across the board with this ruling. We already see that sororities and fraternities have received an exemption from this anti-discrimination ruling, and appropriately so.

From the comments of Hall’s article mentioned above, “Tc” makes what I believe is an accurate observation:

I wonder.

Would the same rules apply to other groups?

Would Muslim groups be told that adhering to Islamic beliefs unacceptable?

Would a democrat group be told that it must allow itself to be open to republican leaders?

Would Holocaust deniers be able to appeal not bring selected a leadership position in a Jewish group?

Would feminist groups be required to accept male leadership who may have anti feminist ideas?

Would atheist groups be required to accept Young Earth Creationists as leaders?

Sadly, the answer is likely no.

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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Skeptics sometimes portray Christians as both “unreasonable” and “unreasoning”. The Christian culture only exacerbates the problem when it advocates for a definition of “faith” removed from evidence. Is true faith blind? How are true believers to respond to doubt? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Richard Dawkins once said:faith

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that.”

This view of Christian belief is common among skeptics and believers alike. Critics think Christians accept truth claims without any evidential support and many Christians embrace the claims of Christianity unaware of the strong evidence supporting our worldview. Dawkins is correct when he argues against forming beliefs without evidence. People who accept truth claims without any examination or need for evidence are prone to believing myths and making bad decisions.

– See more at: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/the-reasonable-evidential-nature-of-christian-faith/#sthash.36D5yWpA.dpuf

Natasha Crain is the author of the blog Christian Mom Thoughts, a terrific, practical journal by a Christian mother interested in teaching her children not only what to believe, but why, in order that they can have confidence based on knowledge and certainty, and not blind faith.  In the two-part blog series listed below, she discusses why and how to teach our children about atheism.choice

Atheism is not just one more possible challenge to our kids’ faith. It is THE most likely challenge today.

With this post, I’d like to raise awareness of why Christian parents should care so much about understanding atheist views and why we should proactively address these specific challenges to Christianity with our kids.

Read more here: 4 Reasons Christian Parents Need to Care More About Atheism

[W]e can no longer teach our kids about Christianity in a silo and expect them to automatically stand spiritually strong. The challenges today are too great. As I discussed in my last post, the atheist worldview in particular is a threat to the faith of young people.

In today’s post, I want to give you some very practical ideas for teaching your kids about atheism.

Read more here: 14 Ways for Christian Parents to Teach Kids about Atheism