Tag Archives: apologetics

Apologetics, 1 Peter 3: 15

Christian apologetics has become a pretty hot area in the last few years. Seems to me that Christians are starting to get serious about their faith, especially Christian men. The Lutheran Hour Men’s Network that I was part of starting a few years ago and very  ably led by a layman Geoff Abendschoen, became very involved in group studies of Christian apologetics.

The word apologetics, apologist, not someone who’s worried about past failings. You’re not saying you’re sorry about something. It is from the Greek word ἀπολογία apologia. To defend: “Christian apologetics (Greek: ἀπολογία, “verbal defence, speech in defence”) is a branch of Christian theology that aims to present historical, reasoned, and evidential bases for Christianity, defending it against objections.” (Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_apologetics) In his epistle Peter writes ”

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,”

Peter uses the word  ἀπολογία in his epistle. We have to have a good reason why we believe what we believe. We have to be able to understand it well enough in order to articulate it to someone who is either a non-Christian (and they are a lot more common today, I was one). Or to defend against those who are actively antagonistic towards the Christian faith. I will stipulate that it usually doesn’t work against those who are antagonistic. Frankly they are very set in their belief, they are not interested in changing their beliefs and if anything, have chosen to oppose your Christian belief. They are not interested in other points of view and really never make critical examinations or understanding of their own points of view. I know Christians are often accused of that mind set, but I’ve seen it a lot more in secularists. They really don’t have a good understanding of theology, of philosophy, of science, etc, and they really don’t care. “It’s all about what I can see, touch, quantify and everything else is fantasy…” Something to that effect. Well, there’s a whole lot in the world that we know is there, but we really can’t explain it. Try explaining electricity or gravity to start with.

When I was in seminary (Concordia Seminary, St Louis, Mo, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod), apologetics was actively discouraged. I certainly understand why, being a Christian is based in faith, the faith that God gives us to believe. We don’t need to have a hard and fast reason. God gives us the faith we need, one of the “solas”, Sola Fide, by faith alone. God gives it to us and we aren’t going to talk someone else into faith through apologetics.

Yes, I get it, and we should never expect that analysis of history, philosophy, theology etc, will make us Christians, it won’t, only the Holy Spirit will. However, we still have Peter’s urging and there are still people out there weak in their faith and knowledgeable clergy and lay people have a responsibility to articulate their faith. Interestingly, the LC-MS’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), has published a report buttressing the need for apologetics. The CTCR’s concern is particularly in the area of “scientism”, this is a belief system that has arisen in the last few decades where “believers”, the “faithful”, trust entirely in whatever they can quantify in science. Needless to say this is a stand that is very tenuous. Science certainly doesn’t have the answer to everything, in fact, many times, scientific answers aggravate a situation. Look at medical science, it has made incredible strides, but, first, we are all going to die. Second, remember the last time you heard a television ad for a medication? Wanna stay healthy? Stay away from taking medications. The world is in desperate need of hope and promise and Jesus gave that 2,000 years ago and based on His resurrection, I know what my ultimate reality will be, the New World of the resurrection.

As I said apologetics was kind of discouraged when I was in seminary (for the record that was actually this century, I graduated in 2010). The CTCR, came out with its report in 2015 saying:

“There is something of a renaissance of apologetics both inside and outside the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), and this is a great opportunity to forge alliances between theologians, scientists, philosophers, and professional apologists in our church for the sake of defending the faith. While the Word of God has its own authority independent of reason, scientific apologetics can play an important role in creating the intellectual and cultural space that allows the Gospel a fair hearing. To be sure, reason cannot produce faith. But it can clear away misconceptions and refute erroneous worldviews that lead people to reject the Christian claim out of hand. Christian scientists and philosophers can help here by marshaling evidence that this is a created world and that human beings are a special part of it. This task has become more important because of the rise of the New Atheism, which seeks to use materialistic science to discredit revealed religion.”

“This report will provide guidance and encouragement to a number of constituencies who seek to combat scientism (italics mine) and recover the sense of science as a vocation which glorifies God and provides beneficial services to the neighbor. These constituencies include:

  1. Students, teachers and investigators in the sciences;
  2. Pastors and other church workers who minister to those involved in the sciences n regular congregations and in campus ministry.
  3. Administrators and teachers at Christian high schools and universities who would like input to help them think through the hard task of integrating the Christian faith with science education;
  4. Non-scientific Christian laity whose faith is being attacked as an unscientific relic of the past.

(In Christ All Things Hold Together The Intersection of Science and Christian Theology A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod February 2015 p 12)

It kind of stuns me to talk to a lay-person who is telling me how Christians are just talking myths and it’s all about science, and the person obviously has no understanding of genuine science. Most genuine scientists today will agree that there has to have been some kind of Intelligent Design of the universe, down to the very basics of the universe. Take the cell, DNA. There is no way that either could have come about accidentally. Anyone who tells you otherwise is making it up. In fact most genuine scientists will stipulate that DNA is an incredibly sophisticated code. If there’s a code, then there has to be a Coder. The same can be said in terms of our environment on earth, our position in the solar system, even the galaxy. Yet people who have no idea of any of these concepts will look me in the faith and tell me Christianity is just myth. Jesus is the most studied man in the entire history of mankind, there is no doubt that He lived and no reason to discard what the Bible says He did. If you did that you would have to reject the entire all of antiquity. Jesus has been studied more than anyone, if you can’t accept His life and what He did, you can’t accept anything prior to modern history (14th century, give or take). Frankly I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, or believe in Scientism, (sounds a little too close to Scientology for me).

God created an incredible universe, the only way that creation could have come about is by a Creator. To believe in anything else is to either be in complete denial, or simply ignorant of the facts. We have way too many people today who create their own reality and deny, well, reality! Our society today has become not just less intellectual, but if anything anti-intellectual, mostly brought about by those who presume to be intellectual and are simply not. The lack of critical thinking in today’s society is stunning. Deny Christianity? Sure, and for no good reason. Believe what you see on the Internet or CNN? Sure, because that’s based on science. I had a person tell me once that Einstein proved that everything is relative, his theory of relativity. There’s a lot of people reading this right now who will say “sure, that’s right”. His theory of relativity was about how light travels, how time slows down the closer we travel to the speed of light. Nothing about how your belief system is just as valid as another. Sorry, as I said, I can’t have scientific knowledge and believe that there’s no Creator. That’s a psychotic mindset.

Based on this, we Christians do need to become much more sophisticated in all the basic subjects. We need to be much more critical in our thinking and ready to assert that. We are in the midst of an ignorant and lazy society that expects us to believe non-sense and reject Christ. That’s ridiculous and we have a duty, 1 Peter 3:15 to defend the faith, present it to those around us, especially those who are weak in the faith and might fall from salvation believing the world’s ignorance.

Human development through history and carbon dating. Answers in Genesis

Cave Dwellers—Are They Ancient?

by David Livingston on February 11, 2008; last featured October 24, 2010

Though people who live in caves are usually considered prehistoric, there is no such thing as Neo-, Meso-, or Paleolithic man! In spite of all that archaeologists and anthropologists contend about these early Stone Age cultures and their supposed long ages, it simply cannot be true.

Why? Because the Bible speaks of the very earliest cultures as being highly civilized, with musical instruments, woven tents and clothes, metal working, animal husbandry, etc. (Genesis 4:3–4, 17–22). The fact that we find people in the very earliest times living in caves simply means that they lived in caves instead of houses. We find people around the world doing this very thing today. For instance, some families living along a 40 mile stretch of the Rhone River in France dwell in the caves that are situated there.

IN CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY, ALMOST EVERY FAMILY LIVING THERE HAS CARVED OUT A CAVE HOME FROM THE STRANGE FORMATIONS.

In Cappadocia, Turkey, almost every family living there has carved out a cave home from the strange formations. And there appear to have been cave dwellers in every generation since the beginning of time. Even Jesus was born in, lived in (His traditional home in Nazareth was partly a cave), was buried in, and was resurrected from a cave. As reported in an issue of National Geographic, “stone age” cave dwellers in the Philippines appeared so authentic to a research team that they published an entire book about them, The Gentle Tasadays. It was only later that the team discovered that the government paid the people to live like that as a tourist attraction. I do not mean to infer that such misreading of the data is common. However, it does illustrate that we must always be careful not to quickly conclude that our discoveries are the “last word” in our field of expertise.The Bible has incidents of cave dwelling also. Refugees lived in caves (Genesis 19:30; Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6).

And we wonder why other reasons have not been considered for cave dwelling.

Pre-dynastic People in the Ancient Near East Were Few in Number

After the Flood of Noah’s day, it took some time for enough people to gather together and build cities. But it did not take thousands of years!

As researchers write about this situation, they grossly overestimate the time from early man to modern man. For instance, highly respected anthropologist Robert Braidwood said,

“Prehistory means the time before written history began. Actually, more than 99 per cent of man’s story is prehistory. Man is probably well over a million years old, but he did not begin to write history (or to write anything) until about 5,000 years ago.”1

We should be shocked at such a statement. To see why, look at the diagram below. It is true that there was no writing before 5,000 years ago. That is because the Great Flood occurred ca. 2450 BC and everything before that time was destroyed. Thus, all pre-Flood humans were wiped out. A time line shows the fallacy in Braidwood’s statement:

HISTORIC MAN PREHISTORIC MAN
5,000 years 995,000 years!
I_I_____________________________________________________________________
1/4 inch Line extends 6 more feet!

It seems ridiculous that we should be expected to believe man could not read or write for all that time, then suddenly within a very short time, perhaps not even a hundred years, he was writing all over the Middle East in a number of languages!

Radioactive Isotopes Do Not Help

The use of Carbon-14 does not help in this situation. Carbon-14 and other isotopic elements should not be used to determine the absolute age of a specimen, according to Willard Libby, founder of the method. Only measured are the amounts of the remaining 14C against stable 12C.2

Consider the following quotes from “Rolling Back the Years”:

“With radiocarbon, it’s not possible to obtain absolute dates—there’s always a bit of the unknown.”3

Some archaeologists use it because they feel it gives absolute dates. During 25 years of excavations in Israel we have never used 14C dating because it is too inconclusive. Even though there have been some noteworthy improvements in the radioisotope methods, the same problems still persist. And this goes for all radioisotopes used in dating.3

“[Carbon-14 is g]arbage in garbage out. . . . One of the biggest issues . . . is contamination . . . . It soaks up anything in the ground . . . even very small amounts of modern contamination can be fatal for old samples.”3 [emphasis added]

“What scientists are really holding out for is tree ring data that can calibrate absolute radiocarbon dates back to 60,000 years. . . . This hinges, of course, on whether they can find sufficiently old trees and samples that represent a continuum of ages throughout the past.”3

However, these secular researchers know, and so do we who accept the biblical timeframe, that they will never find successive tree rings with which to date 60,000 or 30,000, or even 10,000, years ago.

“At the moment we have a floating chronology. . . . It is not connected.”3

That is, the researchers have calibrated back around 5,000 years, but tree rings can take them no further.

What he is saying is that they can only go back 5,000 years using hard tree ring evidence. What they are hoping for is to go back 60,000 years, but there is no way to calibrate the time in between. Isn’t it interesting that 5,000 years ago was roughly the time Noah and his family members were saved by the Ark!

Three problems that 14C faces are true for all isotopic methods. They are:

  1. We cannot know what the ratio of daughter element to parent element was in the formation of the specimen.
  2. We cannot know whether there has been leaching in or out of the elements.
  3. We cannot know whether the decay rates have changed through time, perhaps due to what one archaeologist suggested while trying to determine some dates from ruins in Mesopotamia. The prominent British archaeologist, M.E.L. Mallowan once said, “ . . . at this end of the third millennium (BC) there was some physical disturbance in the solar magnetic field, which may have affected the level of the carbon-14 activity in the carbon exchange reservoir. . . . Published dates are more than 500 years too low.”4

Some evangelicals find it difficult to reconcile biblical dates with “scientific” dates. But maybe biblical dates are correct and the secular scientists are wrong! The Bible is God’s inerrant Word. Is it possible that some evangelical scholars are afraid of what their contemporaries will think of them if they oppose the “scientists” of today? Biblical archeologists are not against actual science and hard evidence. But we are against arbitrary estimates and interpretations that contradict the clear revelation of history given by God in His Word.

It may seem rather drastic to consider that early post-Flood man lived only around 4,500 years ago. We have heard so much from the opposite camp. I wonder whether they have carefully examined the slipshod way high dates were arrived at before 14C was discovered.

The Development of Language and the Inerrancy of Scripture

A major difficulty is to take data from secular archaeologists and make it fit with an inerrant Bible. For instance, the Hebrew Bible says in Genesis 5:1 that the history of Adam was written! The word for “book” used here, sefer, always means the account is written. Also, Adam and God spoke to each other in some language.

Later, in Genesis 26:5, the writer tells us that Abraham kept four kinds of God’s commands. They were all written commands. The Hebrew is very clear on this. One command, chukot, means an inscribed writing. What this (and other material) means is that the men of God mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis apparently used an ancient form of alphabetic Hebrew that could be written down.

Alphabets of thirty signs, more or less, are easy to learn compared with cuneiform characters, which frequently have several possible syllables for just one sign. In contrast, anyone could use the primitive Hebrew alphabet, including children.

Thus, it is more probable that the Northwest Semitic languages came out of Hebrew and not vice versa, as most scholars think. Those that claim Hebrew came out of some other already existing language(s) follow each others’ ideas instead of starting with the Bible and checking it out with other literature.

Finally, Genesis 5:1 is not an anachronistic (or later) insertion into the text by later scribes! We cannot absolutely prove that it isn’t, but we think every reason is there to adopt it as written. Conversely, no one can prove Hebrew derived from Northwest Semitic, either.

Admittedly, there are some tough problems to explain in correlating ancient history with the Bible. And we cannot be dogmatic about these things, but our modern youth are hearing so much bad thinking. Neither are they given enough information and guidance to think things through biblically. They—and every one of us—need to learn how to question what they are hearing from their teachers and the media, while constructing alternative interpretations that honor the Bible and the best methods of archaeology

God has given a lot of evidence for His existence

Ravi Zacharias is one of the most influential Christian apologists of our time, I’ve been reading him for a long time. I do copy a lot of things, but there is a lot of great stuff out there that others may not see and that I think is important to share and so I am submitting this for your consideration.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful and true, yet oftentimes one will ask, “How can it be true that there is only one way?” Odd, isn’t it, that we don’t ask the same questions of the laws of nature or of any assertion that lays claim to truth. We are discomfited by the fact that truth, by definition, is exclusive. That is what truth claims are at their core. To make an assertion is to deny its opposite. Rather than complain that there is only one way, shouldn’t we be delighted that there is one way?
The question really is, how do we really know this is the truth?
Whether Hitler or Hugh Hefner, religious or irreligious, everyone has a worldview. A worldview basically offers answers to four necessary questions: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. In turn, these answers must be correspondingly true on particular questions and, as a whole, all answers put together must be coherent.
Taking it a step further, the three tests for truth must be applied to any worldview: logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. When submitted to these tests, the Christian message is utterly unique and meets the demand for truth.
Consider the empirical test of the person, teaching, and work of Jesus Christ. A look at human history shows why he was who he claimed to be and why millions follow him today. A comparison of Jesus’s teachings with any other claimant to divine or prophetic status quickly shows the profound differences in their claims and demonstrations. In fact, none except Jesus even claimed to be the divine Savior. His offer of grace and forgiveness by being the perfect sacrifice of our offense is profoundly unique.
I position the sequence of fact and deduction in the following way: Love is the supreme ethic. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. Where there is sin, there is the need for a Savior. Where there is a Savior, there is the hope for redemption. Only in the Judeo-Christian worldview does this sequence find its total expression and answer. The story from sin to redemption is only in the gospel with the ultimate provision of a loving God.
But the question can be pushed back further. Does this not all assume that there is a God? Yes, it does, and there are four stages in the argument. The first is that no matter how we section physical concrete reality, we end up with a quantity that cannot explain its own existence. If all material quantities cannot explain their own existence, the only possibility for self-explanation would be something that is non-material.
Secondly, wherever we see intelligibility, we find intelligence behind it. Thirdly, we intuitively know that our moral reasoning points to a moral framework within the universe. The very fact that the problem of evil is raised either by people or about people intimates that human beings have intrinsic worth. Fourthly, the human experience in history and personal encounter sustains the reality of the supernatural.
There you have it. Who is God? He is the nonphysical, intelligent, moral first cause, who has given us intrinsic worth and who we can know by personal experience.
The verification of what Jesus taught and described and did make belief in Him a very rationally tenable and an existentially fulfilling reality. From cosmology to history to human experience, the Christian faith presents explanatory power in a way no other worldview does. Our faith and trust in Christ is reasonably grounded and experientially sustained.
I often put it this way: God has put enough into this world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason alone. Faith and reason must always work together in that plausible blend.
Many of you may be familiar with my own story. I was born to Indian parents and raised in India. My ancestors were priests from the highest caste of Hinduism in India’s Deep South. But that was several generations ago. I came to Christ after a life of protracted failure and unable to face the consequences, sought to end it all. It was on a bed of suicide that a Bible was brought to me and in a cry of desperation, I invited Jesus Christ into my life. It was a prayer, a plea, a commitment, and a hope.
That was fifty years ago. I hardly knew what lay ahead of me, except that I was safe in Christ’s hands. Now as the years have gone by and in 2014 we celebrate thirty years of ministry at RZIM, I marvel at the grace and protection of God and the doors he has opened for our team. And more and more, I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds.
• This article was posted in: Just Thinking Magazine

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• This article was posted in: Just Thinking Magazine