What Happens When Jesus Becomes Barney

 

Truth

When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus as the embodiment of truth and love. In other words, to attempt to divorce the two is to make  Jesus into what we want him to be. Obviously, when we read John’s Gospel, Jesus, as the Word become flesh, is full of grace and truth (1:14), and is the source of grace and truth (1:17). In contrast to the woman at the well, who felt geographic location of worship was important, Jesus states that the issue is not whether one should worship God in Moriah or Gerizim, but rather one should worship in spirit and in truth. For John, truth is ultimately identified with, and is personified in the person of, Jesus. The ministry of John the Baptist is to bear witness to the truth (5:33). Jesus speaks the truth, and for this the Jewish leadership sought seek to kill him (8:40). This is because  Jesus says the Jewish leadership who contended with Him were ultimately of their father the devil, who has no truth in him whatsoever (8:44-46).

Jesus describes himself as the way, the truth, and the life, and as such he is the only means to the Father (14:6). Even when Jesus departs, the ministry of truth will continue because the Comforter, who is the Spirit of truth (14:17), will be active both in the church as well as in the world. (1)

Love

As far as love, the New Testament concept closely parallels that of the Old Testament. John writes: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Believers need to share with those in need, whether that need is for food, water, lodging, clothing, healing, or friendship (Matt 25:34-40 ; Rom 12:13 ). The love demonstrated in the parable of the good Samaritan shows that agape  love is not emotional love, but a response to someone who is in need.

The command to love others is based on how God has loved us. Since believers have been the recipients of love, they must love. Since Christ has laid down his life for us, we must be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16 ).

Many people in Jesus’ day believed that a neighbor was a fellow Israelite. When asked to define “neighbor, ” however, Jesus cited the parable of the good Samaritana person who knowingly crossed traditional boundaries to help a wounded Jew (Luke 10:29-37). A neighbor is anyone who is in need. Jesus also told his disciples that a “neighbor” might even be someone who hates them, curses them, or mistreats them. Yet they must love even enemies (Luke 6:27-36) as a witness and a testimony.

The Old Testament charge was to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18 ). But Jesus gave his disciples a new command with a radically different motive: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). (2)

Jesus as the Embodiment of Truth and Love

When we read John 4 where Jesus confronts the Samaritan woman, he speaks truth to her in that he confronts her sin and reveals that He is the Messiah.  Of course, all we have to do is go and read John 8 or other passages where Jesus wasn’t remotely restrained to speak the truth to his accusers.

What’s the point?

We live in day when we are pressured to be politically correct. Sadly, it seems like many Christians view Jesus as no different than Barney the dinosaur. It’s as if Christians  have never even read the Gospels. This means that when it comes to the hot button issues like same sex marriage or other issues many Christians tend to back down and simply play the love card. I constantly see Christians taking passages out of context to make their point.  Now why is this? First, there is no doubt that many Christians haven’t been loving and have been overplayed the truth card. In other words, “This is the truth and that’s the way it is.” However, this doesn’t give a Christian full license to just love the person and not discuss the truth issue. I run into this all the time. When the emotions run strong on a particular topic, the truth issue gets put on the back burner. So the bottom line is the following: If you’re going to attempt to emulate Jesus, please read the Gospels and be willing to see him in all his attributes.  We do nobody any favors when we only emphasize love at the exclusion of truth. And by the way, while I think we should show great love and compassion,  the “love only” approach  may end up allowing someone to destroy themselves and others. Sin seems to have  a habit of doing that.

Sources:

1. Andrew L. Smith, “Truth” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).

2. Glenn E. Schaefer, “Love” featured in Walter Elwell, Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1996).

Comparing Apologetic Systems: Methodology and Practice

What is Apologetics?

Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that helps give reasons for the truthfulness of the Christian faith/worldview. The word “Apologia” means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15). Throughout Acts, Luke uses words such as reason, (trying to) persuade, eyewitness, witness, defense. It is true that many other religions have their own apologists. But in this post, I will focus on what are called apologetics systems. Thus, we will discuss various types of Christian apologetic systems

Classical Apologetics

Classical apologetics operates in a two-or three step process (philosophical, theistic, and evidential). Working from the vantage point of certain undeniable foundational principles, such as the laws of logic and self-existence, certain philosophical questions are addressed, such as truth, reality, meaning, and morality. Since a belief in God as creator is essential for an individual to become a Christian (Hebrews 11:6), the primary goal is to help the unbeliever understand reality untainted by false assumptions. The second step offers evidence for the existence of God, usually in the form of traditional theistic arguments and empirical data such as manuscript and archaeological evidence. Norman L. Geisler’s and Frank Turek’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist is an example of a classical method.

The outline of the book goes like this:

1.Truth about reality is knowable
2. Opposites cannot both be true
3. The theistic God exists
4. Miracles are possible
5. Miracles performed in connection with a truth claim are acts of God to confirm the truth of God through a messenger of God
6. The New Testament documents are reliable
7. As witnessed in the New Testament, Jesus is God incarnate
8. Jesus’ claim to divinity was proven by an unique convergence of miracles/his resurrection
9. Therefore, Jesus was God in human flesh.
10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) affirmed as true, is true
11. Jesus affirmed that the Bible is the Word of God
12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God

We notice in Point #1 that Geisler and Turek are aware that we are living in a somewhat post-modern culture. That is why they point to the issue that truth is knowable. As seen above, the classical apologist generally starts with the evidence for God outside the Bible and then works his way to demonstrating that such a God would want to reveal more of Himself to the human race through special revelation. Hence, classical apologetics relies heavily on natural theology. Of course, the classical apologist knows that many faiths try to use miracles to validate the truth of their religion. Therefore, the classical apologist demonstrates that many of the miracle claims outside the Christian faith are lacking in historical/evidential support.

While natural laws may be descriptive, they certainly are not prescriptive. Therefore, the classical apologist will demonstrate that there are good philosophical reasons to believe that miracles are both possible and actual.

Reasonable-Faith-Christian-Truth-and-Apologetics-by-Craig-William-Lane-and

Probably the most well know defender of the faith that utilizes the classical model is William Lane Craig. If you watch any of the debates with Craig, anyone can see Craig utilize cosmology and other arguments for God outside the Bible before providing evidence about the resurrection of Jesus.

Classical apologetics has also been practiced by Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas. Modern classical apologists also include Winfried Corduan, John Gerstner, Stuart Hackett, Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis, J. P. Moreland, and R. C. Sproul,.

Practical Application: In my conversations, classical apologetics is always utilized. So in many of the discussions between  the following topics come up:

  1. How do you explain the Origin of the Universe?
  2. How do you explain the Mathematical Fine-Tuning of the Universe?
  3. How do you explain the Terrestrial Fine-Tuning of Planet Earth?
  4. How do you explain the Biological Fine-Tuning of Complex Life on Earth?
  5. How do you explain the Informational Fine-Tuning of the DNA molecule?
  6. How do you explain the Origin of Mathematical Laws?
  7. How do you explain the Origin of Logical Laws?
  8. How do you explain the Origin of Physical/Natural Laws?
  9. How do you explain the Origin of the First Cell?
  10. How do you explain the Origin of Human Reason?
  11. How do you explain the Origin of Human Consciousness?
  12. How do you explain the Origin of Objective Morality?
  13. How do you explain Ultimate Meaning in Life?
  14. How do you explain Ultimate Value in Life?
  15. How do you explain Ultimate
    Purpose
    in Life?

In regards to these questions, any attempt by theists to give scientific data (a peer reviewed document or book) is cast off as a “God of the Gaps” argument. Granted, I think we have provided answers to the “God of the Gaps” charge. And in return, the atheist just punts to a “nature and chance of the gaps” argument. In other words, whatever God explanation is given, some atheists assume that science (which is not a search for natural/material causes alone) will be able to show that eventually we will arrive at naturalistic explanation.

Historical /Evidential Apologetics

Historical Apologetics does have some things in common with classical apologetics in that they begin with evidence to demonstrate the truth of Christianity. Both the classical and historical apologist see historical evidence to be crucial to the defense of Christianity. However, the historical apologist doesn’t see the need for theistic apologetics (starting with evidence for God outside the Bible) as prior to historical apologetics. The classical apologist believes it begs the question to discuss the resurrection as an act of God unless one had first established that a God exists who can intervene into the world. The historical apologist argues that one can show that God exists by demonstrating from the historical evidence alone that an act of God occurred, as in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the supreme apologetic.

When looking at the New Testament, the approach of historical apologetics is to start with the historicity of the New Testament documents and then to use the miracles of Christ, particularly the resurrection, to point to the fact that Christ is the Son of God. This approach shows that there is a theistic God exists who can work miracles. Historical apologetics generally begins by attempting to show the historicity of the New Testament documents by using the following syllogism:

1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence.
2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by a unique combination of His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection.
3.Therefore, there is reliable historical evidence that Jesus is God incarnate.

So we see in this syllogism that another step would be to examine the New Testament claims of Christ to be the Son of the theistic God who offers miraculous proofs for his claims. The most important part of this type of evidence is that Christ was resurrected from the dead. Once the deity of Christ is established, it can be, and often is, argued that the Bible is the Word of God, since Jesus (who is God) affirmed it to be so. Two present day historical apologists are Gary Habermas and Mike Licona who specialize in the resurrection of Jesus.

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions about what we can know about Jesus. I recently finished reading the book called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by New Testament historian Mike Licona. In the book Licona discusses what is called “The Historical Bedrock.” These three facts are:

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion

2. Very Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

Licona is more than aware that just because there is a list of agreed upon facts that is agreed upon by historians and Biblical scholars will not make it true. If so, that would be what is called a “consensus gentium fallacy” which is the fallacy of arguing that an idea is true because most people believe it. As Licona says, “Something doesn’t become a “fact” just because the majority of scholars believe it.” (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, pg 279).

However, as Gary Habermas says, “Certainly one of the strongest methodological indications of historicity occurs when a case can be built on accepted data that are recognized as well established by a wide range of otherwise diverse historians.” (see Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman, Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2001), 152.

Historian Christopher Blake refers to this as the “very considerable part of history which is acceptable to the community of professional historians.” (See Christopher Blake, “Can History be Objective?” in Theories of History, Ed. Patrick Gardiner (New York: Macmillan, 1959), pp. 331-333; cited in Geisler and Hoffman, 152.

Habermas completed an overview of more than 1,400 critical scholarly works on the resurrection from 1975 to 2003. He studied and catalogued about 650 of the texts in English, German and French. Habermas reports that all the scholars who were from across the ideological spectrum agreed on the Historical Bedrock that Licona mentions. Therefore, the scholars and historians that Habermas researched were not all from a conservative or traditional perspective. Some of the critical scholars even included atheists, agnostics, Christians and Jews. So there was some impartiality in the study.

Bart Ehrman and The Historical Bedrock
What is interesting is Licona’s discussion of Bart Ehrman. Ehrman has become somewhat of a hero of the atheist community because of his popular works such as Misquoting Jesus, etc. I hope the atheist community knows Ehrman agrees with the Historical Bedrock.

For example:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion: Ehrman says: “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate” (see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 261-262).

2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them: Ehrman says: “Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19).” ( see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 282).

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul converted after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him: Ehrman says: “There is no doubt that [Paul] believed that he saw Jesus’ real but glorified body raised from the dead.” (see see see The New Testament: An Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, pgs, 301).

Practical Application:  I generally can start with people by getting them to agree that there are at least three facts about the Historical Jesus that are held by most critical scholars and historians. I list some of those sources here. See here as well.

We can  then discuss the best explanation for the resurrection appearances. Former atheist Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen (see There Is A God? How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind(New York: Harper Collins, 2007). Another aspect of the historical argument  is the argument from prophecy. Fulfilled prophecy does not prove the existence of God, but it does show that events predicted in his Name that come to pass are evidence of his special activity. See more here: Is Jesus the Messiah? The Messianic Task or  here: The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case  for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.   In the end, the debate over the resurrection is always going to be about metaphysics. One approach is what it called the a priori  approach while the other is called the a posteriori approach. Deductive reasoning is called a priori (prior to looking at the facts) and inductive reasoning is called a posteriori (after seeing the evidence). If one has decided that many of the events in the New Testament are not possible (because of an a priori commitment to naturalism), it will impact how they interpret the evidence (after examining it). Some scholars may say they are open to taking an a posteriori approach to the resurrection, when it comes time to actually examine the evidence. However, in many cases, they set the bar so high that no amount of evidence will ever convince them. So in many cases, if one is just utterly convinced that the natural world is all there is than we are back to natural theology and whether naturalism can explain reality better than theism.

Also, one reason historical apologetics will always come up is because even if someone does believe in some sort of Intelligence or Designer  in nature, they will eventually have to look into history to get a fuller picture of God and his plans for humanity. Another popular level book on evidential apologetics is James Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity. 

You can see him lecture here:

Presuppositional Apologetics

Another approach to apologetic methodology is called the presuppositional approach. This approach starts by assuming Christian truth about God and Jesus as revealed in Scripture and reasons from Christianity. The presuppositional apologetic to the unbeliever begins with reasoning “from” Christianity through special revelation (Bible). The presuppositionalist assumes the content revealed in Scripture to be true and encourages the unbeliever to do the same since these assumed biblical truths offer only possible foundation and explanation for life and godliness- a framework on which to make of the world and God the way they actually exist. Due to the noetic effects of sin (sin on the mind), the unbelievers presuppositions are deemed irrational and inadequate to understand or explain the basis for religion, morals, communication and beauty. In some instances presuppositionalists test consistency by using the laws of logic. The goal is to demonstrate in any of several ways, that only biblical presuppositions provide the tools for one to make sense of reality and show that Christianity offers the only foundation and framework on which on which to make sense of the world and God.

The apostle Paul says that God’s existence and attributes can be “clearly seen” (Romans 1:18-20) since they have been “shown” to the unbelieving world through “the things that are made” (nature). Therefore, the unbelievers problem is not one of not understanding the truth of God, but of suppression, which leads to not receiving the truth.

As former atheist J. Budziszewski says:

” I am not at present concerned to explore Paul’s general claim that those who deny the Creator are wicked but only his more particular claim that they are intellectually dishonest. Notice that he does not criticize nonbelievers because they do not know about God but ought to. Rather, he criticizes them because they do know about God but pretend to themselves that they don’t. According to his account, we are not ignorant of God’s reality at all. Rather, we “suppress” it; to translate differently, we “hold it down.” With all our strength we try not to know it, even though we can’t help knowing it; with one part of our minds we do know it, while with another we say, “I know no such thing.” From the biblical point of view, then, the reason it is so difficult to argue with an atheist—as I once was—is that he is not being honest with himself. He knows there is a God, but he tells himself that he doesn’t. How can a person explain how he reached new first principles? By what route could he have arrived at them? To what deeper considerations could he have appealed? If the biblical account is true, then it would seem that no one really arrives at new first principles; a person only seems to arrive at them. The atheist does not lack true first principles; they are in his knowledge already, though suppressed. The convert from atheism did not acquire them; rather, things he knew all along were unearthed.”

Presuppositional apologetics differs from classical apologetics in that presuppositional apologetics rejects the validity of traditional proofs for the existence of God. Also, the presuppositional apologist differs with both classical and historical apologetics in its use of historical evidence. The presuppositionalist insists that one must begin with presuppositions or worldviews. The historical apologist believes that the historical facts “speak for themselves.” They are “self-interpreting” in their historical context. The pure presuppositionalist, on the other hand, insists that no facts are self-interpreting, that all facts are interpreted and can be properly understood only within the context of an overall worldview.

One well known presuppositionalist was the late Cornelius Van Till. Van Till answered the objection that the presuppositionalist method is circular by claiming that every system of though is circular. For example, a rationalist can defend the authority of reason only by using reason. Also, the Christian worldview is the only one that renders reality intelligible in its own terms. To read more about Van Till, click here.

Depending on how one is defined, there are three or four basic kinds of presuppositionalism: (1) revelational presuppositionalism (2) rational presuppositionalism and (3) systematic consistency. Some view Francis Schaeffer’s apologetic as an example of a fourth variation that might be called practical presuppositionalism. Each approach differs in the way in which a worldview is judged for truth.

Practical Application: I can’t say I have utilized a ton of presuppositonal apologetics. I do agree with the Romans 1 text that people do suppress truth. But it can be a challenge to start with the Bible with people.

Cumulative Case Apologetics

Advocates:
1. Paul Feinberg
2. C.S. Lewis
3. C. Stephen Evans
4. Basil Mitchell
5. Richard Swinburne

Advocates of the “cumulative case” method say the nature of the case for Christianity is not in any strict sense a formal argument from probability. In the words of Basil Mitchell, the cumulative case method does “not conform to the ordinary pattern of deductive or inductive reasoning.” The case is more like the brief that a lawyer makes in a court of law or that a literary critic makes for a particular interpretation of a book. The cumulative case method is an informal argument that pieces together several lines or types of data into a sort of hypothesis or theory that comprehensively explains that data and does so better that any alternative hypothesis. Paul Feinberg says that “Christian theists are urging that [Christianity] makes better sense of all the evidence available than does any other alternative worldview, whether that alternative is some other theistic view or atheism.” The data that the cumulative case seeks to explain include the existence and nature of the cosmos, the reality of religious experience, the objectivity of morality, and other certain historical facts, such as the resurrection of Jesus.

C.S. Lewis said that “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” ( The Weight of Glory, “Is Theology Poetry?” (1944), para. 24, p. 92). To apply what Lewis says, we can utilize what is called inference to the best explanation. The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection. Another example of this approach is seen in a book like A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the  Genius of Nature by Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt.

Also, using God as an explanatory explanation is seen in philosophical theology or natural theology arguments. The book The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology does a fine job in handling this issue.

To see a short example of this approach online see,  The Return of the God Hypothesis  by Stephen C. Meyer or Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation

Practical Application: I do like this approach. When talking to people, you can find common ground in that all humans observe the same things. Thus, they are both seeing many of the same features of reality. The question becomes is the most adequate explanation for what these features of reality.  Frank Turek has taken this approach in his latest book called Stealing from God.

One More Thing: The Issue of Evidence

Lionel Ruby in his text, Logic: An Introduction says: “Every person who is interested in logical thinking accepts what we shall call the “law of rationality,” which may be stated as follows: We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence…. By “adequate evidence” we mean evidence which is good and sufficient in terms of the kind of proof which is required. There are occasions when we require conclusive proof, as in mathematics, and there are occasions when it is sufficient to establish the probability of a given conclusion, as in weather prediction. But in all cases the evidence must be adequate to its purpose.” (1960, p. 131, emp. added).

I have been told by some atheists that they just want sufficient evidence. But they just can’t get there. But in reality, this really translates as what Ruby just stated as “conclusive proof” as in mathematics and logic. While the atheist waits for the “conclusive proof,” they are allowed to live a life in complete autonomy from God.

Also, remember the advice of the late Ronald Nash about the issue of proofs. As Nash said:

“What tends to be forgotten is the subjective nature of proof. First, proofs are person-relative. In other words, proofs are relative, which is simply to admit the obvious, namely, that the same argument may function as a proof for one person and result in little more than contempt for someone else. Second, proofs are relative to individual persons. A person’s response to an argument will always reflect varying features such as their past and present personal history. Proofs also may be relative to persons in particular circumstances. Therefore, proofs must pass tests that are not only logical but also psychological. No argument can become a proof for some person until it persuades a person.”

Atheists may say they left the faith for intellectual or evidential reasons, but my experience shows me there are always emotional or volitional issues involved in the process. In approaching the God question, is it true that all of us are completely objective? Not a chance.

Sources:

1. House, H.W, and J. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences. Baker Publishing Group. Grand Rapids, 2007.
2. Geisler, N.L. BECA. Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, 2007, pgs, 41, 154, 316, 607.
3. Cowan,S. editor, Five Views of Apologetics, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishers, 1999.

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So You Want To Be An Apologist?

 

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Introduction

A ways back I remember reading an article by William Lane Craig about advice for people who want be an apologist. In all honesty, Craig probably knows many people who have come to him asking for advice. I think he would admit that many of them want to live the life he has and is living (e.g.,lots of speaking gigs/debates, lots of fans, lots of attention, etc).  Let me state the following:  Given where we are at as a culture and in the local congregation,  we need apologetics more than ever!

The more I have thought about this issue, these are the kinds of questions that come up in my discussions with others.

#1: Can you do it full time?

When I mean ‘full time’ I mean being an apologist is how you make a living. In other words, if you have a family, being an apologist is how you support your family. How many apologists actually do this? Not many! Ravi Zacharias is one. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason is another. James Warner Wallace, author of Cold Case Christianity was a homicide detective and has started to derive an income from speaking on his book. Frank Turek, co author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist has his own ministry called Cross Examined. He also has a job consulting business on the side. Others like William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler and  J.P. Moreland, have all taught on an academic level. They write books, speak, debate, etc.

What’s my point? To do it full time, you have to be a good fundraiser. Do you like getting in front of people and asking them for money? Do you like communicating your vision in a public or private setting? Do you want to be dependent on others to give to you and the apologetic ministry you are involved with?  Or, you can always work a job and do some apologetics on the side. That’s what the majority of us do. Given that many in the church are still incredibly uneducated about the nature and role of apologetics, there will always be need to educate the local church on the topic. I have written more on the issue of why opposition mostly comes from the church here.

#2: Traveling

Something else to think about is the issue of traveling. Let’s say you write an apologetics book and people want to book you to speak at a conference or somewhere else. Are you open to traveling? Do you have a young family? Or, are you starting a family? Many apologists such as Frank Turek and James Wallace are empty nesters. Same with Michael Licona. This means they have some flexibility. Remember, your first ministry is your family. The last thing a wife wants is a husband that is away every week while she stays home and tries to raise the kids. And no, it won’t matter when you say “But I am called to do this!” And of course, your kids need a parent  that is engaged with them. Now having said that, I am not opposed to some travel. But it is a weekly thing or once or twice a month?  Just remember that it won’t matter how well you can do apologetics if you can’t minister to your own family! Think it through and plan well. Perhaps you can just do some apologetics ministry at a local level. Get involved with a Ratio Christi chapter or start an apologetic ministry at your church. Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 has given us many tips about these issues here and here.

#3: Apologetic Degrees

I have some personal experience with this one. When I enrolled at Southern Evangelical Seminary to get a degree I thought an M.A. in Apologetics was perfect. But as I began to tell people about the degree I was working on, it became apparent the word ‘apologetics’ caused mass confusion. I also realized that a Masters in Apologetics might not open many doors to teach on an academic level. So I opted for an M.A. in Religious Studies. Granted, I had already been reading and studying apologetics for several years before I even got a degree. Also, in my degree program  I did take some apologetics and philosophy classes (e.g, epistemology, metaphysics, etc). Now that I look back on it, I am not opposed to an M.A. in Apologetics. But you have to think about where that degree will take you. Do you want to teach? Do you want to be a lay apologist in your church? Is your church have a favorable view of apologetics? Many ministry leaders are still in the dark about this field.  Do you want to write? Do you plan on doing more graduate work? Do you want a degree to help you be a more effective evangelist?   Do you want to direct a Ratio Christi chapter? Remember that most churches aren’t hiring apologists.

 #4: You Can’t Learn Everything!

Remember, when it comes to apologetics, you can’t learn everything. In other words, you can’t be an expert on every single topic (e.g., philosophy, ethics,  history, science, cultural apologetics). I think we should have a general understanding of these topics but then specialize in a few areas. For example, I tend to specialize in early Christology, Messianic Prophecy, cultural objections, the resurrection, worldviews, Jewish objections to Jesus, etc. Now I do love to dip into the science stuff as well. But most of us don’t have time to master every topic. And remember that there will always be questions!

#5: Get Out and Do Apologetics

The best way to learn apologetics is by doing it. You can read books and learn the material. But if you aren’t engaging people, you won’t see how well apologetics works in practice. Granted, I have been on a campus for many years and had many discussions with students about these topics. But all of us should be committed to sharing our faith and engaging people on a one on one level. That’s where the rubber meets the road. In my personal experience, many Christians aren’t motivated to defend their faith in the public square because they are ashamed of the Gospel.

Note: You may also want to read our post The Right and Wrong Reasons to Pursue Apologetics or our post called Why Does Opposition to Apologetics Come From Mostly Within the Church?

James Warner Wallace on The Reason Why Few Christians Are Willing to Be Christian Case Makers

Here is another excellent post by my friend  James Warner Wallace  called  The Reason Why Few Christians Are Willing to Be Christian Case Makers.

Note that in the post, Wallace says:

Christian case making is similarly demanding. It’s easy to call yourself a Christian, and, in fact, our salvation is independent of any work we might do to defend what we believe. But Christian case making requires another level of commitment altogether. The people who attend my talks understand his within about thirty minutes. I usually warn them in advance they are going to feel like they are drinking water from a fire hose. But if you want to be prepared to defend the truth, you’ll need to work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed. This may sound daunting, but I’m not asking you to do something you don’t already do. I bet there’s some aspect of your life where you are willing to invest time and energy for a much less important cause. How many hours a week do you spend catching up on our favorite television dramas? How much time do you spend watching sports, or reading about your favorite hobby? Few of us are so busy we have absolutely no time to spend studying what we believe about God. It’s really all a matter of priorities. Most of us are willing to spend time on the things that interest us most. Are our metaphysical beliefs about the existence of God important enough for us to invest the time necessary to become successful case makers? I’ve often described the impact of C. S. Lewis’ words when I first read the following:

“Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.” (C.S. Lewis, from God in the Dock)

Nothing could be truer. If Christianity is an accurate description of reality, it ought to inspire us to commit our time and effort. It ought to cause us to do whatever necessary to become the best Christian case makers possible. The reason why few of us are willing to become case makers is simply because case making requires work. Hard work. But it’s worth it, because this kind of work is actually a form of worship. When we dedicate ourselves to understanding and defending what we believe, we are worshiping God with our minds. I hope you’re willing to be part of the “ten percent”. Let’s do whatever it takes to make the case.

Now here is another excellent post on Hope Beyond Reason’s blog called What Are Intellectual Virtues?

Notice in the post, the author says:

Jay Wood (1998) defines virtues as “well-anchored, abiding dispositions that persons acquire through their voluntary actions and that enable them reliably to think, feel, and act in ways that contribute to their fulfillment and sometimes to the fulfillment of those with whom they interact. They allow us to negotiate gracefully and successfully the tasks of life as they arise, and to overcome obstacles in the path of accomplishments.”[3]

An intellectual virtue, then, is a voluntarily acquired disposition that enables one to successfully obtain, maintain, deepen, and communicate knowledge. Examples of these virtues include wisdom, courage, tenacity, openness, attentiveness, studiousness, humility, patience, and intellectual honesty.

Intellectual vices, by contrast, are voluntarily acquired traits which undermine one’s ability to seek knowledge in a virtuous way. Examples include folly, arrogance, pride, impulsiveness, close-mindedness, fear, laziness, gullibility, inattentiveness, and dishonesty.

Since, according to Aristotle, human flourishing is inescapably related to truth, we have a duty to seek knowledge not only for its own sake, but for the sake of other goods which are essential to living a moral life. Doing so means becoming the kinds of people who are motivated to find the truth, who are generally successful at doing so, and who shun the intellectual vices. In other words, we are called to become responsible knowers.[4]

What can conclude here? If we read what Wallace says (and I have seen the same thing) and the post here about intellectual virtues, it is quite evident that many Christians haven’t ever learned about the role of developing their intellectual virtues. And I think that goes back to my two posts here called Why Does Opposition to Apologetics Come From Mostly Within the Church? and What Does It Mean to Love God With All Our Heart, Soul and Mind?

Why Study Logic? One Minute Apologist

Lecture: What is Messianic Apologetics?

Recently I did a post called A Very Challenging Task: Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.

Here is a short clip I have on You Tube from a couple of years back where I discuss Messianic Apologetics. I include a power point and spend a large amount of time defining apologetics.  Note: I do use the name “Yeshua” (the Jewish name for Jesus quite a bit).

You may say “What the check is Messianic Apologetics?” Here ya go:

Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that helps provide reasons for belief in the explanatory power of Christian theism. It is true that other faiths attempt to provide reasons for justification for their own truth claims. I have talked to my share of people from a variety of religious backgrounds such as Islam, Mormonism, The Bahá’í faith, The Watchtower Society and Orthodox /Conservative and Reform Judaism. I have also talked to my share of atheist apologists as well. There are various apologetic systems within Christian theology such as evidentialism, presuppositionalism, classical, philosophical and scientific. I personally tend to utilize all of them on a fairly regular basis.

One apologetic method that is a bit unfamiliar but is not entirely new is what is called Messianic Apologetics. Messianic Apologetics is not new because it deals with many of the same objections that Jesus and His followers encountered in the first century. Messianic Judaism pertains to those who are Jewish and have come to faith in the promised Messiah of Israel. Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus, and means “Salvation.” Jesus was actually called Yeshua, a Jewish man living in the land of Israel among Jewish people.

In his book Jesus and the Victory of God,Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2, author N.T.Wright says that the historical Jesus is very much the Jesus of the gospels: a first century Palestinian Jew who announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God, performed “mighty works,” and believed himself to be Israel’s Messiah who would save his people through his death and resurrection. “He believed himself called,” in other words says Wright, “to do and be what, in the Scriptures, only Israel’s God did and was.” The purpose of Israel was not to be a blessing to herself. Through her witness, the world will either be attracted or repelled from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The entire promise to Abraham in Gen 12:3 exhibit God’s plan to bless the nations. It should be no surprise that in Matthew’s opening chapter, he says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham “(Matt. 1:1). The Messiah is not only of Davidic descent, but will bring fulfillment to the Abrahamic Covenant. Also, Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ mission to help Israel fulfill it’s calling (Matt. 10:5-6;15:24), as well as Jesus’ command to bring the nations into God’s redemptive plan (Matt 28:19). In relation to Jesus’ Messiahship, while a Jewish remnant believed in Him then and still do today, what is more significant is that the Christian faith is now the home of 1.4 billion adherents who are non-Jewish people.

Sure, large numbers don’t make a faith true. But another traditional view is that the Messiah will spread the knowledge of the God of Israel to the surrounding nations (Isa.11:9;40:5;52:8). Are there any other messianic candidates that have enabled the world to come to the knowledge of the one true God other than Jesus? All the authors of the Hebrew Bible were Jewish as well as the authors of the New Testament (with the possible exception of Luke). For many years the early faith in Jesus was strictly Jewish in both orientation and practice. Hint: Read the Book of Acts.

Today, there are thousands of Messianic believers in the United States alone – some estimate the number to be over half a million. Of course, the Apostle Paul (a Pharisee himself) showed he had a tremendous burden for the Jewish people (Rom. 9:1-5; Rom. 10:1), and calls upon the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11).

Paul understood that since Gentiles (I am one of them), have received the blessing of knowing the Jewish Messiah, they have the responsibility to take the message of salvation back to Israel. Therefore, Christians of all denominational backgrounds should show interest in learning about how to share the good news of the Messiah with the Jewish people. But with acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah comes much opposition and objections from within the Jewish community.

Christians have not always been very gracious to the Jewish people. Also, it should not be surprising that the Jewish community has formed its own set of objections to Jesus and the claims of His followers. Many Jewish people who come to faith in Jesus can be ostracized by their own communities. I even know some who have been disowned by their own families. While there has been much progress in Jewish/Christian relations, there is always a need for Messianic Apologetics.

Dr. Michael Brown 

The most well-known Messianic apologist at the present time is Dr.Michael Brown. Dr. Brown has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He has debated many rabbis on shows such as Phil Donahue, and Faith Under Fire. Dr. Brown is a Jewish believer in Jesus and is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Fuller Theological Seminary. His website is at http://askdrbrown.org.

You can see him walking down the streets of New York discussing the Messiah issue here:

Dr. Brown has written a five set volume called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus:

Vol 1 is called General Objections/Historical Objections

Vol 2 is called Theological Objections

Vol 3 is called Messianic Prophecy Objections

Vol 4 is called New Testament Objections

Vol 5 is called Traditional Jewish Objections.

Christians can be fairly schocked to see five volumes had to be written to cover the objections to Jesus by the Jewish community. But anyone who has studied the history between Judaism and Christianity knows it is rather messy. Some common objections by Jewish people are the following:

1. If the Messiah has come, where is the peace?

2. The Messiah is not supposed to be divine!

3. Jewish people don’t believe in a dying Messiah!

4. Jewish people don’t believe in a virgin birth!

5. Christianity is more about the creed, while Judaism is about the deed!

Most of Dr. Brown’s books dive into these issues. To read why many traditional methods utilized by Christian apologists won’t go very far with most Jewish people, click here: To see a more simplified version to some of the objections in each section of Dr. Brown’s books, click here: I encouage all my Christian friends to read Dr. Brown’s books. You will learn much and be enriched in your own faith.

12 Primary Ways the New Testament Uses the Old Testament

beale

Here is a  summary of G. K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012. xviii + 173 pp.

Chapter 4 lists 12 primary ways the NT uses the OT (pp. 55–93):

  1. To Indicate Direct Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
  2. To Indicate Indirect Fulfillment of Old Testament Typological Prophecy
  3. To Indicate Affirmation That a Not-Yet-Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecy Will Assuredly Be Fulfilled in the Future
  4. To Indicate an Analogical or Illustrative Use of the Old Testament
  5. To Indicate the Symbolic Use of the Old Testament
  6. To Indicate an Abiding Authority Carried Over from the Old Testament
  7. To Indicate a Proverbial Use of the Old Testament
  8. To Indicate a Rhetorical Use of the Old Testament
  9. To Indicate the Use of an Old Testament Segment as a Blueprint or Prototype for a New Testament Segment
  10. To Indicate an Alternate Textual Use of the Old Testament
  11. To Indicate an Assimilated Use of the Old Testament
  12. To Indicate an Ironic or Inverted Use of the Old Testament

To see the full post see here:.

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