What students are saying about Ratio Christi

What Students Are Saying about Ratio Christi

Ratio Christi has made my time here on a secular college campus so much more enjoyable. I have a much of a better grasp on my beliefs and values, why I believe them, and how to defend them, as I try and make a stand against the overwhelmingly opposing opinions in the classroom. Every meeting is like a breath of fresh air. – Alexandra (UNCC)

“Ratio Christi has provided an open atmosphere in which I can bring my questions about Christianity. It has given me logical answers to those questions and has equipped me with arguments about issues I face as a Christian student on a secular campus. It is rare to find a place where religion can be discussed objectively and beliefs are supported by concrete evidence. I am thankful to have found one and am continually learning how important apologetics is as a witness.”– Jennifer (UNCC)

I joined Ratio Christi not only to learn more about my faith and strengthen it, but to be involved in something greater on campus. I learn something new every meeting, thoroughly enjoy the discussions and am looking forward to involving more people who also have the same goal of expanding His kingdom. – Aimee (ASU)

Ratio Christi allows for an analytical look at topics commonly overlooked by other campus ministries. The knowledge I have gained through participation has helped me join spiritual and classroom knowledge. It has been an honor to be involved in growing this new ministry – Stephen (ASU)

I have gained a deeper understanding of the Bible–knowledge that I would not have gained in a weekly church meeting. – Kayla (UNCC)

Paul and Creation

The skeptical issue in our culture mostly enters into the religious dialogue in the following way: “In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine being, what kind of evidence should we expect to find? There is a tendency to forget that the Bible stresses that sin can dampen the the cogntive facutlities that God has given us to find Him. Therefore, sin has damaging consequences on the knowing process (Is. 6:9-10; Zech. 7:11-12; Matt. 13:10-13). Christianity, Judaism, Islam, are all theistic faiths in contrast to pantheism (all is God), polytheism (many gods), and atheism (without God). In a classical apologetic argument, the cosmological (including both the horizontal and vertical cosmological argument) point to the theistic God of the Bible. Therefore, the God of the Bible is capable of giving a revelation to mankind through a specific medium. One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. (1)

While God predominately revealed Himself to the Jewish people through specific actions in the course of human history, the Jewish people agree that the Torah was the pivotal moment of God’s supreme revelation to them. But what about the Gentile nations? After all, it is Israel that was given the Torah. The good news is God has also taken the initiative to reveal Himself to Gentiles through general or natural revelation. In the case of God, who isn’t some physical object but a divine, invisible being, we have to use induction. Induction is the method of drawing general conclusions from specific observations. For example, since we can’t observe gravity directly, we only observe its effects.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.” (Rom.1:18-21) In this passage, God’s knowledge is described as “eternal power and divine nature.” Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer (God is the cause), His “everlasting power and divinity” are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).

Romans Ch1:18: The word “suppress,” means “to consciously dismiss in the mind,”to “hold down”, or to “hold back by force or to dismiss.” However, that which is “suppressed” is not destroyed. As much as humans try to suppress the truth of God’s existence, the human mind is still aware of their moral accountability to Him. In relation to this passage, Paul says God’s revelation says is not hidden or concealed. The reason this revelation is clear is because God shows it to him.

In other words, God makes knowledge of Himself available to man! The creation gives a cognitive knowledge of God’s existence but not saving knowledge. However, according to Romans 1:18-21, man is not left in ignorance about God.

Theologians, philosophers, and apologists have made significant comments in relation to Romans 1:18-21. Here are a few of them:

1. The revelation of God in nature is mediate, but it is so manifest and so clear that it does not necessitate a complex theoretical reasoning process that could be achieved only by a group of geniuses. If God’s general revelation is in fact “general,” in that it is plain enough for all to see clearly without complicated cosmological argumentation, then it may even be said to be self evident. The revelation is clear enough for an unskilled and illiterate person to perceive it. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma encounter with God’s revelation is not maintained in its lucid, threatening state, but is repressed. It is “put down or held in captivity” in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable, and as a result humans attempt to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. (Sproul, R.C, Gerstner, John and Arthur Lindsey. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.1984, 46-59).

2. Former atheist J. Budziszewski:

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. ( Geisler, N. L. and Paul K. Hoffman. Why I Am A Christian. Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 2001, 49).

3. Our original knowledge of God and his glory is muffled and impaired; it has been replaced (by virtue of sin) by stupidity, dullness, blindness, inability to perceive God or to perceive him in his handiwork. Our knowledge of his character and his love toward us can be smothered: it can be transformed into resentful thought that God is to be feared and mistrusted; we may see him as indifferent or even malignant. In the traditional taxonomy of seven deadly sins, this is sloth. Sloth is not simple laziness, like the inclination to lie down and watch television rather than go out and get exercise you need; it is, instead, a kind of spiritual deadness, blindness, imperceptiveness, acedia, torpor, a failure to be aware of God’s presence, love, requirements. (Plantinga, A. Warranted Christian Belief. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2000, 214-215).

1. Dulles, A.J. Models Of Revelation. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1983, 13

What is Apologetics?

What is apologetics? For starters, apologetics is not about apologizing for being a follower of Jesus. One of the primary passages that is used in discussing apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts acknowledge Christ as the holy Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to every one who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have yet with gentleness and respect.” In the context of this passage, Peter is writing to a group of persecuted Christians. The word “Lord” (Gr. kyrios), is an indication of Jesus’ divine status (Acts 2:34-36). Peter did not suggest that his audience be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within us, but he commanded them to be ready with an answer. An application can be made to us today. As Christians are called to give a reason for the hope within them, it is imperative to be both gentle and respectful.

In other words, apologetics is a branch of theology that is concerned with presenting an intelligent defense of the Christian faith. Jesus calls His people to “make disciples of the nations” (Matt.28:19). Within the context of Matthew 28:19, apologetics is part of that discipling or teaching ministry.

In relation to apologetics, Christian philosopher Stephen T. Davis says:

“In truth, faith needs apologetics. It needs it both to answer both the negative arguments of the resurrection and to construct positive arguments in favor of it. Apologetics will not create faith, but perhaps, for some, it will pave the way for it or make it possible. Evans goes on to say, What is destructive of genuine Christian faith, in my opinion, is not apologetics, but unfounded beliefs, unjustified commitments, unsound arguments, and “irrational leaps of faith.” It is the aim of apologetics to prevent Christian faith from amounting to anything like that.”

The God of the Bible is certainly a God of revelation. However, the God of the Bible is a rational being that endowed His creatures with the ability to reason. Remember, the Bible does command us to love God with our minds (Matt. 22:27), as well as love God with the rest of our being. In other words, the disciple of Jesus is called to use good reason, which the Bible commends to discover truth (Isa.1:18; Matt. 22:27; 1 Peter 3:15).

In his book Evangelism and the Early Church, author Michael Green notes that the early church advanced the gospel through the first four centuries because of three things: (1) The ability to engage in persuasive apologetics and outthink her opponents, (2) The transformed character and biblical compassion of believers, (3) The manifest power of the kingdom of God.

Apologetics is seen in several places in the Bible. As it says in John 20:21,”But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” The Apostles appealed to fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection as the basis for the evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship (Acts 2:14-32-39; 3:6-16, 4:8-14; 17:1-4; 26:26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). They also appealed to objective eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:2-4; John 1:14; 19:31-35-36; 20:24, 30-31; 2 Peter 1:16; 1 John 1:1-3). When the Apostles had to reach out to the Gentile or pagan community, they appealed to nature (Acts 14:14-17; Rom. 1:18-21).The book of Hebrews is addressed to a predominately Jewish audience. The apologetic in Hebrews is based on typology and the fulfillment of the Tanakh.

The Apostle Paul understood the need to use apologetics in his missionary work. As it says in Acts 17: 1-4, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” It is important to note that logic is not simply a “Greek” concept that is absent from the context of the Jewish Scriptures. We see the Scriptures utilize logical devices, such as antithesis, if-then arguments, syllogisms and propositions.

After doing outreach for the past fifteen years, I am saddened to say that one of the predominant reasons our culture rejects our faith is because of a lack of information. Therefore, it is the Christian’s responsibility to give the individual the right information so they can make an informed decision about the gospel. Furthermore, many people are simply rejecting a caricature of our faith. And most importantly, if parents or pastors cannot articulate what they believe to a teenager or a college student, they may be showing that their faith is not important to them. I once heard a story of a father who had raised his daughter in the faith. After going to college, she returned home to tell him she had left the Christian faith. His daughter, along with so many other young people had attended plenty of youth activities and pizza parties. However, she had never been taught about why her faith was true. Stories like these could be multiplied. Therefore, it is incumbent upon parents and pastors to have apologetic training. In an age of intellectual skepticism, both teenagers and college students walk away from the faith because of unanswered questions.

A Look at Faith-Part Two

Biblical faith is belief, trust, or commitment in God through Jesus the Messiah.
Joseph Thayer says,
“To believe” means to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, [to] place confidence in. [And in] a moral and religious reference, pisteuein [from pisteuo] is used in the N.T. of a conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of his soul. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 511).

Biblical faith involves an objective element (the existence of God, Jesus’ resurrection), and a subjective element (the individual must appropriate the objective truths through a subjective act). There have been three aspects of faith expressed throughout church history: notitia (knowledge), fiducia (trust), and assensus (assent). Notitia refers to the data or doctrinal element of faith. Assensus refers to the assent of the intellect of the truth of the Christian faith. According to the book of James, the demons have intellectual assent to the fact that God exists but they do not not have saving faith. That is why a person must exercise fiducia- this is the aspect of faith that involves the application or trust in the faith process.

In other words, fiducia allows a person to go beyond merely intellectual assent. Fiducia involves the will, emotion, and intellect. In the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings), the Hebrew word for heart is “leb,” or “lebad.” While the word “heart” is used as a metaphor to describe the physical organ, from a biblical standpoint, it is also the center or defining element of the entire person. It can be seen as the seat of the person’s intellectual, emotional, affective, and volitional life. In the New Testament, the word “heart” (Gr.kardia) came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the rational and the emotional elements. Therefore, biblical faith involves a commitment of the whole person.

Therefore, there is a relationship between belief that and belief in. As already stated, in James 2:19, it says that the demons believe that God exists. While apologetics may serve as a valuable medium through which God can operate, biblical faith is never the product of historical facts or evidence alone. Objectively speaking, the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian faith to enable us to understand that God exists. However, from a subjective perspective, the Holy Spirit also enables an individual to place his trust in God. (John 16: 12-15).

A good example of this is seen in Acts 17:1-4, “And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ. And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.” In this passage, we see that the Holy Spirit worked through the objective evidence (the Tanakh), which caused some of Paul’s audience to not only acknowledge that Jesus is Jewish Messiah, but also to place their trust in Him for their salvation.

In relation to faith, one issue that is causing a tremendous amount of confusion in the relationship between faith and knowledge is what is called scientism. Because of the misunderstanding between theology and science, faith is tend to viewed as “private and subjective” which has no objective basis to it. As Ian Barbour says in his book, Religion in an Age of Science,”Science starts from reproducible public data. Theories are formulated and their implications are tested against experimental observations. Additional criteria of coherence, comprehensiveness, and fruitfulness influence choice among theories. Religious beliefs are not acceptable, in this view, because religion lacks public data, such as experiential testing, and such criteria of evaluation. Science alone is objective, open-minded, universal, cumulative, and progressive. Religious traditions, by contrast, are said to be subjective, closed-minded, parochial, uncritical, and resistant to change.”

While the Christian worldview is not opposed to science, it does recognize the limitations of science in relation to the discovery of human knowledge. In some cases, scientism tends to reduce all legitimate knowledge (epistemology) to the scientific method. Therefore, this form of science ends up committing the reductive fallacy by taking one area of study and reduces all reality to this one area alone. Furthermore, to assert that all truth claims must be scientifically verifiable is a philosophical assumption rather than a scientific statement.

In his book The Limits of Science, Nicholas Rescher offers a helpful comment about this issue. Rescher says, “The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end-all –that what is not in science textbooks is not worth knowing-is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive world-view. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it.”

What is Faith? A Look at 1 Corinthians 15

Is it any wonder why our culture does not have a clear understanding about the nature of biblical faith? One of the most common assertions about biblical faith is that it is nothing more than a “leap of faith.” A good place to start looking at biblical faith is in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-17:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[ that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

Some observations can be made from this passage:

1. First of all, biblical faith has an object.

2. Secondly, the object of biblical faith must be true. As D.A. Carson says,

“Paul is communicating to the Corinthians’ that their faith is “futile”( vs. 17). In other words, the Corinthians faith is valid only if its object is true. Faith is never validated in the New Testament when its object is not true. Indeed, New Testament faith is strengthened when its object is validated supported by witness, shown to be revealed by God, impregnably real, true. Such an understanding of “faith” is utterly at odds with the use of faith in the Western culture.” (1)

In relation to truth, both the Old and New Testament terms for truth are emet and alethia. In relation to truth, these words are associated with fidelity, moral rectitude, being real, being genuine, faithfulness, having veracity, being complete. (2) According to a Biblical conception of truth, a proposition is true only if it accords with factual reality. There are numerous passages that explicitly contrast true propositions with falsehoods. The Old Testament warns against false prophets whose words do not correspond to reality. For example Deuteronomy 18:22: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken”, and the ninth commandment warns against bearing false testimony. (3)

Given that Paul was Jewish and he was raised in the Jewish Scriptures, he must have known that the seriousness of the Sinai Covenant. Within the covenant, bearing false witness was considered to be a major crime (Exod 20:16). Hence, he must have had a commitment to presenting the resurrection story in an accurate manner.

Thirdly, biblical faith is rooted in historical reality: There is no doubt that Christianity is a historical faith. For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the verification of the Christian faith as true or false. There is no doubt that Christianity is a historical faith. Biblical faith entails an objective element (the existence of God, Jesus’ resurrection), and a subjective element (the individual must appropriate the objective truths through a subjective act). Objectively speaking, no matter how much faith a Christian has, it can’t change whether Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, believing Jesus rose from the dead won’t make it true. The event of the resurrection is in the past. Either Jesus rose from the dead or He did not rise form the dead. Perhaps we can learn something about their own faith by reading this comment by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III:

“Any position in which claims about Jesus or the resurrection are removed from the realm of historical reality and placed in a subjective realm of personal belief or some realm that is immune to human scrutiny does Jesus and the resurrection no service and no justice. It is a ploy of desperation to suggest that the Christian faith would be little affected if Jesus was not actually raised from the dead in space and time. A person who gives up on the historical foundations of our faith has in fact given up on the possibility of any real continuity between his or her own faith and that of a Peter, Paul, James, John, Mary Magdalene, or Priscilla. The first Christian community had a strong interest in historical reality, especially the historical reality of Jesus and his resurrection, because they believed their faith, for better or for worse, was grounded in it.” (4)

Finally, there is a relationship between faith and knowledge: Does biblical faith assert that we can’t believe in things we cannot know? According to Paul, unless his audience accepts the “fact” that Jesus rose from the dead in the context of time, space, and history, they are still dead in their sins. They are to be pitied. In the words of Greg Koukl, “The opposite of faith is not fact, but unbelief. The opposite of knowledge is ignorance. Neither is a virtue in Christianity.” (5)

1. Carson, Donald A. Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2005, 216.
2. Moreland, J.P. and W.L. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2003, 131-132.
3. Ibid.
4. Ben Witherington III. New Testament History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001, 167.
5. Koukl, G. Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing. 2009, 153.

Responding to Critics, Seekers, and Doubters

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