Category : Apologetics

(CH) How Irenaeus debated the Gnostics with logic and Scriptures

The Gnostic message had a wide appeal. First of all, the prospect of obtaining a higher, secret knowledge is always tempting. Second, Gnosticism provided a plausible explanation of the problem of evil as the result of the impulsive and vindictive whims of an inferior god, and this struggle between two deities made sense. Third, the Gnostics’ contempt for the material world allowed many of them to consider pagan ceremonies inconsequential. They could in good conscience accept the demands of the Roman government and escape persecution. In addition, their message sounded biblical enough to attract those who didn’t have time to submit their claims to serious examination.

For Irenaeus, the main problem with Gnosticism was that it was not historical Christianity. The Gnostics were not interested in the historical Jesus and didn’t see the Bible as a unified story of redemption. To them, salvation was obtained through enlightenment and was only available to a chosen few. Their writings were earnest and poetic but quite different in scope and spirit from the canonical gospels.

Since the biblical narrative was not important to them, they could cast doubts on some of the basic tenets of the Christian faith. For example, some taught that the man on the cross was not the same as the miracle-working Christ, because it was not fit for Christ to suffer. This was problematic on both soteriological and practical levels. To persecuted Christians, it would have raised the question of why Christ asked his followers to accept abuses to the point of death when he himself escaped all suffering.

Besides, while most Gnostics were sincerely convinced of possessing the truth, a few used the appeal of higher knowledge as a means of exploitation. A Gnostic named Marcus was especially crafty around Lyon, performing tricks with water and wine to mimic Christ’s miracles and amaze his followers. He targeted wealthy women, urging them to give messages from God by saying the first thing that came into their minds. When they did, he proclaimed them prophetesses, accepting their valuable gifts and sexual favors as tokens of their gratitude. Only a few women recognized the deception and returned to the church.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Theology

Sunday Food for Thought–Sherlock Holmes on Roses and God

He walked past the couch to the open window, and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

–The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure 10: The Naval Treaty

Posted in Apologetics, Energy, Natural Resources, Poetry & Literature, Theology

(EA Times) Grill a Christian events to be hosted in pub in East Anglia

A Suffolk bishop will be at one of two ‘Grill a Christian’ evenings being held in a Sudbury pub for people to ask questions about life and faith.

The two evenings are being hosted in the White Horse pub in North Street from 7pm to 9pm on Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18 when a local mission team and ministers will get quizzed.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Evangelism and Church Growth, Religion & Culture

Samuel James–The Besetting Sin of Christian Worldview Education: Why do many evangelicals fail to recognize the genetic fallacy?

The besetting sin of Christian worldview education is the genetic fallacy, defined as an irrational error made by appealing to something’s origin (or “temporal order”) to explain away its truth-claims (or “logical order”). Here’s an example of how someone using the genetic fallacy (GF) might respond to various arguments:

A: “Politics is downstream from culture.”

GF: “Andrew Breitbart said that, and he was a right-wing troll, so you’re obviously wrong.”

B: “The unanimous testimony of Scripture is that homosexual acts are sinful.”

GF: “That’s exactly what Westboro Baptist Church says. Do we really want to be like them?”

C: “How well or poorly policies and systems treat minorities matters to God.”

GF: “Progressive Democrats talk about systemic injustice all the time. This is just code for abortion/socialism.”

Notice that in each example of the genetic fallacy, the retort is factually true. Andrew Breitbart DID say that politics was downstream from culture, and he DID popularize a belligerent style of journalism. Westboro Baptist Church DOES preach against homosexuality, and they ARE a horribly cruel cult. Progressives DO talk a lot about systemic injustice, and they often DO mean abortion and socialism as part of the solution. The retorts are true, or at least believable.

So if the retorts are true, why are these answers fallacious? Because they do not answer the actual question. Statements A, B, C make independent claims that stand alone. By invoking a suspect source and then critiquing it, the responses are actually responding to a claim—about the worthiness of the source—that’s not being made. In other words, the retorts don’t actually tell us anything about the validity of the claim, only the validity of people who make similar claims.

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Posted in Apologetics, Evangelicals, Philosophy, Theology

(VF) Ian Hutchinson–Can a scientist believe in the resurrection? Three hypotheses

I’m a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, and I believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. So do dozens of my colleagues. How can this be?….

Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.

So if science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we must consider the historical evidence, and the historical evidence for the resurrection is as good as for almost any event of ancient history. The extraordinary character of the event, and its significance, provide a unique context, and ancient history is necessarily hard to establish. But a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.

Hypothesis 3: I was brainwashed as a child. If you’ve read this far and you are still wondering how an MIT professor could seriously believe in the resurrection, you might guess I was brainwashed to believe it as a child. But no, I did not grow up in a home where I was taught to believe in the resurrection. I came to faith in Jesus when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on my 20th birthday. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are as compelling to me now as then.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Eschatology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) George Weigel–The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World

This remarkable and deliberate recording of the first Christians’ incomprehension of what they insisted was the irreducible bottom line of their faith teaches us two things. First, it tells us that the early Christians were confident enough about what they called the Resurrection that (to borrow from Prof. Wright) they were prepared to say something like, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s what happened.” And the second thing it tells us is that it took time for the first Christians to figure out what the events of Easter meant—not only for Jesus but for themselves. As they worked that out, their thinking about a lot of things changed profoundly, as Prof. Wright and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI help us to understand in their biblical commentaries.

The way they thought about time and history changed. During Jesus’ public ministry, many of his followers shared in the Jewish messianic expectations of the time: God would soon work something grand for his people in Israel, liberating them from their oppressors and bringing about a new age in which (as Isaiah had prophesied) the nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and history would end. The early Christians came to understand that the cataclysmic, world-redeeming act that God had promised had taken place at Easter. God’s Kingdom had come not at the end of time but within time—and that had changed the texture of both time and history. History continued, but those shaped by the Easter Effect became the people who knew how history was going to turn out. Because of that, they could live differently. The Easter Effect impelled them to bring a new standard of equality into the world and to embrace death as martyrs if necessary—because they knew, now, that death did not have the final word in the human story.

The way they thought about “resurrection” changed. Pious Jews taught by the reforming Pharisees of Jesus’ time believed in the resurrection of the dead. Easter taught the first Christians, who were all pious Jews, that this resurrection was not the resuscitation of a corpse, nor did it involve the decomposition of a corpse. Jesus’ tomb was empty, but the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples in a transformed body. Those who first experienced the Easter Effect would not have put it in these terms, but as their understanding of what had happened to Jesus and to themselves grew, they grasped that (as Benedict XVI put it in “Jesus of Nazareth–Holy Week”) there had been an “evolutionary leap” in the human condition. A new way of being had been encountered in the manifestly human but utterly different life of the one they met as the Risen Lord. That insight radically changed all those who embraced it.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

Tim Drake: Easter Evidence

“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”

Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.

“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”

Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.

“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”

Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.

“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Easter, Theology

Douglas Groothuis–Apologetics in the Local Church

First, we should consider some objections to Christianity that need to be addressed. Then, we will look at ways of addressing them in the church.

Some issues concerning Christianity are perennial, such as the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and the reliability of the Bible. Of course, the

Gospel must always be explained and defended as the only answer to our estrangement from a holy God because of our sin.

Besides the timeless topics of apologetics, the church should also take up matters of contemporary concern, such as the LGBTQ philosophy and social movements. Many souls, particularly millennials, reject Christianity because of its endorsement of heterosexual monogamy as the norm for sexuality. Others try to warp Christianity to accommodate same-sex marriage, as well as Scripture’s teaching on such matters, alongside other unbiblical sexual arrangements. Great care must be taken with this carefully and prayerfully explained in order to remove obstacles to the Gospel. Gender is not a matter of choice, but a given category, rooted in our biology and status as creatures male or female (Genesis 1:26).

The rise of the “nones” needs to be discussed as well. Many Americans believe in God or some form of spirituality, but identify with no specific religious tradition and view involvement with a church or other religious organization as optional at best and soul-killing at worst. The percentage of Americans in this category is rising. Thus apologetics should address both worship and social transformation. There are no “nones” in the Kingdom of God.

If these are some of the topics that apologetics should address (and there are many more), how, then, should the church fulfill its apologetic calling? An Easter sermon should give some arguments for the historical reality of the resurrection, not just its spiritual significance. Messages related to Christmas can cite the evidence for the virgin birth and the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts about the life of Jesus. A sermon series might address “Objections to Faith” or “Reasons to Believe.”

Second, the church’s educational ministry should not neglect apologetics at any level—from children to adults….

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Posted in Adult Education, Apologetics, Parish Ministry, Theology

(CT) Christopher Benson reviews Rowan Williams’ “Being Human: Bodies, Minds, Persons:” What Humans Have That Machines Don’t

In Being Human, the Anglican theologian Rowan Williams awakens us to the dead metaphor of the human machine, which has become so familiar that we seldom recognize it as a metaphor, let alone one that truncates the mystery and complexity of our existence. His book is the latest contribution in “a sort of unintended trilogy” that includes Being Christian (2014) and Being Disciples (2016). Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, speaks clearly and calmly into the “contemporary confusion” about our humanity because he follows the perfect model of being fully human: Jesus Christ. Consisting of addresses given between 2009 and 2015, the first three chapters concern human nature as it relates to consciousness, personhood, and mind-body relations, while the last two chapters concern human flourishing as it relates to faith and silence.

Like C. S. Lewis before him, Williams understands that human beings are set apart from animals because of personhood—a nature shared with our three-personal God. Machines, however sophisticated, lack this nature; therefore, we should resist comparing humans to them. If personhood depended upon “a set of facts,” we might tick various boxes to judge whether a human being deserves respect, thus endangering “those not yet born, those severely disabled, those dying, those in various ways marginal and forgotten.” Williams persuasively argues that we ascribe dignity to humans—regardless of “how many boxes are ticked”—because every person stands “in the middle of a network of relations” that confers meaning and worth. God himself belongs to a network of relations that Christians name the Trinity.

Not only does the community of the Godhead precede the community of humans, but the latter is coupled to the former, making atomized existence a delusion. As the metaphysical poet John Donne famously penned, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” What else could this continent be other than God? God, we could say, reclaims the oceans that man invents to separate himself from his Creator and neighbor. “Before anything or anyone is in relation with anything or anyone else,” Williams writes, “it’s in relation to God … the deeper I go into the attempt to understand myself, who and what I am, the more I find that I am already grasped, addressed, engaged with. I can’t dig deep enough in myself to find an abstract self that’s completely divorced from relationship. So, for St. Augustine and the Christian tradition, before anything else happens I am in relation to a non-worldly, non-historical everlasting attention and love, which is God.”

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Books, Theology

([London] Times) Alister McGrath–The Incarnation is the thawing of our wintry world

When rightly understood, the imaginatively compelling story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was about God entering the world, in order to redeem it.

Lewis explored this theme in a remarkable sermon that he preached in a London church during the Second World War. He had learnt how to dive in 1930. Although he initially saw this simply as an enjoyable, exhilarating experience, Lewis began to realise its potential as an analogy for what he was coming to see as a core theme of the Christian faith — the incarnation.

Lewis invited his audience to imagine a diver plunging into the water to retrieve a precious object. As he goes deeper, the water changes from “warm and sunlit” to “pitch black” and “freezing”. Then, his “lungs almost bursting”, he goes down into the “mud and slime”, before finally heading back up to the surface, triumphantly bearing the lost object. God “descended into his own universe, and rose again, bringing human nature up with him”.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Theology

CS Lewis on Christmas: The Grand Miracle

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles–because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends–you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation. Now, if one asks whether that central grand miracle in Christianity is itself probable or improbable, of course, quite clearly you cannot be applying Hume’s kind of probability. You cannot mean a probability based on statistics according to which the more often a thing has happened, the more likely it is to happen again (the more often you get indigestion from eating a certain food, the more probable it is, if you eat it again, that you again have indigestion). Certainly the Incarnation cannot be probable in that sense. It is of its very nature to have happened only once. But then it is of the very nature of the history of this world to have happened only once; and if the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of that history. It is improbable in the same way in which the whole of nature is improbable, because it is only there once, and will happen only once.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Apologetics, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Theology

(NYT Op-Ed) Nicholas Kristof speaks with William Lane Craig: Professor, Was Jesus Really Born to a Virgin?

You don’t believe the Genesis account that the world was created in six days, or that Eve was made from Adam’s rib, do you? If the Hebrew Bible’s stories need not be taken literally, why not also accept that the New Testament writers took liberties?

Because the Gospels are a different type of literature than the primeval history of Genesis 1-11. The eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen described Genesis 1-11 as history clothed in the figurative language of mythology, a genre he dubbed “mytho-history.” By contrast, the consensus among historians is that the Gospels belong to the genre of ancient biography, like the ‘Lives of Greeks and Romans’ written by Plutarch. As such, they aim to provide a historically reliable account….

I sometimes cringe at the people that the media trot out as spokesmen for Christianity. The media shun intelligent and articulate Christians in favor of inflammatory preachers and televangelists. Just know that the Christian church is involved not only in defending the sanctity of life and marriage but in a whole range of social issues, such as combating poverty, feeding the homeless, medical care, disaster aid, literacy programs, fostering small businesses, promoting women’s rights and drilling wells, especially in the developing world. Honestly, Christians have gotten very bad press.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Theology

John Stackhouse–Eminent Scientist Stephen Hawking Concludes God Doesn’t Exist—Again

The God of the Christian Bible could certainly have created the world through the Big Bang. And, as many theologians and scientists have agreed ever since Darwin published The Origin of Species, God could have supervised evolution to achieve God’s purposes in creation. What Darwin and Hawking seem to have concluded is merely that there is no convincing scientific proof of God performing a miracle at the start of the cosmos or at the genesis of each new kind of creature. But that conclusion isn’t much of an argument against God’s existence.

“We can’t find sure proof that God was definitely there” is hardly proof that God wasn’t there.

No, this final book of Hawking’s will persuade only those who don’t understand the problem. And it’s not a scientific problem, but the problem of evil: However the universe was formed, and however we ourselves got here as human beings, is there better reason than not to believe in God, and particularly the God of the Bible?

I have offered my best answer to that here, among the many other replies available. As Christmas approaches once more, this would be a good season to give that question, along with the interesting ones Professor Hawking was indeed qualified to answer, the attention it deserves.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Science & Technology, Theology

(CT) John Inazu: Why I’m Still Confident About ‘Confident Pluralism’

The premise of confident pluralism is that we can make room for our differences even as we maintain our own beliefs and practices. Doing so requires both legal and personal commitments. When it comes to the law, we must insist that those in power protect our ability to disagree. We must have a shared commitment to allowing for dissent, difference, and divergent beliefs. That means strengthening First Amendment freedoms for everyone.

The personal argument focuses on civic practices rooted in three aspirations: tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance acknowledges that people should generally be free to pursue their own beliefs and practices. This is not the same as approval; it is much closer to endurance. We can usually respect people even if we don’t respect their ideas. Humilityrecognizes that we will sometimes be unable to prove to others why we believe we are right and they are wrong. Patience asks us to listen, understand, and empathize with those who see the world differently.

The American experiment in pluralism depends upon legal commitments and civic practices. And we have usually found ways to maintain a modest unity against great odds. We have always done so imperfectly, and too often our political stability has been purchased at the cost of suppressing or silencing those with less power. But in acknowledging our country’s shortcomings, we can also remember some of its successes. The disagreements between white Protestant men at the founding of our country may seem trivial today, but those differences meant widespread killing in other parts of the world. Our debased and dehumanizing political rhetoric leaves much to be desired, but unlike many other societies, we usually stop short of actual violence. In the midst of deep disagreements with our neighbors, we still find creative partnerships in unexpected places. These examples of our modest unity are important reminders that we can live together across deep differences. On the other hand, they do not suggest that we have or will overcome our differences. As I write in the book’s conclusion, confident pluralism will not give us the American dream, but it might help avoid the American nightmare.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(RG) Learning to sustain community in a setting characterized by rapid turnover

Can you give me an example of a student or worker who has been strongly shaped by community?

Ben: At L’Abri, we believe that the Christian belief should be worked out and modeled—in very tangible ways. Students deserve to see us living like it’s true and part of this is played out in what we call “institutional weaknesses. ” An example is that we choose not to fundraise, advertise, or recruit staff. Instead, those are all items of continual prayer, and they have been huge shaping influences for people who work in L’Abri. Just take the finances: the fact that we would be able to turn on the lights [demonstrates] that for years and years and years God has provided. The students who come, even for a short time, see that—and they are quite moved by it.

How has living in community over a long period of time changed each of you?

Nickaela: I think one thing for me is the use of time. I am so motivated by efficiency, to see results of my day. There is that place in C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters when Screwtape says, “Just tell them that time is their own.” I see how indignant we become when our time is “taken.” For me, [it’s important to find] the space to be okay with the interruptions, [to see] that our calling really is the interruptions—the shaping of our lives to see that God sees us.

Ben: For me (and Nickaela will laugh because I haven’t changed that much), well, my tendency is toward conflict avoidance. One of the things living in community has taught me is, with the other workers in particular, you can’t sit on things and have relationships be healthy. You have to have those difficult conversations, and then see the good things that come of it.

Nickaela: One more thing. Gregory Boyle in his book Tattoos on the Heart talks about, “the duty to delight.” Whether that is working hard outside or cooking a meal or eating a good meal, God delights. We have a duty to delight in those things.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

More Food for Thought from GK Chesterton–Everything will be denied until even the obvious will need to be defended

From there:

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

–Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:John Lane[The Bodley Head], 1905), pp. 304-305, my emphasis

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Theology

(CT) Joshua Chatraw–Stop Apologizing for Apologetics

…apologetics cannot simply return to the past, imagining that nothing has changed. While in some ways our pluralistic context mirrors the situation in the early church, in other ways our present situation is very different.

To name just one significant difference, we are no longer the new kids on the block. In the early church, we were strange, misunderstood, and a potential threat, but we had yet to wield power—or abuse it. In the West today, Christianity is increasingly seen as authoritarian and coercive. The resistance against Christianity is no longer simply that it is wrong, but that it’s also dangerously oppressive—and opponents claim to now have the evidence to prove it.

The history of the past wrongs of Christendom, the present-day Christian resistance to…[same-sex marriage], and the commitment to the (allegedly) repressive notion of divine judgment all fall outside the bounds of the plausibility structures assumed by the prevailing secular humanism. These kinds of moral issues are probably the chief apologetic challenges of late modernism; the beauty and the good of our truth claims are at stake.

The need of the hour is apologetic maturity—historically informed and theologically rooted in the gospel itself—which knows how to not only give reasons but also how to stoke imaginations, model cruciform lives, and even publicly confess. (We do, after all, have some planks to remove from our own eyes.) These are not the typical things most think of when they hear of apologetics, but this is only because we have not fully come to grips with our past—both the good and the bad. An apologetic approach for a secular age needs to utilize appeals to the essential features of personhood (such as the need for meaning, hope, forgiveness, and morality) along with arguments for the faith’s rationality.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics

Tim Drake: Easter Evidence

“The compelling evidence for me is the unanimous testimony of all the apostles and even a former persecutor like St. Paul,” said Brant Pitre, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans. “There was no debate in the first century over whether Jesus was resurrected or not.”

Scholars say that the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection are compelling for a variety of reasons.

“People will seldom die even for what they know to be true. Twelve men don’t give up their lives for a lie,” said Ray, who recently returned from France, where he was filming his “Footprints of God” series at the amphitheater in Lyon, the site of a persecution in A.D. 177. “The martyrs of Lyon underwent two days of torture and all they would say is, ‘I am a Christian.’ They knew the resurrection was true and didn’t question it.”

Barber also highlighted the diversity of sources and how they include different details as well as passages that do not paint the disciples in the best light.

“In the Road to Emmaus story, they write that they didn’t recognize him,” said Barber. “Our Biblical accounts are our best evidence.”

Several of the scholars pointed to 1 Corinthians, where Paul states that Christ appeared to 500 people.

“Some want to shy away from the Gospels because they say they were written later,” explained Barber. “If you want to believe that they were written later, then why wouldn’t the Gospels have made use of this piece of evidence from 1 Corinthians?” asked Barber.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Christology, Easter, Eschatology, Theology: Scripture

John Lennox Reflects on Stephen Hawking’s Life and Beliefs

Posted in Apologetics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology, Theology

A transcript of Billy Graham’s TED talk in 1998: On technology and Faith

I spoke some time ago to a joint session of Congress, last year. And we were meeting in that room, the statue room. About 300 of them were there. And I said, “There’s one thing that we have in common in this room, all of us together, whether Republican or Democrat, or whoever.” I said, “We’re all going to die. And we have that in common with all these great men of the past that are staring down at us.” And it’s often difficult for young people to understand that. It’s difficult for them to understand that they’re going to die. As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes wrote, he said, there’s every activity under heaven. There’s a time to be born, and there’s a time to die. I’ve stood at the deathbed of several famous people, whom you would know. I’ve talked to them. I’ve seen them in those agonizing moments when they were scared to death.

And yet, a few years earlier, death never crossed their mind. I talked to a woman this past week whose father was a famous doctor. She said he never thought of God, never talked about God, didn’t believe in God. He was an atheist. But she said, as he came to die, he sat up on the side of the bed one day, and he asked the nurse if he could see the chaplain. And he said, for the first time in his life he’d thought about the inevitable, and about God. Was there a God? A few years ago, a university student asked me, “What is the greatest surprise in your life?” And I said, “The greatest surprise in my life is the brevity of life. It passes so fast.” But it does not need to have to be that way. Wernher von Braun, in the aftermath of World War II concluded, quote: “science and religion are not antagonists. On the contrary, they’re sisters.” He put it on a personal basis. I knew Dr. von Braun very well. And he said, “Speaking for myself, I can only say that the grandeur of the cosmos serves only to confirm a belief in the certainty of a creator.” He also said, “In our search to know God, I’ve come to believe that the life of Jesus Christ should be the focus of our efforts and inspiration. The reality of this life and His resurrection is the hope of mankind.”

I’ve done a lot of speaking in Germany and in France, and in different parts of the world — 105 countries it’s been my privilege to speak in. And I was invited one day to visit Chancellor Adenauer, who was looked upon as sort of the founder of modern Germany, since the war. And he once — and he said to me, he said, “Young man.” He said, “Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” And I said, “Sir, I do.” He said, “So do I.” He said, “When I leave office, I’m going to spend my time writing a book on why Jesus Christ rose again, and why it’s so important to believe that.” In one of his plays, Alexander Solzhenitsyn depicts a man dying, who says to those gathered around his bed, “The moment when it’s terrible to feel regret is when one is dying.” How should one live in order not to feel regret when one is dying?

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Stephen Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”—and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all (from 2012).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Secularism, Theology, Violence

A 2013 Profile of [Mars Hill Audio’s] Ken Myers–Pop Goes the Culture: One man’s quest to preserve and defend the good, the true, and the beautiful

The Journal demonstrates how closely the interests and worries of a conservative Christian intellectual overlap those of any curious traditionalist or cultural conservative, believing or non. Myers’s own curiosity is inexhaustible. On the website’s topic index​—​choosing a letter at random​—​you’ll find under “M” segments on Mondrian (Piet) and Moore (Michael), memory and money, Mendelssohn and Marsalis, masculinity and materialism. I popped in Issue 102 the other day and heard Myers’s pleasant tenor saying, by way of preface: “Is creation meaningful, and if it is, is its meaning perceptible?” This rousing intro opened a series of ruminations and interviews with a variety of scholars and writers. A brief explanation of the split between nominalism and realism in the Middle Ages led to a discussion of Jacques Maritain’s relationship with avant garde painters and musicians in 1920s Paris, then moved through the Fibonacci sequence and the mathematical value of Bach fugues as examples of inherent order, topped off with a tribute to the paintings of Makoto Fujimura by the philosopher Thomas Hibbs. The pace is unhurried, the discussions pretty easily comprehensible. Imagine NPR if NPR were as intelligent as NPR programmers think it is.

Or better: Imagine NPR as it once was, from its founding in the early seventies into the early eighties, when the fateful decision was made to transform an eclectic and discursive ragbag of cultural programming into the fabulously wealthy, grimly professional all-news-almost-all-the-time media colossus we know today. Myers worked at NPR off and on for nearly a decade, spending several years as arts editor for Morning Edition before layoffs from the new regime gutted arts coverage in 1983.

In its original conception, Myers reminded me, “NPR really was an institution devoted to preserving cultural treasures. By the time I left, that vision had vanished, a victim of multiculturalism, postculturalism, autoculturalism, and other fancies.” Myers fondly recalls bygone NPR series like “A Sense of Place: Sound Portraits of Twentieth Century Humanists”​—​a dozen documentaries on longhairs like James Joyce, Igor Stravinsky, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

“ ‘A Sense of Place’ would be unimaginable at NPR today,” Myers says. Today at NPR, as elsewhere, culture means pop culture. With occasional gestures toward jazz, NPR music is the rock music of aging children; the visual arts begin and end with movies and TV, though stage plays will sometimes rouse attention if their themes are sufficiently progressive. This falling off isn’t the fault of the programmers alone, needless to say. In its decline NPR has tumbled in tandem with the tastes of its target audience​—​affluent white people with meaningless college degrees who weren’t educated into an appreciation for richer music and art and who, accordingly, find the whole cultural-patrimony thing intimidating, hence vaguely off-putting, and finally a snooze.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Media, Religion & Culture, Theology

(IVP) James W. Sire, “A Keystone in the Intellectual Renewal of Evangelicalism,” Dies

James W. Sire, longtime editorial director at InterVarsity Press (IVP), prolific author, and groundbreaking apologist, passed away on Tuesday evening, February 6, 2018, at the age of eighty-four.

Sire was a renaissance man of publishing. Not only did he author over twenty books, but his thirty-year career at IVP also included contracting and developing works by Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness, Calvin Miller, Rebecca Manley Pippert, J. I. Packer, John White, J. P. Moreland, and others.

“Jim Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s, championing the work of Francis Schaeffer and contributing his own landmark books on world views,” said Andy Le Peau, former associate publisher, editorial, for IVP. “He was also first to publish other influential figures such as Os Guinness and philosopher C. Stephen Evans. But his finely tuned radar for quality was not limited to the academy. He had a major influence on the church when he saw the potential in the poetry of Calvin Miller’s The Singer, the power for church renewal in the work of Howard Snyder, as well as the evangelistic insight of Rebecca Manley Pippert. Personally, he taught me more about editing and publishing than probably anyone. I will miss his wit, his insight, his integrity, and his love for Jesus.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Books, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Theology

CS Lewis on Christmas: The Grand Miracle

One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles–because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends–you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation. Now, if one asks whether that central grand miracle in Christianity is itself probable or improbable, of course, quite clearly you cannot be applying Hume’s kind of probability. You cannot mean a probability based on statistics according to which the more often a thing has happened, the more likely it is to happen again (the more often you get indigestion from eating a certain food, the more probable it is, if you eat it again, that you again have indigestion). Certainly the Incarnation cannot be probable in that sense. It is of its very nature to have happened only once. But then it is of the very nature of the history of this world to have happened only once; and if the Incarnation happened at all, it is the central chapter of that history. It is improbable in the same way in which the whole of nature is improbable, because it is only there once, and will happen only once.

–C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Posted in Apologetics, Christmas, Christology

Tom Wright on C.S. Lewis for CS Lewis’ Feast Day: Reflections on a Master Apologist After 60 Years

I once found myself working closely, in a cathedral fundraising campaign, with a local millionaire. He was a self-made man. When I met him he was in his 60s, at the top of his game as a businessman, and was chairing our Board of Trustees. To me, coming from the academic world, he was a nightmare to work with.

He never thought in (what seemed to me) straight lines; he would leap from one conversation to another; he would suddenly break into a discussion and ask what seemed a totally unrelated question. But after a while I learned to say to myself: Well, it must work, or he wouldn’t be where he is. And that was right. We raised the money. We probably wouldn’t have done it if I’d been running the Trust my own way.

I have something of the same feeling on re-reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I owe Lewis a great debt. In my late teens and early twenties I read everything of his I could get my hands on, and read some of his paperbacks and essays several times over. There are sentences, and some whole passages, I know pretty much by heart.

Millions around the world have been introduced to, and nurtured within, the Christian faith through his work where their own preachers and teachers were not giving them what they needed. That was certainly true of me.

Read it all.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops

CS Lewis on CS Lewis Day (II)–His sole surviving BBC radio address

Check it out.

Posted in Apologetics, Church History

(CT) Ravi Zacharias Remembers His Young Protégé, Nabeel Qureshi, RIP

The first time I saw Nabeel Qureshi, he sat at a table across from me, his one leg constantly moving almost subconsciously, warming up for a run. It was a habit of his restless disposition.

That was Nabeel in true expression; he hated sitting still. He was a man with a mission, ready to run. Sadly, for us, he finished his race all too soon and our hearts are broken at the loss of one who ran with spectacular passion to do what filled his soul.

He was a thorough-going evangelical. He held dear the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and carried the message of salvation. Jesus’ grace for a transformed heart was his message.

For years as a young man, he labored and struggled to gain “righteousness before God” only to find out that righteousness was already met in the cross through Jesus Christ. That was his message in his best-selling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic….
Read it all.

“Qureshi was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic…”
Reflecting on @NAQureshi in @CTmagazine: https://t.co/yAhP0ZzDNn

— Ravi Zacharias (@RaviZacharias) September 20, 2017

Posted in America/U.S.A., Apologetics, Christology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Islam, Religion & Culture, Theology: Evangelism & Mission

Food for Thought from GK Chesterton–Everything will be denied until even the obvious will need to be defended

From there:

Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion. And the scepticism of our time does not really destroy the beliefs, rather it creates them; gives them their limits and their plain and defiant shape. We who are Liberals once held Liberalism lightly as a truism. Now it has been disputed, and we hold it fiercely as a faith. We who believe in patriotism once thought patriotism to be reasonable, and thought little more about it. Now we know it to be unreasonable, and know it to be right. We who are Christians never knew the great philosophic common sense which inheres in that mystery until the anti-Christian writers pointed it out to us. The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed. It is a reasonable position to deny the stones in the street; it will be a religious dogma to assert them. It is a rational thesis that we are all in a dream; it will be a mystical sanity to say that we are all awake. Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. We shall look on the impossible grass and the skies with a strange courage. We shall be of those who have seen and yet have believed.

–Gilbert K. Chesterton, Heretics (London and New York:John Lane[The Bodley Head], 1905), pp. 304-305, my emphasis

Posted in Apologetics, Church History

Saturday Morning Food for Thought–CS Lewis on Marriage

The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism-for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact-just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

As a consequence, Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. There is, of course, a difference here between different Churches: some do not admit divorce at all; some allow it reluctantly in very special cases. It is a great pity that Christians should disagree about such a question; but for, an ordinary layman the thing to notice is that the Churches all agree with one another about marriage a great deal more than any of them agrees with the outside world. I mean, they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases. They are all agreed that it is more like having both your legs cut off than it is like dissolving a business partnership or even deserting a regiment. What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else.

Before we consider this modern view in its relation to chastity, we must not forget to consider it in relation to another virtue, namely justice. Justice, as I said before, includes the keeping of promises. Now everyone who has been married in a church has made a public, solemn promise to stick to his (or her) partner till death. The duty of keeping that promise has no special connection with sexual morality: it is in the same position as any other promise. If, as modern people are always telling us, the sexual impulse is just like all our other impulses, then it ought to be treated like all our other impulses; and as their indulgence is controlled by our promises, so should its be. If, as I think, it is not like all our other impulses, but is morbidly inflamed, then we should be specially careful not to let it lead us into dishonesty.

–CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 16

Posted in Apologetics, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Theology, Theology: Scripture

GK Chesterton–“An imbecile habit has arisen”….saying a creed may be held in one age but not in another

Posted in Apologetics, Church History