Tag Archives: Apologetics

Scott Klusendorf makes the case for protecting the unborn

Linked here at Apologetics 315. His 35-minute presentation (no Q&A) is entitled “Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-Life Persuasion”. There is a presentation of the law of biogenesis and the SLED test (Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependency).

A little biographical information on Scott.

For your office show-and-tell, you can buy Frank Beckwith’s 2007 book “Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice”. Since the book is published by Cambridge University Press, it’s useful to show people who think that there is no respectable case for the pro-life position.

My previous post on the case for the pro-life position in plain english is here. It contains a link to a 4-part series by Beckwith on answering arguments for the pro-abortion position.

Why does talking about religion make people uncomfortable?

In a recent post, I argued against Christians who hide their faith in public. I said that although hiding your faith may make you happier and more popular, it is more loving to confront others as an informed Christian ambassador. Your goal should be to help your friends to be reconciled with God through Christ, by telling them the truth and answering their questions, if they are willing.

In this post, I want to survey a research paper by evangelical Christian philosopher Michael J. Murray. In a previous post, I surveyed his answer to the question “Why does God hide his existence from us?” in this post, the question is “Why are we afraid to discuss our faith in public?”

Murray begins with a distinction, as philosophers love to do:

…we would be perfectly happy to have a discussion of claims like…”Mahayana Buddhism emerged in the first century BCE with the appearance of the Mahayana sutras.” … It is OK to speak of religion… as a historical phenomenon or a socio-cultural influence. It is something altogether different to discuss religious commitments that one owns. That is the sort of religion that troubles us.

People who aren’t religious feel discomfort about hearing about the religious beliefs of others, because those beliefs influence public policy, but (they think) those beliefs are based non-rational factors, such as place of birth, parental beliefs, peer groups, emotions, prejudices, superstitions, etc. They are uncomfortable living in a government that was voted in by people whose views are based on irrational religious beliefs.

He has some illustrations of this “theo-phobia” here:

…think about the last time you heard a devoutly religious person argue, on explicitly religious grounds, that gay marriage should be banned, or that intelligent design should be taught in the public school biology curriculum, or that abortion is murder and thus should be outlawed.

And I agree with that. I feel uncomfortable when people argue for positions from faith-based premises. But do discussions of religious beliefs necessarily have to be about faith-based personal preferences? Or is there another way to discuss religion that doesn’t make non-religious people squirm with discomfort?

In the remainder of the paper, Murray explores five reasons why theo-phobia exists in academic settings:

  1. Religion supports oppression, violence, and tyranny and is thus best ignored, excluded or perhaps even actively opposed.
  2. Religion is a personal or subjective matter and as a result can’t be subjected to canonical standards of rational scrutiny.  It thus has no place in the academy.
  3. Religion can’t have a role in scholarly inquiry since it at best plays a balkanizing role in the scholarly world.
  4. If religion is allowed to have a role in the academy it will quickly intrude into domains where it does not belong.
  5. Reason #5 is kept secret until the end of the paper.

Regarding point 1, Murray argues that religious excesses can be controlled by falsifying the religion using reason and evidence, because religions make testable claims. So, if academics are afraid of the excesses of a dangerous religion, they should falsify it by arguing that its claims are false. There is no reason to be afraid of expressions of religious belief when you are free to argue against the testable truth claims of that religion.

I repeat: different religions make different claims about the external world. Either the universe had a beginning (Christianity) or it didn’t (Mormonism). Either Jesus died on the cross (Christianity) or he didn’t (Islam). If academics are worried about the effects of some religion, they can argue against it! If a religious person is not willing to defend the testable truth claims, then they are discredited anyway by refusing to engage.

For the remaining 4 points, especially the last one, I recommend you read the whole article. Give it to your friends, religious and non-religious, who believe that faith is fundamentally different from  other academic disciplines. Some truth claims of different religions can be tested. And Christians especially should help others to feel comfortable talking to them by sticking to testable truth claims and publicly accessible evidence.

I’ll give you a hint about reason #5, from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel of New York University. Nagel is quoted as follows:

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
(“The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)

So we learn from Murray that religions stand or fall based on logical consistency and empirical validation against the external world, just like any other academic discipline. So long as you stick to discussing the public, testable claims of religions, there is no reason to be uncomfortable about discussing religions. Don’t discuss the parts of a religion that can’t be tested, only discuss the parts that can be tested.

(Note: Nagel isn’t all bad, he defends intelligent design as science in a research paper summarized here). To see how religion is debated in academia, (public debates held on university campuses, that leverage arguments from published research across academic fields), look here.

William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate LIVE FEED

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the April 4, 2009 debate at Biola is here.

Got this in e-mail from Biola University, regarding the upcoming William Lane Craig vs Christoper Hitchens debate.

YOU MUST ACT FAST—to set up a viewing site for your church, Bible study, family, or neighborhood! Debate takes place on Saturday, April 4.

The “Does God Exist” Debate is almost completely sold out at Biola University . Nearly 4,000 people will be seeing it live. But the demand is tremendous from all over the world to view this debate as it happens between one of the finest Christian philosophers alive today, Dr. William Lane Craig, and Christopher Hitchens, who is one of the most outspoken atheists in a century.

Live Broadcast:

  • Saturday, April 4
    7:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time (10:30 pm Eastern)

Re-broadcasts:

  • Sunday, April 5
    4:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (7:00 pm Eastern)
  • Wednesday, April 8
    5:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (8:00 pm Eastern)

Deadline for sign up:
Monday, March 30, 11:59 pm PDT.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?
1) Just log on to the registration web site: http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate
2) Agree to the terms, pay the viewing fee, and receive a code to log into the broadcast
3) Use your equipment to put it on a nice monitor, screen, or projector, invite everyone at your church, and enjoy!

Look here for more information, FAQ, and pricing information ($98):
http://www.apologeticsevents.com/debate

If anyone’s church is hosting a feed, please post a comment below.

UPDATE: I analyze Hitchens’ case against God here, from his debate against Frank Turek.

UPDATE: Audio and video from a  panel discussion with Hitchens, Craig, etc. is linked here.

UPDATE: Information about live-blogging of the debate is here.

Greg Koukl expains the right way to handle an angry, aggressive atheist

Greg Koukl is one of the scholars who got me started in apologetics. I can still remember, (and I know my old friends Andrew, Kerry, and Jose can, too!), over 10 years ago, when we used to sit around in my basement listening to Greg Koukl’s radio show over the internet. At the time, streaming audio was quite new. Well, he taught us all how to be ambassadors for Christ. (See 2 Cor 5:9-21)

I got his recent “Solid Ground” newsletter (free registration required), for January/February 2009, and the topic was on dealing with angry, aggressive atheists. This is a topic of real value for me. Not only do I have to face these belligerent atheists in my office (Yes, Gerry, I mean you!), but I also face them online at the Richard Dawkins forum, and face to face in my own family and friends!

Let’s start with the question “what is a steamroller?”:

The defining characteristic of a “steamroller” is that he constantly interrupts, rolling over you with the force of his personality. Steamrollers are not usually interested in answers. They are interested in winning through intimidation.

Greg breaks down the techniques for handling steamrollers in 3 steps.

Step 1: Stop Him.

Your first move when you find yourself in a conversation with a steamroller is a genial request for courtesy. Momentarily put the discussion on “pause.” Ask to continue making your point uninterrupted.

One of the ways you can do that is using body language. You can raise your hand in the stop motion to emphasize your verbal attempt to pause the conversation so that you can finish responding. Ask for a specific amount of time to make your point, and make sure that you him to agree that you will get that time to respond! But the most important thing is to not lose your temper.

Be careful not to let annoyance or hostility creep into your voice. That would be a mistake, especially with this kind of person. Don’t let a steamroller get under your skin. Being defensive and belligerent always looks weak. Instead, stay focused on the issues, not on the attitude. Talk calmly and try to look confident.

…don’t take unfair advantage of the time you buy with this little negotiation. Make your point, then ask, “Does that make sense to you?” This invites him back into the conversation. Give him the courtesy of offering you a reply without interruption.

I hear J.P. Moreland saying “Does that make sense to you?” all the time in his lectures, and now I’ve started doing it too! And so should you! But what if “stopping him” doesn’t work? Then we go on to step 2.

Step 2: Shame Him.

Suppose the steamroller interrupts you again during your negotiation response time. You want to gently draw attention to the fact that he is being rude and intimidating in the conversation. Again, the goal is not to show the slightest discomfort, but always to act with confidence.

Phase two of the Steamroller tactic is to shame him for his bad manners while maintaining your integrity. Stay on topic and don’t follow any “rabbit trails” he may voice.

That point about not taking on any new questions until you finish answering the first one is vital. You see this all the time on the Richard Dawkins forum. Every time you make a point about the progress of science, they start complaining about how cruel God is. (Note that atheists can’t even judge God without assuming an absolute moral standard, which only a designer of the universe can ground!)

Below is example of how to do step 2:

“Can I ask you a quick question? Do you really want a response from me? At first I thought you did, but when you continue to interrupt I get the impression all you want is an audience. If so, just let me know and I’ll listen. But if you want an answer, you’ll have to give me time to respond. Tell me what you want. I need to know before I can continue.” Wait for an answer.

Part of becoming a good ambassador is knowing how to guage your opponent, and how much force you should use. Practice, practice! But suppose even step 2 doesn’t work. What should we do now?

Step 3: Leave Him.

The most difficult thing to do is to break off a defense, especially when there are people around listening in or even participating. Usually you do this when the person is moving the wrong way on the aggression scale. Greg cites a number of Bible verses to show that the Bible does support this kind of strategic withdrawal from an engagement that is going the wrong way.

Conclusion

The article concludes with some very useful points. First, you don’t have to win every debate. Just make your point and then let the Holy Spirit handle it from there. It is a mistake to think that you can change people’s minds just by talking to them at more and more. Mind changing usually happens much later, as the person weights both sides of the issues. So don’t rush, and remember, God values free will.

Second, always give an aggressive challenger the last word. This is the policy on my blog, where I get one rebuttal to a commenter, and then they get the last word. So far, I haven’t had to violate this in 5 weeks of blogging.

And let me just reiterate – do not lose your cool. A lot of arguing relates to your attitude under fire, especially for beginners who judge debates not on the evidence, but on appearances. You need to spend time studying in advance in order to get this confidence, and I do mean studying both sides in debates. Under fire, the confidence you’ve gained through study, especially the study of debates, is more effective than your words.

Why men stay away from the feminized church

On the Biola University site, I found a book review of a new book by David Murrow called “Why Men Hate Going to Church”.

Here’s the problem:

There are generally more women than men in every type of church, in every part of the world, according to church growth experts like Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World. A traditional explanation is that women are more spiritual than men. But the leaders of this new movement suggest that the church’s music, messages and ministries cater to women.

…In America, among evangelical churches, 57 percent of members are women and, among mainline Protestant churches, 66 percent are women, according to a 1998 book American Evangelicalism (University of Chicago Press).

The problem is that the church has become feminized, and men don’t like that, and so, they leave.

Here’s more:

To describe many women, Murrow lists traits like “relational,” “nurturing” and “peace-making.” He describes many men as “goal-driven,” “competitive” and “adventurous.” These differences show up in the types of movies many women and many men like: romantic vs. adventure films, Murrow said. In sum, women thrive when secure, and men thrive when challenged, he said.

As Christianity became more feminized, it began to focus more on producing emotional satisfaction. But men want something different.

The article goes on to quote one of my favorite Christian writers, Nancy Pearcey, an expert in apologetics and theology.

…many people think of church only as a nurturing place that addresses personal needs, Pearcey said. Think: sitting in circles, sharing feelings, holding hands, singing softly, comforting members. An example of the feminization of the church is its music. Typical praise songs refer to Jesus as a Christian’s lover and praise his beauty and tenderness. Rarely do they praise his justice or strength, or refer to him as the head of an army leading his church into spiritual battle, like “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

All of the outward facing disciplines within Christianity, such as apologetics, theology, ethics, etc. are de-emphasized, censored or resisted in feminized churches. There is no place for rationality, moral judgments and boundaries, debates and disagreement, confrontations and persuasion, or other manly Christian practices.

Christianity is evangelical, and evangelism takes study and preparation, which culminates in confrontations and discussions. The object of these discussions is not to win the argument. It is to win the person over to your side. So facts and arguments play a huge role in  evangelism, but there has to be gentleness too, if you actually want to win. And this is what Christian men are supposed to do. But does the church support it?

Another turn-off for men is touchy-feely sermons. Pearcey said the modern church stresses emotions and inner spiritual experiences while neglecting the intellectual side of the faith.

“The more traditionally masculine side of Christianity enjoys crossing swords with hostile secular worldviews. So, as long as Christianity appeals to the emotional, therapeutic, interpersonal, relational areas, it’s not going to appeal to men as much as to women,” Pearcey said.

Churches should engage men’s intellects to help them see the relevance of Christianity to the “real” world of politics, industry and business, Pearcey said.

“We have to recover the notion that Christianity is true on all levels, not just for your emotional life or repairing relationships, as important as those things are,” she said.

Christian men love apologetics and they also love theology, philosophy, ethics, science and history. We love competition. Anything testable that can be debated! Anything where there is a clear winner and loser.

Many churches emphasize Jesus’ softer teachings, like his love and his desire to save, and they ignore the doctrines of sin and hell, according to Podles. But men dislike liberal Christianity — “a mild religion of progress and enlightenment” as opposed to a battle between good and evil, Podles said.

Men want to expend their lives for a great cause, even if it involves risk, according to Murrow. He said that’s why the U.S. military’s “Army of One” campaign was effective. But American churches rarely teach about Christian suffering and martyrdom, Murrow said. Instead, today’s Christianity is presented as an antidote to these things, he said.

And men thrive on risk, adventure and achievement:

“Men are more attracted to religion if it presented as a quest, an adventure, a heroic exploit,” Pearcey said. “They want something challenging, bracing, demanding.”

To reach men, churches should stress the cost and dangers of following Christ — including Christians’ conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil, according to Podles.

Yet, men should be reminded that the sacrifice won’t always be a “huge, glorious display like William Wallace stepping out on a battlefield,” Erre said. Many times it will be staying in a troubled marriage, raising a handicapped child, or working a hated job to provide for a family, he said.

Many women believe that the purpose of Christianity is to be happy and to make others happy by not discussing controversial things like religion. They do not attach the same importance as men do to the duty to be an informed ambassador for Christ, trained in apologetics, and able to persuade others about God’s existence and character. They do not believe that the Lord’s reputation needs to be defended in public in the same way that men do.

Many women also don’t want to be confronted about their beliefs by informed men, because their beliefs are based more on intuition and emotion. They would rather be accepted and affirmed – and so they favor men who don’t know much about the details of Christianity. So manly Christian skills; theology, apologetics, ethics, philosophy, history, science, etc. are not valued in the feminized church.

Touchy-feely sermons come from touchy-feely pastors. A feminized church tends to attract more “gentle, sensitive, nurturing” leadership,” according to Pearcey.

“If religion is defined primarily in terms of emotional experience and is therapeutic, then who is it going to attract as ministers?” she said.

Pearcey said to consider a typical youth pastor.

“He’s really into relationships, very motivating, but is he teaching good apologetics? Is he teaching youth to use their minds and to understand deeper theological truths? At least the ones I’ve known haven’t,” she said. “Today, the common trajectory is for youth pastors to become senior pastors,” she added.

Maybe women should be more sensitive to male needs and character, and more concerned about what the Bible teaches about the the role of apologetics in the Kingdom of God.

If you want to know what Christian men look like, check out this profile of Christian philosopher and apologist Paul Copan on Truthbomb Apologetics. If you want to see one tough and effective Christian lady, visit Denyse O’Leary’s blogs: Post-Darwinist, Mindful Hack and Colliding Universes.

UPDATE 1: Here is an essay I saw on Truthbomb about the need for apologetics, by Norman Geisler.

UPDATE 2: Welcome visitors from the Anchoress! Thanks for the link. Forgive me if this post was a bit mean, but consider it a cry for reconciliation between men and women in the church. I recommend that everyone make the Anchoress a daily read, as she integrates her faith very well with the issues of the day!

UPDATE 3: I noticed this post linked over on the Anchoress. It talks about what men like and don’t like in the church. But keep in mind that this is a poll of men ALREADY in the church, so these ones are more accepting of the feminization of church already. The men outside the church would be less likely to put up with the feminization of church.

Just one quote:

Sixty per cent said they did not like flowers and embroidered banners in church, while 52 per cent did not like dancing in church…Nearly three quarters, or 72 per cent, said their favourite part of a service was the talk or sermon.

There’s a list of hymns that men do like, as well.