Tag Archives: Defense

Eight tips for talking to non-Christians about Christianity

Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS
Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS

From Stand to Reason – some excellent tactical advice about how to have a conversation about spiritual topics with a non-Christian.

Here’s the setup:

I overheard a conversation on the airplane coming back from my vacation in Wisconsin.  A Christian gentleman was vigorously sharing his faith with a gentleman in the seat directly behind me.  There are some things we can learn, both good and bad, from what I overheard and take his effort—which was a good one—and channel it in a little bit more constructive direction.

So I am going to give you eight points of application.

And here are my favorites from his list:

3.  Try to stay away from religious language, terminology, and religious affect. This person was very religious in his whole approach.  I think this is hard for us as Christians because we are brought up in a Christian environment and it’s natural for us to talk this way, but it sounds weird to people outside of that environment.  I think there are a lot of people who may be, in principle, interested in a bona fide, genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ but who are not interested in the Christian religion as they perceive it.  This is where I think a lot of the emergent guys have a legitimate bone to pick with Evangelicalism.  Let’s try not to sound like Bible-thumping fundamentalists if we can avoid it, even if that’s what we are, because there’s no need to sound that way if it puts people off.  Find another way to communicate the message.  Just talk in a straightforward manner.  Be conscious of using religious language the other person may not understand or may think is strange.  Avoid all of that so they can hear the message you’re trying to communicate.

4.  Focus on the truth, not personal benefits of Christianity. I appreciated the gentleman’s approach in that he kept talking about truth.  One person he was talking to said he liked reincarnation.  The Christian man said that even if he liked reincarnation that that didn’t make it true if it’s not true.  Liking something is not going to change reality.  That’s a great point.  He was focusing on the truth claims of Jesus.  He wasn’t giving a bunch of promises.  He wasn’t saying, “Jesus is my ice cream.  He’s a great flavor.  Try him to see if you like him, too.”  Or, “Try Jesus because he’ll make your life so wonderful.”  Focus on truth and not personal benefits.

5.  Give evidence. This gentleman was giving all kinds of evidence for his seatmates to consider.  Good for him!  You should too.  You know why?  Because people in the Bible did, too.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, all the Apostles.  If you look at the details of how they communicated their faith they gave evidence for the truth of what they were saying about Jesus.  In fact, if you want to get the content of the Gospel, one of the most famous passages for the articulation of the Gospel is the beginning of 1 Corinthian 15.  Paul gives all kinds of evidence.  It’s all right there as he is explaining the Gospel.  We see that all through the New Testament.  So give evidences.  It’s appropriate.  People do respond to that even in a postmodern age.

I remember that I was once working in Chicago, and after a particular good apologetics discussion with a team of engineers, I apologized to them all for being so conservative and confident that I was right. These guys all had MS and PhD degrees in computer science from top schools like Stanford, Purdue, U of I, NIU and Northwestern. I was worried that they would think that I was some sort of fundamentalist because I was so definite about what I believed. They said “you’re not a fundamentalist”. And I said, “but I am ultra-conservative in my theology!”. And they said “That’s ok – as long as you have considered different points of view and you have objective evidence, then somehow it doesn’t sound fundamentalist”.

I think that’s something that we need to work on. When Christianity is about truth, it’s open to investigation using public evidence. At work, I have explained the structure of DNA molecules in the office and had people rolling their chairs out of their cubicles to come and see me draw amino acid chains on a white board, and calculate the probabilities with a calculator. You can be a fundamentalist, without sounding like a fundamentalist. You just have to focus on public, testable evidence.

Look here:

Make religion about truth – not personal preferences. They respect that way of talking. Don’t talk about your feelings or your spiritual experiences. They can’t test that. Talk to them about history and science. They CAN test that.

Is the presuppositionalist approach to apologetics Biblical?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Here’s J.W. Wartick’s take from Always Have a Reason blog.

Excerpt:

Cornelius Van Til pioneered the field of “presuppositional apologetics” primarily through his works Christian Apologetics and The Defense of the Faith. His arguments are easily misunderstood as question begging or viciously circular. Herein, I have presented a brief outline and analysis which reveals that while the presuppositional approach may indeed have some logical faults, the overall system has a certain power to it and can be integrated into a total-apologetic system.

[…]The key to understand here is that Van Til does not accept that there is a neutral reason “out there” by which Christians and non-Christians can arbitrate the truth of Christianity; his point is that there is no neutral ground and that one’s presuppositions will determine one’s end point. Again, he writes, “this [apologetic method] implies a refusal to grant that any area or aspect of reality, any fact or any law of nature or of history, can be correctly interpreted except it be seen in the light of the main doctrines of Christianity” (Christian Apologetics, 124).

However, Van Til takes it even further and argues that one must presuppose the truth of Christianity in order to make sense of reality: ” What is the content of this presupposition, then? It is this: “I take what the Bible says about God and his relation to the universe as unquestionably true on its own authority” (The Defense of the Faith, 253); again, “The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything” (Christian Apologetics, 19). Thus, Van Til’s apologetic does not make Christianity the conclusion of an argument; rather, Christianity is the starting presupposition.

The presuppositional approach here cannot be stressed enough. For Van Til, one simply cannot grant to the non-Christian any epistemic point. “We cannot avoid coming to a clear-cut decision with respect to the question as to whose knowledge, man’s or God’s, shall be made the standard of the other. …[O]ne must be determinative and the other subordinate” (The Defense of the Faith 62-63).

What place is had for evidences in Van Til? At some points, he seems to be very skeptical of the use of Christian evidences. In particular, the fact that he argues there is no neutral evaluation grounds between the Christian and non-Christian seems to imply that  there can be no real evaluation of such arguments apart from Christianity. One of Van Til’s most famous illustrations of the use of evidences can be found in The Defense of the Faith pages 332 and following. He uses three persons, Mr. Black (non-Christian), Mr. Grey (Christian non-presuppositionalist), and Mr. White (presuppositional/reformed apologist):

Mr. Grey… says that, of course, the “rational man” has a perfect right to test the credibility of Scripture by logic… by experience… [Mr. Grey then takes Mr. Black a number of places to show him various theistic evidences. Mr. Black responds:] “you first use intellectual argument upon principles that presuppose the justice of my unbelieving position. Then when it it is pointed out to you that such is the case, you turn to witnessing [subjectively].

…At last it dawned upon Mr. White that first to admit that the principles of Mr. Black, the unbeliever, are right and then to seek to win him to the acceptance of the existence of God the Creator… is like first admitting that the United States had historically been a province of the Soviet Union but ought at the same time to be recognized as an independent and all-controlling power… If one reasons for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity on the assumptions that Mr. Black’s principles of explanation are valid, then one must witness on the same assumption [which makes witnessing wholly subjective.] (p. 332-339)

It can be seen here that even evidences for Van Til must be based within a presupposition. There is no way to look at evidences in the abstract. One can either offer them within the presuppositions of Christianity or outside of Christianity. For Van Til, once one has agreed to offer evidences outside of Christianity, one has granted the presuppositions of the non-believer, and therefore is doomed to fail.

This would include using arguments like the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, arguments from miracles, etc. – including the resurrection. That seems to be Van Til’s view. No evidence allowed – you have to presuppose Christianity is true in order to make sense of the world.

Now, I think we need to make a distinction between using questioning the pre-suppositions of our opponents, as with William Lane’s Craig’s moral argument, Plantinga’s epistemological argument for reason and Menuge’s ontological argument for reason. There are arguments for theism that question the pre-suppositions of an atheist. Certainly, non-theists cannot ground things like morality, free will, consciousness and rationality on atheism. But that’s not what Van Til is saying. He says that an atheist cannot be swayed by evidence unless he first becomes a Christian. I.e. – he is saying that atheist Anthony Flew is lying when he says that evidence caused him to turn to believe in God. On Van Til’s view, that’s impossible.

My view of presuppositional apologetics is that is as a system, it is circular reasoning. It assumes Christianity in order to prove Christianity. But there is an even worse problem with it. It’s not a Biblical way of doing apologetics. It’s man’s way of doing apologetics, not God’s. I think that the best way to understand Van Til’s apologetics is by saying that it really just a sermon disguised as apologetics. The problem is that Van Til’s sermon has no basis in the Bible. Wherever he is getting his view from, it’s not from the Bible. When I look the Bible, I don’t see any Biblical support for the view that pre-suppositional apologetics is the only approved way of defending the faith. Instead, the standard method seems to be evidentialism.

In Romans 1, Paul writes that people can learn about God’s existence from the natural world.

Romans 1:18-23:

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

And in Acts, Peter appeals to eyewitness testimony for the resurrection, and Jesus’ miracles.

Acts 2:22-24, and 36:

22“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.

23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

And finally from the same chapter:

36“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Professor Clay Jones of Biola University makes the case that the use of evidence when preaching the gospel was standard operating procedure in the early church. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Intro:

In 1993 I started working for Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law School) which offered an M.A. in Christian apologetics (Craig Hazen was the director). Much of my job was to promote the school and although I had studied Christian apologetics since my sophomore year in high school, I decided I needed to see whether an apologetic witness had strong Biblical precedence.

It does.

As I poured through the Scripture I found that Jesus and the apostles preached the resurrection of Christ as the sign of the truth of Christianity.

What follows are some of the passages which support the resurrection witness.

Here is my favorite verse from his massive list list of verses in favor of the evidential approach to Christian apologetics:

Mat. 12:39-40: A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus is saying that the resurrection was deliberately given as a sign to unbelievers to convince them. (“The Sign of Jonah” = the resurrection)

So, I see that God uses nature and miracles to persuade, which can be assessed using scientific and historical methods. Can anyone find me a clear statement in the Bible that states that only pre-suppositional arguments should be used? I could be wrong, and I am willing to be proven wrong. I think we should use the Biblical method of apologetics, not the fallen man’s method of apologetics.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Dennis Prager: the feminization of America harms the whole world

My favorite painting:
My favorite painting: “Godspeed” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900

A while back, I wrote a post that I really enjoyed writing about the movie High Noon. In it, I talked about the conflict between Marshal Will Kane and his new wife. He wanted to stay and protect his home town against outlaws who are coming to kill him and raze the town. His new wife cannot understand why he has to stand and fight, she wants him to run away with her. In the end, she helps him to defeat the outlaws, saving his life.

That post was inspired by something I heard Dennis Prager talking about on his radio show. He was talking about a survey of boys and girls done by the toy company Mattel. Well, I wanted to blog about his comments, so I ended up writing the High Noon post. But then Dina found an article about the Mattel survey on National Review. I think this is one of the wisest and most perceptive articles I have ever read, and it will really help you to understand what has happened in the last 50 years to this country.

Prager writes:

Last week the New York Times published an article, “Sweeping Away Gender-Specific Toys and Labels,” that contained three sentences that explain one of the most important phenomena in American life. In discussing the increasing move to do away with gender-specific toys — something the New York Times approves of — the article quoted Tania Missad, the “director of global consumer insights” at one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, Mattel:

Mattel’s research showed some differences in what girls and boys wanted in their action figures, Ms. Missad said. “For boys it’s very much about telling a story of the good guy killing the villain. . . . [Girls] would tell us: ‘Why does the good girl have to kill the villain? Can’t they be friends in the end?’”

Prager comments on the part in red:

This difference may be the most important of all the sex differences. Indeed, it can actually shape the future of America and of the world.

Of course, there are women who want evil destroyed — the late Margaret Thatcher, for example. And there are men who oppose confronting evil — the men who lead the modern Democratic party, for example. (One such man is the president of the United States, who has a feminized view of those who do evil — talk to them, but don’t confront them, label them, or fight them.) But these exceptions happen in large numbers under two circumstances: when women get married and when men are feminized.

When women get married, they are often influenced by their husbands with regard to political and moral issues, just as married men are influenced by their wives on a whole host of micro issues. As a result, married women are more likely than single women to prefer to fight villains than to befriend them. Unfortunately, more and more American women are single.

Meanwhile American boys are increasingly raised by single women and taught almost only by female teachers. In addition, they are often taught to be ashamed of their masculine natures and to reject traditional masculine virtues.

As a result of the above two trends, the amount spent on national defense will continue to decline (while the amount spent on welfare will continue to increase), and America will confront the world’s evils less and less. The consequences will be disastrous for millions of people around the globe.

When America retreats from killing bad guys, bad guys kill more innocent people. We are witnessing this right now as a consequence of America’s abandoning Iraq and retreating from the world generally. Islamic State took over more and more territories as America abandoned them. Ironically, therefore, as American foreign policy becomes feminized, more Middle East females are raped.

Whenever I see on a car the liberal bumper sticker “War Is Not the Answer,” I look to see who is driving. In years of looking, I have seen one male driver.

Both women and men have flawed natures. They share human nature, which is deeply flawed, and the sexes have their own particular natures, which are also flawed. That is one reason men need women and women need men. Men need women to soften their intrinsic aggressive nature and to help them control their predatory sexuality; and women need men to, among other things, better understand that evil people and regimes must be fought, not nurtured.

So, there is something in male nature that thinks that it is acceptable to use violence as a last resort in order to defeat evil. Evil might be things like criminals, terrorists… even wolves and bears, if they attacked innocent people.

So what are the solutions?

Here’s what we should do:

  • We should stop paying women money to have children before they are married, so that boys have fathers to raise them who have made a commitment before they got handed free sex.
  • We should rollback no-fault divorce, which leads to fatherless children. People should be less emotional about who they marry, and not think “there’s an escape hatch if I feel unhappy”.
  • We should try to get more male teachers into classrooms, and maybe allow parents to pull boys out of failing schools and put them into all-male schools if they think those work better.
  • We should try to vote for policies that empower law enforcement, national security, and our armed forces to detect, attack and defeat evil. For example, we invest in defense spending, and avoid undermining the morale of police and armed forces with political correctness.

I guess the list could be longer, but that’s a start for the issues that Prager raised.

We need to work against the forces that demean male nature and male roles, and work to promote male nature and male roles.

Can a person be a committed Christian while ignoring apologetics?

Ratio Christi event at Ohio State University featuring Frank Turek
Ratio Christi event at Ohio State University featuring Frank Turek

I would like to describe a situation that arises frequently that concerns me. The situation I describe below brings out a flaw I see in the way that rank-and-file Christians respond to criticisms of Christianity in the public square.

Here is the situation

Eve is busy programming away at her desk, rushing to check in her unit tests so she can spend her lunch hour reading the latest Stephenie Meyer novel, or check on the schedule for her local sports team, “the Vicariouses” (she has tickets for Thursday). Suddenly Eve hears Alice talking to Bob on the other side of her cubicle. She stops typing to listen to the following unencrypted conversation.

Alice: I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel last night that said that the universe has always existed, so there is no God!

Bob: I was watching a documentary on PBS last night showing simulations of how the first life started on Earth! God didn’t do it!

Alice: I saw “Inherit the Spin” on the weekend! The only reason people oppose evolution is because of the Bible! Not because of science!

Bob: I’m going to see “The Va Dinci Code” this weekend! It says that the Gospels are unreliable and that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross!

Alice: I just bought the latest Dichard Rawkins book “Christians Should Be Fed to Lions and the Bible Should Be Burned”!

Bob: I will read that as soon as I finish Histopher Chritchens’ book “Why God is the Evilest, Stupidest Person in the World”!

Eve double-majored in business and computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, and has an MBA from the London School of Economics. She has spent a ton of time, effort and money studying very difficult subjects for her job, and she even publishes research papers. She works full-time and runs her own business part-time, and teaches night classes for a well-known university. She earns about 200K per year. She lives in a huge house, drives an expensive car, and goes on vacation abroad to all the best vacation spots.

Eve thinks she is a Christian. She has attended church since childhood, her husband is a church elder and she sings in the church choir. She reads the Bible and prays every night, because it helps her to get sleepy before bed. She gives lots of money to the poor. She teaches Sunday school to very small children.  She has even read all of the Narnia novels five times! She even has a calendar filled with nature scenes and itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny Bible verses posted on her office wall at work! Judging from all of these facts, you might expect Eve to get in on that conversation with Alice and Bob, and set them straight.

But she won’t. Why not?

Why won’t Eve stand?

I am wondering if anyone can explain to me why it is that most church Christians are not able or not willing to make a public defense when God’s reputation is called into question. It seems to me that there are two bad effects that follow from Eve’s unwillingness to stand up and invite Alice and Bob to lunch so that she can address their questions and concerns.

  1. God’s reputation is being trashed by Alice and Bob on the basis of lies they’ve swallowed from pop culture. These lies about God’s existence and character could be easily corrected with a minimal amount of study, which Eve is capable of – she is a genius and has amazing entrepreneurial skills.  If someone said similar lies about her husband or children, she would speak up, but she won’t speak up for God.
  2. Alice and Bob are bound for Hell unless someone cares enough to correct their mistaken beliefs, which, along with their sinfulness, is what is keeping them from a relationship with God that would go on in Heaven. If Eve’s husband or children were mistakenly about to drink poison thinking it was Aspirin, then Eve would speak up. But to save her co-workers from Hell, she won’t speak up.

Eve is capable of studying to defend the faith, because of her great success in other areas where so much time and effort were required to master difficult material. So why has she not applied herself to answering public challenges to her Christian faith from her professors, teachers, actors, the media, politicians, scientists, historians, etc.? She’s heard these questions about God’s existence and character all through high school and into university and then now in her career. Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says to prepare a defense? Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says to acknowledge God before men? Doesn’t she believe the Bible when it says that all authentic believers in Jesus will suffer a little for their faith?

It seems to me that if she did spend some time studying, and then made her defense to her co-workers, then two good things would follow:

  1. Eve would be demonstrating her love for God and her friendship with God by protecting his reputation when it is called into question by unbelievers in public settings. That’s what friends do – if Eve wanted to be God’s friend, she would care that no one believed lies about him and told lies about him in public settings.
  2. Eve would be demonstrating her love for her neighbor if she was able to correct some of these false beliefs, such as that the universe is eternal, or that a historical case cannot be made for the resurrection, or that evil is not compatible with theism. It’s important for Alice and Bob to know that Christianity is not stupid.

So why is it that Eve is able to go to church for 20 years, sing in the choir, read the Bible, read the Narnia stories, pray on her knees, and yet still be unwilling to do the best thing for God and the best thing for her neighbor? If a Christian is smart enough to know how to get a degree and how to hold down a job, then that intelligence should also be used to defend God’s reputation when it is called into question. I don’t see how it is possible to claim that you love God, but then not apply your mind to defending him when you apply your mind to other things like education and work.

Dennis Prager: the feminization of America harms the whole world

My favorite painting:
My favorite painting: “Godspeed” by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900

A few days back, I wrote a post that I really enjoyed writing about the movie High Noon. In it, I talked about the conflict between Marshal Will Kane and his new wife. He wanted to stay and protect his home town against outlaws who are coming to kill him and raze the town. His new wife cannot understand why he has to stand and fight, she wants him to run away with her. In the end, she helps him to defeat the outlaws, saving his life.

That post was inspired by something I heard Dennis Prager talking about on his radio show. He was talking about a survey of boys and girls done by the toy company Mattel. Well, I wanted to blog about his comments, so I ended up writing the High Noon post. But then Dina found an article about the Mattel survey on National Review. I think this is one of the wisest and most perceptive articles I have ever read, and it will really help you to understand what has happened in the last 50 years to this country.

Prager writes:

Last week the New York Times published an article, “Sweeping Away Gender-Specific Toys and Labels,” that contained three sentences that explain one of the most important phenomena in American life. In discussing the increasing move to do away with gender-specific toys — something the New York Times approves of — the article quoted Tania Missad, the “director of global consumer insights” at one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers, Mattel:

Mattel’s research showed some differences in what girls and boys wanted in their action figures, Ms. Missad said. “For boys it’s very much about telling a story of the good guy killing the villain. . . . [Girls] would tell us: ‘Why does the good girl have to kill the villain? Can’t they be friends in the end?’”

Prager comments on the part in red:

This difference may be the most important of all the sex differences. Indeed, it can actually shape the future of America and of the world.

Of course, there are women who want evil destroyed — the late Margaret Thatcher, for example. And there are men who oppose confronting evil — the men who lead the modern Democratic party, for example. (One such man is the president of the United States, who has a feminized view of those who do evil — talk to them, but don’t confront them, label them, or fight them.) But these exceptions happen in large numbers under two circumstances: when women get married and when men are feminized.

When women get married, they are often influenced by their husbands with regard to political and moral issues, just as married men are influenced by their wives on a whole host of micro issues. As a result, married women are more likely than single women to prefer to fight villains than to befriend them. Unfortunately, more and more American women are single.

Meanwhile American boys are increasingly raised by single women and taught almost only by female teachers. In addition, they are often taught to be ashamed of their masculine natures and to reject traditional masculine virtues.

As a result of the above two trends, the amount spent on national defense will continue to decline (while the amount spent on welfare will continue to increase), and America will confront the world’s evils less and less. The consequences will be disastrous for millions of people around the globe.

When America retreats from killing bad guys, bad guys kill more innocent people. We are witnessing this right now as a consequence of America’s abandoning Iraq and retreating from the world generally. Islamic State took over more and more territories as America abandoned them. Ironically, therefore, as American foreign policy becomes feminized, more Middle East females are raped.

Whenever I see on a car the liberal bumper sticker “War Is Not the Answer,” I look to see who is driving. In years of looking, I have seen one male driver.

Both women and men have flawed natures. They share human nature, which is deeply flawed, and the sexes have their own particular natures, which are also flawed. That is one reason men need women and women need men. Men need women to soften their intrinsic aggressive nature and to help them control their predatory sexuality; and women need men to, among other things, better understand that evil people and regimes must be fought, not nurtured.

So, there is something in male nature that thinks that it is acceptable to use violence as a last resort in order to defeat evil. Evil might be things like criminals, terrorists… even wolves and bears, if they attacked innocent people.

So what are the solutions?

Here’s what we should do:

  • We should stop paying women money to have children before they are married, so that boys have fathers to raise them who have made a commitment before they got handed free sex.
  • We should rollback no-fault divorce, which leads to fatherless children. People should be less emotional about who they marry, and not think “there’s an escape hatch if I feel unhappy”.
  • We should try to get more male teachers into classrooms, and maybe allow parents to pull boys out of failing schools and put them into all-male schools if they think those work better.
  • We should try to vote for policies that empower law enforcement, national security, and our armed forces to detect, attack and defeat evil. For example, we invest in defense spending, and avoid undermining the morale of police and armed forces with political correctness.

I guess the list could be longer, but that’s a start for the issues that Prager raised.

We need to work against the forces that demean male nature and male roles, and work to promote male nature and male roles.